Francis Cooke was born, probably in England, and probably after August 1582 (he is listed on the August 1643 list of men between 16-60, so he was no more than 60 years of age at that time). The history of Francis Cooke's youth is entirely unknown; he was a young man of about 20 when he first appeared in Leyden, Holland records in 1603. It is not unlikely that he was new to Leyden at the time and had learned his trade in England, although whether in the Norwich area or not is unknown. Allowing for his youth and a period for courtship, perhaps he arrived in Leyden in 1602 aged 19 or so. Thus he was in Holland before the arrival of the Separatists from England.
On April 25, 1603, "Franois Cooke" appeared as witness to the betrothal of Raphael Roelandt, a woolcomber who would be a witness at his own betrothal a few months later. In his own betrothal on June 30, 1603, "Franchoijs Couck" is identified as a bachelor from England, with the occupation "woolcomber" and Hester Mahieu is described as an unmarried young woman from Canterbury in England. [Although Hester Mahieu is listed as "of Canterbury," she was a actually French-speaking Belgian, and not English. The Huguenots and Walloons were Protestant exiles from Europe. Those from France (known as the Huguenots) and those from present-day Belgium (known as Walloons), were persecuted for their religion and left in large numbers, with a good number coming to England. Many Walloons lived in Canterbury, engaged in the textile trades.] Cooke was accompanied by two witnesses, Phillippe de Veau and Rapheal Roelandt, whose names do not indicate any particular family relationship to either party. Hester, on the other hand, was accompanied by her mother and her sister, both of whom were named Jenne/Jeanne Mahieu.
Marriage intentions were entered July 4 and July 5, 1603, which means the three banns were proclaimed July 6, July 13 and July 20 (three successive Sundays); therefore, the marriage took place on or after July 20, 1603.
The betrothal record is in the ecclesiastical betrothal register. The register listed couples whose weddings were to be solemnized in the Dutch Reformed Church or the Walloon Reformed Church (or sometimes in the German and English Reformed Churches). It was not used for couples whose marriage vows were exchanged in any of the dissenting churches, which included the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Remonstrant, Mennonite, and English Separatist or Pilgrim congregations.
Although the banns were read, as was customary, the marriage itself is not recorded in the records of these Dutch Reformed churches. The German and English Reformed congregations had not yet been established in 1603. The marriage, therefore, was probably solemnized in the Leyden Walloon Reformed Church, whose marriage records before September 1604 are, unfortunately, missing.
On November 6, 1603, "Franois Coek" appeared as a baptismal witness for the ancestor of the Delano family, Philippe, son of Jan de Lannoy and Marie Mahieu. Philip Delano was one of the six single men associated with Francis Cooke's family in 1627. Quite possibly his mother Marie Mahieu was a sister of Hester (Mahieu) Cooke.
Francis and Hester evidently left for Norwich on August 8, 1060, as a note in the Walloon Library of Leyden mentions their departure on that date with letters of transfer. Both the departure and the return to communion in Leyden with a similar letter indicate that Franois Cooke and his wife Hester were members of the Leyden Walloon congregation. The Cookes evidently returned briefly to Leyden between the quarterly dates of communion, which they missed, in order to have their son Jean (John) baptized within the Leyden Walloon congregation with family as godparents to raise him in case be became orphaned.
On New Year's Day 1608 among those admitted to communion by letter of transfer from another Walloon congregation were "Franois Cooke et Esther sa femme, de Norwich." This entry tells us that before 1608, Francis and Hester had lived in Norwich among the Walloon there.
On May 20, 1608, a Couck child, whose first name is not given, was buried in the Pieterskerk. The burial record indicates that at the time the father Franchoys Couck lived on the Levendaal, a canal on the southeast side of Leyden. A daughter, Elizabeth, was baptized on December 26, 1611. The Cookes' next child Jacob (and perhaps their daughter Mary, although it is more likely Mary was born at Plymouth) was presumably baptized in the Separatist congregation of Leyden, for which no records are preserved.
