This article was submitted by David H. Halsey
Note: Wyoming County VA/WV was part of Logan County VA/WV until 1850.
According to the "History of British Surnames" for names that originated from Normandy and Breton, the surname "COOKE" was listed in the "Domesday Book" (the tax book used by William the Conquerer after he took England in 1086 AD) as "COCUS".
The first record of the Cooke family coming to America was the log of the Mayflower. However, ancestors from this family were not part of the Cookes that settled in what is now Wyoming County. The Cooke family, the first white people to settle in what is now Wyoming County, came to America in 1771, and belong to John Cooke. Research has uncovered two logical stories as to how John Cooke arrived in Wyoming County. Each is presented below.
In October of 1799, John Cooke, restless of his less adventurous homeland near the Narrows of New River (Shenandoah County, VA), brought his wife, four sons and a daughter-in-law to a cabin at the confluence of Laurel and Clear Forks of the Guyandotte River, in what is now Wyoming County, WV. John had come a long day from the day in 1771 when he and a very young girl named Nellie Goodal (or Pemberton) had been shanghaied aboard a vessel on the Thames in London and thus started his voyage into the New World .
Upon his arrival in America (port unknown, probably Norfolk, VA), John Cooke and Nellie Goodal were both victims of servitude or slavery for a period of time to pay for their passage across the Atlantic. This was England's way to provide white laborers to the colonies. John served his servitude and, feeling obligated, helped Nellie serve out hers.
John Cooke and his family are considered to be the first permanent settlers in what is now Wyoming County, WV. However, when they arrived they met a white man called Milam, a hermit, who had three hunting lodges in the Laurel Fork region. Milam soon disappeared but is credited with naming a few landmarks.
Another version of how John Cooke and his family found themselves in Wyoming County is as follows: "John was the son of a well to do native of London, grew up among the crowded city streets, and received a moderate education. At the age of 15 he fell in love with Nellie Goodal and was married. In 1770 he and his wife set sail for America, arriving at Norfolk, VA. Shortly, they made their way to Giles County, VA, where they lived for several years and began to raise a family of four boys, Thomas, John, Jr., William and James."
"In 1798, John Cooke made his first trip into what is now Wyoming County. He found large bottom lands which lie near Oceana. He returned to Giles County and told Edward McDonald about this fine bottom land. McDonald secured a patent from the Governor of VA and sent John Cooke to Wyoming County in 1802 to take charge of the land for him. As the first settlement, his cabin stood until 1923."
John Cooke was pressed into military duty in 1774 as a member of Captain Buford's "Bedford County Riflemen" as they marched to Point Pleasant to meet Cornstalk, Chief of the Northern Confederacy. General Andrew Lewis was the force commander. Before the actual battle took place John and others were dispatched to Fort Clendenin for supplies. Nevertheless, he is listed on the Point Pleasant Monument as a soldier in this battle.
During the American Revolutionary War, John Cooke enlisted (January 1777) as a private serving under Captains Jonathan London, Abraham Hite, and George Waite in Colonel James Wood's regiment, the Eighth Virginia Continentals. John Cooke was in the battle at Monmouth, NJ, and was later with "Mad Anthony" Wayne in the storming of Stony Point, NY, on the Hudson River. John was discharged on December 29, 1779.
At the close of the Revolutionary War, he moved his family to the Narrows of New River. While living at the Narrows he and his sons served with the Rangers militia organized to protect settlers from the indians. On May 27, 1793, John and his son, Thomas ("a boy" from Montgomery County, VA), were with Captain Hugh Caperton's company of rangers at Fort Lee on the Elk and Kanawha Rivers, guarding the Kanawha Valley settlers near what is now Charleston, WV. "Mad Anthony" Wayne's victory over the indians in 1794 ended the indian threat in what is now WV.
One account shows that Edward McDonald came to what is now Wyoming County in 1784 as a surveyor. He later settled there in 1802.
About a year after John Cooke arrived, in 1800, Captain Ralph Stewart built a cabin on Clear Fork a few miles away from the Cookes.
John Cooke's first wife, Nellie, died about 1812 and on June 28, 1813, he married Ann Hendrix of Monroe County, VA and on September 17, 1832, John Cooke filed for a soldier's pension and two months later, November 21, 1832, he died.
Records at Christiansburg, VA, show John Cooke was appointed constable November 17, 1798, which means he must have still been a resident of New River precluding the possibility of Wyoming settlement until 1799.