North America as we know it today, was inhabited for centuries by 'natives' that originally crossed the land bridge from Asia, and perhaps other routes. They had long standing tribal territories and were flourishing long before Europeans ventured ashore.
The Spaniards, having successfully found riches in Central and South America, moved steadily northward in their hunger for more during the 1500's.Envious of their success, the English kings commissioned explorers to seek riches also.As it was, there was little gold or silver to be found along the North America's eastern seaboard.Never the less, the Roanoke Colony was founded in 1584, only to mysteriously dissolve into oblivion two years later.
In 1607 a new colony was established on the peninsula of land between the James and York Rivers.Virginia Colony's contact with the natives was for the most part not unfriendly.A prominent colonist, John Rolfemarried Pocahontas, daughter of a Powhatan Chief.An early attempt by the colony to create wealth was silk production, which failed due to a mulberry tree blight.
But one of the oddities brought back to England was a plant that could be smoked.[The King got hooked on tobacco and wanted a never ending supply.Some enterprising nobles thought there could be profits made from supplying the ever growing smoking populace.One such noble was Lord Stryke, whom later would be known as 'Lucky Strike' amongst the commoners. Sorry, forgive me, but what follows is true.]
Not satisfied with the 'native' tobacco, Rolfe introduced a Bermuda variety to the Colony and successfully established its production.Thereafter a steady flow of 'hogsheads' (wooden barrels) of 'smoking leaf' tobacco was shipped to England,And that made his fortune.King James actually loathed tobacco,"a custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof ..."
With the passage of time, other Colonies were established.Like Virginia, the other Southern Colonies' economy were dominated by plantation agriculture, but having a warmer climate, rice and indigo became their main export crops. The Middle Colonies grew mainly grains; wheat, barley, oats, etc. and considered by many as the 'breadbasket' region.The New England Colonies, being located north with a short growing season did not have the luxury of agricultural surplus for export. Their emerging economy was mainly based on grazing livestock, fishing, granite quarrying, and a unique product, ice (sawed from ponds and loaded on ships for transport to the southern climes).
England kept a strong rein on the Colonies, using them to produce desired commodities for homeland consumption.In turn, the colonists were dependent upon England for much of their consumer goods.A Virginia plantation owner would place his 'cash crop' at a local river dock or wharf, an agent would load it aboard a sailing vessel, accompany it to England, sell it, extract his fee, then buy goods for the planter. Months later, the agent would deliver them to the plantation owners, plus any money remaining, if any.Plantation families had more contact with England than maybe a settlement on a neighboring river, just thirty miles or so distant.Eventually roads diminished this isolation, allowing the populace to discuss trade practices that soon revealed inequities.
Each intrusion into the hinterlands to clear land by 'slash and burn' were met by native resistance, but it was necessary because tobacco had a way of depleting land of its nutrients after a few years.Other crops could be grown afterward, but eight to ten years before tobacco could be planted again.Over time plantations were established in the central piedmont (low rolling hills) between the coastal and mountain regions, mostly along the rivers.Settlement above the Fall Line imposed a substantial transportation burden on these colonists.Below the waterfalls in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the planters/farmers could take barrels of tobacco from barns directly to their wharf and load them onto ships bound for England.But above the waterfalls, tobacco barrels had to be hauled to a river, loaded onto small boats (batteaux), floated to the Fall Line, rolled on 'rolling roads', then floated again, and finally the oceangoing vessels.That's where our Cooke family story begins, in the piedmont along the North Anna River.
[Ironically, gold and other minerals were discovered and mined for a while in this locale in the mid 1800's, the original quest of England's exploration.]
OUR EARLIEST DOCUMENTED ANCESTOR
When searching for our Cooke ancestors, we trace our path back from Texas to Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, and Virginia. We have documented sources that spell out their lives and times back to the mid 18th century.Our path comes to an end in (what is now) Louisa County, Virginia.William, born about 1740 stands in plain sight.His father Mordecai can only be viewed through a cloak of misty fog.
