From the Fortress of Solitude
Overlooking the Valley of the Pleasant Grove.
I'm proud to introduce you to your 10th Great Grandfather (my generation) Francis Cooke and his son, our 9th Great Uncle John through Great Grandma Vesta's line (Grandma Mattson's Mother). Both passengers on the Mayflower! Yes, we are the proud descents of one of the 102 passengers of that famous ship. We come from good, down to Earth Pilgrim stock don't we? I'm hoping you appreciate your Pilgrim roots through these many discoveries of our early American ancestors. Through trial and tribulation, each placed a stone or two on the road of freedom and democracy that carries this nation forward today.
So, take a moment and remember your elementary school American history. Remember the Pilgrim hats you made? Perhaps you starred in your class's historical pageant. Are you in the mood now? If so - let me introduce you to your Great Grandfather Francis.
Francis Cooke (1583 - April 7, 1663 Plymouth Massachusetts) was one of 102 passengers on the Mayflower. This early settler is one of the twenty six male Pilgrims known to have descendants.
Francis is described in the Leiden Walloon Church Marriage Records (Holland) dating from 1603 as a “woolcomber out of England”. He could have been a refugee from religious persecution elsewhere in Europe.
In Leiden, sometime after July 20, 1603 he married Hester Le Mahieu as Franchoys Couck. Hester was the daughter of Protestant refugees from the Walloon Flanders area. Hester’s family had once lived in Canterbury England before moving to Lieden in 1590.
While in Leiden, Francis and Hester were members of the Walloon Church (French Reformed Church). In 1606, they left Leiden briefly for Norwich England where they joined another Walloon Church. They returned to Leiden in 1607, possibly for religious reasons. Between 1611 and 1618, the Cookes were members of the Pilgrim Separatist congregation in Leiden.
In 1620, Francis, his son John, and nephew Philippe de Lannoy boarded the Speedwell at Delftshave. Cooke left wife Hester and their younger children behind to follow when the colony was established. The Leiden Separatists bought the ship in Holland. They sailed it to Southampton England to meet the Mayflower, which had been chartered by the merchant investors.
The two ships, Speedwell and Mayflower began the voyager on August 5, 1620, but the Speedwell leaked badly and had to return to Dartmouth to be refitted. On the second attempt, the two ships sailed about 100 leagues but the Speedwell was again found to be leaking. Both ships returned to England where the Speedwell was sold. It was later learned that there was no leak at all. The crew sabotaged the Speedwell in order to escape the year long commitment of their contract.
Eleven people from the Speedwell (including our Great Grandfather Francis and John Cooke) boarded the Mayflower. For a third time, the Mayflower headed for the New World. She left Plymouth England on September 6, 1620 and arrived at Cape Cod Harbor on November 11, 1620.
Arriving at what is now Provincetown, Massachusetts, forty-one of the passengers, among them Francis Cooke, signed the Mayflower Compact as the boat lay at anchor.
The Mayflower Compact. Click to enlarge to see our Grandfather's Signature. This was the first document forming a government in the New World.
The Signing of the Mayflower Compact.
The Signing of the Mayflower Compact.
Hester and the other children travelled to Plymouth on the ship “Anne”
Francis was active in Plymouth civil affairs in the 1630’s and 40’s - committees to layout land grants and highways and serving on various juries. He appears on the 1643 Plymouth list of those able to bear arms.
In 1651, fellow Pilgrim William Bradford wrote of him: “Francis Cooke is still living, a very old man, and hath seen his children’s children have children. After his wife came over with other of his children; he hath three still living by her, all married and have five children, so their increase is eight. And his son John which came over with him is married and hath four children living.”
Francis Cooke died in 1663 in Plymouth.
Other descents of Francis Cooke include Orson Welles, Richard Gere and Beach Boys Brian Carl and Dennis Wilson.
Here is a story written first hand by Jordan D. Fiore talking about Francis Cooke.
Francis Cooke & the early years of Plymouth Colony "Friday, the 16th [February 16, 1621], was a fair day; but the northly wind continued, which continued the frost. This day, after noon, one of our people being a fowling, and having taken a stand by a creek side in the reeds, about a mile and a half from our plantation, there by him twelve Indians, marching towards our plantation, and in the woods he heard the noise of many more. He lay close till they passed, and then with what speed he could he went home and gave the alarm. So the people abroad in the woods returned and armed themselves, but saw none of them; only, toward the evening, they made a great fire about the place where they were first discovered. Captain Miles Standish and Francis Cooke being at work in the woods, coming 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."
Mourt's Relation, ed. Jordan D. Fiore (Plymouth, Mass. :
Plymouth Rock Foundation, 1985), p. 44.
This Memorial is to our 9th Great Uncle John Cooke who sailed with his father Francis on the Mayflower.
As descents from one of the Mayflower's passengers, we are now eligible to become members of The Mayflower Society. Information on the Society can be found below.
The Society operates the Mayflower Society House and Museum in Plymouth Mass.