Friday, August 19, 2016

Our Cooke Family: Smugglers, Shoemakers and Patriots

Immigrant Thomas Cooke alias Butcher (1600-1677) from the small village of Netherbury, Dorset, England, his wife Mary and three children sailed to Dorcester, Massachusetts, in 1637 on the ship Speedewell.  They traveled with a number of others from Netherbury, less likely for religious reasons than due to a prolonged drought in their area.   

St. Mary's Church in Netherbury, like so many in English villages we walked
Baptismal records for Thomas and other Cookes were found in Netherbury parish records.  The family most likely attended St. Mary’s Church which was begun in the late 1300’s and a Norman tower added in the 1400’s.  Check out the wonderful buttresses on the tower.

Using an “alias,” i.e. Butcher, as did the Cooke family was not unusual for this part of England.  Butcher was not a reflection of their occupation; the name was also spelled Bowcher, Bocher, and Boocher, perhaps a derivation of the Norman surname Bourchier.  Why were aliases more common in Dorset than elsewhere in England?  Evidently, smuggling was a big time occupation for Dorseters given their location on the southern coast of England, and smugglers used aliases.  Our Grandma Alice, proper New Englander she was, would turn over in her grave if she knew she might be descended from smugglers.

In any event, the connection of our Thomas Cooke as a Netherbury immigrant was made from Thomas being found in the Dorset parish records as Thomas the Butcher and likewise listed on a 1660 Portsmouth deed as Thomas the Butcher. 

The Cooke family had only a 15-20 mile jaunt from Netherbury to Weymouth to catch the Speedewell
From Thomas Cooke of Rhode Island
The year after arrival in the Colonies, Thomas purchased land in Taunton from Tetiquet Indians.  Even though a proprietor of Taunton and he took an oath of fidelity for the town, Thomas moved to Portsmouth by 1647.  He was illiterate, signing documents with his mark.  Evidence indicates he was Baptist, by this time a popular denomination in the area after residents built one of the first two Baptist churches in America in Newport.  

Wife Mary, mother of his four children, died in 1670 and Thomas, age 72, remarried to a second much younger Mary, last name unknown.  Besides Mary #1, numerous family members died in the same year, including a son, the son’s wife and three children, and a son-in-law, presumably due to the 1670-71 influenza epidemic.

John Cooke alias Butcher (1630-1691) was seven years old when he accompanied his family on the Speedewell and 18 years old when he was admitted as a freeman in Portsmouth  in 1648.  The Cookes, Shearmans, and Bordens had farms in close proximity, so it’s no surprise John married 20 year old Mary Borden (1632-1690), daughter of our Richard and Joan, in 1652 and they had ten children.  John's father deeded him 60 acres in Portsmouth and he acquired land in Pocasset (now Tiverton/Little Compton) and Barnstable.  
John Cook Lot, burial ground for he and Mary on his farm
John's will indicates he owned Negro slaves and had Indian servants.  John and Mary Borden Cooke are buried in a small unmarked plot in an open field on Glen Farm in Portsmouth, once John's land, beside a stone wall on the south side of Glen Road, 0.3 miles east of East Main Road.

Thomas Cooke (1667-1726), seventh child of John and Mary, married Mary Corey (1662-1743), daughter of William Corey and Mary Earle, sometime between 1692 and 1697 and inherited land near Barnstable, MA, and in Tiverton.  He and Mary settled in Tiverton by 1698 when he registered his cow ear mark there.  As well as owning land and cattle, he was a cordswainer, i.e., a shoemaker who makes new shoes rather than a cobbler who repairs.  Their burial is unknown, but most likely on their land in Tiverton.

Joseph Cooke (1667-1727), the oldest son, was born in Portsmouth just before the family moved to Tiverton.  He married Patience (last name unknown) in Tiverton in 1721 and they had four children,  all born in Tiverton and baptized at Trinity Church in Newport.  He inherited half the family farm in Tiverton, the other half going to a brother, but died at age 30 - a year after his father - and never claimed it.  The last record of Patience was her baptism along with eight year old son, William, in 1730 at the Newport Trinity Church.

Daughter Hope Cooke (1726-1791) was one year old when her father died.  She married Richard Borden (1722-1795), grandson of Richard Borden and Innocent Cornell, in Tiverton.  Husband Richard and son Thomas are recognized by the DAR as patriots of the American Revolution related to the Battle of Fall River.  That's a story for another day.  Hope and Richard are buried in the Fall River North Old Burial Ground.  We brought all our cousins to the old burial ground during the 2013 Cousins Reunion in Fall River and showed the mini-cousins their ancestor graves.  Just so they know.

Inscription:  Sacred to the Memory of
Mr. Richard Borden who departed this life
July 4, 1795
Aged 74 years
Inscription:  Sacred to the Memory of
Mrs. Hope Borden, wife of
Mr. Richard Borden who departed this life
March 1791
Aged about 70 years.
Thomas  the Butcher was our 10th great-grandfather and Hope, who married Richard Borden, our sixth great-grandmother.  Thus, our colonial Cookes passed through five generations before linking in to the Bordens.

Source:  Thomas Cooke of Rhode Island, Jane Fletcher Fiske.

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