Important by reason of his connection with the history of Washington township and Fayette County, and also with that of the nation, Col. Edward Cook deserves first mention in the chronicle of Washington's early settlement. He was born in Chambersburg in 1741 and in 1770 made his
first journey west of the mountains in search of lands for he was at that time in possession of considerable means. he brought with him a stock of goods. When he made his location near the present line between Fayette and Westmoreland Counties, he built a log cabin near the present home of his grandson, John Cook, and in one corner of it opened a small store.
The country was then new and stores were not easy to reach, so that when the opening of Cook's store became known among settlers within a radius of many miles, they gladly gave him their patronage. Cook kept also a house of entertaining where such few travelers as happened that way might find rest and refreshment. Under the law he charged six and a half cents for a horse's feed and twelve and a half cents for a man. In 1772 he began the erection of a pretentious mansion, constructing it entirely of the limestone that was found in abundance on his land. In 1776 he moved
his family into it and there it still stands, a substantial edifice. After Cook's death, his son James Cook occupied the mansion as his home, and now James Cook's son, William E Cook, lives in it.
Edward Cook was one of the most extensive landowners in Southwestern Pennsylvania. He had altogether about three thousand acres, located in Washington, Westmoreland and Fayette Counties, and occupied now in party the farms of Joseph Brown, John B Cook, William E Cook, Mrs. John Brown, Mr. Montgomery, the site of Fayette City, and numerous other tracts.
The patent for the tract called "Mansion" was issued to Colonel Cook and described the tract as four hundred and two acres situated in Fayette and Westmoreland Counties, surveyed in pursuance of a warrant issued to Col. Cook, December 17, 1784.
A patent for "Mill Site" on the forks of William Lynn's run was issued in 1796. Col. Cook was a resident of the county from 1771 until his death in 1812, and during that time achieved considerable public distinction. He was a member of the Provincial Congress convened in Carpenter's Hall, Philadelphia, June 18, 1776, that drafted the first declaration of independence presented to Congress, June 25, 1776, (see "Journal of Congress, vol. ii, p 230); was a member of the State Constitutional Convention that convened September 28, 1776; was the first commissioner of exchange and appointed sub-lieutenant of Westmoreland County, March 21, 1777.
He was one of the founders of Rehoboth Church, a member of its first session, its first representative to the Redstone Presbytery, and the Presbytery's first representative to the General Assembly. January 5, 1782, he was appointed lieutenant of Westmoreland County to succeed Col. Archibald Lochry, who had been captured and killed while on an Indian expedition. This office gave him command of the militia of the County and the management of its military fiscal affairs. It was from this
appointment that Col. Cook received his military title. He aided in fixing the boundaries of Fayette County and was a member of the commission that located the county seat. November 21, 1786, he was appointed justice of the peace with a jurisdiction that reached into Washington County. April 8, 1789, he was appointed president of the Court of Common Pleas and Quarter Session; was associate judge of Fayette County in 1791; and from 1796 to 1798 treasurer of Westmoreland County.
It will be seen that Colonel Cook's public record was a remarkable one for that or any day, and it its brief chronicle tells in unmistakable terms that he must have been very high indeed in public esteem to have won such distinction. He was one of the foremost men of his time in Southwestern Pennsylvania. His landed and other interests were extensive and these he looked after closely despite the pressure upon his time by his official cares. He built a saw mill and a grist mill on Cook's Run; laid out Freeport, afterwards Cookstown and now Fayette City; and was largely engaged at his home farm in distilling.
He was conspicuous in the Whiskey Insurrection and having been prominent in some of the meetings of the insurgents, his arrest was ordered but in the meantime before any action could be taken he appeared November 6, 1794, before Thomas McKean, chief justice of the Supreme Court of
Pennsylvania and in the presence of William Bradford, Attorney General of the United States, voluntarily entered into recognizance to the United States for his appearance before the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States at the next special session of the Circuit Court held for
the district of Pennsylvania "then and there to answer such charges of treasonable and seditious practices and such other matters of misdemeanor as shall be alleged against him in behalf of the United Sates and that he will not depart that court without license."
Having taken this bold and honorable course, he quietly awaited the result which was simply that nothing was found against him and he was not molested in person but some cavalrymen belonging to the army that came out to quell the insurrection visited his home and did considerable damage, nearly demolishing his distillery, knocking in the heads of liquor casks and spilling a vast amount of whiskey.
Colonel Cook was among General Washington's personal friends and on two occasions at least entertained Washington in the old stone mansion now the home of William E Cook. On one of the occasions named, Washington was journeying that way to visit his lands in Washington County and stopped at Col. Cook's for a brief rest. Cook was at that time engaged in reviewing a body of militia nearby and knew nothing of the arrival of his distinguished guest. Word of the arrival was whispered to the men before it reached the colonel, and when he observing the commotion learned what ws in the wind, he relaxed all discipline and set off unceremoniously for the house. The militiamen followed at the double-quick and hurrahing enthusiastically for General Washington brought him to the porch and evoked from him in reply a good natured and fatherly speech which the soldiers cheered to the echo.
Colonel Cook had but one son, James Cook, who married Mary Bell. The colonel's yearning ambition was to become a grandfather and when the news came to him that he had a grandson, his joy knew no bounds. In the exuberance of his delight, he waited upon his old friend Joseph Downer,
and insisted upon his drafting a will in which all the Cook estate should be left to the grandson, Edward Cook, and it was only by persistent effort that Downer persuaded him from this project, and convinced him that as there might be more grandchildren, such an act would be one of injustice.
Colonel Cook died in the old stone mansion, November 6, 1812, and his remains rest in Rehoboth churchyard. His widow survived him twenty five years. She died in 1837 aged upwards of ninety. Colonel Cook's son James Cook had a family of six sons and one daughter, The daughter, Martha
Cook, is now in West Newton. Of the sons: Edward Cook; James Cook; Joseph Cook; and Michael Cook are dead. John B Cook and William E Cook occupy portions of the homestead farm.
Below was copied from Col. Cooks Tombstone at Rehoboth Cemetery, Rostraver Township, Westmoreland Co., PA:
In Memory of Colonel Edward Cook who died on the 27th day of November A.D. 1808 in the 70th year of his age. Few men have deserved and possessed more eminently than Col. Cook, the confidence and esteem of the people in the Western Country. In Public, Spirit, Disinterestedness and Zeal for the general welfare he was excelled by none. In Private life, his unsullied integrity, his liberality and the amiable benevolence of his temper endeared him to his friends and marked him as a sanctuary to which the poor might confidently resort for relief. Through a long life of piety and active exertion to promote the interest of the Christian religion, he had learned to set his heart upon a nobler inheritance than that of this world. He therefore received the approach of his dissolution with resignation and composure under a lively hope that the end of life here would be to him but the beginning of infinite happiness