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Ira COOK was born in Union, Broome County, New York, on October 6, 1821. In October of 1835, his father, his sister and her husband moved West to Iowa, settling on a homestead that is part of present-day Davenport. Ira and the rest of the family joined them in the spring of 1836, a journey which took two months to achieve and involved mostly river travel. Ira spent his youth assisting on the family farm and for a period of time lived in Tipton where he met Iowa Territorial Governor Robert LUCAS.

In 1849, Ira COOK and John EVANS were awarded a contract which began Ira's career as a government surveyor. In a period of over four years, Ira, John, and their crew subdivided several townships throughout Iowa and Wisconson, including Ringgold, Decatur, and Taylor Counties. At the time, this land was uninhabited.

In the mid-1850;s, Ira left his career as a surveyor in 1855, settling in Des Moines. He he entered into the banking business, forming the firm of COOK, SARGENT & COOK located on Walnut Street. The bank was forced to close its doors in 1858, having suffered from the Panic of 1857. Ira formed an insurance and real estate firm with C. C. DAWSON.

In 1854, Ira married Mary C. OWENS. They took in a three-year-old girl to raise. Ira and Mary wished to adopt the little girl. Fearful that they might lose the child due to provisions in her father's will, Ira consulted with John A. KASSON, an Iowan Congressman. Together the men drafted a bill concerning the adoption of children in Iowa. When the bill passed, Ira and Mary promptly adopted the little girl, raising her as their own. They also had a daughter of their own who was born in 1859.

In 1861, Ira was elected as Mayor of Des Moines. He resigned and moved to Washington, D.C. in 1862, taking a position in the United States Post Office Department and later in 1864 accepted a position as a Deputy United States Revenue Collector.

After the Civil War, Ira moved back to Des Moines where in 1866 he was elected for two terms on the city council. In 1875 Ira was a stockholder of the Iowa Loan and Trust Company, on of the most important financial institutions in the State of Iowa at the time. He was elected as one of the three trustees in 1880. Ira formed a partnership with G. M. HIPPEE and several others in 1879, forming the Des Moines Syrup Refining Company which manufactured syrup, sugar and glucose from corn. Ira's account of his early years in Eastern Iowa and Davenport, "Reminiscences," was published in The Annals of Iowa in 1900.

Ira COOK died on March 11, 1902, and was interred at Woodland Cemetery, Des Moines, Polk County. He is remembered in the Iowa State Historical Museum's exhibit "You Gotta Know the Territory", Des Moines, Iowa. Throughout his lifetime, Ira was a benefactor to the social and community life of Des Moines.

Mary C. OWENS COOK was born November 6, 1831, and died March 7, 1918. She was interred beside Ira at Woodland Cemetery.

COOK, Ira. "Government Surveying in Early Iowa" Annals of Iowa Third Series, Vol. 2. 1897.

COOK, Ira. "Reminiscences" Annals of Iowa Third Series, Vol. 4. 1900.

EDMUNDS, A. C. "Ira COOK, Ex-Mayor of Des Moines" The Western Life-Boat Vol. 1. 1873.

Union Historical Company, History of Polk County, Iowa Union Historical Co. Des Moines. 1880.

ANDREWS, Lorenzo F. Pioneers of Polk County, Iowa and Reminiscences of Early Days Vol. 1. Pp.415- Baker-Trisley Co. Des Moines. 1908.

Written & submitted by Sharon R. Becker, March of 2009


The COOK Family, of Davenport, comprises a group of names of distinguished citizens who were among the founders of the city and have exercised large and important influence in every subsequent phase of the development of the city. Among other interesting facts concerning the family it may be state that four generations, including the present, have successively and continuously engaged in the practice of law at Davenport since 1839.

The first generation of the family to establish homes in Scott County, Iowa, was represented by Ira COOK, who was born in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, April 4, 1870. He was a son of Ebenezer and Mary (WEST) COOK, and his paternal ancestors had come from England and settled on Cape Cod in early Colonial times. His paternal grandfather in 1745 settled in Berkshire County. Ebenezer COOK, his father, was captain in the regiment of Berkshire County militia under Col. John BROWN in the War of the Revolution. Ira COOK in 1807 left his old home at Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and joined in the westward movement out of New England. He first settled at New Hartford in Oneida County, New York, and he and his family resided successively in Oneida. Broome and Ontario counties, New York, until the fall of 1835. At Whitestown, New York, Ira Cook married, March 16, 1809, Rachel FAXON, who was born in Conway, Massachusetts, June 25, 1783, daughter of Thomas and Rachel (DAVID) FAXON, and a descendant of Thomas FAXON, who settled in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, about 1647.

