John Cook (1833-1911), or Cooke as the name was frequently spelt, was born at Whittington, Gloucestershire, on 26th September 1833, the elder of two sons of Edward Cooke, a yeoman, and his wife, Esther (née Crump).
It’s not known where John was at the time of the 1841 or 1851 census. He is next heard of when he married Mary Eleanor Hughes Holland at Bidford-on-Avon, Warwickshire on 22nd September 1853. John was a baker and the newly-married couple settled in Badsey where his mother lived. It is probable that John had gone to live in Badsey in the latter part of 1851 after the death of his father, a baker and grocer. Esther could take care of the grocery business but would have needed the help of her son to continue with the bakery. Esther was now newly-married to Joseph Knight and had four young step-children; they lived at what is now known as The Wheatsheaf Inn. John and Mary probably lived in the same household. Whilst living in Badsey, John and Mary had two children: Mary (1854-1908) and Edward (1856-1924).
In 1858, John and Mary and their two young children emigrated to Canada. John’s mother, Esther Knight, and her husband and step-children emigrated too. Whether the Cook and Knight families all went out together, or whether one family went first and the other followed, is not known.
John and Mary had six further children in Canada, all born at Mersea, Essex County, Ontario: Annie (1859-1926), Richard (1861-1930), William (1862-1938), Elizabeth (1866), Michael Corbett (1868-1895) and Esther Emmett (1870-1944). At the time of the 1861 census, John was a farmer. The census returns record that John and the children were Methodist whilst Mary was Church of England.
John died at Mersea on 23rd July 1911 of prostate cancer, his wife having died five years earlier. He was buried at Olinda United Cemetery, Essex County. A report in The Windsor Star (printed in Windsor, Ontario) of 26th July 1911, gave details of his life:
DEATH OF MERSEA PIONEER
Leamington, July 26 - John Cook, one of the early pioneers of the township of Mersea, after a short illness, died at his residence on the second concession on Sunday afternoon at the age of 78 years. He was born in Worcestershire, England, in September 1833, was married in his 20th year to Mary Elloner Holland. Two children were born to them in England, Mary (Mrs C Wigle, deceased) and Edward on the third concession. He was a baker by trade and engaged in the business, and 53 years ago came to Canada, first to Windsor and then to Olinda, when he worked for a year or more for the late John C Fox, then he took up where he has lived since and by thrift and industry became successful and prosperous. Of a family of eight, two, Mrs Cornelius Wigle, eldest daughter, and Michael, the youngest son, are deceased. He leaves three sons, Edward, Richard and William, and three daughters, Annie (Mrs P Gerty), Elizabeth (Mrs Salten) and Esther, at home to mourn his loss. His wife died in 1906, after a wedded life of 53 years. In religion he was a Methodist, and his life was a faithful adherence to its faith and doctrine. In politics he was a Conservative. He was held in high esteem by all who knew him, and he has always been regarded as the best of citizens. The funeral took place on Tuesday afternoon from the family residence to Olinda Cemetery, and as a tribute of respect was one of the largest that ever took place in the neighbourhood.