Shared by Bernace Pence

The Cooper Food Store at 110 W. Main St. in Carterville.

Ancestors, Legends & Time

Vol Cooper came west to be a cowboy but wound up being a grocer

Jeanne Newby

Photo shared by Paul Cooper

Vol and Minnie Cooper in 1934 in their store at Fourth and Hall streets in Webb City. 


A favorite grocery store for many of our readers was the Cooper Grocery Store…which leads us into this wonderful history of the Cooper family and their neighborhood grocery stores.

In 1995, I had the opportunity to interview Paul and Louise Cooper, a marvelous couple with many memories to share. Paul said that in the 1920s and 30s, there were eight Cooper stores in the area.

The patriarch of this grocery family was a gentleman by the name of Volley Deckner Cooper, affectionately known as Vol to his friends and family.

Vol, at the age of 14 in 1866, left home in Indiana, heading for the Wild West. He made it as far as Coffeyville, Kan., and got a job as a cowboy earning him $6 a month, including such benefits as food, chewing tobacco, a gun with ammunition to kill rattlesnakes and coyotes, and a tent to sleep in. 

In 1888, he read about the need for miners in Joplin, earning $2 a day. Vol didn’t waste any time giving up his cattle-drive career and heading to the mining district. His first mining job was in Prosperity.

In 1892, Vol married his sweetheart, Minnie Almira Davis, and they had six children: Effie, Ethel, Cecil, Paul, Buford and Leo. Vol later ventured away from mining to open a livery stable in Alba. It was a good business, but he later sold that livery stable and opened another in Purcell. On the side, Vol and a few friends owned and operated the West Side Mine, on the south edge of Alba just north of Spring River.

Vol and Minnie’s sons, Buford and Paul, went to work as salesmen for Webb City Wholesale Grocery Co. Around 1930, they decided to open a grocery store in Purcell. That was the beginning of the Cooper grocery business. 

Vol and Minnie left their farm and livery business to take care of the Cooper Store at Fourth and Hall streets. Paul managed the stores in Carthage and at 110 W. Main St. in Carterville. Buford managed four stores, two of which were in Webb City, at 607 N. Cedar St. and on Daugherty Street. The other two were in Purcell and Alba. 

The youngest Cooper, Leo, managed the Joplin store. Later, Effie Cooper managed the Fourth and Hall street store until the highway came through, taking the store with it. Effie then proceeded to buy a grocery store on Range Line near 11th Street in Joplin. 

Effie’s daughter and son-in-law, Etheleen and John Rose, built a new market in the same location and called it Rose’s Market. They operated that store until they retired in 1974, at which time their son managed it until 1988.

Even at the age of 91, Paul Cooper could remember the prices of groceries in the ’30s. He recalled that bread was 5 and 10 cents a loaf; milk was 5 cents a quart; pork chops were 15 cents, and sugar was 39 cents for 10 pounds.

Four generations of Volley and Minnie’s family continued the tradition of the grocery business. Several of their grandsons, great-grandsons, and great-granddaughters have operated a variety of businesses in Jasper County. The youngest son, Leo, left the grocery business to be a bomber pilot in World War II, then went on to become a doctor in Kansas City.

The Cooper family has left a lot of memories for the area with their small family grocery stores.

Jeanne’s new book, “The Zinc City, Webb City, Missouri” is now available at Webb City Chamber office and other local retailers, such as Maggie Jane’s Gifts, at 8 S. Main St.

Jeanne Newby

A lot of us appreciate the Bradbury Bishop Fountain, but Jeanne actually worked behind the counter making sodas while she was in high school. She knows everything about Webb City and is a member of the Webb City R-7 School Board.