Francis Cooke and his son John embarked on the Speedwell at Delfshaven, Holland in July 1620, leaving behind Hester and the other children, who would arrive in America in 1623 on the ship Anne. At Southampton or Plymouth, England Francis and John were transferred to the Mayflower and set sail from Plymouth on Wednesday, September 6, 1620.
"The names of those which came over first, in the year 1620, and were by the blessing of God the first beginners and in a sort the foundation of all the Plantations and Colonies in New England; and their families ...Francis Cooke and his son John; but his wife and other children came afterwards."
Francis Cooke was the 17th signer of the Mayflower Compact. On Friday, February 16, 1621, while Capt. Myles Standish and Francis Cooke were at work in the woods they were recalled by an alarm at the approach of Indians. "Écoming home left their tools behind them; but before they returned, their tools were taken away by the savages. This coming of the savages gave us occasion to keep more strict watch, and to make our pieces and furniture ready, which by moisture and rain were out of temper." The Indians returned the tools a month later.
After the common house had been completed, houses for the families were built. Since the winter had seen so many deaths, the Pilgrims were reduced to 19 families and each of these 19 received a parcel of land about fifty feet deep. Frontage was proportional to the number in the family, about eight feet per person. Lots were cast to decide each family's position in the "two rows of houses" which were to be built "for more safety." This allotment was for their use for only the year, to build houses and plant gardens, and they could not pass the land down to their heirs. Francis Cooke appears on a diagram of "meersteads & garden plots of [those] which came first laid out 1620" with his plot being on the south side of the street, with Isaac Allerton and Edward Winslow on his east and west.
In the late 1623 Plymouth Land Division, he received two acres as a passenger on the Mayflower with his son John, plus four acres for the rest of his family which came on the Anne in August 1623. Some of this land was apparently sold to William Bradford by 1639. In 1627, when personal ownership of land became a fact, Francis received 20 acres for each share held in the Plymouth Company, that is, for each member of his family.
The Division of Cattle made at Plymouth on May 22, 1627 assigned the first lot "Éto ffrancis Cooke & his Companie Joyned to him his wife Hester Cooke (3) John Cooke (4) Jacob Cooke (5) Jane Cooke (6) Hester Cooke (7) Mary Cooke (8) Moses Simonson (9) Phillip Delanoy (10) Experience Michaell (11) John ffance (12) Joshua Pratt (13) Phinihas Pratt. To his lot fell the least of the 4 black heyfers Came in the Jacob, and two shee goats." This is the earliest Plymouth Colony records found which names the wife and children of Francis. Not surprisingly, the six unmarried men associated with the family included friends and relations. Philip Delano, then 23, was probably Hester's nephew. Experience Mitchell was to marry Francis's daughter Jane shortly after this.
The Pilgrims had a contract with the Company stating all land and profits would accrue to the Company for 7 years at which time the assets would be divided among the shareholders. Most of the Pilgrims held some stock. Francis Cooke was one of the "Purchasers" who in 1627 bought all the rights of the London "Undertakers." One month after the Division of Cattle he signed a more favorable contract between the "Purchasers" and the "Undertakers" by which the latter were to have, for six years, the control of the entire trade of the plantation with the outside world.
Francis Cooke was on the 1633 Plymouth list of freemen ahead of those admitted January 1 1632/3 and also on the March 7, 1636/7 and 1639 lists of Plymouth freemen. He was also in the Plymouth section of the list of freemen of 1658.
In the tax list drawn up by order of the General Court held January 2, 1632/3, he was taxed eighteen shillings to be paid in corn at six shillings per bushel. One year later, January 2, 1633/4, his tax was nine shillings and his son John was taxed nine shillings.
On January 7, 1632/3, Robert Hicks and Francis Cooke were appointed arbitrators to settle a difference between Dr. Samuel Fuller and Peter Brown.
