John Cooke Bio

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John Cooke
A Biography
By William W. Lyons

John Cooke was born in London, England on June 28, 1752 of well to do parents.

When John was seventeen years of age, he and a young widow friend, Nellie Goodall, who’s maiden name was Pemberton, were invited aboard a vessel in the Thames river in London for dinner with friends who were sailing for the Colony of Virginia.

As it turned out, the invitation was a ruse to get the young couple aboard ship and while aboard the Captain hoisted anchor and both Cooke and Nellie, who was thirteen years of age at the time, were “Shanghaied” to America as indentured passengers against their will.  “Shanghaiing” was a nefarious tactic many ship captains of the time used to supplement their personal income.

The ship on which John and Nellie sailed was probably the Ark or the Dove, ironically owned by the Lyon Shipping Company of London.  I state this because of the reputation the Captains of these ships had for such practice.

As indentured passengers, both were victims of the colonial labor system of “slavery with a time limit”, used to provide England’s colonies with much needed white labor.

Upon arrival at the Port of Norfolk in the Virginia Colony, John and young Mrs. Goodall were indentured to a planter in the valley of Virginia located on the James River for payment of their passage.

Cook served out his indenture, probably in the year 1773, and then helped Nellie serve hers, feeling no doubt, guilt and obligation for her misfortune.

Misfortune it must have seemed at first, but the opportunity in the new world frontier soon became obvious to both of them for upon completion of their terms of bonded servitude they were married.

With their “gifts” of a barrel of corn, an ox or horse, and fifty acres of land to each, which was the custom upon completion of indenture, they established their home in the Valley of Shenandoah County, Virginia

Of John and Nellie’s marriage, there are records of the birth of five children, namely: Thomas, born July 27, 1776, John, Jr., born 1778, William, born June 4, 1784,  James, born July 31, 1786, and a daughter, whose name and birth date was lost when she married and remained behind in the Valley when her parents migrated to southwestern Virginia.  There is some extant evidence that may lead to her rediscover and record.

John Cooke’s first military service was in 1773, in Lord Dunmore’s War, (Dunmore was John Murry, Earl of Dunmore, and Governor of the Colony of Virginia), when John enlisted in Captain Thomas Buford’s Independent Company of Bedford County Riflemen Volunteers.  With this unit, John marched with General Andrew Lewis to Point Pleasant, now West Virginia, where the Regiment engaged Cornstalk, the Iroquois War Chief of the Northern Confederacy on October 19, 1774.  This engagement was the most desperate ever managed between the white man and Indian in North America and with heavy casualties on both sides.

Prior to the actual battle, Cooke and others were dispatched to Fort Clendenin for supplies.  It is presumed that Cooke and his party rejoined the Regiment later as his name is engraved on the War Memorial at Point Pleasant, WV, as a participant of that battle.

In the Spring of 1777, John Cooke, Peter Huff and other Rangers in pursuit of a war party of Indians passed near the present day site of Oceana, West Virginia, crossing the mountain, probably at Lower Road Branch, into Huff Creek, and where Huff was killed by the Indians and buried there by the Rangers.  This is thought to be the first party of white men to ever enter what is now known as Wyoming County.

In January, 1777, Cooke responded to the Act of the Virginia Assembly providing for a second call for soldiers for the Continental Army, by enlisting from Shenandoah County and served as a Private in the Companies of Captains Jonathan Landon; Abraham Hite and George Werle, in Colonel James Wood’s Eighth and twelfth Virginia Regiments which were then referred to as “Continental Lines”.  He participated in the Battle of Monmouth, New Jersey and was with General “Mad Anthony” Wayne in the storming of Stoney Point, on the Hudson in New York.  John was discharged on December 29, 1779.

John Cooke served in the Later Indian Wars, on the 27th of May, 1793, John and his son Thomas, a youth were on the Muster of Captain Hugh Caperton’s Company of Rangers from Greenbrier, Kanawha, Montgomery and Wythe Counties, when they were Reviewed by Colonel John Steele at Fort Lee at the mouth of the Elk on the Great Kanawha river – now Charleston, the Capitol of West Virginia.  This fort was built to guard the Kanawha Valley settlements.

In the spring of 1799, John and his four sons came to the mouth of the Laurel Fork River on the Clear Fork River, built a cabin and cleared a small patch of land and made a small crop.  In the fall of the same year, John and the sons left the cabin and crop in the care of a man by the name of Milam (probably Rush Milam, a Revolutionary War veteran), who had been scouting in that section, while they returned to the Narrows on New River in Giles County where he had previously moved the wife and sons from Shenandoah County.

John with Nellie and the sons returned to the cabin site in Wyoming County in 1799, to become the first permanent settlers of that county.

A pension for his Revolutionary War Service, and also a bounty land warrant for 160 acres were granted in 1832.  John’s first wife, Nellie, died around 1812 and on June 28, 1813 he married Ann Hendrix whose maiden name was Keatley, a resident of Monroe County, Virginia.  The marriage was proved by Polly Abbott and Francis Hendrix, Ann’s sister, both residents of Monroe County.

John died in Logan County, Virginia on November 21, 1832 at the age of eighty at the home of his son, William Agna, the writer’s Great-great Grandfather, who was then living at the second cabin that was built in the area by Captain Ralph Stewart.

Captain Ralph Stewart and Mary Clay Stewart were the parents of Catherine, the wife of William Agna Cooke.

On July 29, 1934, the Colonel Andrew Donally Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, dedicated a road marker to the memory of this early pioneer settler on State Route 10 directly in front of his grave.  The date, attesting to his settlement in the year “1797”, however is incorrect and should read “1799” as previous and serious research confirmed that John was appointed Constable of Montgomery County on November 6, 1798 and still lived on New River at that time.

This writer is proud that this patriotic and daring American settler was his Maternal Great-great-great-great Grandfather.