This information is part of the Champaign County ILGenWeb Project. If you have reached this site by means other than The USGenWeb Project, The ILGenWeb Project, or directly, please visit the main Champaign Co, ILGenWeb site for more information regarding Champaign County, IL ancestors. Information contained here was transcribed by Ruth Ryan. Please do not repost this information without the express written permission of Celia Snyder.

Champaign County, Illinois

Biography of William Cook

SOURCE: "The Biographical Record of Champaign County, Illinois," The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1900


.  Prominent among the citizens of Champaign county who have witnessed the marvelous development of this state in the past sixty years, and who have, by honest toil and industry, succeeded in acquiring a competence and are now able to spend the sunset of life in quiet and retirement, is the gentleman whose name introduces this sketch and who now makes his home at No. 409 Springfield Avenue, Champaign.

A native of Illinois, Mr. Cook was born in Will county, December 14, 1835, and is a son of Jesse and Nancy (LINEBARGER) COOK, natives of Ohio and North Carolina, respectively.  The father was reared in Ohio until twenty-one years of age, and then removed to Park county, Indiana, where he was married.  In the midst of a heavily timbered tract, he cleared and developed a farm, and made his home there until about 1830, when in company with a number of other families moved to what is now Will county, Illinois, where he entered land from the government, but after residing there for a short time they were forced to leave on account of Indian troubles, the families being warned of their danger by a friendly Indian.  They all returned to Indiana, but after peace was restored they again took up their residence in Will county, where the father of our subject lived until 1840, when he sold his property there and moved to Macoupin county, Illinois, becoming a pioneer of that locality.  He again entered a tract of wild land and underwent the trials and difficulties of frontier life.  In 1870 he came to Champaign county and purchased land in Tolono township, where he engaged in farming for some time, but finally sold his farm and retired from active life, spending his last days with his children.  He died November, 1883, his wife March 8, 1885, honored and respected by all who knew them.  Both were active and faithful members of the Methodist Episcopal church, and in politics he was a Democrat.

To this worthy couple were born eight children, namely:  Mary A., who married Greenup KINDER, of Macoupin county, and both are now deceased.  John, a retired farmer of Tolono township, this county; Andrew, who spent most of his life in Macoupin county, but finally moved to Cass county, Missouri, where he died in 1893; Lavina, widow of Samuel KINDER, and a resident of Montgomery county, Illinois; William, our subject; George, a farmer of Tolono township, this county; Elizabeth deceased wife of M. P. BOBO, of Jasper county Missouri, and Charles F., a farmer of Montgomery county, Illinois.  In 1856, the father and his son Andrew made an overland trip to California in company with a number of their friends, and engaged in mining near Sacramento for about a year, returning home by way of the Isthmus and Gulf of Mexico.  In 1854 they went again to the Pacific slope, and this time were accompanied by the other members of the family, the elder son remaining in Illinois.  They left their home in Macoupin county, Illinois, on the 16th of March, that year, and reached their destination four months later.  The parents conducted a boarding house, while our subject and his brothers engaged in mining, until December, 1857, when they returned to this state by the water route, our subject taking his first car ride across the Isthmus.

William Cook was only five years old when the family removed to Macoupin county, Illinois, where he grew to manhood on the farm, and from the time he was ten years old followed the plow and bore his share in the other farm work.  His education was obtained in the primitive schools of the time, which he attended only during the winter months when he could be spared from the farm work.  On reaching his majority he started out in life for himself by operating rented land on his own account.

On the 29th of March, 1860, Mr. Cook was united in marriage with Miss Elizabeth BAYLESS, who was born in Park county, Indiana, April 30, 1843, a daughter of George P. and Amelia (POWERS) BAYLESS, also native of Indiana, where they spent their entire lives.  The father was a farmer by occupation and a Democrat in politics.  He was quite a prominent and influential man in his community, and was honored with several local offices, including that of assessor.  He died September 28, 1858, and his wife passed away January 7, 1855.  They had a family of six children:  Elizabeth, wife of our subject; Francis, a farmer of Pottawattamie county, Iowa; Martha, who married William MCCOSKEY, a farmer of Vigo county, Indiana, and both are now deceased; Susanna, wife of James CAMPBELL, of Kentucky; John Wesley, who has spent his entire life in Park county, Indiana; and William Perry, a resident of Cayuga, Indiana.  Of the five children born to Mr. and Mrs. Cook, three died in infancy.  Nettie is now the wife of James W. CROW, a farmer of Colfax township, this county, and they have one child, Hazel G.  Luella A. is the wife of Eugene BROWNLEE, a general merchant and postmaster of Norwood, Mercer county, Illinois, and they have two sons, Kenneth C. and Clifton D. 

After marriage Mr. Cook continued to operate rented land for five years, and then purchased property and began life in a modest way upon his own farm.  Concluding to try his fortune in Kansas, he went that state in the spring of 1866 in company with about six other families from the same neighborhood traveling by team the entire distance, but the ravages of the war left both Missouri Kansas in a desolate condition, and the inhabitants of the little villages along the way carried revolvers and all presented so wild and lawless an appearance that upon reaching Fort Scott Mr. Cook said he would not live in such a country, and immediately started to retrace his steps.  He had two wagons and on the return trip was accompanied by his own brother and his wife’s brother.  After an absence of two months he again found himself in Macoupin county, Illinois, but too late to plant crops that year.  Taking a train he came to Champaign county and purchased eighty acres of land in Tolono township for twenty-five dollars per acre, and in November, 1866, took up his residence thereon.  To the improvement and cultivation of that farm he devoted his energies for many years, and added to it, making a fine farm of one hundred and twenty acres.  He finally sold his place in 1892 and moved to Pottawattamie county, Iowa, where he bought a quarter-section of land, and resided there for two years.  Disposing of this property at the end of that time, he returned to Illinois and purchased ninety acres of land near Alexis, Mercer county, but after living there for eight months he concluded Champaign county was good enough for him, and accordingly sold his farm and returned to this region.  He has since made his home in Champaign, occupying a pleasant residence at No. 409 West Springfield avenue.  He has laid aside all business cares, but still owns a good farm of ninety acres in Clinton county, Indiana.  In his farming operations he met with the success that usually followed the industrious and enterprising man, and the prosperity that has come to him is due entirely to his own well-directed and energetic efforts.  As a Democrat he takes an active interest in public affairs, and he merits and receives the confidence and respect of the entire community.  His estimable wife is a member of the Methodist Episcopal church.

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