Our earliest documented ancestor is Mordecai Cooke, who was born about 1720, probably in Virginia.He married Ann Day, and they had two children William and Frances.Nothing more is known of Mordecai.When he and Ann died, their children were raised by Ann's brother William and his wife Ann (Harris).
William grew to manhood and participated in the Revolutionary War.Afterwards he bought farm land in Louisa County and married Ann Nelson.Later in life, he became a Baptist preacher.
Mordecai N., son of William and Ann was born in 1782, and he married Ann McGehee in 1803.Their third child, William Pinckney was born 4 Jan 1810 in adjacent Orange County, near the Pamunkey community.
As a child, William took on chores as he grew, and probably roamedthe bottomlands of his father's farm for adventure.Occasionally the family would visit his grandparent's farm, where he played with the gathered cousins.Often, he would just sit and listen to the elders tell stories.In the barnyard, he watched his grandfather's negroes (slaves) go about their work.
At about eight years old, he began to hear his parents discuss a possible move.He and his older sisters talked about what this would mean to them.Late in the summer the Virginia home was sold, and in a short time the family said their farewells to the grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins.Two months later they were in Kentucky.
William's father bought 100 acres from Aunt Matilda's (McGehee) husband Ralph Tandy.For the first time in his life, he attended a community school.It was located in Salubria, and taught by one of Ralph's brothers, a few miles southeast of Hopkinsville.Sisters Mary, Elizabeth, Charlotte also attended; and later Sarah and Andrew.After school they raced home to tend to their chores.In going to the schoolhouse, he got to be with other children of the neighboring farms. Mary then married, and his father bought another farm a few miles north. It had more trees, much like the farm they left back in Virginia.
Then his father died in June of 1822. And his sister Elizabeth married.That left him at home with six siblings (the two toddlers Barbara and Martha born in Kentucky, four year old James, Sarah, Andrew, and Charlotte) and a widowed mother.At twelve years old, he was crushed, as they all were.
Somehow his mother managed, but with difficulty.At age fourteen he was removed from school and the Court in November 1824 apprenticed him to a man named Dickinson to learn the farmers trade.Distance prevented daily contact with his family, but he probably saw them most Sundays.
The Court also assigned Ralph Tandy as a minor's Guardian for he and his siblings.Months passed, and the Court found that he was mishandling their inherited financial trust.In 1826, while working with the plow, Dickinson and someone who looked familiar came to the field.It was Uncle Dabney McGehee, his mother's brother from Alabama.He had come to help his mother settle her business affairs. After Ralph arranged to pay his debts as Guardian to the Court's satisfaction, the family accompanied Dabney to his farm at Springfield Alabama.There Dabneybecame their Guardian, teacher, and stepfather.
He continued to learn the farmers trade from Uncle Dabney, and perhaps completed his internship as follows:
For two growing seasons, he planted and tended some of the crops under Dabney's close supervision, except for the cotton.The third year he worked mostly unsupervised.There were setbacks caused by weather and insects, but Dabney always remained optimistic. The fourth year, he was directly involved with the cotton.This meant managing the negroes, including those his mother sold to Dabney.
He remembered his grandfather bragging on his negroes, how they individually took pride in their skills of growing tobacco. But growing cotton required little expertise;planting, tending, and harvesting was mindless work.Just plod down the rows in near unison sticking the seeds in the ground, hoeing the weeds as the cotton matured, and placing the cotton in baskets when harvesting.(Until the cotton gin was invented, the seeds had to be laboriously removed from the fibre by hand.)Thankfully, Dabney treated all the negroes well, keeping them clothed and shod, fed and sheltered, and doctored.
As a 'graduation' gift William was given a trip to Mobile.Dabney took him and his son Edward on a barge, loaded with his cotton, down the riversBlack Warrior, Tombigbee, and Alabama to the market.(The cotton would make its way to the New England textile mills by an ocean voyage.)Cotton was becoming 'king cotton' throughout the southern States, and it would make many farmers wealthy.They returned by steamboat, bringing with them supplies and gifts.
Meantime his mother had remarried, to Thomas Eskridge, and his sister Charlotte had married Esther's uncle, Dr. Zachary Meriwether, a widower.
