Polly Cooper, Oneida Heroine

Polly Cooper was an Oneida woman who repeatedly helped the soldiers serving in the US military, beginning with the Revolutionary War.  US records neither confirm or deny this oral history – but the Oneida people treasure the shawl given Polly Cooper for her selfless service in the face of adversity.

In the fall and winter of 1777/1778, the soldiers at Valley Forge were starving.  Oneida Chief Shenandoah (also spelled Skandoah and a number of other ways) arranged for corn to be delivered, and Polly was one of the women who delivered the corn, walking hundreds of miles to do so.  In addition, she stayed and nursed the sick men, teaching them about food and nutrition.  She showed the troops how to make a white corn soup to supplement their diets.   The Oneida’s corn made the difference between life and death for many men.

The legend says Polly would accept nothing for her services, so Martha Washington purchased a black shawl that Polly had admired and gave it to her.  That shawl, shown below, is still cherished today by her descendants and the Oneida Nation as well. 

But Polly wasn’t done.  The government records do confirm that one Polly Cooper cooked for the troops during the War of 1812 as well.  Oneida history tells us that this is one and the same person. 

You can read more about Polly Cooper here:  http://www.oneidaindiannation.com/culture/shako/exhibits/27015199.html


About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
This entry was posted in Military, Oneida. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Polly Cooper, Oneida Heroine

  1. Yvonne Owens Parks says:

    Reading about the Indians is so interesting. Hoping you come across some info on those who lived in the Beechland area of Tyrell Co. in the late 1700s as there are several of us who have reason to believe we are descendents and possibly, also of a Lost Colonists.

  2. pierre says:

    what is her family history?

  3. Tom says:

    I am related to polly cooper

  4. Danielle Johnstone says:

    Hi! i am a high school curriculum designer and I am writing a profile of Polly Cooper for use in classrooms across the United States. I really want to include an image, and was wondering who owns the image of the shawl that appears on this page? I would appreciate any help to find a related image. Thanks!

    • I would suggest you contact the family. There’s a link in the article that might be helpful at the end.

    • Erin Francis says:

      Hi Danielle, my 5th grader is doing a report on Polly Cooper for her class’s living history museum project and we’re having a hard time finding any information about her family life and education. I’m guessing that not a lot is known about that, but I thought I’d ask in case you’ve come across some good resources. Thanks for any help you can provide!

  5. Isaac Strickler says:

    when is her birth date?

  6. Cara says:

    Does anyone know her birth date &/or death date?

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