Among the children of Ira COOK and wife were Ebenezer COOK, born February 14, 1810, and John Parsons COOK, born August 31, 1817, both in Oneida County. The family engaged in farming, operated a saw mill in Broome County, a tannery in Ontario County. The son Ebenezer became associated at Ithaca with Hiram POWERS, who was engaged in trading of commodities on a large scale throughout New York State.

In the spring of 1835 Ebenezer COOK and Hiram POWERS set out for the far West, traveling through the Great Lakes to Green Bay, overland to the lead mine region at Galena, and by boat on the Mississippi to the present location of Davenport. Ebenezer was impressed by the future of the new country just opened by the Backhawk Treaty, purchased claims to about 1,200 acres of land, which later became part o the City of Davenport, and in the same year returned to New York State. In the fall of that year Ira COOK, his daughter, Patience, and her husband, William Van TUYL, journeyed to Stephenson, the town located on the present sit of Rock Island, Illinois, arriving there November 8, 1835. In December of the same year they were joined by Ebenezer and took up their residence on the land he had previously purchased. Ebenezer COOK in the spring of 1836 went back to New York State, settled up the family affairs, and in 1836 returned with his mother and the remaining members of the family, including his brother, John Parsons COOK. The family quickly took a place in the affairs of the community, extending their energies beyond farming operations. Ira Cook became interested in mercantile enterprises at various points and was an active business man until his death on April 16, 1845.

His two sons, Ebenezer and John turned their interests to the legal profession. Both took an active part in the organization of Scott County as a part of the Territory of Wisconsin. Ebenezer acted as clerk for the first board of county commissioners, and at the first sitting in Scott County of the court for the Second Judicial District of Wisconsin, Ebenezer was appointed clerk by the presiding judge, David IRWIN.

Davenport's first burial ground was located on the COOK farm.

In 1839 Ebenezer was admitted to the bar, and at Davenport commenced a law practice that grew to large proportions and extended throughout Iowa. John P. COOK was admitted to the bar in 1841. The energies of the two brothers, led them into other lines. They were active politically. Ebenezer declined all offices except as a member of the Davenport city council in 1855, and as mayor in 1858. John P. COOK represented the counties of Cedar, Linn and Jones in the Senate of the Fifth and Sixth Iowa Territorial Assemblies; Cedar, Linn and Benton in the Senate of the Second Iowa General Assembly; Cedar, Linn, Benton and Tama in the Third General Assembly, and his congressional district in the Thirty-third Congress of the United States. They connected with their practice the locating of land warrants under the Congressional Act of 1845, and had extensive real estate interests throughout Iowa.

In 1851 the extension of railroads across Iowa became a subject of great popular interest. Both brothers enlisted their energies in the extension of the line through Davenport. Ebenezer became a director and vice president of the Mississippi & Missouri Railroad upon its organization in 1853, and upon the subsequent consolidation became a director and later vice president of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway Company, holding until his death those offices as well as the position of chairman of the corporation executive committee. For a time prior to his death the company was without a president and he was in active charge of its affairs.

Both brothers became active in banking, establishing a chain of private banks across Iowa and Western Illinois, which operated under the name COOK & SARGENT, grew to large proportions, until they were carried down in the country-wide panic which commenced in 1857. Both men were leaders of recognized ability of the Iowa bar. Ebenezer having followed interests outside of the profession to a greater extent than his brother, John P., the latter was more active in the profession and became better known as a trial lawyer. John P. COOK for about ten years practiced at Tipton in Cedar County, but in 1851 returned to Davenport and resumed practice with his brother. They were associated in the firm name of COOK & BROTHER until 1853, when they were joined by John F. DILLON, who later became judge of the United States Circuit Court for the Eighth Circuit. The firm was COOK & DILLON until 1856, then became COOK, DILLON & LINDLEY, until 1859, at which time Judge DILLON withdrew, and during 1859 the firm was COOK, LINDLEY & CLARK. From 1860 to 1871 the firm was COOK & DRURY.

Ebenezer COOK died October 7, 1871. He was survived by his widow, Clarissa C. COOK, who was born in Sydney, Delaware County, New York, August 4, 1811, and died February 19, 1879. She was a daughter of Fowler P. and Lucretia BRYAN. Through her own efforts and expenditures during her lifetime and through expenditures made from her estate pursuant to provisions in her will, a great deal of benefit resulted to institutions of a civic and religious and charitable nature, including the construction and endowment of the old Trinity Church at Seventh and Brady streets in Davenport, the Trinity Church parish house, the Davenport Public Library, which later was taken over by the present Carnegie Library, the Clarissa C. COOK Home for the Friendless at Davenport, and the establishment of a number of trusts for the benefit of Episcopal parishes and activities in Iowa and elsewhere.

