M. J. Cook. The long and successful life of M. J. Cook is an illustration of the possible control over early limitations and of the benefits derivable from wise utilization of ordinary opportunities such as may present themselves to any individual. He was a lad of but eleven years when he first took his place among the world’s workers, and his early years were crowded with hard and unceasing labor for small remuneration, but his industry had been rewarded with substantial results, and his success is all the more satisfying in that it had come as a direct outcome of his own efforts. Farming, milling and banking have all been engaged in by him and have yielded him prosperity, and at this time he is not only one of the most well-to-do men of Burr Oak, but a citizen who stands high in the esteem of his fellowmen, an exmayor of Burr Oak, and a man whose record in business and civil life is one upon which there is no stain or blemish.
M. J. Cook was born on a farm near Noblesville, Indiana, August 8, 1852, a son of Jefferson and Ellen (Powell) Cook. The Cook family settled as pioneers in Indiana, where the grandfather of M. J. Cook, Levi Cook, passed his life in farming and milling and died in 1853. Jefferson Cook was born near Noblesville, Indiana, in 1829, and was reared and educated in his home community and brought up as an agriculturist. After his marriage he continued to live on the farm of his father, whom he assisted in his farming and milling operations, but the year following the elder man’s death removed to Jefferson County, Iowa, where he located as a pioneer. There he engaged in farming and stock raising until 1862, when he enlisted in the Fortieth Regiment of the Iowa Volunteer Infantry for service during the Civil war. He took part in a number of important engagements and was known as a brave and hard fighting soldier, but eventually succumbed to a dangerous attack of fever, which lasted for a long time and left him partially paralyzed in one leg, which nearly incapacitated him for work. Eventually, however, he recovered from his injury and resumed his farming operations, and in 1883 removed to Leon, Iowa, which community continued to be his place of residence until his death in 1892. He was a republican and a faithful and active member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1850 Mr. Cook was married to Miss Ellen Powell, who was born in 1833, in Indiana, and died at Leon, Iowa, in 1891, and they became the parents of six children, as follows: E. H., who resided near Jewell City, Kansas, where he was a pioneer settler, and is engaged in agricultural operations; M. J., of this notice; Nancy, who is the wife of William Hockenberry, a stockman of Lamar, Colorado; Leander, who was engaged in general work and died in Missouri when thirty-five years of age; Ettie, who is the wife of Charles Newman, a stockman in Missouri; and Charles, who is engaged in the carpenter trade at Webster City, Iowa.
M. J. Cook was a little more than ten years of age when his father went to the war, and not long thereafter, as the eldest son, he was called upon to add something to the family income. He had gained the rudiments of an education in the public school, and this was his only asset, aside from a native ambition and industry that led him to work hard and to give to each task the full measure of his ability. Going to Poweshiek County, Iowa, he started working by the month on a farm, and from the outset of his working career began saving whatever he could from his slender earnings, determined that some day he would be a landed proprietor himself and the employer of labor. He was married when he was twenty-four years of age, and remained in Iowa for two more years, farming on his own account, and in the winter of 1877-78 came to Kansas and located in Rooks County, where he homesteaded 160 acres. He proved up on this property, brought it under a state of cultivation and made numerous improvements, residing there until 1889, when he took up his residence in Jewell County. Here he had since owned a number of farms, although only holding one at the present time, this being a tract of 160 acres situated in Homeward Township, 5½ miles northeast of Burr Oak. In 1907 Mr. Cook left the rural districts and came to Burr Oak, where he owned his own dwelling and where in 1914 he founded the Burr Oaks Flour Mills, Elevator and Ice Plant, he being at this time president of the company that operates these industries. Mr. Cook is an excellent business man and had made as great a success of his commercial enterprises as he did of his agricultural operations. In the management of his affairs he had combined a certain conservatism with the proper amount of progressiveness, and his personal integrity had been evident in each of his transactions. He had a number of other interests and is vice president of the Jewell County National Bank. As one of the leading democrats of his locality Mr. Cook had been active in the ranks of his party, and in 1913 was elected mayor of Burr Oak, an office in which he served with excellent ability for two years, during which the civic interests of the town benefited greatly. He is a member of the Brethren Church and a deacon therein. In the various activities which go to make up the life of Burr Oak he had taken a foremost and influential part and no list is complete of the supporters of live and progressive movements that does not include his name.
Mr. Cook was married in 1876, at Victor, Iowa, to Miss Emma Fahrney, daughter of Ezra and Kate (Hopwood) Fahrney, farming people, both of whom are now deceased. To this union there have been born five children: Roy, who is in the employ of a railroad company and resided at El Paso, Texas; Ennis, who is manager of the Burr Oak Flour Milling Company, of which his father is president; Lena, the wife of Art Gaston, a farm owner of Mankato, Kansas; Mabel, the wife of Bud Shaw, residing on her father’s farm in Homeward Township; and Milo, who is engaged in the cattle business in Alberta, Canada.