We know of Mordecai in only two tenuous threads.He's mentioned as husband of Ann (Day) and as father of William.From this, we can probably conclude that Mordecai was born about 1720, though we do not know where.Some say in coastal 'tidewater' Virginia.No record exists of his death and burial.So little is known of Mordecai and nothing of his ancestors.Perhaps his father was named William, as our lineage was for a time a succession of Mordecai and Williams.
Although thought by some to be born about 1740, it is not certain.A Mrs. Frances (Lipscomb, Cooke) Van Zandt of Ft Worth, Texas, said in 1906, "her great grandfather Mordecai and his wife Ann died while William was but a child.Ann's brother William Day (and wife Ann Amelia Harris) took him into their home and raised him as their own, no doubt the Christian influence in the Day home had much to do with the young boy's life.".
Raised by this maternal uncle and aunt with their own eleven children, William grew up well educated for the time, as further related in 1905 by a granddaughter, Nellie (Cooke) Bradshaw of Kentucky. "William was a distinguished scholar of old Virginia.Many of his school books are or were in the possession of my uncle."In his step-father's library may have been novels such as "Gulliver's Travels" by Jonathan Swift and "Robinson Crusoe" by Daniel Defoe.
Typically, as he matured he was expected to contribute wholly to the family's livelihood.In doing so he would have learned the planter (farming) profession. Clearing land, tending livestock, gathering hay, chopping wood, and plowing, were likely a few of his chores.His uncle would have raised tobacco for sale and export, corn for his livestock, and a garden for family consumption.
Although the location of the Day plantation is not known, it was probably in Spotsylvania County, near the North Anna River.William, being an orphan, would not inherit any land though.
During the 1760's there was a wind of discontent blowing throughout the Colonies. Britain, in an attempt to raise revenue to pay for the French and Indian War, had imposed the Stamp Act.Colonists howled about 'no taxation without representation' and the Act was repealed a year later.But others were enacted, such as the Molasses and Sugar Acts.
The Act that most impacted plantation owners such as William Day, was the Quartering Act.It enforced the practice of requiring the populace to 'quarter' the British Army soldiers when passing through an area.A farmer would be required to provide free food and shelter for the men and horses.And William likely began to form an opinion of his own about the 'motherland'.
His views were hardened when learning of the Boston Massacre, and probably took pride in the fact that Patrick Henry (who represented adjacent Louisa County in the House of Burgesses) called for America's independence from Britain, telling the Virginia Provincial Convention, "Give me liberty, or give me death!"The pamphlet "Common Sense", written by Thomas Paine was widely read by colonists and influenced many to support separation from Britain.
He enlisted after war broke out when the Colonies declared independence in 1776.All free men of ages 16 through 60 were required to serve.In the years that he served, he rose in the ranks to serve as a Private, Corporal, and then Sergeant, as a 'bombardier' in the 1st Artillery Regiment, Continental Troops.The Regiment first fought in Virginia, but in 1778 it was reassigned to General Washington's Northern Army.His knowledge of mathematics acquired in his lessons at homewould have been essential for 'determining the angle of shot' for cannons. He earned his promotions through skill and perseverance. Had he been a land owner, he likely would have been given the rank of an officer.
With the defeat of the British Army commanded by General Cornwallis at Yorktown, and several isolated skirmishes later in 1781, victory was assured.William would be mindful of the events that were to come later: Continental Congress's Articles of Confederation, the official end of the War's "Treaty of Paris" in 1783, Virginia becoming a State in 1788 and moving its capitol to Richmond, the Constitution's Bill of Rights in 1791, and the elections of Jefferson and Madison to President of the United States, whom resided in the adjoining Albemarle and Orange Counties.But he had married Ann Nelson in 1779 after serving three years in the Army, so for now he concentrated on being a provider for his family.Ann was the daughter of Edward Nelson Jr. and Mary Harris (related to Amelia above) of Hanover County, from which Louisa County had been formed.
