Col. J. B. Cook. In all Southeastern Kansas there is no better known figure than Col. J. B. Cook of Chetopa. For more than forty years he has been recognized as one of the old and reliable and standard real estate dealers. He was one of the pioneers in Labette County, and lived on and improved a claim there before taking up his present business.
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He is not only an interesting character because of his long and honorable record in business, but for a life of varied service and experience. Many who know him well in real estate circles have only such knowledge of his early career as is reflected in his title of colonel. That is by no means a complimentary title. It was won by the hardest kind of fighting service in the Civil war. He has spent most of his life on the western frontier, and is one of the few men who knew the exciting life of California in the days following the discovery of gold there. His friends and business acquaintances by the hundred will appreciate even the necessary brevity of a review of his life as given in the following paragraphs.
Jeremiah B. Cook was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, at Pleasant Grove, June 22, 1834, and has already passed his eighty-second birthday. His ancestors were English people who emigrated to Pennsylvania in colonial times, and were of the old Quaker stock of that province and state. His grandfather, William Cook, was born at Warrington in York County, Pennsylvania, was a Quaker farmer, and died at Pleasant Grove. Colonel Cook’s father, Allen Cook, was horn at Warrington, York County, in 1808, and died in Lancaster County in 1847, while the Mexican war was still in progress. He was a farmer, an old line whig, a Quaker, and among other activities was a director of the schools in his locality. He married Rachel K. Brown, who was born at Goshen in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1810. Her father, Jeremiah Brown, who died in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, served as a member of Congress during Harrison’s administration. He was a whig, and owned a large farm in Lancaster County. Mrs. Allen Cook died in Labette County, Kansas, in 1885. There were a number of children. Edwin, the oldest, died in California at the age of twenty-three, having been one of the early seekers after gold in that state. The second in the family is Colonel Cook. Anna Mary, who died in 1914, and is buried at Chetona, married Capt. J. J. Slaughter, who served as first lieutenant in the One Hundred and Thirteenth Illinois Infantry during the Civil war, afterwards became a farmer in Labette County, Kansas, and is also deceased. William, the fourth child, is now a retired resident of Oswego, Kansas, was for three years a soldier in the Second Colorado Cavalry during the Civil war and served two terms as sheriff of Labette County. Charles is a retired farmer at Strawn, Kansas. Henry C. lived for a number of years at Vinita, Oklahoma, where he was cashier in a bank, and died in North Missouri. Julia, the seventh and youngest child, died at the age of eleven years.
Colonel Cook received his early education in the public schools of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and spent the first fifteen years of his life on his father’s farm. With a disposition that craved excitement, and with the wonderfully stimulating events then going on in the western part of the United States, he could not quietly bide at home but ran away to seek such adventure as came in his path. It was in April, 1849, he left his home in Lancaster County. He was then fifteen years of age. His first experience was on the canals of Pennsylvania, and he boated on several of these thoroughfares during 1849-50. He then crossed the mountains to Pittsburg, became a flatboatman, traveled down the river to Louisville and Cincinnati, and at the age of seventeen, in the fall of 1851, went as a flatboat hand as far as New Orleans. In the fall of 1852, after an absence of several years, he returned to his father’s home and spent the next year in managing the farm.
In November, 1853, Colonel Cook went out to California by way of the Nicaragua route. He was then nineteen years of age. He spent three years in the Far West mining and herding cattle, and he is one of the few survivors of that time who can relate from personal recollection the episodes of California experience such as have been painted by Bert Harte and others writers of the time. When he returned to the states in 1856 it was by way of the Isthmus of Panama, and he paid $48 in gold to secure transportation across the isthmus.
A brief residence in Pennsylvania, and he was again in the West. In April, 1857, he arrived in Kansas City, or what is now Kansas City, since the metropolis of that name could hardly have been said to have existed in that year. He went by boat up the river to Jefferson City, which was then the western limit of the Missouri Pacific Railway. Colonel Cook lived in Kansas City until March, 1860. He bought a property on what is now Grand Avenue and owned it until the spring of 1860. He had a prominent part in the border war between Missouri and Kansas. He was a free state man but attended one of the meetings which the Missourians held for the organization of a company to go into Kansas and drive out the Yankees. Colonel Cook says that he passed a very critical examination. By his extensive experience in the West and South he was a master of the Missouri dialect, and could answer all questions regarding county officers in Jackson County, where he claimed that he was “bohn and raised.” He was able to recall the sheriff’s name because he had seen that official sell some niggers. The meeting which he attended was held at Nevada, Missouri, and he would surely have been hanged had his motive for attending it or joining the company been known.
In 1860 Colonel Cook went to Illinois, where his mother had bought a farm in Tazewell County. While there he bought 160 acres of prairie land, and began the converting of it into a farm. He was thus engaged when the war broke out in 1861. Then followed the intensely interesting chapter of his military experience.