Established in 1818, it was probably named from the town in South Carolina, as many settlers had come from that area, including Dabney's family andDr. Zachary Meriwether.It grew to have a college, churches, stores, hotel, and a stagecoach station.For several years an annual horse race was popular, with 'Daniel Boone' being a local favorite horse.Growing in population to over 1500, its prosperity dwindled when nearby Eutaw became the county seat.
It may have been a chance meeting in Springfield that William became acquainted with Judith.Her father Amos Lay farmed near Union, a few miles northeast.They were married on 17 December 1830.
She was born in Orangeburg, South Carolina, March 2nd, 1814.Her parents were Amos and Sarah Otterson Lay, of Virginia and South Carolina.Major Samuel P. and Ruth Gordon Otterson were Sarah Otterson Lay's parents. The Otterson's were of Huguenot ancestry. [Samuel fought in battles of the Revolutionary War in the southern colonies.It is said that Ruth aided the cause by blowing up a Tory powder and weapons magazine.]
By 1833, his mother Ann had died.He and Judithhad two children, Sarah and John Mordecai.Ralph Tandy and wife Matilda (his aunt) had relocated from Kentucky to near by. (They were founding members of Beulah Baptist Church.)
Ralph and family were planning to move yet again, to a Robertson's Colony in northern Mexico (Tejas) urging William and Judith to accompany them.They did not, but did want to strike out on their own, as Uncle Dabney and Mr. Lay were urging them.They had been considering it for some time.
Williamsuggested to Judith's brother Jesse that they look into land further west.(The Mississippi River formed the approximate frontier boundary.)Jesse had recently married William's sister Barbara. Another brother, Vincent, became interested also.William knew that although he had his inheritance, prices were going up as most all of the suitable land was becoming scarce. And President Jackson had provided the solution.
"Andrew Jackson gained national fame through his role in the War of 1812, where he won decisive victories over the Indians and then over the main British invasion army at the Battle of New Orleans. Jackson's army was sent to Florida where, without orders, he deposed the small Spanish garrison. This led directly to the treaty which formally transferred Florida from Spain to the United States."
In 1818, at President Monroe's behest he had been instrumental in negotiating the Jackson Purchase, land bought from the Chickasaw Indians, located in western Kentucky and Tennessee.Jackson became President in 1829, and served until 1837.
["Under constant pressure from settlers, each of the five southern tribes had ceded most of its lands, but sizable self-government groups lived in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida.All of these (except the Seminoles) had moved far in the coexistence with whites, and they resisted suggestions that they should voluntarily remove themselves. Their nonviolent methods earned them the title the Five Civilized Tribes.Yet most of the Tribes took up the offer to settle in Arkansas Territory, and Indian Territory (Oklahoma) where they were promised sovereignty." The Chickasaw again held out for cash money, which they would use to bargain favorably for Indian Territory land."In 1836 after a bitter five-year debate within the tribe, the Chickasaw had reached an agreement to purchase land in Indian Territory from the previously removed Choctaw. They paid the Choctaw $530,000 for the westernmost part of their land. The first group of Chickasaw moved in 1837. For nearly 30 years, the US did not pay the Chickasaw the $3 million it owed them for their historic territory in the Southeast.]
They struck out on their horses, each with a pack horse in tow.After three weeks they returned and made a report.They had stopped atthe Columbus Mississippi government land office to get an overview of the process of obtaining 'new' land, and suggestions of where to scout.They were in what had been Chickasaw Indian land, and a few inhabitants yet remained.When they reached Grenada, they continued on into the Yazoo River bottom lands.There they found large farms, which were harvesting their cotton.Land, they were told, is fast being bought up, and negroes were trading at a premium.On their return trip by way of Houston, they entered an area that was more suitable for general farming. William said it was forested, mostly with hardwood and pine mix, and meadow lands with small streams.Only a few settlers were present.A Fox family had moved there recently from Tuscaloosa.All three families made plans were to move there in the spring.
With their wagons loaded, they were ready to begin.Sister Martha, a twin to Barbara, had married Lewis Davis and they were going also.Brother James, now 18 andunmarriedfound it particularly hard to leave Dabney and Esther, essentially being raised by them.Sisters Charlotte (Meriwether) and Sarah (Mitchell) wished them well.After passing through Tuscaloosa, Columbus, and Houston, they arrived and camped near the Fox family.The only hold up had been the broken down ferry at the Tombigbee River crossing.They were in theNorthern District of Mississippi, Chickasaw County.
