Albert (also listed as Alby or Almon) O. Cooley, Texas legislator, lawyer, judge, and land agent, was born in the mid-1820s, possibly about 1826, in Covington, present-day Wyoming County, New York. He was the son of Jonathan Cooley, Jr., and Zerviah (Nimocks) Cooley and one of eight children. He attended college in Tennessee and was admitted to the bar there. Cooley moved to Texas around 1850 and settled in Fredericksburg where he maintained a law practice until his death in 1899.
Cooley represented Comal and Gillespie counties in the Texas House of Representatives of the Seventh Texas Legislature from November 2, 1857, to November 7, 1859, and he served on the Education, Judicial Districts, and Public Lands committees. The 1860 federal census listed Cooley as a lawyer, born in New York, and living in Fredericksburg. During the Civil War A. O. Cooley was a Unionist but also a Democrat. He apparently spent some time in Mexico during the war. He was elected from District No. 31 which included his home county of Gillespie as well as Atascosa, Bandera, Blanco, Comal, Concho, Dawson, Edwards, Frio, Kendall, Kerr, Kimble, Kinney, Llano McCulloch, Mason, Maverick, Medina, Menard, San Saba, Uvalde, and Zavala counties, to the Texas Senate for the Tenth Texas Legislature. He served from November 2, 1863, to August 6, 1866, and was on the Counties and County Boundaries and Enrolled Bills committees.
Having never taken an oath against the United States, Cooley continued his political career following the war. Around this time, probably in the late 1860s, he married Symantha Howell McKittrict, a widow who had a young son, Joseph. The couple had three sons of their own. Representing District No. 31, Cooley served again in the Texas Senate in the Eleventh Texas Legislature when it was reconstituted in 1866. He held membership in a number of committees, including those for Indian Affairs, Privileges and Elections, and Public Lands, and served in the Senate from August 6, 1866, to February 7, 1870. Cooley was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1875 where he reportedly showed an interest in frontier defense and the granting of land to citizens above the age of sixteen. He served as a district judge in the Thirty-third District following his attendance at the constitutional convention.
Throughout his public service and from the 1870s through the 1890s, Cooley maintained a residence with his family in Austin, where he worked as an attorney and land agent. Family tradition holds that his wife Symantha did not want to live in Fredericksburg because she feared possible Indian raids, and she preferred the educational opportunities that Austin afforded for their sons. Cooley, therefore, had a separate home and business office in Fredericksburg and apparently never acknowledged his marriage or children to colleagues in Gillespie County. The 1870 census listed him, alone, as an attorney in Gillespie County. The 1880 census listed Cooley as a land agent and the head of his household, which included wife Symantha and four sons (Joseph, Albert Jr., E. A. [Edward], and “Bud” [Charles], ages thirteen to four) living in Austin in Travis County.
A. O. Cooley died in Fredericksburg on September 26, 1899, and was buried in Fredericksburg’s Greenwood Cemetery, which he had helped establish with business partner Judge A. W. Moursund. Cooley’s widow learned of his death some days later when she read his obituary notice in an Austin newspaper. He died intestate, and Symantha Cooley did not make a claim to his estate. The estate was eventually settled after seven years, with the selling and distribution of various properties and final cash assets deposited into the state treasury. Cooley’s youngest son, Charles, finally learned of the disposition of his father’s estate after the death of his mother Symantha Cooley in 1934.