James Hurst, Francis Cooke and John Doane took the inventory of Martha Harding's estate which was presented to the court October 28, 1633. James Hurst, Francis Cooke and Phineas Pratt took the inventory of Francis Eaton's estate on November 8, 1633.
On October 1, 1634, John Jenney, Francis Cooke and five others were appointed to lay out highways for Plymouth.
A law was passed November 15, 1636 requiring every man to register his cattle marks. Francis Cooke's are recorded as follows: "ffrancis Cooke a hole in the left eare and a slit in he (*) right eare downe the middest of the eare."
On December 24, 1636 John Harmon, son of Edmond of London, contracted to became the apprentice of Francis Cooke for seven years "from the first of Octbr, 1636, to the exiraon of the said terme, and then to be dowble apprelled" and to received twelve bushels of corn from him.
On March 7, 1636 Francis Cooke sued Mr. John Browne, the elder and Thomas Willet, together with several other men working for them: Thomas Lettis, James Walter, John Browne the younger and Thomas Teley. The charge was that on November 9, 1636 they had caused £10 in damages by abuse and injury to some of his cattle, viz: "vnreasonably abuse the cattle of the said Francis Cooke, insomuch that therevpon one cowe cast her calf, & hath lost her milk, & is in danger to be lost herself." The jury found in Francis Cooke's favor against John Browne the elder "3£ damnage, & 13s. 6d. charges of the suite." On June 7, 1637 Francis Cooke was granted an execution against John Browne.
January 2, 1637-8: "Franc Cooke" served on several trial juries: Michaell Turner against John Davis for damage to a boat; Edward Dotey against John Holmes in a case of transpass; and John and Elisabeth Willis against William Bradford, Edward Winslow and Thomas Prince (as executors of a will) in a dispute about land.
Under an agreement recorded March 2, 1640/1 the Purchasers and Old Comers received grants of land in three areas near present-day Yarmouth, Dartmouth and Rehoboth, "the purchasers, or old comers, witnes two in especiall, thone beareing dated the third of March, 1639, thother in Decembr ye first, 1640..."
Francis Cooke's name appears in two lists of the townsmen of Plymouth. The first is dated December 10, 1646. The second is undated, but was probably made between 1648 and 1659. Francis Cooke's team is mentioned in a list of teams, with men assigned to each, for drawing wood; but part of the leaf is missing and the purpose is unclear. There is no date, but it was probably made between 1648 and 1652.
Francis Cooke was on several committees and held a number of offices as follows: Committee to lay out the twenty-acre grants January 3, 1627/8; committee to lay out land, May 5, 1640 and October 5, 1640; committee to lay out highways, October 1, 1634, May 2, 1637, February 1, 1640/1, and June 10, 1650; Plymouth petit jury, January 2, 1637/8, September 3, 1639, December 3, 1639, March 3, 1639/40, June 2, 1640, June 7, 1642, September 7, 1642, and March 7, 1642/3; Plymouth grand jury, June 5, 1638, June 2, 1640, March 7, 162/3, and June 6, 1643; surveyor of highways, March 1, 1641/2, June 7, 642 and June 4, 1645; and arbitrator in land dispute between Thomas Pope and William Shurtleff, August 2, 1659.
On July 22, 1648, he served on the Coroner's jury or murder case of the four-year old daughter of Richard and Allis Bishop. August 1, 1648: "These sheweth, that on July the 22cond, 1648, wee, whose names are vnderwritten, were sworne by Mr Bradford, Gouerner, to make inquiry of the death of the child of Allis Bishop, the wife of Richard Bishope. Wee declare, yt coming into the house of the said Richard Bishope, we saw at the foot of a ladder wh leadeth into an vpper chamber, much blood; and going vp all of us into the chamber, wee found a woman child, of about foure yeares of age, lying in her shifte vppon her left cheeke, with her throat cutÉand the said Allis hath confessed to fiue of vs att one time, yt shee murdered the child with the said knife. [signed] John Howland, James Hurst, Robert Lee, John Shawe, Francis Cooke, John Cooke, James Cole, Gyells Rickard, Richard Sparrow, Thomas Pope, Francis Billington, William Nelson."