The Choctaw Meridian, the basis from which cadastral surveying was done that includes William's original land, was established in 1821.The Preemption Act of 1841 gave squatters first rights to buy land.He evidently laid claim to 240 acres but it was not until 1844-6 that he had paid (amount not noted) the General Land Office in Columbus.Later purchases were from individuals, up through 1870.He was a partner with D. D. McPhail on one property.The total owned by Williamwas over 400 acres. The land was located at: Choctaw Meridian, Township 22 North, Range 9 East, Sections 29, 30, and 31.In this vicinity, the Slate Spring community would form. (Most County Clerk records were burned in a fire in 1922, so disposition of his land after his death is not known.)
[For a farmer to be able to plant different crops on his land, it is first necessary to eliminate the natural vegetation. This was initially accomplished through the use of a moldboard plow. The moldboard plow cut into the ground to overturn the surface vegetation. This exposes the underlying layer of soil humus, and begins the decomposition of the overturned plant material. Moldboard plows are inherently required on unbroken land, for without one, a farmer would not be able to plant a viable crop on his land.]
An 1837 State Census notes that William had nine cultivated acres.By 1860approximately half of his original land was considered improved, according to theAgricultural and Manufacturing Census of 1860 for Calhoun County.The Censusstated the land value was $1500, farm implements $140, livestock $867 (5 horses, 1 mule, 3 milch cows, 4 oxen, 14 sheep, and 40 swine).From the previous year's harvest, he had 600 bushels of corn, 7 bales of cotton, and 40 pounds of wool.Other reported items were bushels of beans, potatoes, 10 pounds of butter, and $120 of slaughtered livestock.He would have been considered a general (yeoman) farmer, as the cash crop(seven bales of cotton) would have required 20 acres or less to produce.
Censused neighbors were: Vincent Lay - 540 acres, Jesse G. Lay - 160 acres, William Carr - 80 acres, Thomas Fox - 200 acres, John J. Fox - 110 acres, Solomon Webb - 80 acres, Sarah Shaw - 80 acres.
William began farming his own land about the time several horse drawn implements would be coming in to use.In the last days of his active farming, steam powered tractors were being tried out.[ 1850 - About 75-90 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels of corn (2-1/2 acres) with walking plow, harrow, and hand planting.1890 - About 35-40 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (2-1/2 acres) of corn with 2-row planter, 2-bottom gang plow, disk, and peg-tooth harrow.]This was the agricultural aspect of the then erupting Industrial Revolution.
The family's first house was likely constructed with the usual post and beam method, but was converted to a barn when they built a larger house for a growing family.The new house probably was [a dogtrot house consisting of two log/clapboard cabins connected by a breezeway or "dogtrot", all under a common roof. One cabin was used for cooking and dining while the other was used as a private living space, such as a bedroom. The windows would have glass and shutters, but a combination of the breezeway and open windows pulled cooler outside air into the living quarters.As the family grew, additional rooms would be added, flanking the hall.Typically, a porch would be on the front or back.]If they built yet another house, it would have been of the 'balloon' type construction coming into use.
Over the years, Judith's kitchen evolved with improvedutensils as well.
Pressure cooker, potato mashers, apple peelers, food choppers, sausage stuffers, coffee grinders, even the waffle iron.Many became mechanized utilizing gears and cranks. One particularly novel inventionwas the rocking chair butter churn. This device, consisted of a barrel attached to a rocking chair. While the rocker moved, the barrel churned the milk within into butter.
Although a limited variety of canned foods had been available for many years, the 'can opener' did not appear until 1858.Also that year, food preservation was revolutionized when John Mason patented the screw neck bottle or the "Mason Jar".Foods were preserved by vacuum sealing, thus preventing spoilage.Kerosene lamps became popular in the 1870's, but electricity would not reach William and Judith's home in their lifetime.
