(no date given)


Benjamin Stephen Cook’s (b1800) Bible-showing pedigree.
Benjamin Stephen Cook

After seeing the Family Bible and the ancestors copied from another Bible, one of the questions I asked my Grandfather Emory was, “When did the first Cooks come to America?”

Grandfather Emory said, “Well, I was always told our first ancestors came over on the Mayflower, but everybody says that, so probably it is just another wild story. [Later, when I was looking through the encyclopedia, I came across a list of the Mayflower’s passengers. A Francis Cooke and a John Cooke, father, and son appeared on the list–but that proved nothing. Later, when in Plymouth, I purchased a booklet containing history of the Mayflower Cooks. They appeared to have only daughters as descendants. But the father had a son who remained in Holland and came within a year or two–but whether he was our ancestor, I have no idea.]

Grandfather’s knowledge of the family came from stories told him by his father and Grandfather. He told of how drinking had ruined the family fortunes. Said family was wealthy in an early day and drank and lost money. Then a family quarrel ensued, and two brothers left home, went south, owned slaves, and their descendants fought for the South, and after the War Between the States were never heard from again. One can only guess who they were, but I can hazard a guess that it may have been Ny, born in 1788 and Theodorus, born in 1794. They were sons of Benjamin Cook born (born 1757) and his wife Ruth (born1759). All the other children have dates of death recorded. It would appear that it would require a generation to get started as slave owners.

Grandfather often told the story of how the Cooks of the Revolutionary Era were Quakers. The British came and took their cattle. True to their faith, they did not fight. Then their sons returned and went after the British exacting their pay for the cattle.

Grandfather, recalling how drinking had left the family with little property, was opposed to drinking and would walk away when offered anything other than wine made by his neighbor, John Smith of Smith’s apple orchard.

With five living sisters, Emory was continually harassed by them as to what to do and how to do it. Only one, Martha, looked up to him, and she became his favorite sister. He always stopped in Ohio to see her on his way to visit the sister who remained in Westfield, N.Y. He had an older sister, Maria, wife of Richard Bennett, who lived in Ohio also. Somewhere among the pictures stored at Forrest’s, there’s a picture of three girls and a boy which hung in our living room for years. They were Maria’s Grandchildren. Their surname was McClelland.

Grandfather grew up on farms which his Grandfather seems to have rented. Grandfather was proud of having helped split the rails to fence in the grounds of the first Chautauqua in the U.S. It was located in Chautauqua Co. N.Y. and was located permanently. The reports of lectures and speakers there interested him, and he decided he wanted more education. He saved every penny he could, as did his sister Maria. They planned on attending the Academy one winter. They arranged to rent two rooms from a former neighbor and arranged to cook in her kitchen. Just before the term began, Emory’s father fell out of the loft, broke his leg, and required medical care. Everyone had to give up his…

(Note: It appears that at Aunt Luella paused and was saving the end for a later date at the time she gave this to her nephew Larry A. Cook. Perhaps the transcriber will find it as he digs further into her papers.)


In Iowa, the founder of our branch of the Cook family was Emory Cook, son of Benjamin and Susan Barber Cook. He was born Feb. 17, 1829, in Maysville, N.Y. and died in 1919. He is buried in the Baker Cemetery in Coffin’s Grove township, Delaware Co., Iowa, about a mile from the home that he bought with money saved after he came to Iowa.

Emory B. Cook Family c1869, around the time they came to Iowa.
Ranford Cook

Emory and Mary Jane came to Iowa in 1869 and lived for two or three years on a rented farm about three miles East of Manchester on the river. Later they moved to Coffins Grove twp. and rented the “Bayley Place.” It must have contained upwards of 250 acres for it was there that the family lived for upwards of 10 years. During that time, Ranford left home and went to live north of Winthrop, Iowa, where the families of his descendants still live on the original farms he bought. That left Malcolm and Ed at home, and as Emory was still strong and well, they quickly did the farm work. Emory didn’t believe that women should work in the fields unless there was a real necessity.

