Kate Wheeler Cooper

Featured Character – The Home Front

"Spear's Cavalry Expedition Entering Murfreesboro, North Carolina" (July 28, 1863)

Courtesy of the North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library

Catherine (Kate) Pugh Wheeler was born in 1837 and raised in Murfreesboro, North Carolina. Her uncle, John Hill Wheeler, was a widely known historian and politician and her grandmother was the wife of Governor John Branch. Kate Wheeler studied both at the Chowan Female Collegiate Institute and at a private school in Raleigh before marrying John Walston Cooper in 1866. Her correspondence with her sister, Julia, school friends, and her grandmother reveal much about the times in which the letters were written, such as college life, religious attitudes, and the social expectations of women’s dress and conduct. She also gave good insight as to the plight of women during the war. Letters from her brother in June 1861 describe the living conditions of the Hertford Light Infantry (Company K, 17th North Carolina Infantry) on Portsmouth Island, North Carolina, and the discovery of Union ships off Hatteras. An October 1862 letter concerns the presence of Buffaloes in the Albemarle region. Kate Wheeler Cooper also kept a diary that mentioned several developments in Murfreesboro during the war, such as the use of the town as barracks by Union troops and the use of the Baptist church as a hospital in 1862. She continued her correspondence and kept her diary even after the war, documenting many events. In 1866, Catherine Wheeler married John Walston Cooper.  She died in 1912.