Creator: Cooley, Charles W., 1894-1980


Provenance Note: Original audiotape reels, transcriptions, and two photographs documenting interviews with Charles W. Cooley were donated to Montana State University by Anna Zellick of Lewistown, Montana in September 1974. MSU Library personnel retyped the interview transcriptions provided by Zellick into one continuously paginated copy and retained the audiotapes on which they were based. The transcript in this collection combines the interviews into one consecutively paginated manuscript. The Montana Historical Society holds transcripts of the interviews along with a letter Cooley wrote to Montana Governor Tim Babcock, which they have cataloged as SC 1483.


Historical Note: Charles W. Cooley was born on May 10, 1894 in Laurin, Montana, the son of Mr. and Mrs. James L. Cooley. His father was from Ohio, and his mother's parents came to Virginia City, Montana Territory, looking for gold. Charles Cooley's great-grandfather was a boyhood friend of Abraham Lincoln in Kentucky, and his grandmother was the "accepted" doctor of the Virginia City community, even though she had no formal training. Charles's family moved to Virginia City when he was nine years old, and he lived there until he was twenty. During his early years, Charles worked in the Butte mines, and later in the office of Goodyear Tire Company. He traveled for various tire and car companies for several years. He became the owner of Cooley Chevrolet in Lewistown, Montana, in 1939. He was an active participant in many business and economic development projects in Lewistown. He served on several local boards, and served as chairman of the Montana Citizens Committee on the State Legislature from 1966 to 1972. He raised and bred Arabian horses and served as chairman of the board of the Central Montana Fair and Rodeo in Lewistown for three decades. Charles W. Cooley died in Lewistown on November 14, 1980.


Content Description Note: 3 reels of audiotape; 2 photographs, and a transcript combination of two interviews (1969, 1973) in which Cooley discusses his life story with an emphasis on his growing up near Virginia City, youth working in the mines in Butte, and his adult life as an automobile dealer. Cooley also describes his activities in the Lewistown Chamber of Commerce, the Yogo Inn, the Associate Inventors of Montana, the Central Montana Fair and Rodeo, the Montana Citizens Committee, and the Montana Industrial Development Board; 2 photographs of Cooley in his Lewistown home.


Updated: 4/21/22