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His kinship is documented but his origin is still obscure

When the beginning and end of a line is obscure one starts where it’s possible. In researching a certain Thomas Cook of North Carolina, that entry point becomes his Last Will and Testament1 and whether this is truly the same man estimated to be an ancestor of James Robert Cook of Oregon will be answered insofar as emerging evidence reveals.

Thomas Cook lived in Iredell County in the western part of the state of North Carolina. In his Will he describes himself as “wake of body but of perfect mind”. Though we have no record of his birth year, we can tell he’s an old man; he’s experiencing the frailties of age and his children are married with children of their own. His occupation is farming.

The Will goes on to name his children. His oldest son is James Cook who receives 5 shillings. Because his inheritance is cash, this James may be living in another district or—as second-generation—have acquired land of his own. Four daughters are then named to receive five shillings and each is already married: Margaret McKnight, Jean McConel (sic), Mary Hughes and Elizabeth Nelson. Son Alexander Cook is to receive his father’s cross-cut saw; son William Cook is to keep and hold a Negro boy, “Peet”, as well as 1/5 of the household furniture, 1/5 of the hogs and sheep plus two cows and calves. Son, Thomas Cook is allotted £10.

Margaret , the wife of Thomas Sr. receives a Negro woman, Kate, a Negro boy and one-half of all the moveables, 1/5 of the grain grown on the plantation and her choice of any room in the house as her own. The youngest son, Joseph Cook will be deeded the family plantation. In addition he will receive a Negro man named Jack, a Negro boy named “Easor” and the other half of the moveables and household furniture.

Sons William Cook and Joseph Cook are to be the sole executors and they, of five sons, are the two invested in the operation of the plantation. Alexander Hughes and Hug (Hugh) Torrence Jr. are witnesses. The Jurat (notary) is Thomas Beaty. In other documents during this period, the name of Thomas Beaty is seen as Batey and also Beattie, as in “Beatties Ford Road” on which was located the Hopewell Presbyterian Church and Cemetery.

The very next recorded Will in these estate papers for Iredell County happens to be that of Margaret Cooke Sen’r, the wife of Thomas Cook, in spite of the variation of spelling in her name. She writes her Last Will and Testament October 8th 1802, almost 11 years after her husband. It’s helpful to read the Wills together for the sake of comparison.

The bequests of Margaret Cooke begin with personal property to her daughters: Jean McConnel receives the Negro woman “Cate”; Elizabeth Nelson receives “one rugg”; Mary Hughey a bed and side saddle. Mother Margaret’s wearing clothes are to be distributed among her daughters. The residue of her property is to be divided among her children and here the names of sons-in-law are included. Named are Hugh McKnight, James Cooper, Alexander Cooke, Thomas Cooke, Joseph Cooke, John McConnel, Henery Hughey and Joshua Nelson. She appoints “my worthy friends” Hughey McKnight Senr, and Henery Hughey as executors and signs the document “I the Sen Margaret Cook Sen’r.” William McKnight is the Jurat and James McKnight Jr. is a witness.

Several extrapolations may be made based on these two wills. Son William Cooke is absent from his mother’s Will. A William Cooke (1761-1802) is buried alone in the Coddle Creek ARP Cemetery in Mooresville.2 Is Thomas and Margaret’s son William already dead? There is a Last Will and Testament for a William Cooke of Iredell, written 25 Aug 1802.3 It refers to his wife “Jeminy” and daughter Mary. In naming his executors, however, William refers to “my worthy friend” Thomas Cooke Sr. and William McKnight. The designation of friend would seem to preclude a family relationship.

Daughter, Margaret Cook McKnight is also absent. Other records refer to this daughter’s marriage as taking place in Rowan County4 February 26th 1762. One can surmise that daughter Margaret has died between 1791 and 1802 but her husband is included in the bequests. Only in mother Margaret’s Will is included the name “James Cooper”. It is not followed by the name Cooke as are all the names of her sons. Nor is he a son-in-law, so this remains a loose thread. Whatever is James Cook’s full name, he is also excluded from his mother’s Will.