In September, 1861, he went as a private into the Fourth Illinois Cavalry, Company H. He was afterwards promoted to corporal and later to sergeant in that company. He was with his regiment under General Grant at Fort Henry, Tennessee, and there had command of twenty men comprising the extreme advance guard of the army. He was at the head of this little company and was the first Union man to ride into Fort Henry, where he pulled down the Garrison flag within 400 yards of the rebel infantry who were moving out of the fort. Colonel Cook has among his prized trophies of a long life this flag. With his little squad of followers he pursued the rebels, passing a twelve pounder Napoleon gun which was mired down, and he soon afterwards picked up the silken banner of the Tenth Tennessee Infantry. He was also in the four days fighting around Fort Donelson, was actively engaged both days at Shiloh or Pittsburg Landing, and within a year after his enlistment was promoted to second lieutenant of Company F in the Fourth Illinois Cavalry. On account of the illness of his captain and the absence of the first lieutenant he commanded this company in every engagement for about a year after September, 1862. During that time he and his company captured more Confederates than any other company in the command. On one occasion he and his men charged Company B of the Third Texas Cavalry, captured eight of them after a three-mile chase, Colonel Cook having only fifteen men on this brilliant excursion. During the siege of Vicksburg he was engaged in raiding the country around, and before going into Vicksburg captured 200 cars and sixty engines at Grenada, Mississippi.
When the Third United States Colored Cavalry regiment was organized at Vicksburg, Mississippi, Colonel Cook was promoted to major of that command, and as the colonel soon afterwards became a brigade commander and as there was no lieutenant colonel he had active command of the regiment in every engagement except one. This negro regiment was officered by men every one of whom had a fighting record in the Fourth Illinois Cavalry, being non-commissioned officers who proved worthy of every promotion conferred upon them.
While commanding this regiment of colored cavalry, Colonel Cook continued his notable record. On March 5, 1864, at Yazoo City, Mississippi, he fought and defeated Gen. L. S. Ross’ Brigade of Texas Rangers, comprising the Third, Sixth, Ninth and Twenty-eighth Texas Cavalry. He and his men charged with drawn sabres the Holmes Louisiana Battery at Woodville, Mississippi, October 5, 1864, and captured the guns, officers and men. On November 27, 1864, came another notable exploit. He captured the Big Black River bridge on the Illinois Central Railroad about fifty miles north of Jackson, Mississippi. He made this charge with his men dismounted and they had to face the fire from a stockade fort on the opposite bank of the river and on both sides of the railroad track. For this gallant exploit he was made lieutenant colonel by a general order of the War Department No. 303. That was the only order of that kind issued by the war department during the year 1864. There are almost countless incidents in Colonel Cook’s experience as a soldier which might be related. Three different times he led charges against the famous Texas Rangers, and twice he captured some prisoners, and once he narrowly escaped capture himself.
In May, 1865, Colonel Cook was made brigade commander at Memphis, Tennessee, of the Third Brigade Cavalry Division District of West Tennessee. This brigade comprised the Fourth Illinois Cavalry, the Third United States Colored Cavalry and the Second Wisconsin Cavalry, altogether 2,300 men. That promotion came to him when he was not yet thirty-one years of age. Colonel Cook served with these different regiments for nearly a year, and was finally mustered out on January 26, 1866.
After the war he spent a year managing a cotton plantation of 800 acres eighteen miles north of Memphis, Tennessee. He then went back to Illinois and undertook the improvement of his 160 acre farm at Delavan. He was successfully identified with its management for several years, until there came a strong and insistent call for him to go to Kansas.
In the fall of 1870 Colonel Cook arrived in Labette County, and in the following spring located at Chetopa. Here he bought 320 acres ten miles west of Chetopa, improved that as a farm, but since the fall of 1873 has lived in Chetopa and since 1874 has been engaged in the land and loan business. Colonel Cook is the type of man whom everyone implicitly trusts. He has therefore not only gained a worthy success, but has rendered a splendid service in the real estate field. He has been the friend both of the investor and the borrower, and though more than a million dollars have been loaned through his agency there has never been recorded a loss of any importance. In the past ten years it has never been necessary for him even to make a foreclosure. It is not strange therefore that hundreds of the best pieces of property in Southeastern Kansas have been listed with Colonel Cook.
Colonel Cook owns an attractive residence on Maple Street and Seventh Street in Chetopa, and also the Cook Building at the corner of Fourth and Maple streets, where he has had his offices for more than thirty years. He traded a part of his old homestead in Labette County for this business property.
His career has been prominently identified with the civic growth and material development of Southeastern Kansas. For seven years he served as an efficient mayor of Chetopa. He was in two sessions of the Kansas Legislature, in 1885-86. Colonel Cook was one of the projectors of the Missouri Pacific Railroad through Chetopa, and was first vice-president of the company which built that branch of the road. He is a class leader in the Methodist Episcopal Church, is a prohibitionist in politics, and was the first commander of Post No. 27, of the Grand Army of the Republic. At one time he was also president of the Neosho Valley Investment Company. Fraternally he is affiliated with Chetopa Lodge No. 27, Ancient Order of United Workmen, and with Chetopa Lodge of the Knights of Pythias.
In November, 1871, in Decatur, Illinois, Colonel Cook married Mrs. Hannah (Pitts) Prosser. She died in a hospital at Omaha, Nebraska, in December, 1892, and is buried in Chetopa. Colonel Cook has no children by his first marriage. In September, 1894, at Chicago, Illinois, he married Miss Rose Dorland, a daughter of Nathan Dorland, now deceased, who was a farmer at Bartlett in Labette County. Colonel and Mrs. Cook have two children: Harry D., who is a stenographer for the secretary of the Prairie Pipe Line Company at Independence, Kansas; and J. B., Jr., who is a stenographer for the Western States Cement Plant at Independence.