Children's chores were much like their parents were when they grew up. Girls helping their mother in the house, garden, and milking the cows.Boys in the field and barnyard.Only a few brothers had the experience of transitioning from walking behind the plow to riding on wheels and a seat. They filled their rare free time with games such as Pin the Tail on the Donkey, charades, checkers and blind man's bluff.Families often gathered with children to sing songs, and play instruments.Later in life Judith's grand kids would teach her to play 'jacks', with the bouncing ball being a novelty product of the fledging rubber industry.
Some books that might have been on their bookshelf may have been:The Deerslayer - James Fenimore Cooper; A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens;The Virginians - William Makepeace Thackeray; The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain.Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin of 1852was likely very thought provoking and a subject of much discussion.
Socializing was done at school events and after Sunday church services.A game called 'town ball' (precursor to baseball) had begun to be played, perhaps nearby Hopewell became a rival team.
In matters of health, vaccination for smallpox was wide spread, and a diphtheria vaccine was introduced in the 1890's.Some health authorities promoted the practice of thorough hand washing to prevent illness, while others disputed its effectiveness. Use of chloroform became common as a anesthetic.
[While the Chickasaw Indians lived primarily in northern Mississippi during historic times, their extensive land claims included parts of northern Alabama, West and parts of Middle Tennessee, and western Kentucky. Those Tennessee and Kentucky claims were primarily for hunting grounds.]
With the Chickasaw Indians mostly absent from northern Mississippi, (the tribe had sold their land to the United States rather than simply exchange for land in Indian Territory) settlers moved in. The community of Oldtown on the Schoona River had a few stores that had been patronized by the Indians, and then settlers as they became established.A new settlement was emerging up a few miles south on the Grenada - Houston Road.It would become
It is said that William Cooke placed curbing around a seep spring about a mile southwest, thus the name Slate Springs,( J. C. Alexander, writer for the Calhoun Monitor Newspaper, 1926)
"The first saw mill located here was in 1835. It was a sash saw which worked up and down instead of with circular movement through the logs. It was owned and operated by William Vance and was situated on Shoot-Us-A-Spear Creek.Water was used for power. The first house built in the community was constructed by a man named Joe Fox.(He later married Sarah, William and Judith's daughter.)Thesettlers set about clearing the lands on the hills and ridges, the bottom lands being considered worthless."
About the time Calhoun County was establishedin 1852, formed from Chickasawand adjacent Counties, the settlers cut a road from Pittsboro (county seat) south.It intersected the Houston - Grenada Road and then crossed into Choctaw County a mile south and continued to Greensboro.
At the intersection, a general store was built and operated by Joseph and Sarah Fox. By 1856 a Post Office had been established, and named Slate Springs. (Within 15 years it would be serving 150 families.)William's youngest son Samuel would later practice medicine in the community .
In 1857, the people came together, planned and built a new school house.The first session was taught by Major Garvin and his son from Boston Massachusetts.(Some fifteen years earlier, the first school teacher had been James Cooke, William's brother.)One notable student was General Fox Connor, who was on General Pershing's staff during the World War I.
Soon the town was incorporated and a law was passed preventing the sale of intoxicating liquors within five miles of the corporate limits of Slate Springs.
Until the community grew large enough, the communities of Pittsboro and Hopewell provided most necessities for the farm families, but lacked a market for cash crops. Grenada, 30 miles to the west, served that purpose, and gave access to more extensive farm and home goods selection. "William Cooke, had made friends with the remainingIndians. He learned their language and always headed the wagon train of farmers, taking their crops to Grenada. The Indians camped beside the wagon train to protect it."Crops were placed on barges which carried cargo down the rivers Yalobusha and Yazoo, and emptied into the Mississippi River at Vicksburg.
By 1861 the M&T Railroad had laid tracks from Memphis Tennessee south to Grenada, where it made connections with the Mississippi Central, providing service beyondto Jackson, MS and New Orleans. (Though interrupted by the impending war, the line was resurrected as the Illinois Central in the 1870's.)
Railroads would change America, allowing freight and passengers to travel extensively without regard to the limitations of river courses and poorly maintained roads.Accompanying the railroad construction was the ubiquitous poles and wire, spreading a new and fast means of communication, the telegraph.William and Judith probably traveled to Memphis and Jackson at least once.
