ELIJAH COOK (1816-1889)
According to Folks Huxford, Elijah Cook was born in Wilkinson County, November 22, 1816. His father was James Cook, who was said to have come to Wilkinson from Effingham County. His grandson, Aaron Cook, served in the Spanish American War.
Elijah Cook was married twice. His first wife was Sarah “Sallie” Webb. She was daughter of Dawson Webb and Frances Phoebe Beall, and a sister of John Webb. Elijah and Sallie were married in Wilkinson County, May 14, 1837. In their second year of marriage a child came to them; Maxie Jane Cook was born June 13, 1839. But with the delivery of her daughter, Sallie Webb Cook expired. Sallie’s parents moved with their remaining children to Lowndes County, GA some time before 1850.
Elijah Cook married Miss Arrinda M. Chandler on Sept. 26, 1841 in Wilkinson County, GA. She was born November 25, 1824, a daughter of Pheriby and Aaron Chandler of Wilkinson County.
Some time before 1850 Elijah and Arrinda moved from Wilkinson to Irwin County, GA.
About 1852, Elijah’s daughter Maxie Jane Cook, at just 13 or 14 years old, married Aden Boyd, Jr of Lowndes County (later Berrien). Aden Boyd, Jr was a son of Nancy Sykes and Aden Boyd, who gave land in 1854 to establish Empire Church, located on Empire Road near Five Mile Creek, about six miles northeast of Ray City out the Sam I. Watson Highway.
Around 1856, about the time Berrien County was being created from land cut out of Lowndes County, Elijah and Arrinda Cook came to the area. They settled in the 10th district within sight of Empire Church, and became neighbors of their in-laws, the Boyds.
The Cooks were one of a dozen or so families originating from Wilkinson county who made the move to the newly established Berrien County around that time, including the families of Elijah’s sisters, Tabitha Cook and Piety Cook. Tabitha married Daniel Avera and Piety married Nicholas Lewis, both of these couples moving to Berrien. Dawson Webb, father of Elijah’s first wife, also moved to Berrien. Louisa Eliza Webb, sister of Sallie Webb, had married Moses G. Sutton and came to Lowndes County (now Berrien) a few years earlier.
In 1859, Elijah’s daughter Fairiby Cook married Thomas Lang Taylor. T. L. Taylor was a son of William Jackson Taylor and Samantha Jane Rogers, and a Justice of the Peace. Fairiby and Thomas established their homestead near her father’s farm on lot 218.
The 1860 population census shows Elijah and Arrinda Cook established their homestead near the farm of Elijah’s daughter, Maxie Jane, and her husband Aden Boyd, Jr. On the neighboring farms were William H. Boyd, Moses G. Sutton, and Stephen W. Avera, father of William Greene Avera.
“Elijah Cook was a progressive and industrious farmer, an honest and neighborly citizen and his practices as a farmer were very much in advance of the average Berrien County, citizen of his day. He was one of the first in the county to erect gins for serving the public in preparing cotton for market, his gins being operated by horse power.”
The 1860 Agricultural Census shows Elijah Cook’s farm consisted of 980 acres, 50 acres of which were improved. The farm was valued at $1200, and he owned $50 worth of farm equipment. His livestock, valued at $500, included two horses, a mule, two working oxen, six milk cows, 16 other cattle, 20 sheep, and 40 hogs. He had 150 bushels of Indian corn, and 30 bushels of oats, 1 bale of cotton, and 100 pounds of wool. He had $100 in stored meat, 50 pounds of honey and 5 pounds of beeswax.
“The American Civil War began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate shore batteries under General Pierre G.T. Beauregard opened fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in South Carolina’s Charleston Bay.” Elijah Cook was 44 years old when the Civil War commenced, and did not himself enlist for service with the Confederate States Army. His eldest son, John Jasper Cook, served with Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment, but returned to his parent’s Berrien county farm and on October 9, 1864 married a neighbor girl, Lucretia Sirmans, a daughter of James Sirmans.
After the War, Elijah Cook continued to work his Berrien County farm. The 1867 Berrien County tax records show Elijah Cook’s lands were on 730 acres of Land Lots 217 and 218, which straddled Five Mile Creek.The 1870 population census placed the value of Elijah Cook’s real estate at $500, and his personal estate at $1439. The 1870 census also shows that three of the Cook children were mentally disabled. These children apparently suffered from a rare, debilitating form of the genetic skin condition ichthyosis, and were known locally as the “alligator children.” According to period newspaper accounts, the Cooks were very protective of their children and refused offers from promoters, including P. T. Barnun, to put them on exhibition. “These children were carried on the Pauper Roll of Berrien Co, where they placed by the Grand Jury at the March Term, Berrien Superior Court, 1885, under which they drew a pension from the county as long as they lived.”
Elijah’s daughter, Arkansas Cook, married William Hansford Hughes in 1872. W.H. Hughes grew up on a farm in the same district; He was a son of Irene Shaw Hughes, widow of Henry Hansford Hughes. Arkansas and William established their home on a farm near their parents.
