William H. Cooper had lived in Hodgenville, Kentucky, for nearly all of his life, including from 1898 until his death in October 1932 in a house he had purchased there.
“He was a splendid citizen, but eccentric: What we would term a peculiar man,” the administrator of his estate wrote. “Mr. Cooper retired from active business in 1923 and spent practically all of his time at home. He was a great lover of game chickens and spent much of his time with them. He did not confide in anybody and kept his business to himself. He left a will in which he provided no inventory should be made of his estate, leaving his property to his wife for her life, and at her death to be equally divided between her people and his people.”
By the time of his death, Cooper had suffered memory loss and was in failing health. His wife and heir, who had not been told where the deceased kept his investments, sought to identify his assets. She found a small sum of money in a local bank. Believing there was more, she started a search and in due course located $3,500 in another bank in a nearby town and several thousand dollars in still another bank in Louisville. Meanwhile, she razed the chicken house that her husband had used for his game fowl.
In 1937 Mrs. Cooper, too, passed away. The real estate passed to a man named Hubbard, who lived there through the early 1940s, except for a four-month period when he was an Army officer stationed at Fort Knox and rented out the property. The property was then sold to a man who had not moved in by 1942.
In 1942, Otis Enlow, who had been employed by a neighbor, Mr. Routt, to cultivate for a garden, ran his plow over the old chicken house site and struck gold! Enlow scooped up $600 in $10 and $20 gold coins, and neighbor Routt found $360 worth. The coins, the dates of which ranged from 1850 to 1911, were taken to the Lincoln National Bank, at which point they were intercepted by Judge Handley, who had handled the estates of the Coopers.
The matter went to court in LaGrange, Kentucky, with claims presented by the finder and the administrator of the two Cooper estates. Judge Ballard Clark reviewed the evidence and concluded the coins must have been hidden by the late William H. Cooper sometime around 1911 or later and thus belonged to his heirs. What if anything went to the finder was not stated.
What were the exact dates and grades of the coins? It would be interesting to know this information and then peruse the Guide Book to discover their values today.
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