Susan Ige, Grand Daughter of David M. Cooper, Visits Moab

September 11 – 15, 2023

In March of 2023, Ms. Susan Ige reached out to the Moab Museum expressing interest in visiting Moab to learn more about the place of her mother’s birth and the life of her grandfather. Her mother, Dorothy Maude (Cooper) Hildt was born in Moab, Utah to David Morrow Cooper and Annie (Short) Cooper on March 10, 1917. 

David Cooper passed away in January of 1944, later that same year, Ms. Susan (Hildt) Ige was born to Dorothy Maude (Cooper) Hildt. Ms. Ige knew her grandmother Annie Cooper well and knew some family stories told to her by both her grandmother and mother, but she did not know a lot about the Cooper family history, nor about their time in Utah. Let’s dive into the history of David M. Cooper, his role in the building of the city of Moab, as well as Telluride, CO.

David M. Cooper, Jackdriver in Telluride, CO

Before becoming a livestock operator in SE Utah, David Cooper worked with Melvin R. Turner out of the mining camp of Columbia, CO, which would eventually become Telluride. Not only did Cooper run a burro train operation, but he also operated a grocery in an old log cabin that was located where the historic New Sheridan Hotel now sits on Telluride’s West Colorado Ave.

Special thanks to Executive Director, Kiernan Lannon of the Telluride Historical Museum (Colorado) for sharing archival photographs of the “Jack Drivers” aka workers who used burro trains to supply the mines in and around what is Telluride, Colorado today. 

In 1885, Cooper and Mel Turner invested in cattle and settled in San Juan County, Utah establishing dugouts on Indian Creek. Over the next 10 years, a variety of neighbors would move into the area around Indian and Cottonwood Creeks. Cooper, David Goudelock, Vincent Peter Martin, and others eventually consolidated their livestock interests to establishe The Indian Creek Cattle Company in 1905. Today it is the home of The Nature Conservancy’s Dugout Ranch and Canyonlands Research Center. Working with The Nature Conservancy and the Redd Family, the Moab Museum arranged a visit to Dugout Ranch for Ms. Ige on the first day of her visit, Tuesday, September 12.

Learn more about the Indian Cr. Cattle Co. and other stories from this time period by visiting the Settlers People’s Profiles.

Archeologist and author, Lee Bennett joined the excursion, fresh off the release of her book, The Dugout Ranch: A Land Use Perspective 1875-1965 (Stop by Back of Beyond Books to order a copy directly). Bennett has spent over 30 years researching and documenting the use of the land at Dugout Ranch and was able to provide insights, answer questions, and share stories about Cooper and all his neighbors, many of whom would become his business partners in later years in Moab.

The Green Cabin Site. The heart of Dugout Ranch presently resides on the original 320 acres that Dave Cooper established in 1885. 

Before leaving the area, Lee Bennett guided a group to the site of “Mr. Green’s Cabin” and shared the history of that site, featuring the stories of Cooper neighbors and business partners, like Harry Green (Moab’s first mayor) and former Grand County Commissioner, John Brown.

On Wednesday, September 13, Ms. Ige and the Moab Museum’s History Programs Interpreter, Stephan Zacharias, spent the morning walking the Moab Business District exploring the sites and the infrastructure that Cooper invested in once he settled in Moab. The first stop of course was the New Cooper Martin & Co. Building, today home to The Spoke Restaurant. 

Cooper partnered with his Indian Creek neighbors, Vincent Martin, Harry Green, and Dave Goudelock to purchase the Wilson Bros. Mercantile in 1898. The mercantile’s General Manager and Moab’s Tinner (tinsmith), William Keller also partnered with these men in the new Cooper Martin & Co. mercantile. The company replaced the original wooden frame Wilson Bros. store with a new one-story brick & stone building, known as the “Old Cooper Martin building” on the site that is now home to the Uranium Building & Red Rock Trading Co.

After a few years, the company knew they needed more space, and in 1907, they opened the first floor of the new, two-story, “New Cooper Martin & Co Building” on the corner of Main and Center Streets. By 1909 the 2 Story suites were complete, and a variety of businesses would now call this site home. 