In 1872 Elijah Cook’s 740 acres of property on Lots 217 and 218 was valued at $1 an acre. His personal property was valued at only $568 dollars. His son-in-law, Aden Boyd, husband of Maxie Jane Cook, also owned 50 acres on Lot 217. Son-in-law Thomas L. Taylor, husband of Fairiby Cook, owned 147 acres of Lot 218. Aden Boyd’s sister, Sarah Boyd, and her husband Robert Lewis Taylor (brother of T. L. Taylor), were also on 50 acres on Lot 217. To the north Fisher W. Gaskins owned all 490 acres of lot 199. To the east, Mark R. Watson owned 1715 acres of adjacent land, situated on Five Mile Creek on Lots 197, 195, 172, and 173. To the southwest, Stephen W. Avera had 100 acres on Lot 243, and James Sirmans had 300 acres on the same lot.
Around 1874 Elijah Cook let go of his land on Lot 217, and acquired lot 198 which was just to the north. Around that time Benjamin Thomas Cook acquired 65 acres on Lot 219. Benjamin T. Cook was undoubtedly a cousin of Elijah Cook, although the exact relationship is not known. Like Elijah, B. T. Cook was a native of Wilkinson County, GA; he came to Berrien County after the Civil War, a former prisoner of war at Point Lookout, MD.
Elijah’s daughter Rachel Arena Cook married William Marshall Lewis in 1875. In 1879, his son Francis M. Cook married Anna J. Ford, and son Henry N. Cook married Mary Ann Boyd. Francis and Henry settled with their wives near their father’s place. By 1879, Elijah Cook had disposed of some 200 acres of his land, keeping 680 acres on Lots 217 and 198. This move gave him contiguous land all situated on the same side of Five Mile Creek. Benjamin T. Cook also had 40 acres on lot 217.
The 1880 population census shows Elijah and Arinda continued to provide care for their three disabled children, Juda, Amanda, and Sarah. Their youngest children, Jackson and Arinda continued to reside with them, as well as John Ford, who was a brother of Anna Ford Cook. Jackson and John provided the farm labor. By 1880, the old man had given up most of his land, retaining just 80 acres for himself on Lot 198. His son, Francis M. Cook had acquired 390 acres of the land on Lot 217, and 100 acres on Lot 198, and son Henry N. Cook had 100 acres of Lot 198. Benjamin T. Cook now had 390 acres on Lot 215.
In 1882, Elijah’s youngest son Jackson J. Cook married Mary Melissa Lewis. She was a sister of William Marshall Lewis, husband of Rachel Arrinda Cook.
Meanwhile, the Cook family land deals continued. Elijah had re-acquired 290 acres of Lot 217 in 1881. In 1882, in yet another family transaction, Elijah took back another 100 acres of the land on Lot 217, while son Francis M. Cook moved to 100 acres on Lot 198. The following year, Francis left Lot 198 for 125 acres on Lot 190. Elijah continued to hold 300 acres of Lots 198 and 217. Henry Cook stayed with his 100 acres of Lot 198, and Benjamin T. Cook remained on his 300 acres of Lot 215.
By 1884, Francis Cook returned to 100 acres on Lot 198. Benjamin gave up 160 acres on Lot 215, retaining 130 acres there. Elijah’s eldest son, J. J. Cook, acquired 100 acres of the land on Lot 217, and Elijah retained 250 acres spread across Lots 198 and 217. Elijah had $75 in household belongings, $432 in livestock, and $20 worth of tools and books.
Children of Elijah Cook and Arrinda Chandler:
- John Jasper Cook, born June 13, 1839; married October 9, 1865 to Lucretia Sirmans, daughter of James Sirmans; died May 30, 1924; buried Empire Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery
- Juda Cook, born March 12, 1845*; suffered from a crippling congenital disability, never married; died October 29, 1895; buried Empire Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery
- Fairiby G. Cook, born 1846; married Thomas L. Taylor, 1859; died December 26, 1920; buried Poplar Springs Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery (about 8 miles northeast of Ray City, GA).
- Emily Amanda Cook, born June 10, 1849*, suffered from a crippling congenital disability, never married; died May 15, 1915; buried Empire Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery
- Sarah J. Cook, born 1851, suffered from a crippling congenital disability, never married.
- Arkansas Cook, born November 13, 1853; married 1) 1872 to William Hansford Hughes, 2) July 20, 1909 to George Washington Nix; died December 24, 1911; buried Empire Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery next to her first husband.
- Henry N. Cook, born 1855; married Mary Ann Boyd, May 25, 1879; died May 14, 1940; buried Poplar Springs Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery (about 8 miles northeast of Ray City, GA).
- Francis M. “Frank” Cook, born October 3, 1859; married Anna J Ford, February 27, 1879; died February 13, 1936; buried Old City Cemetery, Nashville, GA
- Rachel Arrinda Cook, born July 6, 1862*, married William L Lewis; died March 26, 1937; buried Poplar Springs Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery (about 8 miles northeast of Ray City, GA).
- Jackson “Jack” Cook, born about 1862; married October 5, 1882 to Mary Melissa Lewis;
- Arinda Cook, born about 1867
* census records inconsistent with birth year on grave marker
The Valdosta Daily Times edition of Saturday, February 16, 1889 reported “Old man Elijah Cook, about 80 years old, one of the oldest settlers in Berrien County, was at the point of death yesterday, and is likely dead by to-day. He was a Primitive Baptist, and a man highly respected by his neighbors.”
But Elijah held on for another nine months. He died on his farm at Five Mile Creek on November 15, 1889. Arrinda Chandler Cook died October 18, 1893. They were buried in the cemetery at Empire Church of which they were members.