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The History of Our Future Home

Crawford County, Mo 1904 Map

Dear Friends,

My husband and I own property in Crawford County, Missouri, where we plan to eventually retire. So, while researching area churches, I came across this history of the founding of Cook Station, Missouri, where our property is located. As most of you know, I love history and this area appears to be rich in it.

In future posts I plan to share more nuggets of this area's history and perhaps some photos as well.

Please take some time to read and enjoy!

Villages of Crawford County, Missouri - COOK STATION 

Cook Station had its beginning with the building of the railroad along the Meramec Valley toward Salem in 1872-73. Several years before this Christopher C. Cook and wife had moved from Dent County and settled at the present site of the village. 

The Civil War came and Christopher enlisted in the Confederate Army where he served first as a private in Company F. Fifth Missouri Cavalry, and later raised and became captain Of Company R., Freeman's Regiment. 

Early in 1861 Tom Freeman's men attacked Bennight's Home Guards, commanded by J. Wesley Bennight with headquarters at Bennight's Mill near the southern line of Crawford County. Tom Freeman's men, with Christopher Cook as their captain, kept up a hideous yelling all night during the firing. Thomas Howe of Howe's Mill was wounded, and being disabled, lay there and answered the yelling of Freeman and Cook's men by hurrahing for Lincoln. 

Colonel Thomas Freeman was a native of Phelps County, had served on the Phelps County Court, and when General Franz Sigel marched into Rolla on June 14,1861, he fled Rolla and soon organized a guerilla band which terrified all of south Missouri. He raided the Meramec lron Works. 

Union troops battled with his band at Salem. He was then unattached to the Confederate Army. But soon, by agreement between northern and southern generals, such guerilla bands were outlawed--that is, made subject to execution if caught. Freeman then joined up with the Confederate Army. 

When Christopher Cook went away to war he had been married thirteen years. At the close of the struggle he came home with a saddened heart, a lost cause behind him, but his family was waiting to welcome him home. He at once began all over again and with diligence and thrift was soon the owner of much of the land at the present site of Cook Station. 

A railroad was proposed from Cuba to Little Rock, Arkansas, and the securing of rights-of-way was an important issue of the time. In order to guarantee that the new railroad be built up the valley to Salem, Christopher Cook donated two miles of the required land for that purpose. Of course this assured that the railroad would pass nearby. Now Captain Cook began to make up for all his losses. 

A town developed at the site was called Cook Station.  Lewis Taff had the first store and when the postal authorities approved a petition for a post office he became the postmaster. Goodspeed' s record listed him as the postmaster in 1888, but it is not known how long he served in that capacity. In later years others perhaps served. Mrs. Ozella Gorman, still serving as postmistress, has been in that position for over thirty years. Mrs. Gorman, widow of the late Jeff Gorman, now owns most of the property in Cook Station, including the present store, the bank building, a second store building, and several other houses, all of which have been converted into cabin homes for sportsmen and city dwellers. 

The Cook Station Bank was established in 1913 with 0. P. Watson as president and William H. Carr, as cashier. The bank continued to operate successfully until closed during the depression of 1929. 

The Cook Station Baptist Church was organized March 8, 1879, by A. F. Russell, T. E. Carr, and John Godby. The following were the first members: Richard Roberts and wife; William Taff; C. B. Vaughan and wife; Mrs. Sarah Roberts; T. E. Carr and wife; Charles H. Lay, and John M. Lay.  The schoolhouse in District No. 1, Township 36, Range 5 West, was used for religious purposes. The ministers at that early period were T. E. Carr and John Godby. In 1888 the membership was twenty-four, and though composed of men of wealth, the congregation at that time had no minister. 

The Cumberland Presbyterian Church at Cook Station is a small congregation and holds services monthly. The visiting minister is Virgil Parker, a speaker well known in this part of the country, and a man prominent in the field of education. Virgil Parker is a gifted speaker and is often invited to deliver commencement speeches at high school graduation exercises. His present home is at Salem, Missouri, where he teaches in the Salem Schools. 

The Cook Station Public School was an important institution for the educational development of the children in the community. It began with Emma Cook as the first teacher and was one of the last rural schools in the county to be closed under the reorganization plan of the early fifties. It is now used only as a community center. 

The village of Cook Station formerly had two stores and one of them was closed a few years ago. One of them had formerly been operated by Chris Cook, a son of Captain Cook. Chris Cook sold his store to Everett Dickson, Grover Wilsinger, and Bill Dunlap who were partners in business for several years. On the hill overlooking the valley and the village lives Lee Cook, a grandson of Captain C. C. Cook, the founder and a man who remembers much of the history of this beautiful little village. 

The writer was privileged to visit with Lee Cook, his wife, and Noah Reeves, all growing old in years but still young at heart. They remembered much of the past and recalled that down the road there was another store operated for the last eighteen years by Carl Conway. They commented that a paved road passed by the Conway Store, turned down the valley, and left Cook Station without a good road. 

From the site could be seen the little village cemetery with its marble and granite shafts shining in the sun. We could see the old Cook Station Bank with its closed doors, and the old vacant store that was once the scene of daily activity. Inevitable decline and decay of the small village seems to be in the offing, but Cook Station is still beautiful and a ray of hope may lead it to better days. 

------ CRAWFORD COUNTY AND CUBA MISSOURI James Ira Breuer, 1972 p. 92-102 

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*  This map showing Crawford County is from 1904 and the town Wilson Mills became Wesco in 1907.


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