Jacob Cooke

Jacob Cooke

May 1887 Vol 1, No 1 Historical Journal, a monthly record devoted principally to Northwestern Pennsylvania by John F. Meginness (Published Williamsport, Pa: Gazette and Bulletin Printing House 1887):

Muncy has lost its oldest inhabitant in the death of Jacob Cooke, which occurred April 19, 1887, aged 89 years, 8 months and 4 days. He descended from Revolutionary stock. The Luminary gives an interesting sketch of deceased which is worthy of reproduction in these pages:

He was born in Point Township, Northumberland County, August 15, 1797. He was the oldest son of Captain John Cooke, who commanded the 4th Sub Legion under General Anthony Wayne, in 1792, and grandson of Colonel William Cooke, who had charge of a regiment under General William Irvine in 1778-9, during which time the famous battle of Brandywine was fought, and in which he and his regiment did effective service. Colonel Cooke was afterwards Quartermaster General at the post at Northumberland, and in subsequent years the first sheriff of Northumberland County. Jacob Cooke, unlike his father and grandfather, did not possess a military spirit, though he performed duty as a member of the “Volunteer Corps of Artillery” for eight years at the town of Northumberland, according to the act of Congress of 1814, and during the last war his sympathies and aid were unswerving, and devotedly given to the cause of the Union.

At an early age he was thrown upon his own resources with but a common school education, such as the schools of an early day afforded, but in early life he adopted the mottoes of “Honesty, Industry and Economy,” and ” Pay as you Go,” and hence succeeded in life. In 1828 he began the mercantile business, in which he continued until 1870, when failing eyesight compelled him to retire, and he was succeeded by his son Edward. Loss of eyesight, however, was not a preventive of his managing his own business affairs, and few young men of today possess the tact and calculation he did at three score and ten. He was a man of sterling integrity and independence, and when he arrived at a determination it became rooted and grounded into his mind as part of himself.

He was a resident of Muncy for more than half a century, and has been largely identified with the interests of our town. He at one time was an active politician, especially during the memorable campaigns of 1840 and 1844, and was a delegate to the Baltimore Convention that nominated Henry Clay in 1844. In 1849 he was chosen a director in the Danville Bank, and remained in office until the establishment of the First National Bank of Muncy in 1865, when he became a director in that bank and remained one until his death.

In 1855 he was one of the commissioners appointed by the Governor to organize the Muncy Bridge Company, and has ever been identified in the growing interests of that company. He was the principal mover in the cemetery enterprise, and was one of two persons that laid it out in plots in 1858 and remained one of its managers until a few years ago. He was interested in the formation of the canal and telegraph companies, and was treasurer of the Muncy Canal Company for many years. He was wholly instrumental in having the road to the cemetery and Muncy Mills opened in 1859, in opposition to the Plank Road, which was then a monopoly, and he obtained in a petition to the Legislature 36 names out of 52 stockholders of the Plank Road Company.

Although coming from a short lived race, his father dying at 57 and his mother at 62, he was permitted to overreach the time allotted to man by two score years. He had a strong constitution and possessed a fine physique, which he retained to the last, walking as erect as a man of 40. His social qualities were of the highest order, and having a good memory, he was wont to entertain his friends by the hour with his reminiscences of early days when turnpikes, railroads and canals were unknown.

In 1828 he was married to Phoebe Houghton, and they lived happily together for fifty-three years, Mrs. Cooke dying in 1882. Their “Golden Wedding” was celebrated in 1878 with a family reunion that was the most remarkable party ever given in Muncy. Mr. Cooke has been failing rapidly for some time. On the first day of last November he took his bed and was never able to leave it again. He was attended solely by his daughter, Mrs. M. J. Levan, and grandson, Mr. H. C. Levan, who spared no pains to make him comfortable in his prolonged illness. Several weeks since his second daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Willits, came to assist Mrs. Levan in taking care of her father.

Jacob Cooke, after the death of John McCarty, in June, 1884, was the oldest male citizen of this borough. He was also the last survivor of the early generation of our merchants. He came to Muncy in 1832, and opened a store in the frame house now belonging to Mrs. Funk, just above Thomas Lloyd’s residence. Thence he moved in 1836 down to the frame building in which Mrs. W. H. H. Walton now lives. In 1840 he built the brick store and house where he afterwards lived and where he died.

The lot where he lived so long is one of the historic spots of Muncy. Those who have studied the early annals of our town know that here stood a plain log house where the widow Merrill (grandmother of our townsman, B. S. Merrill) kept a public house for many years. She seems to have been a popular landlady. Military reviews were frequently held at her house, and eighty years ago it was also the polling place for “the second election district of Lycoming County,” which then included all this neighborhood for miles around. Few know that this old house is still standing. It is weatherboarded, and forms the kitchen of Mr. Cooke’s residence.

The Cooke family has been for more than a century a prominent one in the West Branch Valley. His grandfather, William Cooke, was an early settler of Northumberland County. He raised the Twelfth Pennsylvania Regiment of the Continental Line and was commissioned as its colonel, October 2, 1776. Four companies of this regiment, Miller’s, Boone’s, Brady’s and Harris’, were from Northumberland County. Being composed mainly of good riflemen, large drafts were made on the Twelfth Pennsylvania for picket and skirmish duty, and it lost heavily in the war. ( For the history and roster of Colonel Cooke’s Regiment see Linn’s Annals, pp, 123,124.) The old patriot lived until April, 1804, when he died at Northumberland. His children were John (father of Jacob), Rebecca Steedman, Jane, married to William P. Brady, son of Captain John; Mary, married to Robert Brady, brother of the former; Sarah McClelland, and William.

John Cooke was the illustrious son of a noble sire. From early manhood he was a leader among men. Among the many old family heirlooms owned by Jacob Cooke none were prized more highly than the different commissions received by his father. The first, dated 1793 and signed by ” G. Washington,” commissioned him to serve as ” Captain in the Fourth Sub Legion of the United States Service,” The second, dated 1798, and signed by Governor Thomas Mifflin, commissioned him as “Captain of the Troop of Horse of Northumberland County.” The third, dated 1820 and signed by Governor Joseph Hiester, was a commission appointing him as justice of the peace in and for Point Township, Northumberland County, which office he held until his death.

Captain John Cooke, like his father, was a born soldier. ” It may be said of him (writes John Blair Linn) that he was cradled amid the din of arms, as while a small boy the family occupied one of the houses in Fort Augusta, during the early part of the Revolutionary struggle.” Entering the United States service in 1792, he took part in General Wayne’s campaign in 1794. He kept a journal of this, which was published in the American historical Record for July and August, 1873. The editor, Mr. Linn, adds the following note to his journal:

” On Captain Gooke’s return from this campaign on furlough, he, with a number of other officers, accompanied General Wayne to Philadelphia. They called, in a body, on President Washington, and were introduced by General Wayne. They then proceeded to a fashionable boarding school, where the captain, in the presence of General Wayne and his comrade officers, clothed in his battle-worn uniform, was united in marriage to his cousin Jennie, daughter of Jacob Cooke, Esq., of Lancaster, who was there at school.”

Captain John Cooke returned to his home at Northumberland and lived there the rest of his life. He died in 1824, in the 58th year of his age. His wife survived him several years, dying in 1841. His children were Jacob, who has just died; William W. died 1859; Sarah, married to J. Brobst, died 1839; Charles, now living in Chillisquaque Township, Northumberland County; Robert, now living at Howard, Centre County; Elizabeth, married to John Jones, died 1849; John died in the United States Hospital at Washington, 1862.