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COOK, Washington E.

Washington E. COOK, deceased, was for sixteen years county clerk of Marshall county, and, in due deference to all others, he may be said to have been the democratic leader in the county. Personally known by nearly every person having business at the county seat, he exercised an influence that was felt and acknowledged by all. He traced his ancestry back to one Elijah COOK, who came with the Pilgrim fathers and afterward located in Connecticut. One of the descendants of Elijah COOK, Ebenezer, was a soldier in the Revolutionary war, and in a very early day settled in Oneida county, New York, and there reared a family of eleven sons and two daughters. The neighborhood was known as “Cook’s corners.” One of his sons, also named Ebenezer, married Leonora COMBS, and to them, on the 29th of December, 1809, was born the subject of this sketch. Ebenezer COOK, Sr., was a soldier in the war of 1812, and until her death his widow received a pension from the general government.

When our subject was but eleven years of age his father died, and soon after he commenced to learn the hatter’s trade, but abandoned this and secured a position as clerk in a general store, where he remained some years, going from thence to New York city, where he served one year as clerk in a hotel. Hen then went to Honesdale, Pennsylvania, where, on the 16th of May, 1832, he was united in marriage with Miss Eunice KELLOGG. Here purchasing a hotel, he continued in its management for four years, when he removed to Dunkirk, New York, and assisted in surveying the Buffalo & Erie railroad. In June, 1838, he removed to Birmingham, Ohio, where for nine years he was engaged in merchandising. He now determined to go still farther west, and came to Marshall county, locating three miles west of Henry, where he purchased three hundred and twenty acres of land for four dollars per acre, and commenced a farmer’s life. This farm has since been known as the Harney farm, Mr. COOK disposing of it after three years’ ownership.

Mr. COOK was not long a resident of the county before his abilities were known and recognized by his fellow citizens. In the fall of 1849 he was nominated and elected to the office of county clerk, and removed with his family to Lacon, December 1, of that year. In that city he continued to reside until his death. He was re-elected county clerk three times, serving in all sixteen years. He also served ten years as township supervisor, and in whatever position he was called upon to fill he discharged its duties with fidelity and to the satisfaction of his constituents.

In 1860 Mr. COOK was sent as a delegate to the Charleston convention and voted continuously for Stephen A. Douglas. With the remainder of the Illinois delegation he withdrew from the convention when it was clearly shown that their rights were not to be respected. In 1868 he was a delegate to the national democratic convention, which met that year at Philadelphia. His faith in the principles of the democratic party as enunciated by Jefferson and Jackson never wavered, and he died as he lived, a democrat.

Fraternally, Mr. COOK was a Mason and had attained the thirty-second degree of that order. For some years he was a member of Apollo commandery, Chicago, and was a charter member of Peoria commandery. On his death, which occurred January 7, 1879, the Masons took charge of his funeral, attending in large numbers from Peoria and elsewhere. The circuit court, which was then in session, adjourned out of respect to his memory.

Mr. COOK was a self-educated man, having little opportunity to attend either public or private schools. His father dying when he was so young necessitated his shifting for himself in a great degree, but he was a great reader and kept himself thoroughly informed on all the questions of the day, as well as in general literature. Few men had a greater knowledge of American history, especially its political aspect. Physically he was large and strong, able to endure almost any hardship. In Chicago, the great metropolis of the west, he had unlimited faith, and there invested nearly all his spare means. Some of the real estate which he there purchased yet remains in the hands of his son, George.

Notwithstanding she was almost a life-long invalid, Mrs. COOK survived her husband some sixteen years, dying March 25, 1895. Although her sufferings at times were very great, she remained cheerful and bore it all with Christian fortitude. For very many years she was a member of the Congregational church, and used her every talent for the advancement of the Master’s cause, dying in the full assurance of faith.

Of the family of Mr. and Mrs. COOK, Helen J. married D. W. WARNER, and now resides in Boulder, Montana; Belle V. is now the widow of S. M. GARRETT, of Lacon, while George W. E. still resides in Lacon, enjoying the respect and esteem of all its citizens. He resides on the old homestead in the north part of Lacon, which has been in possession of the family since 1855, the brick part of the house having been erected in 1837. To such men as Washington E. COOK much is due, and the lesson of their lives must be an inspiration to all.

George W. E. COOK is a native of Bethany, Pennsylvania, born June 23, 1834. Like his father before him, he has been quite active as a democratic politician and has served in various official positions to the satisfaction of every one. He has been an alderman and mayor of Lacon, a member of the school board for twelve years, seven of which he acted as president of the board. In county and state conventions he has represented his party as a delegate, and for some years was president of the democratic club of Lacon. He has been a delegate from his club to the national democratic club conventions, and in every way has shown a knowledge of men and measures, entitling him to deserved recognition.

Not only as a politician has Mr. COOK been active and influential, but as a horticulturist he has taken high rank, having given much attention and study to that subject. About three acres of the home place he has set aside for use in experimenting in horticultural products, especially the strawberry. He is a member of the National Pomological society, and is its vice-president for Illinois. He has also been a member of several farmer clubs, in which he has taken an active part. In educational matters, also, he has given much time and attention, and has ever been a true friend of the public school contributing to educational journals and being consulted by legislators on legislation pertaining to the public schools. For some years he was a regular contributor to the Prairie Farmer, and has contributed more or less to various horticultural journals in the country. As has been stated, his mother was almost a life long invalid, and to her he gave the love and affection of a dutiful son, ministering unto her wants and doing all in his power to alleviate her misery. To do this work he remained under the parental roof until the mother was called to the upper and better world.

Extracted March 2011 by Norma Hass from The Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall and Putnam Counties, Illinois, 1896.

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