Surname Saturday: Cook

Okay, another week, another surname.  Today's surname is a fairly common name in North America, in fact Wikipedia cites this surname at 60th place in the list of most common surnames in the United States, belonging to just under 295,000 people in the U.S. (according to 2000 U.S. census figures).  I know about five generations of Cooks in my wife's ancestry, and all of them were born in the United States with the first that I know of born way back in 1781 in Pennsylvania.  So, let's find out more about the Cook line...

The Cook line in our family comes down to my wife's great grandmother, Nellie Rose Cook.  She was born on 9 August 1880 in Albion, Noble County, Indiana.  In the 1900 U.S. census, Nellie is listed as a 20-year-old music teacher, still living with her parents and another lodger.  A short time later, Nellie married Bert Roscoe Rickard (b. 2 Dec 1875, Rome City, Noble, IN; d. 30 July 1911, Avilla, Noble, IN) on 25 January 1902.  The couple had one daughter born in 1903, and all three are listed in the 1910 U.S. census in Avilla, Indiana.  After Bert's death in 1911, Nellie again appears in the 1920 U.S. census with her daughter and no other family members.  Aside from being a pianist, family stories mention that Nellie was also a telephone operator.  She died on 16 September 1974 in Avilla.

Family of Frank F. Cook in the 1900 U.S. census at Albion, Noble County, Indiana, on 12 June 1900.
Nellie's parents were Frank Fielding Cook and Blanche McMahan.  Frank was born on 18 March 1855 in Albion, and Blanche was born a little later on 13 June 1858, likely also in Albion.  They married on 16 July 1877 in Albion and got their family started right away.  As the 1900 U.S. census record above shows, Blanche had two children.  The child that was not listed there was Daisy B. Cook (F; b. 12 Oct 1878, Indiana; d. 19 Sep 1960, Avilla, IN) and she was not listed there because she had married Curtis C. Simon (b. Sep 1874, Indiana; d. 1947) on 3 March 1900.  By the time the census enumerators visited our Cook family, Daisy had already moved out and was living in Swan Township with her new husband.  In the 1880 U.S. census, Frank is listed as a day laborer, but on subsequent census enumerations, like the 1900 census shown above, he is a house painter.  Frank died on 16 September 1936 in Rome City, Noble County, Indiana.  Blanche survived him by a little over a decade, finally passing on 22 April 1949.

Frank Cook was the first child of Samuel Lane Cook and Caroline Elizabeth Nisbet.  Samuel was born on 8 November 1826 in Wooster, Wayne County, Ohio, and Caroline was born on 21 July 1833 in Peru, Miami County, Indiana.  They married on 2 May 1854 in Miami County and made their home in Albion.  Samuel was a physician and is listed in some family histories as Dr. Samuel L. Cook.  U.S. census records show Samuel with wife Caroline and children Frank (above), William Omer Cook (M; b. Dec 1856 in Missouri, or 28 Oct 1857 in Albion, or in 1858 in Missouri; d. 6 June 1908 in Albion) and Edwin Grant Cook (M; b. 19 July 1865 in Illinois; d. 1 April 1901).  From the childrens' birth dates and locations, it looks like Samuel tried to move his family to Missouri before the Civil War, and then moved back through Illinois to Indiana.  What I don't know about this yet is why the births occurred as they did, but I have a theory.  The area now known as Missouri was part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803; a smaller part of the Purchase became the slave state of Missouri in 1821, yet negro slaves made up only a small portion of the state's population.  When the Civil war began in 1861, the pro-Confederate governor Claiborne Jackson presided over a state legislature that was split between pro-Confederate and pro-Union legislators with the majority backing the Union.  The state legislature called for a convention on secession, and after the convention voted to stay with the Union, the governor called up a number of militia soldiers that had gathered in St. Louis for training.  Union forces in the area saw this as a threatening move and struck first resulting in what has become known as the Camp Jackson Affair.  The governor and several pro-Confederate legislators fled to Neosho, Missouri, where they held an emergency session and enacted a secession ordinance.  This ordinance was largely disregarded because the majority of the legislators from before the military incident were pro-Union and the previous convention earlier in the year had voted to remain with the Union; the Confederacy, however, recognized the later secession ordinance at the end of October.  As a large portion of the state's governing body had fled the state capitol and the more widely accepted vote to remain with the Union was already in place, President Lincoln appointed a new governor to the state and the new state government was recognized by the Union.  It seems to me that our Cook ancestors were also pro-Union (although I have yet to see any documentation of this theory) and wanted to avoid the military actions that were beginning in Missouri at this time, so they returned to an area that they already knew, northeast Indiana.  Property records for this family may help to shed some light on their specific timelines.

