Born in England. Arrived in Massachusetts in 1637 and settled shortly thereafter in Rhode Island and
Born in England. Arrived in Massachusetts in 1637 and settled shortly thereafter in Rhode Island.
A useful secondary source in researching the life of Thomas Cooke is Thomas Cooke of Rhode Island: A Genealogy of Thomas Cooke, alias Butcher of Netherbury, Dorsetshire, England, who came to Taunton, Massachusetts in 1637 and settled in Portsmouth, Rhode Island in 1643, compiled and published by Jane Fletcher Fiske (J.F. Fiske: Boxford, Massachusetts) 1987.
Thomas Cooke, also known in the records as Thomas Butcher, was probably baptized 13 Apr 1600 in the parish of St. Mary, Netherbury, Dorsetshire, England as Thomas Bowcher. He died at Portsmouth, Rhode Island in the spring of 1677, probably just before 21 May, when his inventory was taken, as Thomas Cooke. He is known to have had two wives, both named Mary, but it is not known whether the first Mary was his first wife, married in England and thus the mother of his first three children. She was his wife in May 1660, when she signed her mark to a deed, but she had died by March 1672/3, when the second Mary wrote a good signature on another deed. It is likely that the first Mary died about 1670, when several members of the family of Thomas Cooke died within a few months time.
Thomas and his first wife, Mary, produced the following children:
- Thomas, born probably about 1626 and who who married Thomasin about 1648 in Taunton, Massachusetts.
- John Cooke, baptized in Netherbury, England 30 Mar 1630 and died 16 May 1691 in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. In about 1655 he married Mary Borden, who was born 1632/3 and died in 1690.
- Child, living in 1637; perhaps George, baptized 25 Jan 1634/5 at Netherbury as George, son of Thomas Butcher. If this child was George, he evidently died before 1647 when another son of that name was born.
- George, born about 1647 in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, who married Ann.
The first three children were born in England and were with Thomas and Mary at the time of their immigration to America in 1637. They are thought to have sailed on the ship Speedewell, from Weymouth, Dorset, probably shortly after 22 Apr 1637, the date on which the fee for their passage was paid. Their place of landing in New England is not known, but was certainly in the Boston area, probably Dorchester. In any case, Thomas Cooke and his family did not remain there, for his name appears on a list of purchasers of Taunton, Massachusetts, who acquired lands from the Tetiquet Indians in 1638. There were forty-six such proprietors. During the time that he lived there, Taunton was under the jurisdiction of Plymouth Colony.
Thomas Cooke’s personal motivation for coming to New England can be a matter only of speculation, but it does not appear to have been religious. Many families, from all social and economic levels, were leaving Dorset for the colonies during that period. There may be a clue in the parish register of Netherbury, in a record kept from 1619 to about 1640, a brief chronologie of some memorable things:
In the year 1634 from the 10 day of March unto the 8 day of Aprill there fell littell or no raine and then it was wett from the 8 day of Aprill unto the 16 of May and after was it inclined to drouth for the most part until the beginning of October … In the yeare 1635 it was dry for the most part from the second day of May unto the 21 of June except somtimes som smale raine … In the yeare 1636 there fell no raine to be accounted of from the 10 day of Aprill, unto the midst of June.
With the unstable political situation in England, which drove many people to become colonists in the New World, three years of difficult weather may have helped decide the issue.
In 1643 Thomas Cooke took the oath of fidelity required of freemen in Taunton and both he and his son, Thomas Cooke (Jr.) were on the list of men between the ages of 16 and 60 who were considered able to bear arms. Later that year the family removed to Portsmouth, Rhode Island, where on 28 November both Thomas (Sr.) was received as inhabitant and granted land. On 4 Sep 1648, the Portsmouth Town Council gave Thomas Cooke (Sr.) thirty acres at the head of his howse lott and to Run towards Mr. Burtun’s ferrie. Thomas (Jr.) was granted the same amount of land next to that of his father.