William bought his first land south of the North Anna River in 1781, 265 acres near the juncture of Louisa, Hanover, and Spotsylvania Counties.He may have purchased it with money inherited from his father, and/or savings; it cost him five hundred twenty British pounds.His service in the War of Independence entitled him to obtain land by warrant, but they were not issued until 1784.Known as "Land-Office Military Warrantof the Commonwealth of Virginia", it entitled him to 400 hundred acres.The only land available was in far western Virginia, designated as Kentucky Territory.The Warrants could be assigned (sold or given) to someone else if desired, as William did. With this 'warrant' money he probably made improvements to his plantation/farm. Twenty-one years pass before he purchased additional land near Louisa-Hanovertown Road, five miles distant.William likely moved his family to the new farm, but left a grown son to remain as overseer.A year later, President Jefferson would purchase over 820,000 square miles, at three cents an acre.The Louisiana Purchase.
Planters/farmers used wooden plows, (but a cast iron plow was invented by 1800) and planted seeds by hand.Depending on the crop, they would use either a sickle or hoe to harvest them.The fortunate people had mules, oxen, or horses to help the laborers.One aspect of farming had improved after decades of 'slash and burn' land use; because of tobacco quickly depleting the soil nutrients, rotation of crop fields with pasture so that livestock's manure was naturally scattered as fertilizer.
As was typical, William's farmyard would have included a barn, tobacco shed, smokehouse, chicken house, springhouse, cistern, an orchard, with a smattering of chickens and ducks running about. Livestock ranged somewhat freely, but were corralled at night.Sheep for their wool.Swine were good scroungers and required little supplemental food, thus were a primary meat source. Deer and turkey from the woods and fish from the stream were additional food sources. By one account William had 5 horses, 18 head of cattle, and two wagons in 1784.
He raised tobacco as a cash crop, which was not a easily grown crop like grain or vegetables that required little care other than weeding between planting in the spring and harvesting in the fall.Tobacco was sprouted from seed, transplanted to the field as a seedling, topping the flower stalks to ensure more leaf growth as it matured, harvesting, curing, quality graded by inspectors, and sold by consignment.Poor timing of the process, bad weather, blight, etc., could greatly devalue the leaf. Thus production required timely action, almost an art as much as science, by the plantation owner.And lots of labor; each laborer might tend four acres and handle thousands of plants, several times in a season.But post-War European tobacco markets had begun to fluctuate.
Cotton, requiring somewhat less handling, especially after the 'cotton gin' was developed by Eli Whitney.It revolutionized cotton production because it was operated by two people instead of the many previously required to pick the seed from the fibre.The cotton was sold to European (non British) markets, although the New England states later developed a textile industry that grew quickly.One growing season, 1816, saw a dramatic reduction in crop yield due to erratic variance in weather.There were reports from Pennsylvania of ice forming on ponds in mid summer.[A huge eruption of a distant volcano that shot ash high into the atmosphere and intermittently blocking the sun light worldwide was later determined as the cause.]
In addition to growing cash crops, Virginia farmers raised corn, wheat, beans, peas, carrots, cabbage, and other vegetables.Corn provided food for humans, eaten fresh or ground into corn meal flour, and food for farm animals; and the husks could be used for fodder, to make mats, or to stuff into mattresses.Farm women also raised a variety of herbs such as parsley, rosemary, lavender, chamomile, and spearmint to season food and for medicinal purposes.
William and Ann's early home, built of local timber, was not elaborate as their later one would be.As the family grew, additional space would be added.A dining area, and bedrooms lit by candles, maybe a parlor.For reading, a much improved chimney lamp, fueled by vegetable oil would have been a modern touch.A fireplace for winter warmth and cooking.Cooking vessels hung over an open wood fire, although ranges with the fire heating an iron plate on which pots, kettles and cooking vessels sat would soon be available.Its windows had shutters, some with glass, but no screens to keep out pests.