John P. COOK survived his brother less than a year, passing away April 16, 1872. He married, October 26, 1842, Eliza Ann ROWE. It was left to his son, Edward E. COOK, to carry on the law practice founded by Ebenezer and John. Edward E. COOK was born August 13, 1843, completed his studies at Washington, D. C., and at the University of Albany, and was admitted to the Iowa bar at the May term, 1863. From 1872 to 1875 he was associated with the firm of COOK, RICHMAN & BURNING, with COOK & RICHMAN from 1875 to 1880, COOK & DODGE from 1880 to 1909, and Cook and Balluff until his death on June 16, 1914. Edward E. Cook married, December 20, 1866, Ellen Katherine DODGE, of Scott County, daughter of Capt. LeRoy and Katherine (HUBBARD) DODGE.

George Cram COOK, a son of Edward E. COOK, [entered the University of Iowa at the age of fifteen, and ]earned for himself the gratitude of all who are interested in the progress of American literature and the fine arts. He was born October 7, 1873, was connected for a time with the faculty of the University of Iowa [accepting a postion with the English department in 1895], was associate literary editor of the Chicago Evening Post, wrote a number of novels, essays and plays, and finally interested himself in the promotion of drama, being one of the founders of the Provincetown Players, an organization of playwrights and actors who were among the first to undertake experimental work in connection with the theater. He died at Athens, Greece, January 10, 1924.

The late Edward E. COOK, unlike his father and uncle, confined himself strictly to his profession. He became one of the recognized leaders of the Iowa bar, a lawyer of great ability, and esteemed by all who knew him. Several times he was offered the position of general counsel for the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway Company, and in many instances took charge of important legal matters for that company. He was president of the Tri-City Railway Company, general counsel for the Iowa Telephone Company before its merger with the Bell System. Some of the important cases well known to the legal profession in which he was identified were: Simmons vs. B. C. R. & N. Railway Company, in which the United States Supreme Court dealt with several novel phases of railroad mortgages; Gatten vs. C. R. I. & P. Railway Company, in which the Iowa Supreme Court held that there is no common law of the United States Federal Government; and Chamberlin vs. Telephone Company, in which the Iowa Supreme Court established the right of a telephone company to use streets of a city without a franchise. He declined many opportunities for public office, even refusing to permit his name to be considered by President CLEVELAND for appointment to the United States Supreme Court. He preferred to and did enjoy the freedom of opinion and action that was characteristic of him, and to devote to public welfare, as he did most freely, his time and energy as a private citizen.

The representative of the third generation of the family in the Iowa bar is Reuel B. COOK, a son of Edward E. COOK. He was born February 11, 1869, was admitted to the Iowa bar in 1890, and is still in active practice as counsel for the firm of COOK & BALLUFF, attorneys at Davenport. Reuel Bridge COOK has three sons.

Wayne Gleason COOK, professor in the college of law at the University of Iowa, was born November 11, 1892. He married, June 1, 1923, Ruth MOYES, of Rock Island, and they are the parents of two children, Craig Moyes Cook, born February 6, 1924, and Margaret Joan COOK, born January 22, 1928.

Edmond Maurel COOK, the second son, is a member of the firm COOK & BALLUFF, attorneys engaged in the active practice of law at Davenport. He was born August 14, 1897, and on December 30, 1924, married Grace Webber MURPHEY, of Rock Island, a great-granddaughter of John DEERE, the famous manufacturer. They are the parents of one daughter, Barbara COOK, born September 3, 1928.

Klaman Spelletich COOK, the third son, was born April 7, 1901, and is engaged in teh lumber and mill-work business with the U. N. ROBERTS Company of Davenport. He is the father of a daughter, Jean, born April 9, 1926.

HARLAN, Edgar Rubey, LL. B., A.M., curator of the Historical, memorial and Art Department of Iowa A Narrative History of The People of Iowa with SPECIAL TREATMENT OF THEIR CHIEF ENTERPRISES IN EDUCATION, RELIGION, VALOR, INDUSTRY, BUSINESS, ETC. Vol. IV. The American Historical Society. Chicago and New York. 1931.

Transcribed by Debbi Clough Gerischer, Iowa History Website

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