Moving back another generation up the Cook line, Samuel's parents were Sylvanus Cook and Eleanor Dunlap.  Sylvanus was born on 28 February 1802 in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.  Probably a year or so later, his future wife, Eleanor Dunlap, was also born in Pennsylvania.  They were married on 20 November 1823 in Sugar Creek Township, Wayne County, Ohio, and they had 8 children:
  1. Morrow Cook: M; a singer by trade
  2. Thomas Cook: M; d. about 20 years old
  3. Matilda Cook: F
  4. William Cook: M
  5. James Cook: M; d. about 20 years old
  6. Samuel Lane Cook: (above)
  7. Calvin Cook: M; ch. 14 July 1839; d. about 20 years old
  8. Sylvanus David Morrow Cook: M; ch. 20 June 1841; d. about 20 years old
I suspect that Thomas, James, Calvin and the younger Sylvanus may have all been casualties of the Civil War as they were all likely born somewhere around 1840 and died at about 20 years old; however, I have not seen any documentation to prove this theory.  A more interesting conflict of data that I have in my database for this family has to do with the elder Sylvanus.  Some older research that I have lists his death as occurring in 1833 in Noble County, Indiana.  I have strong suspicions that this was a transcription error and more likely should have been 1883 based on the theories of four children in the Civil War in their early 20s as well as an index entry in the 1860 U.S. census showing a 57-year-old Sylvanus Cook living in Noble County, Indiana.

The oldest Cook that I know of in this line so far is Sylvanus's father Samuel Cook.  Samuel was born on 4 January 1871 in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.  Sylvanus's mother, Elizabeth McWilliams, was also born there, but I don't know when.  My database currently lists eleven children to this marriage, but I'm left to wonder if this is true.  Regardless, so far I know of:
  1. Sylvanus Cook: (above)
  2. Robert Cook: M; b. 3 Dec 1803, either in Wayne County, Ohio, or in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania
  3. Asa Cook: M; b. 23 Dec 1805, either in Wayne County, Ohio or in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania; christened 29 April 1843 at Dalton Presbyterian Church, Wayne County, Ohio
  4. James Cook: M; b. maybe 9 March 1808 in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania
  5. Christina Cook: F; b. 16 June 1810 in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania
  6. Mary Cook: F; b. 26 Oct 1812, either in Wayne County, Ohio, or in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania
  7. Samuel Cook: M; b. 29 Aug 1815 in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania
  8. Jemima Cook: F; b. either 3 April 1818 or 1820, in Sugar Creek Township, Wayne County, Ohio
  9. John Cook: M; b. either 30 April 1820 or 1822, in Sugar Creek Township, Wayne County, Ohio
  10. Jesse Cook: M; b. either 26 May 1822 or 1824, in Sugar Creek Township, Wayne County, Ohio
  11. Josiah Cook: M; b. either 20 July 1824 or 1826, in Sugar Creek Township, Wayne County, Ohio; m. 30 March 1856 to Aba Linda Hillingas.
My guess is that Sylvanus, Robert, Asa, James, Christina, Mary and Samuel were all born in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, then the family moved to Sugar Creek Township, Ohio, where Jemima, John, Jesse and Josiah were born.  However, one interesting tidbit here lies in the 1850 U.S. census which lists the following as a family in Sugar Creek Township, Ohio:
  • Samuel Cook: M; age 69; born in Pennsylvania
  • Ann Cook: F; age 58; born in Pennsylvania
  • Jemima Cook: F; age 30; born in Ohio
  • John Cook: M; age 28; born in Ohio
  • Jepe Cook (which I think is a transcription error of Jesse Cook based on old handwriting where "ss" often looks like "fs"): M; age 26; born in Ohio
  • Josiah Cook: M; age 24; born in Ohio
  • Saml M Cook: M; age 4; born in Ohio
  • Rosanna Hennline: F; age 22; born in Ohio
This seems to be the same family with the children that were born in Ohio, but who were Ann, Saml M (Saml is a common abbreviation for Samuel) and Rosanna?  One possibility is that the elder Samuel was married to Elizabeth and had Sylvanus, Robert, Asa, James, Christina, Mary and Samuel all in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, and further possible that Elizabeth could have died after Samuel's birth in 1815.  This would be a plausible reason to see Samuel married to another woman named Ann in Ohio with four children a grandchild and a servant or lodger in the 1850 census.  However, even the youngest of the first seven children would have been 35 in 1850, and it is also possible that the first seven children would have all been married and moved out and that Elizabeth was also known as Ann in her later years.  Of these theories, it is impossible to tell based on the evidence that I have seen so far.

Even though I have a lot of information in my database about this family line, I don't have a lot of verification of the facts purported therein.  The obvious place to start would be the youngest on the line, Nellie Rose Cook who was born in Albion, Indiana, in 1880 and her father, Frank Fielding Cook, who was also born in Albion in 1855.  Since Albion was formed in 1854 (according to the township history on the Noble County, Indiana Genweb page), it seems likely that I should be able to find more about the family if I look at that area's history.  If nothing else, it would be a good first step.

A quick update: I did a quick search for more on Wayne County, Ohio, after originally posting this article and found a copy of History of Wayne County, Ohio (1878) scanned and available at the Family History Archive website of Brigham Young University.  Page 846 of that book is the most relevant here.  It states most of what I have on the family of Samuel Cook (b. 1781) and Elizabeth McWilliams; it asserts that my guess about the first seven children being born in Pennsylvania is correct and it appears to have been the original source of my earlier research notes.  One item in the book that I didn't have was that Samuel taught the first school class that was ever taught in Sugar Creek Township in the summer when he moved to Ohio in 1816.  I'm still a bit unsure about the discrepancies I noted above that appear in the census, so there is clearly more research that is needed here.

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