Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens
Lawrence County Pennsylvania 1897
[p. 423] It is always a matter of interest to review the lives of early settlers, and to note from the study of their careers the progress time had made in their surroundings while silvering their hair and implanting furrows of care on the forehead. The gentleman, whose name occurs above, a retired resident of New Castle, although a native of Darlington, Beaver Co., Pa., has been a citizen and one of the prominent men of the city of New Castle for the greater part of his life. Although practically retired, and living in comfortable circumstances, he has been long connected with the public life of the city and county as court crier.
Mr. Cook was born in Darlington, Beaver Co., Pa., Sept. 10, 1828, on the anniversary of Commodore Perry's victory over the British on Lake Erie. His father, Benjamin Cook, also a native of Chambersburg Pa., was born in 1794, and died in 1845; when but a youth he served in the War of 1812, and was an intimate friend of Bird, who was executed for overstaying his furlough at a critical juncture. The execution was not so much for the gravity of the offense, but the time required strict discipline, and a terrible example must be held up before all in order that they perform their duty. Mr. Cook always regretted the action of the military authorities in this matter, and thought the sentence too severe. Our subject's father learned the wood-working trades, and became an expert carpenter, joiner and cabinet-maker. Later in life he entered into mercantile life, and owned and conducted a large general store in Darlington; he was so successful in this venture, that he established a branch store at Clinton, which also proved very profitable. His early demise at the age of fifty-one cut short a very promising career, but such is the uncertainty of life, the best, the fairest, and the noblest seem to succumb earliest to the final summons. Mr. Cook was a Presbyterian in his religious views, and in his politics was an old-line Whig of the deepest dye. He was ever active in politics, a good manager, and hard worker for his friends and their principles, but would never accept any office himself at the gift of the people. He married Susanna Johnson, daughter of Andrew Johnson of Beaver Co., Pa., and to them were born six children, as follows: Mary, deceased; Andrew Johnson; John C.; James J., our subject; Martha A., deceased; and Emeline, deceased.
James J. Cook was reared until his eighteenth year in his native town, attending district school and the academy at Darlington until he was fourteen, following that up with a summer term in a school at Atwater, Ohio, where his sister, a teacher, induced him to go for a time in the hope that his somewhat feeble health might be improved. His health for many years was not of the best because his work at the trade of a tailor commenced when he was very young, and thus withheld from him many of the sports and good times that go as far toward building up the young frame. While still a lad of eight or nine years, instead of playing with other boys of his age in some healthful exercise, he would frequently work in the shop of a friendly tailor when there was anything he could do. From time to time he learned new things about the trade and more was entrusted to him, so that at the age of fourteen when he was apprenticed, he was really more proficient than many of the journeymen tailors of the place. He served two years as an apprentice under James Murray. In 1846, he came to New Castle, and after working there six months more as an apprentice, was given piece work, and then earned and saved enough to go into business for himself. This he did with John Blevins, the present city treasurer, and they were so associated until 1850, when Mr. Cook, seeing a good opening in his native place where there was then a large amount of railroad construction, opened a clothing store and tailoring establishment in Darlington, which he conducted until 1856. In the following year, he removed to New Castle, where he went into partnership with John Williams, and opened a store and tailor shop, but owing to the ill health of both partners, it was deemed advisable by Mr. Cook to go to other parts for a change of environment, climate, temperature or whatever was needed. Mr. Williams decided to remain, and so after invoicing their goods, Mr. Cook left for Ohio, where health steadily improved, while Mr. Williams lasted but a few months. At last it became apparent to our subject that indoor work was not suited to him, and so he secured a place on the police force of New Castle, and rose to the position of chief of police, was then elected tax collector and was finally seated in the mayor's chair. Having purchased a fine farm of ninety acres north of New Castle, he devoted his spare time to its management, and the two years he resided there were two of the happiest years of his life.
For fifteen years, Mr. Cook served as court crier, and although he cared little for the position, it was at the request of his friends and family that he retained the office. Mr. Cook was a member of a New Castle Lodge of the I. O. O. F., but is not actively connected with the organization at present. He is a strong Republican, and has always been since its organization, previously voting the Democratic ticket.
July 25, 1849, Mr. Cook was married to Mary E. Whitten, a native of Warren, Ohio, daughter of Oliver Whitten, a native of the State of Maine, who married Lavinia Percy, a daughter of Joseph and Lavinia (Reynolds) Percy. Joseph Percy was a soldier of the Revolution, and of English descent, his brother who remained in England being John Lord Percy of the English nobility. Of a family of six children born to Oliver Whitten, Mary E., the wife of our subject, was fifth. The union of our subject and wife has resulted in five children as follows: Charles W., who married Miss Lou Swall, and has four children. Edith, Mary E., James P., and Eber D.; Mary Lovan; Susanna J.; Albert J.; and Edward Percy. Mrs. Cook and her daughters are members of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of New Castle.
Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens Lawrence County Pennsylvania
Biographical Publishing Company, Buffalo, N.Y., 1897
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Updated: 2 Jul 2001