John Cooke sites in Fairhaven

Cooke Memorial Park
Pilgrim Avenue, Fairhaven, MA

Dedicated by the Fairhaven Improvement Association in 1903, this memorial has been controversial since the beginning because the plaque installed at the site bears the claim that John Cooke was buried here in 1695. This legend had been first proposed publicly in a lecture delivered in January 1888 by Franklin B. Dexter, a descendant of the Taber family. Before that time, there is no recorded mention of a burial place of John Cooke. Records in the town of Dartmouth only show his deate of death, November 23, 1695.

The Pilgrim Avenue property is part of an old burial ground first recorded in 1760 in a deed between William Wood and Elnathan Eldredge. It had served as a burial ground at least until the early 1800s.

Cooke's own will mentions a burial ground on property located much further north on the Acushnet River in what is now the town of Acushnet. His actual burial place is unknown.

The plaque also states that Cooke was “the first white settler of this town,” but Cooke is not on the tax lists for the Dartmouth territory in 1660 and 1662, while others who are known to have owned property in Fairhaven are.

ALSO SEE: Do We Know Where John Cooke Is Buried?

Cooke Garrison Site
North side of Howland Road between Main Street and Sycamore Street

This plaque was installed in a small lot on Howland Road by the Fairhaven Improvement Association in 1905.

During the King Philip War in 1775, residents rushed to Cooke's garrison to escape from the warriors affiliated with Philip, the son of Massasoit, who was unhappy with the English colonists. The children of Jacob and Susannah (Pope) Mitchell were sent here for safety, but their parents and uncle John Pope were killed.

In 1892, local historian Leonard Bolles Ellis wrote, “The Cooke garrison was situated at Oxford Village in Fairhaven, on land now owned by John M. Howland. Its exact location is on the north side of Coggeshall street, six hundred feet from Main street, and on the northwest corner of what is known today as the Garrison Lot. A short distance to the southwest is a bountiful spring of water that, no doubt, supplied the inhabitants of the garrison. Thirty years ago the entire field was graded and the excavation filled up. At that time the walls were in good preservation, and from the cellar many valuable relics were taken that are still in possession of the Howland family. Among them were three pewter spoons with iron handles, a number of arrow heads, flint stones from which it is evident that arrow heads had been chipped; several stone tomahawks, a cylindrical block of stone ten inches long that was probably used in crushing corn, a small deer horn, a boar tusk, fish hook, stone chisel, and, what is more curious than all, an iron key eight inches long, rude in construction and corroded with rust.”

The lot was donated to the town by John Howland.

There are two errors on this plaque. Cooke was the last surviving male Pilgrim, with Mary (Allerton) Cushman living until 1699. Cooke was probably not the first European settler here. Two tax rolls in 1660 and 1662 list people known to have owned property in Fairhaven and Cooke is on neither list, having moved here about 1663.

Site of Cooke's Homestead
Northeast corner of Adams Street and Howland Road

John Cooke's house stood at the crest of the hill overlooking the Acushnet River. During the King Philip War in 1675, the house was burned down by natives loyal to the Wampanoag leader Philip. It was later rebuilt.

After Cooke died, his wife Sarah most likely continued to live here with her daughter Mercy West and Mercy's husband Stephen. The Wests eventually inherited the homestead.

During the British raid in September 1778, the house was occupied by Cooke's grandson Bartholomew West, 88 years old, and a Wampanoag servant Hannah Sogg. Hannah carried the aged Bartholomew out of the house before the British set it afire. The enemy soldiers then stole the West family Bible and brought it back to England with them after the war had ended. The Bible is now in the museum of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry in Bodmin, England.

The Cooke/West house here was not rebuilt after the Revolution.

This is private property and, as far as is known, no part of Cooke's home remains. The sign was installed by the Fairhaven Historical Commission with permission of the property owners.