The kitchen and wash rooms were under separate roof to avoid an unbearably hot main house.Soap was made from wood ashes and waste fats boiled in a large cauldron.The privies would have been located some distance away from the house and yard.Household labor had become a little less tedious with the recent invention of the 'rub board' for washing clothes.And some childhood diseases became less deadly with the advent of vaccinations.
Plantations no longer had to be entirely self-sufficient and independent of neighbors as in the early colonial times.Enterprising arrivals, freed from the pre-Revolution restraints, could now thrive by servicing farmers.Blacksmiths made or repaired tools and wagons, and a miller ground grain for flour.A cobbler or wheelwright would join them.Eventually as roads became passable for freight wagons, a general store would be opened.
The mercantilist/owner would order goods from distant sources, such as utensils, salt and other staples, and bolts of fabrics for clothing.But farming was still the backbone of the economy, and all others, including the local taxation authority, were dependent on the farmers' success.
For Louisa County, such growth was slow in coming because of its interior locale. Thus currency was scarcely circulated due to this isolation.Most transactions were credit, with promise to pay when crops were harvested and sold 'down river'.Tobacco in a 'hogshead' barrel, always of good value, served as currency for larger transactions.Family savings was sometimes in the form of silverware, used only for festive occasions.In 1794 the English pound was replaced by the newly minted American dollar.
When the Postal Service reached the County in 1800, it was likely placed in the store. A Richmond newspaper would now bring distant news.Courthouses, their 15 star American Flag flying proudly, would glut their community with citizens during monthly 'court' days, with only a few souls walking about the next day.Not until later would the community have a school.Children were still taught by a tutor hired by families, although churches were beginning to provide basic instruction for the poor.
The first Baptist church in the Virginia Colony may have been the one established in Prince George County in 1714.Baptists were persecuted in colonial Virginia and the movement didn't get under way in earnest until decades had past.Churches of various faiths including Baptist were in Louisa County by 1754, but their members were still required to monetarily support their Parish, Church of England.One could be tried in civil court for not attending church.
The Baptist faith held their first Associational Meeting in Louisa County in 1771. Three years earlier two Baptist preachers had been imprisoned in nearby Spotsylvania County for holding religious meetings.Undaunted, they had continued preaching through a jail cell window to passersby.The Baptists of William's time were active in trying to improve the lot of the slaves, although were not trying to abolish the system.
In 1793, William, already a successful planter, became a Baptist preacher.
A preacher's training in a rural area would usually be under the tutelage of an experienced pastor.He served two Churches as assistant pastor before pastoring the nearby Little River Baptist Church from 1804 to 1819, which was in the Goshen Association.William's favorite hymns of the time might have been "Am I A Soldier Of The Cross" and "Blest Be the Tie".He was licensed by the County, and he officiated at a number of marriages, including those of some of his children.
William may have never held an elective office, but he was called upon frequently by the County Court to administer Wills of deceased citizens and serve as escheator of estates with no heirs.So he was well respected.And he may have served in a leadership role with the local militia during the 'second war of independence'.The War of 1812, in which the USA finally became a respected nation.
William and Ann RAISED NINE CHILDREN
Growing up the boys would have been in the fields and barn yard helping their father, learning farming skills.As they matured, they would have been assigned management roles over portions of the plantation.Likewise, the girls would be performing household skills such as yarn making with a spinning wheel, sewing, cooking,gardening, and milking cows.All would have been tutored in their youth.Playing cards, board games, dominoes, music, books, and lively conversation were entertainment for the family and visiting friends.Of course church played a major role in their lives.Courtship was a very serious family matter, endeavoring to join with prominent families by marriage to improve the outlook for all.