Neighbors, as time passed would include: Fox, Lay, Davis, Vance, Pryor, Shaw, Therrel, Doolittle, McCord, Sugg, Eason, Criss,White, Therrel, Thetford, Spencer, Patterson, Langston, Holley, Martin, Shaw, and others.
William's grandfather had been a preacher after farming for many years, and his faith had remained strong in him.
William was a founder of the Bethany Baptist Church near the new and growing community that became known as Slate Springs. When it was established July 16, 1836, its first pastor was James Martin, and William was ordained as a Deacon soon thereafter. The building was of logs with the board roof and the door facings fastened with wood pins. The seats were similarly constructed. It was located two miles
south of present day Slate Springs. Some early members were the Straughan, Martin, Fox, West, Denton, and Cooke families.About 1845, William was assigned as a Delegate to the Association of Churches (of the surrounding Counties). He reported Bethany's membership of 133, led by pastor J. Thomas. The twenty four Churches of the Association mostly had memberships under 50, although Hayes Creek had 168.In 1881, Bethany moved to it's present location in Slate Springs proper.
Bethany Baptist ordained other Churches over time, one being Bethel in 1850. It is located between Slate Springs and Dentontown. William was instrumental in establishing Bethel, wherehis extended family worshiped thereafter.He served both as a Deacon andClerk.
Being a early settler hoping for a civil minded community in which his and other families could prosper, William did his part in its governance.He participated in the meetings at Oldtown (then Hartford) that formed Calhoun County.Soon thereafter, the State appointed him a District Justice (and his brother James in an adjoining district),thenPostmaster.In 1883 he was serving as Mayor of Slate Springs, an elective office.
Throughout his lifetime, William had lived amidst the practice of slavery.From the tobacco fields of his grandfather in Virginia; his father's farming without slaves in Kentucky until the five his wife had inherited; his uncle Dabney's slaves in the first field of cotton he had ever seen; and countless dozens of slaves in the cotton fields of Mississippi.Indeed, he was unable to escape the 'peculiar institution' himself.(Tax records show that he had no slaves in 1836-37, but in 1838he had one.A male child of eleven years old.) Why a child, and only one?William had not inherited slaves, so perhaps his wife had.Her grandfather had died in 1837.
"My father, W.P. Cooke, missed all the war as far as fighting. He was born in 1810, too young for the War of 1812, too old for the Civil war, though he played his part heroically at home attending government issues to the soldiers.Collect tax in kind it was called. This consisted of produce brought in by farmers such as corn, wheat, oats, and meat. He had three sons in the War Between the States.", from an article in the Maben Mississippi Press by his daughter Mary Frances Cooke Sugg.
Those sons were John Mordecai, James Vincent, and William, who died of the measles at Fort Henry Tennessee.
The Civil War was about States rights and secession, but President Abraham Lincoln made it about freeing of the slaves also when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.Before the War, William may have considered freeing his slave Jackson.But what were the chances of him remaining free from capture by a vicious slave trader. By 1870 the Census notes a Jackson Cook with wife and children living near William, and had land ($200) and personal property ($300).In 1880, he was not there, possibly having moved to a northern State.Many land owners took advantage of the landless negroes inability to subsist on their own or to move elsewhere.So 'sharecropping' evolved and many were entangled in a web of labor and debt.
RECONSTRUCTIONMississippi was eventually readmitted to the Union, but with radical governance.A financial depression had set in.Railroads were slow to rebuild.Thus cash cropping was made difficult.Taxes were raised, and raised yet again.The local general mercantile store (owned by William's daughter Sarah and her husband Joseph Fox) could not obtain steady stock, so families found it necessary to be self-sustaining now more than ever.Even as circumstances slowly improved, some of Slate Springs' inhabitants had moved elsewhere.Two sons, Vincent and Zachariah moved to Kansas and Texas.William and Judith recovered, but not fully.
DEATHJudith died 26 October 1897 and William 25 July 1898. An epitaph written by a granddaughter, Bessie Fox Truly (born 1878) stated "they had lived together in devoted love and happiness for sixty eight years.This lovable old man, my grandfather, possessed to a very marked degree what I would call the characteristic traits of the Cooke Family as I have known them;hospitality, a high sense of honor, and pride of family and name.All ot these he carefully instilled in his children and grandchildren.During all the 88 years of his life he was sunny hearted and kind and lovable, and his wife was in every way a fit companion for him.They were loved and honored to a remarkable degree by his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren."