In 1907, Cooper also invested with Dave Goudelock, William Keller, and Mayor Henry Green in the Williams Drug Company. From 1909-1919, Cooper served as the General Manager of the Williams Drug Company and oversaw several moves and remodels of existing structures on Main Street.

The Williams Drug Co. leased multiple locations during its existence from 1897 to 1921. From 1897-1900, the Williams Drug Co, which featured Dr. J.W. Williams’s office, was located in the old Maxwell Building, at this time only a one-story structure to which Addie Maxwell added a second-story years later and converted the building into Maxwell Millinery Shop, today home to Desert Wild. 

From 1900-1903, again in 1907-1909, and finally 1917-1919, Williams Drug Co. leased the LC May Building (currently Tumbleweed and Sage & Stone Salon). Perhaps, the one historic building that shouldn’t exist in all of Moab. Originally built as the Grimm Block Building in 1891 it was never completed and condemned shortly after its construction. In 1899, a former Argonaut, Silver Miner, and John Robinson’s International Circus Clown-Musician, Captain Leslie Charles May invested his Bookcliffs copper mining profits into the purchase and retrofit of the Grimm Block, its original use was to house a saloon and billiards hall, and in later years the Moab Post Office, Williams Drug Co, Grand Valley Publishing Co., and Henry Spencer Barnes Harness Shop. Despite being condemned and retrofitted by local Blacksmith Henry Grimm multiple times between 1910 and 1920. Some of Mr. Grimm’s ironwork retrofits are still visible on the building’s stone front to this day. 

From 1903-1907 and 1909-1913, the Williams Drug Co. made their home in the old Crout-Peterson Building, currently housing 4Moons, Cowboy & Indians Trading Co., and the former Peterson Mercantile. Cooper oversaw the remodel of the Crout-Peterson Building in 1911 including the installation of a $1000 Soda Fountain that would be hailed as the finest Soda Fountain outside of Salt Lake City. 

In 1919, the Williams Drug Co. purchased and remodeled the Fletcher-Robertson Building, home of Moab’s T-Shirt Shop today. Cooper oversaw the installation of a $3,000 Soda Fountain that would “rival the finest Soda Fountains in the West to include San Francisco.” Originally constructed by Ralph Jesse Fletcher and Clarence Adrian Robertson in 1916-17, the Fletcher-Robertson Building was the first building in Moab to feature a metal ceiling and a metal roof. Shortly after it opened, the March 10, 1917 edition of the Grand Valley Times hailed it as “the best pool hall building in the State.”

In hopes of improving business, Vincent Martin and Cooper convinced the Allred Bros. Stage Company to partner with them in 1911 to form the new Moab Transportation Co. Cooper & Martin wanted to improve turnaround time for goods and services from Moab to the railhead at Thompson’s Springs, a trip by freight wagon that took around six and half hours one-way. Cooper & Martin purchased a Couple Gear Truck from Salt Lake City. This 12-passenger electric & gas hybrid truck could now complete the journey in just over 3 hours one-way. 

In 1916, Cooper once again partnered with his Indian Creek neighbors, Mayor Green, Dave Goudelock, Vincent Martin, and San Juan County’s Lemuel Hardison Redd, Jr. to establish The First National Bank of Moab. This bank was initially ran out of the Cooper Martin & Co. store in the New Cooper Martin Building.

The Grand Valley Times reported in March of 1916 that 477 of the initial 500 shares where invested in by 42 of the largest stockraisers in the region, with an estimated valuation of 1.6 million dollars. Needing more space to operate, Bank President Dave Goudelock approached Mrs. Sarah Stewart about purchasing her Main Street front property at Stewarts Corner on the Eastside of Main Street opposite the New Cooper Martin Building. 