Thomas Cooke (Sr.) was among those listed as freemen of Portsmouth in 1655. He was chosen on 3 Mar 1656 as one of three men to sit at the General Court of Trials to be held at Newport the following week. He was chosen a juryman for the General Court of Trials 13 Mar 1659.
On 14 May 1660 Thomas Cooke deeded to John Cooke alias Butcher, my sonne lawfully begotten of my owne body, about sixty acres in Portsmouth.
Thomas Cooke was one of a group of seven men who on 23 April 1667 was directed to consider of a way to prevent the destruction of wood and timbar in the Commons of this township and to [———] a way of Redres and to present there thoughts to ye Next towne meeting.
Each freeman had his own cattle mark, by which his livestock could be identified. The Eare Marke of Thomas Cooke Sen’r was entered in the Portsmouth Town Records 9 Mar 1667/8 with the notation that it was of 26 years standing or thereabouts. It is described as a crop on the left ear with a halfpenny under the lower side of the same ear, and a slit on the right ear.
Within a few months time in 1670 and 1671, Thomas Cooke’s eldest son, Thomas, the latter’s wife, at least three of their children and a son-in-law all died. It seems likely that his first wife, Mary, also died at that time. He married the second Mary before 6 Mar 1672/73, which is the date on which he finally deeded his Taunton land to Increase Robinson, house carpenter, of the Colony of New Plymouth, for two hundred weight of good Barr iron. Mary Cooke signed her name, while Tomas again used his mark, “T”. Witnesses were Shadrach Wilbore, who was town clerk of Taunton at the time, and Samson and Benjamin Shearman. The land was specified to be of the ancient purchase of Taunton. This deed was not recorded until 15 Feb 1758.
Thomas Cooke (Sr.) signed his mark to his will 6 Feb 1673/4, witnessed by Obadiah Holmes and Thomas Dungan. Although it lacks the usual religious preamble to such a document, the fact that Thomas nominated as overseers his “loving friends” Obadiah Holmes and Joseph Torrey, both Baptist ministers, leaves little doubt that he himself was at the time a Baptist. The original will is no longer in existence, and the recorded copy is in the handwriting of John Anthony, town clerk of Portsmouth. It seems that many incorrect versions of this will have been printed over the years, causing a proliferation of published errors. The will does show some signs of having been hastily drawn up. There are a number of interlined words and phrases, which seem intended to clarify instructions, and occasionally a word appears to have been left out. The testator was described as weak in body, and chances are he was not expected to recover. On 11 Mar 1673/4, Thomas’ son, George Cook, was granted by the Dutch authorities in New York a permit to travel to Rhode Island on urgent business. Thomas evidently lived about three more years. No record of his death has been found, but the inventory of his estate was made by John Albro and Joshua Coggeshell on 21 May 1677. It showed a value of £187:16, of which housing and land accounted for £130. His will was presented to the Town Council on 4 Jun 1677, by the widow Mary, executrix, and the two witnesses were sworn. This was repeated on 29 June, when it was accepted by order of John Anthony, town clerk, who finally recorded it on 13 Jul 1677. Several receipts for legacies were written in 1678. All of these were recorded together on 4 Jul 1692. At that time the clerk made an error, setting down the date of Thomas Cooke’s will as the date of his death, a mistake which has been perpetuated in print.
The son of Thomas Cooke and Mary, 1st wife, is John Cooke, baptized in Netherbury, England 30 March 1630 and died 16 May 1691 in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. In about 1655 he married Mary Borden, who was born 1632/3 and died in 1690. On 29 March 1688, Jeremiah Browne of Newport and his wife Mary, formerly (2nd) wife of Thomas Cooke (Sr.), deeded to John Cooke of Portsmouth for £39 ten acres of Portsmouth, evidently the ten acres which Thomas had left to Mary in his will for her own use. It is John who evidently changed the spelling of his surname from “Cooke” to “Cook”.