Francis Cooke was assessed 18s. in the Plymouth tax list of March 15, 1633 and 9s. in the list of March 27, 1634. On December 3, 1638 a small parcel of land which had been previously granted to Francis Cooke was instead granted to Thomas rince. On February 4, 1638/9 "a parcell of vpland lying at thend of Gooman Shawes land at Smilt River is graunted to Francis Cooke." On October 5, 1640 Francis Cooke and Jon Cooke, Jr. were granted a parcel of upland "puided it doe not exceede two hundred acres of vplandes and the meddow before yt" along with a parcel of upland "containing about 10 or 12 acres." On October 17, 1642 Francis Cooke was one of those who received six acres apiece "if it be there to be had" at North meadow by Joanes River. On April 9, 1650 Francis Cooke gave "his sonne Jacob Cook" all his right in one hundred acres at North River granted him October 5, 1640. In March 1651 Francis and John Cooke are recorded as among the proprietors of the Plymouth lands at Punckateesett (now Little Compton, RI), and on April 1, 1663/4 they are shown as owners of the eighteeneth lot. Francis Cooke received a grant on January 4, 1655/6 "...3 holes of meddow lying at the Hither end of the Greate meddow Caled Jons river." He is on the list of Purchasers.
Governor William Bradford, writing in early 1651, says, "Francis Cooke is still living, a very olde man, and hath seene his childrens children have children; after his wife came over (with other of his children), he hath 3 still living by her, all maried, and have 5 children; so their encrease is 8. And his sone John, which came over with him, is maried, and hath 4 children living."
Francis died at Plymouth, MA on April 7, 1663, "above 80" years of age. His will, dated October 7, 1659, was proved June 5, 1663.
The last Will and Testament of ffrancis Cooke of Plymouth late Deceased: exhibited before the Court held att Plymouth aforsaid the fifth day of June 1663 on the oathes of mr John Aldin and mr John howland;
The Last Will and Testament of ffrancis Cooke made this seaventh of the tenth month 1659
I being att prsent weake and Infeirme in body yett in prfect memory throw mercy Doe comitt my soule unto god that gave it and my body to the earthe; which my will is should bee Intered in a Decent and comly manner;
As for such goods and lands as I stand posessed of I Doe will and bequeath as followeth;
1 My will is that hester my wife Dear and loveing wife shall have all my moveable goods and all my Cattle of all kinds; viz: neat Cattle horsekind sheep and swine to be att her Dispose
2 my will is that hester my wife shall have and Injoy my lands both upland and meddow lands which att prsent I posesse During her life
3 I Doe ordaine and appoint my Deare wife and my son John Cooke Joynt exequitors of this my said will
An inventory was taken of his possessions by Ephraim Tinkham and William Crow on May 1, 1663. His total net worth at that time was 86 pounds, 11 shillings, and 1 pence.
Besides the housing and land; the goods and Chattels amount to eighty six pounds eleven shillings and a peney; apprised by us, Ephraim Tinkham his E T , William Crow
An agreement made June 8, 1666 between John Cooke, Jacob Cooke, Hester Wright the wife of Richard Wright and Mary Tompson the wife of John Tompson disposed of the land of Francis Cooke. The agreement mentions Hester Cooke is still living. On the same date John Cooke confirmed to Richard Wright and Thomas Mitchell, in equal shares, sixty acres of upland, near Jones River Meadow formerly given them by Francis Cooke. On July 5, 1670 a court record mentions that land called "old Cookes Holes," lying at Jones River was given by Francis Cooke to Richard Wright and Thomas Mitchell and since his (Francis) decease confirmed unto Richard Wright and Thomas Mitchell by John Cooke.
Hester died between June 8, 1666 and December 18, 1675. As Hester was about 82 in 1666, it seems likely she died closer to 1666 than to 1675.
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