They are buried at Bethel Baptist Church Cemetery, along with some of their siblings, children, and grandchildren. (It is located about 5 miles west of Slate Springs. Go West on CR 380 past Dentontown and turn right on to CR 395.)
CONCLUSIONWilliam was born in Virginia, like his father and grandfather, followed in their footsteps as a farmer.As a boy, his family moved to Kentucky, and too soon lost his father to death.He shouldered the resulting difficulties along with his mother and siblings, but was raised to manhood by a supportive Uncle Dabney in Alabama.There he met his wife Judith, and together with siblings moved to Mississippi as pioneering settlers.They all raised families that became the backbone of their community of Slate Springs.He was steadfast in devotion to family and faith.Likely he acted whenever he could to temper the travails of the negro slaves, and later when they were freed. He left the example of an upright citizen and family patriarch as his legacy. We do not know the disposition of his property after his death.If there was a Will, it was lost in a Courthouse fire.
The William and Judith had eleven children:
Sarah Ann, b. 1833 AL, m. Joseph Fox 11 Jan 1849, d. 8 Jul 1906 in Slate Springs MS.They had no children.
John Mordecai, b. 26 Feb 1835 AL,m. 1st) Mary McCord, about 1858, 2nd) Virginia Randolph, about 1868, d. before 1900 in Slate Springs MS.Nine children.
Civil War Veteran.
Tabitha Angeline, b. 27 Feb 1838 MS, m. 1st) James McCord, 2nd) Henry (Hally) Fox, 1866, d. 29 Mar 1905, MS. Eight children.
Virginia Rush, b. 6 Jan 1840 MS, m. 1st) Sugg, 2nd) Samuel Fox, d. 6 Sep 1907, Slate Springs MS,
William A., b. 12 Feb 1842 MS, d. 1863, at Fort Henry TN, of measles. Civil War Veteran
James Vincent, b. 31 Jul 1844, MS, m. Mary Helen Edmonds, 15 Feb 1869, d. 22 Nov 1913 at Lexington MO.Nine children.Civil War Veteran.
Thomas G. , b. 9 Jul 1846 MS, d. before 1850.
Edgar McGhee, b. 8 Nov 1847 MS, d. young.
Zachariah M. b. 12 Mar 1851 MS,m. Faye Ellen Fox, about 1873, MS, d. 2 Nov 1918, Gatesville, TX.Seven children.
Mary Frances b. 20 August 1855 MS, m. Wiley C. Sugg, 11 Dec 1878, d. 16 Jul 1940.Seven children.
Samuel Judson, Dr., b. 1857 MS, d. 1890.
1) "Ancestors of Anselm Cooke", Frances Cooke Chan, 1998, Langford Publications, ISBN 0-9585308-1-5
2) a William Pinckney Cooke family narrative (1919) of Bessie Fox Truly, provided by Faye Ellen (Cooke) Shipman
3) Court Order Books, Christian County KY Clerk of Court.
4) Orphans Court Records, Greene County AL Clerk of Court
5) "First Families of Greene Co. AL", compiled by Rod Bush
6)General Land Office Records, Mississippi, Calhoun County
7) Deeds, Tax Rolls, Calhoun County Clerk of Court (incomplete, due to 1922 fire)
7) Federal Census', MS, Chickasaw and Calhoun Counties, 1840-1900
8) State Census', MS, Chickasaw and Calhoun Counties
9) Calhoun Monitor newspaper articles 1920, 1926
10) Maben Mississippi Press newspaper article, 1925
11) Mississippi Baptist Church Historical Association Archives, Mississippi College,Clinton, MS
12) Register of Commissions, State Of Mississippi
13) Wikipedia websites for historical context and timelines.
Of William P. Cooke'sproperty:
Choctaw Meridian, Range 9 East, Township 22 North, Sections 29, 30, and 31.
( http://www.histopolis.com/Place/US/Choctaw_Meridian/R9E/T22Nhttp://www.histopolis.com/Place/US/Choctaw_Meridian/R9E/T22N )
On Mapquest, enter Slate Springs.Judith and William's house probably was one half mile northwest on Weeks Street, near where it curves from north to west.