Ann Day Cooke, b. 1779, m. William Lipscomb 1796, d. 1870 in Franklin Co. TN
Mordecai Nelson Cooke, b. 1782, m. Nancy Ann McGehee 1803, d. 1822 in KY
Edward Nelson Cooke, b. 1784, m. Nancy Harris Baker 1813, moved to KY
Elizabeth Cooke, b. 1787, m. George Lumsden 1816
Martha A. Cooke, b. 1789, m. Oswald McGehee 1813, d. 1822
Mary (Polly) H. Cooke, b. 1791, m. George Harris
Andrew Broaddus Cooke, b. 1793, m. Sarah Dabney Spicer 1818, d. 1850
Frances Nelson Cooke, b. 1795,m. Jeremiah Collins Harris 1817, d. 1855
William Cooke, b. 1796, m. Martha Bickerton Smith 1832, d. 3 August 1862
All remained in the area except for Ann, Mordecai, and Edward.
When Ann died is not certain, but a memorial says "she was baptized in 1791, and for about 24 years was a shining example of Christian meekness and piety", thus dying about 1815.William may have been baptized then as well.Possibly at Little River Baptist Church.
William then married Ann (Nancy) Jackson Britton in 1817, a widow.She
was born in 1775 and died in 1840.They had one child, Louisa Amy Cooke, b. 23 August 1819,m. Capt. Alexander Spottswood Jackson 1839,d. 28 October 1889.
In 1819, the year the University of Virginia was foundedin nearby Charlottesville by Thomas Jefferson, William died.
William died without a Will; the County Court appointed his sons-in-law William Lipscomb and George Harris as Administrators of his estate.The appraisal of William's estate confirms that he was a tobacco planter and also grew cotton, corn, and wheat. Tax Records further show that he had nine horses, 23 head of cattle, a $200 wagon and ten slaves.His residence was valued at $600.The value of his estate was $5,000, excluding land.Land Deeds totaled 639 acres; some say he owned as much as 700 acres.The amount of land and personal property would class him, for that time and place, as reasonably wealthy.
The land and property were divided amongst the children.They drew lots for the initial distribution, but later traded and bought land from each other, with some land being sold outside the family.In the end, sons Andrew and William ended up with much of the land.Had their mother been alive, she would have inherited one-third of the estate for life, by dower rights.
William lived an eventful, purposeful life.Born to parents who died in his childhood, raised by loving relatives, well educated for his time and locale, served honorably in the Revolution, created a successful farming enterprise, married into and raised a respected family, and served his church as pastor.It might be said that he was a self-made man.His and wife Ann's burial site are unknown.William's later wife received a life pension from his estate.
The 1740 birth date for William as quoted by several is only estimated.Perhaps it gained 'certainty' only because researchers were quoting each other.A birth date nearer 1750 is more realistic for his participation in subsequent events of his life, such as being a soldier in Revolutionary War.Also his sister Frances was married in 1780, placing her birth about 1755-60.
Some also suggest William had an earlier marriage.But there is no documentation to support this claim, nor any children.Maybe, as Chan suggests in her "Ancestors of Anselm Cooke", it is offered as an explanation to fill in the timeline gap mentioned above.
Little River Baptist Church was established in 1791, and is still active today, about four miles southwest of Bumpass, on Buckner Road.Some of William's descendants (our distant cousins) are buried in the adjacent cemetery.One of the earliest gravestones is"John Thomasson, Drummer, Capt. Johnson's Militia, Rev War, 1753 - 1840".This may have been William's sister France's husband.During the mid 1800's, many slaves were members.
Farming required many laborers.An indentured servant program was adopted early by the American Colonies.Citizens (usually poor) of England contracted to work for subsistence for a few years, then released to hopefully pursue a rewarding future.
The first Africans that arrived were treated as indentured.But by the 1660's, the demand for labor exceeded the supply.The Virginia Colony (now a Crown colony rather than privately charted) as did others, revised its laws so that Africans could be kept in slavery permanently, generation after generation.In 1808 the importation of slaves was officially prohibited.
William, being an owner and a Baptist preacher, must have had considerable anguish over slavery.And pondered what the future would bring.