This transaction was the first effort to expand the business district to the Eastside of Main Street, even though the Moab Garage Co. Building and Fletcher-Robertson Building was completed first, the lots and plans for those buildings were established after Goudelock’s purchase from Mrs. Stewart. 
The investors of The First National Bank had envisioned a grand new business block they hoped to establish at Stewarts Corner. Newspaper reports included construction plans featuring a fine brick building to house both The First National Bank of Moab and The Grand Valley Publishing Co., along with a grand lobby with grand ballrooms and a second story with grand hotel rooms. Yet two years later in March of 1918 when The First National Bank of Moab opened the new business block only featured a fine one-story brick structure with space to house both The First National Bank of Moab and The Grand Valley Publishing Co.

Following the walk through the Historic Business District, Ms. Ige met with both the Moab Museum’s Curatorial and Collections Manager, Tara Beresh, and History Program Interpreter, to share a collection of Cooper family photographs, news clippings, and the gown portion of her grandmother Annie Cooper’s wedding dress from the 1913 wedding of Dave & Annie Cooper.

On Thursday, September 14, Ms. Ige paid a visit to the historic Cooper House, Martin House, and Balsley Cabin. Their time was spent discussing the Coopers family life in Moab, and the civic and social contributions made by both Dave and Annie Cooper. 

For Ms. Ige’s final day in Moab, Friday, September 15, the Moab Museum was fortunate to partner with USU Extension – Grand County 4-H Club and their instructor Mr. Curtis Walker who helped present a Museum Ag Pop-up Program: “Jack Driver” to Community Builder – D.M. Cooper.

Held on the Museum Lawn, this joint program provided guests with a unique experience to learn about Dave Cooper’s life in the years just before he established himself on Indian Creek in SE Utah. Guests were able to learn more about his time in Telluride, Colorado and the 4-H provided an excellent demonstration of how a “Jack Driver” would pack and unpack burros in their efforts to both supply and support mining operations in the San Juan Mountain Range of Colorado. The Museum was delighted to see among the guests that day Ms. Lee Bennett who came to see Ms. Ige off, and Ms. Sena Hauer, a granddaughter of L. L. “Bish” Taylor who was an associate and fellow Moab leader along with Dave Cooper and others during his lifetime. 

Ms. Ige’s visit not only connected her to her own family’s story, but it gave Moab Museum Staff a new perspective on a prominent historic figure in the story of Moab’s founding and early years. Dave Cooper has long been talked about in the context of his livestock operations, business investments, and civic leadership, but what has often been left out was his role as husband, father, and a man with many friends who, along with his wife, loved to host and entertain all their friends and loved ones.

In the words of Susan Ige, herself:

I found Moab to be a beautiful little city that treasures its history and keeps cultural traditions alive through their museum and museum educational events. All though small in size, the Moab Museum’s carefully planned displays are interesting and informative. I enjoyed leisurely walking through the rooms in this peaceful little building to thoroughly “visit” each Museum display and read the information presented. I found the Museum staff to be knowledgeable and very helpful in answering my questions.

My 5-day visit was filled with escorted walking tours of the Cooper-Martin Co. sites on the historical block of Moab, the Cooper family home, and a field trip to visit The Dugout Ranch and Nature Conservatory Research Center which is located on the property where my grandfather had his Indian Creek Co. cattle ranch. Heidi Redd extended her hospitality with a tour of the ranch and lunch at her ranch home.

In addition, I was pleased to attend two Museum events: an evening Navajo rug weaving presentation, and a morning “Jack Driver” demonstration on the Museum lawn.  

I arrived home with a notebook full of pictures, newspaper articles, a book “The Dugout Ranch” written by Lee Bennett, and many special memories.  I am so grateful for all who made my trip so wonderful, and I am so happy to know that my grandfather and his contemporaries had the courage and tenacity to work tirelessly to improve the lives of those early settlers in Moab and the surrounding areas.

The Museum team is incredibly grateful for Susan Ige’s visit, and the opportunity to dive into David M. Cooper’s history, learning and adding to our Collection along the way. Please reach out to Museum staff by emailing us at to see how you can connect to Moab’s history and contribute to its preservation at the Moab Museum.