John Cook was made a freeman in 1655 and was a deputy in 1670. On 3 Jun 1668, he and Daniel Wilcox were given the privilege of running a ferry at Pocasset. In 1655 he married Mary Borden, born 13 Jan 1632 in Cranbrook, Kent, England. They had a family of nine children. Mary died in Portsmouth, Newport, Rhode Island 23 Dec 1690. John died the next year.
The will of John Cook is dated 15 May 1691 and was proved 25 May 1691. In the document he mentions sons: John, Joseph, Thomas, and Samuel and daughters: Mary Manchester (wife of William Manchester), Elizabeth (wife of William Briggs), Sarah (wife of Thomas Waite), Hannah (wife of Daniel Wilcox), Martha (wife of William Cory), Deborah (wife of William Almy), Amy (wife of David Clayton) as granddaughter Sarah Manchester. He appointed, as Overseers, George Sisson and Issac Lawton.
From John’s will, it is apparent that he had an unusual number of “negro slaves” and several “Indian boys”, which he bequeathed to various family members, for example:
To Joseph I leave my Negro man called Jack who is of service for time of his Life and my Indian woman Maria to be his servant for ten years and then to be freed, and my Indian boy Goan Francisco to serve with him until he be twenty-four years old, at which time Joseph is to put him in good apparel and give him corn and a horse… To son John Cook I bequeath my Negro woman Betty and to son Thomas 20 sheep, 3 cows and a mare…
From the preamble of his will, it seems probable that John died of smallpox:
Although of sound memory and understanding, yet being aged and calling to mind the brevity and uncertainty of this life not knowing how soon the Lord may call me from hence especially considering the sore visitation of the smallpox wherewith many are now visited and many have been taken away…
The daughter of John Cook and Mary Borden is Sarah Cook, born about 1658 and died 28 Mar 1725, both occurring in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. She married Thomas Waite, and the lineage of Mary Borden and John Cook through their daughter Sarah is continued under the heading of Thomas Waite (1601-1665).
 The second Mary Cooke, who survived her husband, was much younger – young enough to have been his granddaughter. She and Thomas had no surviving children, and her identity is therefore not critical to Cooke descendants. She married second, in 1679, as his second wife, Jeremiah Brown of Newport, son of Chad and Elizabeth (Sharparowe) Brown, and she bore him at least two children. There is a strong possibility, according to some researchers, that the second Mary was Mary Shearman, born in May1645, daughter of Philip and Sara (Odding) Shearman of Portsmouth. This hypothesis is supported by the following facts, according to Jane Fletcher Fiske, in the work referenced at the beginning of this section: “The Cookes and the Shearmans were close neighbors in Portsmouth. Philip Shearman’s will, dated 30 July 1681, named his daughters only by their first names, but he left to daughter Mary “ten ewe sheep”, a legacy which suggests both that she was married and living not too far away. He was Recorder of the colony, and his daughter would probably have been literate, as Mary Cooke is known to have been. As the wife of Jeremiah Brown, she gave to two of her children the names of the children closest to Mary in age in the Shearman family: Daniel and Hannah. Furthermore, the deed which she co-signed with Thomas Cooke in March 1672/3 was witnessed by Samson and Benjamin Shearman, brothers of Mary.” Other researchers, including Edward H. West and G. Andrews Moriarty (both authorities of Rhode Island), have concluded that she was Mary Slocum, sister of Giles Slocum, but it is now quite clear that this belief was based on an erroneous reading of Thomas Cooke’s will, printed by J.O. Austin in his Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island. It has also been claimed that she was Mary Havens, daughter of William and Dennis Havens of Portsmouth, but this also must be incorrect, because by 30 Mar 1680 – when William Havens named his daughter as Mary Cook in his will – Mary, the widow of Thomas Cooke, was already married to Jeremiah Brown and had had one child by him.
 The reference in the will to other sisters being six of them has been often misinterpreted to mean that John left six additional daughters whose names he omitted. No evidence whatever has been found to indicate any other daughters, and the explanation seems simple: Amy Clayton was in New Jersey by 1691, making delivery of a cow to her impractical, and the other daughters whose names are given add up to six.