1)"Ancestors of Anselm Cooke" Frances Cooke Chan, 1998, Langford Publications, ISBN 0-9585308-1-5(my major source, available at local libraries by 'interlibrary loan')
2) VAGenWeb Genealogy Project, Louisa County Virginia(http://trevilians.com/)which includes transcripts of official Deed Records, Censuses, and other historical documents of the County
3) a William Pinckney Cooke family narrative (1919) of Bessie Fox, provided by Faye Ellen (Cooke) Shipman
4) web sites for two similar historical maps; A)http://www.loc.gov/resource/gvhs01.vhs00361/http://www.loc.gov/resource/gvhs01.vhs00361/B) http://www.loc.gov/resource/g3883l.cwh00296/http://www.loc.gov/resource/g3883l.cwh00296/ ; a geographic description C) http://www.virginiaplaces.org/regions/fallcolonial.htmlhttp://www.virginiaplaces.org/regions/fallcolonial.html ;and D) Laws in Early Virginia http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mobjackbaycolemans/v02laws.htmhttp://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mobjackbaycolemans/v02laws.htm
5) Louisa History blog:http://louisahistory.wordpress.com/articles-on-louisa-countys-history/http://louisahistory.wordpress.com/articles-on-louisa-countys-history/
6) Wikipedia websites for historical context and technology timelines
LOCATION of William Cooke's Land
So how would you go to his plantation.In the mid 1700's, being without roads, the trek would require a vessel up the York River, walk or horseback around the (water)'fall line', then continue by boat up the Pamunkey River to the confluence of the South and North Anna Rivers, finally up the latter to Little River. (Tobacco and cotton were transported to a port over this route for decades.)
On a modern map (or mapquest.com) go to Buckner VA, about 40 miles northwest of Richmond.Take Pottiesville Road north and turn left onto Haden Lane. At the fork of the road, go left.This may be near where William's home was.Now (for a clue later) from Buckner look west on Fredericks Hall Road about a mile where the road, Horsepen Branch intersects.
Now to confirm, find William's land on this 1860 map web site, (an early 1800's map could not be found).It will take about two minutes to download:http://www.loc.gov/resource/g3883l.cwh00296/http://www.loc.gov/resource/g3883l.cwh00296/
Locate Buckner Depot (move to the middle right of the map and enlarge).Cooke land is noted just to the northwest.William's deeds name his neighbors as Coates, Dickenson, and Baker, as seen on the map.A deed mentions Horsepen Swamp near the Louisa to Hanovertown Road (depicted as a small red line, the railroad whose rails were laid in 1839, a red/black line, (this railroad was a critical supply line in the Civil War)).Another deed mentions headwaters of Rock Creek.These deeds were for 188 acres purchased in 1802 for 280 British pounds, and for 187 acres in 1816 for $561.
An earlier 1781 deed notes the purchase of 265 acres for 550 British pounds; adjoining neighbors are McGehee, Barclay, Pettus, and Marshall.None of these are near the neighbors mentioned above.But by reviewing deeds for Edward McGehee Jr. (future father-in-law of William's son Mordecai), we know that he: 1) owned land on south side of North Anna River on Rocky Creek, 2) neighbored Pettus on Big Rocky Creek, 3) and neighbored Fleming.
On the 1860 map, locate Bumpass (to the right of Buckner Depot) and scan up (north).A McGehee or Pettus is not depicted, but there is a Flemming south of the River (top border of map) and east of Rock Creek.And a Cook to the northeast of Fleming and west of Little Rock Creek.Additionally, the 1860 Federal Census has son William with neighbors Harris, Fleming, Pleasant, Jones, and Langan, which are noted on this map.[Another map, 1863, is almost identical; has North Anna River named, (Cook with an e), but does not depict Buckner Depot.]http://www.loc.gov/resource/gvhs01.vhs00361/http://www.loc.gov/resource/gvhs01.vhs00361/
Now, in mapquest.com enter, 'Pleasants View Pt., Bumpass VA'.Probably this is near William's original homestead.But much of the land is now submerged beneath Lake Anna.
Today, one local descendant, William Allen Cooke (1903-2001), is chronicled at this web site:http://wacookefoundation.com/pages/new_articlehttp://wacookefoundation.com/pages/new_article