Possibly the house described at left.
Standing in the background: Ed & Mary Cook w/neighbor girl in front of them
Seated: Susan & Emory Cook holding Luella
Sanding in the foreground: Unknown neighbors

Sometime between 1882 and 1885, Emory bought his long-desired home. It was located on Coffins Creek on a North and South road between the Brick School and the four crossroads south of the bridge. It was the only house on the road and faced West. A picture of the old house taken in 1895 shows an upright one story and a half at the South and a North one-story wing facing West. The unpainted siding ran up and down, and the battens covered the spaces where the boards met. When they moved to their new home Edward was still at home he rented land for himself and worked with his father. In that way, he was home the longest, and even when he married, he still lived near his parents. Emory depended on him. He was quiet, mild of manner but a very determined person. Mary Jane, never well after the birth of her last child, came to depend on Ed and Helen. (Family called her Ella) The brother and sister were the best of friends except when it came to household affairs dealing with their mother. Because Ella had the responsibility of doing the family work, she felt she should decide for Mary Jane many details that concerned her belongings. Ed remembered his mother as a young woman with her full strength and able to run her own household. Often Mary Jane was being overrun by Ella; Ed would take a hand and back Mary Jane. So Ed became a favorite of both parents.

After Ed married and his sister Ella and his mother died, Emory still depended on him. When he sold his farm in 1907, he asked Ed and his wife if he could come live with them. They said “Yes,” and Emory came to live in the double family house at Oak Grove farm.

Twelve years before, in 1893, Ed’s oldest child was born. Emory promptly but rather tactlessly claimed her as “my girl” and took her everywhere with him that their parents would permit her to go.

When he moved to the Edward Cook household, he brought a small old fashioned trunk. It was filled with old letters and keepsakes.

One of several of the old letters still in existence today.

Emory asked if his granddaughter would help him sort the trunk. She agreed. Emory and she read the old letters, and Emory told her of his sisters Maria Bennet and Martha Thompson in New London, Ohio, his sister Ardelia in Westfield, New York, and his sisters Helen Pierce and Margaret Howard who had died in 1875 and 1898 respectively.

Once the story sessions started, they never stopped.

The letters prompted new stories. Letters from Hastings, Iowa from Cousin Will Cook brought out the story of Morgan Cook, Emory’s uncle, who lived in Missouri for a time but went back to New York to be buried in the family cemetery at Clear Creek, Chautauqua County, N.Y. Tales of marriage of Emory’s sister Helen Pierce, her early death, and how her children were divided among her brothers and sisters. Emory got Ernie the oldest who died at 15 two years after he arrived and was buried in the Baker Cemetery. Ardelia got Lillian and raised her.

Mary Jane Benson wearing her wedding dress.

The family Bible was given close scrutiny and prompted questions. There was Mary Jane’s ring worn through but with a heart-shaped on the side. There was Mary Jane’s wedding dress of plum-colored taffeta changing to gold in the light. There were pictures of the family–all in carved walnut frames. There were school books used by Emory, Mary Jane, and Ella, who had died in 1891. There were Sunday School prizes won by Ed when he was a boy in New York. There was a copy from an older family Bible of the Cook family pedigrees from 1732 down to the 1830s. There were letters from the Barbers in Michigan–Brig and Rose, Peter and Eulillia. They were second cousins of Ed. There were letters from the Dennisons of Mason City–children of Mary Benson Dennison, Mary Jane’s sister. (She later became the wife of Mr. Richmond, and one of the daughters married Ed Kelley, father of Joe Kelley.)

There were some clippings of deaths–Susan Ann Benson Coates and her husband, Jason. The Coates branch of the family was a well-known one to the granddaughter. The Ezra Coates (son of Susan Ann and Jason) lived at Delaware and were close friends of the Ed Cooks.

So was begun and fostered an interest in family history that has been life long on the part of the granddaughter. Add to the fact that her father and mother loved to tell stories, and you have the background for this rather odd hobby–collecting family tales. The human side appealed to her more than dates and names, but in later life she researched cemeteries in New York, Ohio, Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota to find out as much data as possible–but so far as the Cooks are concerned, it centers primarily on who they were, not on their forbears.

Written by Luella Ellis Cook

Transcribed by Eric L. Cook

October 2019

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