FRANCIS H. COOK, – Mr. Cook was born in Marietta, Ohio, in 1851. He went with his parents to Iowa at the age of twelve. His father was a farmer, and have his attention to agriculture and to sawmilling; but it was decided to make a printer of the boy. He was accordingly apprenticed to work at the cases in the office of the Harrison County Union, a paper owned and edited by Judge Henry Ford, who was also sitting on the bench of the northwest district of Iowa. The journal changed proprietors quite frequently, young Cook remaining through the two administrations succeeding Judge Ford’s; but, at the next call for a change, he and another ambitious young man embraced the opportunity to buy the Union themselves, conducting it a year and a half. But feeling the need of a more complete intellectual equipment, the young journalist sold out his share and attended Iowa State University. His studies there were cut short at the end of the second year by the failure of the man to whom he had sold, making his notes worthless. He had, however, fifteen dollars, earned at Iowa City; and with this for capital he set forth at the age of nineteen to see the world. His printer’s trade gave him employment. There is never so care-free a traveler as the compositor; and young cook saw the inside workings of newspaper offices all the way from the Burlington Hawkeye to the New York Tribune, stopping a few weeks or a few months at any city where he could learn most and where the wages were good. Having seen something of the Atlantic sea-board, he bent his steps westward, and in 1871 was at San Francisco, ending his travels at Olympia. Here he began as compositor on the Olympia Courier, at its first issue. In three weeks he was its foreman. During the year 1874 he bought the Olympia Echo and was its editor and proprietor. He ran it as an independent journal, although he was himself a conservative Republican.
He soon found a field for aggressive warfare in the contract system of the insane asylum. The Echo attacked this system very vigorously, denouncing it as calculated to give the party in power an infamous opportunity for public plunder, and to create a field altogether too inviting to the political birds of prey. The contract system encouraged a large instead of a small number of patients. All the other papers at the capital remained silent on this subject, not caring to antagonize the powerful political influences concerned. Without this young journalist’s persistent efforts, the legislature of 1875 would not have changed the contract for the present humane system. Mr. Cook was connected with the Echo for three years, running it two years as a daily.
In 1877 he started the Tacoma Herald. New Tacoma at that time boasted a population of only forty-five, thirteen of whom were school children. This breezy publication he ran three years, two years of which as a daily. While editing the Herald he performed a feat of journalism well worth recording. The legislative session of 1877 was being held at Olympia; and much interest was felt in the proceedings. Mr. Cook went down, reported each day’s work, and sent the copy to Tacoma – part of the way on horseback – the same evening, bidding the messenger wait until the papers were struck off, and bring back a supply. This was done; and the report thus distributed at Olympia reached the people each day seven hours before that of the Oregonian, all of whose work was done by telegraph.
Mr. Cook’s valiant public efforts brought him into prominence; and he was nominated both as candidate for the legislative council and as sheriff for Mason county. He was narrowly defeated for both offices. His popular strength was shown, moreover, although he was no favorite with the politicians; and he was nominated for the council for the same district, – Pierce, Mason and Chehalis, – the next election but one, and after a very spirited contest was successful by a majority of eighty-one. He had a powerful opponent in the railway interests, which he had antagonized by writing a plank in the Republican platform favoring a requirement that the Northern Pacific Railroad build twenty-five miles of road each year from Puget Sound east. He received every vote cast in Chehalis county for councilman. Upon taking his seat in 1879, he was chosen president of the council, although he was the youngest man in either house. During this session, the present revenue bill was passed; and the meeting with General grant was formalized.
Seeking a new journalistic field, Mr. Cook started the Spokane Times, April 24, 1879, and the next year removed to Spokane Falls, and married Miss Laura C. McCarly of Seattle. Mr. Cook was the first man to call the attention of the outside world to what he enthusiastically termed the “great Spokane country.” He made a popular and business success of this paper, as he also did of the others. At the end of the third year of publication, the last nine months having been as a daily with telegraphic dispatches, he sold to a Mr. Herring. Desiring to devote more time to domestic life, and having a love of home-life and agriculture, Mr. Cook bought a farm adjoining Spokane Falls on the south, upon which he also had a small sawmill. He generally employs a large force of men. This beautiful tract of land, comprising six hundred acres, is favored by springs of pure water, and outlooks the busy city. It is already united by a motor line, elegantly equipped, with the heart of the metropolis. Mr. Cook is at the head of this enterprise, which in itself is a monument of Western pluck and keen foresight. As a journalistic pioneer, Mr. Cook’s career has been most energetic, honorable and successful. His record in politics as been clean, and of practical value to the people. As a private citizen, he is useful and very progressive.