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.
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
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
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
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 &
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
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
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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