Jacob Cook, Indian Spy & Revolutionary Soldier

by Fred Ziegler

Recently I received a copy of Jacob Cook's 1834 Pension Application from a Cook descendant and genealogist, Bill Smith, from Solon, Iowa. Such applications had been submitted in response to an Act of Congress passed in 1832, and they constitute one of the few primary sources of information on the very first permanent settlers in our area during the time of the American Revolution.

Valentine and Susanna Cook and their family had crossed the Alleghenies to settle on Indian Creek in 1773, a peaceful time compared to what had come before. Earlier, Susanna's brother, Henry Baughman, had been killed in a massacre at his fort near modern-day Alderson in 1755, and the remaining settlers beat a hasty retreat back to the Shenandoah Valley. At that time the French were in control of forts on the Ohio River and they encouraged the Indians to harass the settlers.

What was in store for the Cooks, however, was potentially worse. The British had taken over the French forts and similarly encouraged the Indians to attack the settlers, thus forming an effective rear-guard action for the formal battles to the east. Local militias were formed and over 30 forts, stockades and blockhouses were erected in the Greenbrier country to counter the threat. Jacob Cook joined the militia at the age of 16 as an Indian Spy and Revolutionary Soldier and his tale, as remembered 50 years later, and submitted by a Justice of the Peace, is reproduced below with very few modifications.

Jacob Cook entered the service of the United States under the following named Officers and served as herein stated. He had moved from Rockingham County in the State of Virginia in the year 1773 to Indian Creek, one of the tributary streams of New River, into what was then called Greenbrier County — now Monroe County. In the year following, 1774, there was a Fort erected on the place to which his father had moved to on Indian Creek, called and known afterward by the name of Cook's Fort.
In the year 1779 Jacob Cook was enrolled in a company of militia under the command of Captain John Hutchison. He immediately entered the service of his country in Cook's Fort with an embodied corps who were placed there for the purpose of defending the Fort, and to form small spying parties whose business it was to watch the approach of the Indians, he thinks it was the 1st day of August 1779. He commenced his services in Cook's Fort as an Indian Spy under the command of Captain John Hutchison and continued in fort that year until the first of November following. Nothing very serious happened during this year except the killing of William Bradshaw's wife. The circumstances are as follows. Bradshaw had remained at his cabin which was between Cook's Fort and Lafferty's Fort notwithstanding the danger of doing so and also having been advised by two men (Howard & Mann) to leave his cabin and go to the fort. The house was attacked in the afternoon by a small party of Indians and the door being fast, one of the Indians fired at the door and the ball penetrated through the door and lodged in, or went through, the body of Mrs. Bradshaw and wounded her mortally so that she died that night. On Bradshaw firing his gun through the door from the inner side, the Indians retired without doing any further damage.
As early as the 1st day of May 1780, Jacob Cook again entered the service of his country as an Indian Spy in Cook's Fort. During that summer nothing of very serious import took place in the settlement except the surprising of John & James Paulis & their families who were moving through the country, from somewhere east, on their way to Kentucky. While passing the east fork of New River they were surprised and fired upon by a party of Indians and both of the Paulis's wives and their children were taken prisoners. John Paulis was badly wounded, notwithstanding, he made his escape and died the second night afterward. James Paulis also made his escape. A party was immediately dispatched from Cook's Fort to the place where the depredation had been committed but the Indians, availing themselves of the horses which the Paulis were traveling and packing on, had gotten so far that pursuit was thought to be useless.
In the year 1781 the settlement was destined to see greater troubles than they had experienced the preceding summer. As early as the first day of March of that year a party of Indians came into the settlement and attacked the house of William Meek who lived on Indian Creek and took him and his whole family prisoners. A party was immediately dispatched in pursuit of them and after a march of three or four days they came up with the Indians and succeeded in rescuing the prisoners from the hands of the Savages. This circumstance created considerable excitement in the settlement and the people immediately betook themselves to their respective forts. As early as the 3rd day of March 1781 Jacob's services commenced as an Indian Spy and continued until the 1st day of November following. He served this year in Cook's Fort or Garrison with an embodied corps under the command of Captain Hutchison.
In the year 1782 he again served in Cook's Fort from the 15th day of March until the 1st of November following. The circumstance of the Indians coming into the settlement so early the preceding year induced the people to repair to their Fort at so early a date fearing that they might again be surprised in the same way when they were not prepared to defend themselves. In this year there was nothing of consequence transpired notwithstanding the spies were kept actively employed and those who were in the fort were kept constantly on the watch during the whole of the above mentioned time.

So this is Jacob Cook's story, but it does not include one important event which took place before he joined the Militia. Morton's history of the county says that the settlers were beleaguered in Cook's Fort in 1778, a time during which Donnally's Fort, north of Lewisburg, was attacked. The Shawnee were incensed by the murder of their Chief Cornstalk who had been on a peace mission to Point Pleasant late the previous year. In fact, Phillip Hammon, Jacob's future brother-in-law, was able to parallel the advance of the Indians to the Greenbrier country and warn the settlers of the impending attack.

In general, Cook's Fort served its purpose. The settlers had to be forted during the summers of 1778 and 1781 and this must have been very inconvenient especially during the growing season. The Indians did not live in the area during that time, so their appearance was a cause of great concern, and kept the spies like Jacob occupied patrolling the trails between adjacent forts at least during the warmer months. Presumably crops could be grown within or around Cook's Fort, and hunters sometimes had to return under cover of darkness, but the community did survive until the end of the war. It is clear from the pension applications that the Militia members did consider themselves part of the American Revolution. Alas, Jacob's application was rejected and he died in debt ten years later (see the Monroe Watchman, March 8th, and 15th, 2007).

Published in the Monroe Watchman, August 23, 2007

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