Hon. Constant Cook
A Native of Warren, Herkimer County, NY
Source: "History of Steuben County, New York," By Prof. W. W. Clayton, Philadelphia, Lewis Peck & Co., 1879
Hon. Constant Cook
The life of this prominent citizen of Bath serves admirably to illustrate the success that attends upon habits of industry, self-denial, and genuine economy,- habits which were his only capital when , sixty years since, in the flush of his manhood, he became a resident of his county, and step by step placed himself among the most widely known business men of Western New York. It will be seen that he did not stumble upon colossal fortune; that it was by no mere luck or chance that he became a millionaire. His was an example from which we may all learn to conquer fortune and deserve success.
Constant Cook, the son of Phillip and Clarissa (Hatch) Cook, was born in Warren, Herkimer Co., N.Y., on the 10th day of November, 1797, and there with his father passed his earlier years in the work of the barn. On Christmas-day, 1819, he was married at Richfield, Otsego Co., to Marie Whitney, daughter of Nathan and Hannah Whitney, formerly of Fairfield Co., Conn.
Mrs. Cook, now a "widow of about fourscore years," still survives, active and unwearied still in those works of piety and beneficence which have greatly endeared her name to all who know her. It was an auspicious day to Mr. Cook and his fortunes that found him united to one who so nearly realized the divine ideal of the excellent woman. So, at least, thought and felt all they who fifty years later assembled to celebrate the golden wedding in Bath.
In April, 1820, about three months after his marriage, Mr. Cook removed to Cohocton, in Steuben Co., where he resumed the business of farming; but soon became interested with John Magee, late of Watkins, but formerly of Bath, in numerous passenger and mail routes, by the efficient management of which they gave great satisfaction to the public, and laid the foundation of the fortunes which they subsequently built up. About the year 1840, while still residing at Cohocton, Mr. Cook was appointed one of the judges of the county, an office which he filled for the term of three years.
In 1843, Judge Cook removed to Bath, and engaged in commercial pursuits with Mr. Magee; but their attention was soon drawn to that great work, the construction of the Erie Railway, and in company with J. S. T. Stranahan, of Buffalo; John H. Chedell, of Auburn; John Arnot, of Elmira; and Charles Cook, of Havana, they took the contract for the building of the road from Binghamton to Corning. The general management of this work was intrusted by his associates to Judge Cook, who prosecuted it with such vigor and success as to win for him very substantial tokens of satisfaction from all concerned. Subsequently, with the Hon. John Magee, he projected and built the Buffalo, New York and Corning Road, from Corning to Buffalo, by way of Batavia and Attica. Still later he projected the Bloss Coal Company, located at Arnot, near Blossburgh, Pa.
During the last twenty years of his life, Judge Cook became widely known for his banking-house at Bath, which, early in the war, was converted into a national bank, and soon took rank with the soundest and most successful institutions of the kind in the State. The last great and crowning enterprise of his life was one of special interest to the congregation of St. Thomas' Church, Bath, who learned one day, about six years before his decease, that he proposed to the vestry to start a subscription for a new church edifice, which had long been greatly needed, with the sum of twenty thousand dollars, which he soon after increased to thirty thousand, on condition that half as much more should be raised by the parish. The proposition was gratefully received and warmly seconded, and the result is now seen in one of the most commodious and beautiful church edifices in the diocese.
Bishop Coxe, in his address to the Convention of the Diocese of Western New York in 1871, says:
"It was a good day for the diocese when, in Easter week, I consecrated the church at Bath. It is one of the most beautiful fabrics in Western New York, and it adorns one of the most charming villages. The munificence of a single parishioner, Mr. Constant Cook, gave it this scale of spaciousness and splendor, but the parishioners generally had liberally contributed to the work. The large attendance of our clergy and laity at the consecration, the spirit and animation of the services, and the crowded missionary meeting that completed the solemnities of the festive day, bore witness to the depth of interest which the good work had awakened throughout the diocese."
The death of Judge Cook, after a long-protracted illness, occurred on the 24th day of February, 1874, at the age of seventy-six years, three months, and thirteen days. The Courier of March 4 adds: "The funeral of the late Judge Cook was attended from his residence in this village on Thursday afternoon last, a very large number of citizens and friends from abroad being present. The solemn and impressive services were conducted by the rector, Rev. Dr. Howard. Delegations of mourning friends from Elmira, Corning, and other places were present, and a long procession followed his remains to their final resting-place, in Grove Cemetery."
Of eight children, three only survive him, - Henry H. Cook, Esq., now of New York City, and Mrs. L. D. Hodgman and Edwin C. Cook, both of Bath. He also left six sisters, - Mrs. Hiser, Mrs. Woodruff, Mrs. Chedell, and Miss Celente Cook, of Auburn; Mrs. Orton, of Brooklyn; and Mrs. Brown, of Bath.
As before intimated, it will be readily seen that the success of Judge Cook was greatly owing to early-formed habits of persevering diligence and strict economy. Never idle himself, he had little sympathy with the drones in the great hive of human industry. We have met with no more apt disciple of the school that teaches "whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might."
And then, as was natural to such a man, he was socially, and practically at heart, one of the most democratic of men, sympathizing deeply with all sorts and conditions of men, so long as they respected their own manhood, and sought to act well their part in that state of life to which it had pleased God to call them.
Naturally, too, his was a wise and discriminating liberality. The truly needy and deserving always found in him one who was ready to listen to their appeals, and to take their cases into consideration. And there was hardly any public improvement, or any religious, educational, or benevolent enterprises, to which he was not a generous contributor. Churches and ministers of all denominations could testify to this enlarged spirit of liberality.
Judge Cook will also long be remembered, by those associated with him in various enterprises, as one who habitually sought to promote harmony and peace. In the vestry, of which he was a member some ten years, and especially in the new church enterprise, it was natural that he should have his own views and preferences upon some points, and fell, too, that he was entitled to press them. But he never did. If the majority differed from him, no one could yield his opinion more readily or gracefully.
We may add that he will be remembered by those who knew him familiarly for the shrewd and pithy sayings which daily fell from his lips, as, for instance, his reply to the aspiring youth who "wanted to know how to get rich." "Hire out to some farmer," said the judge, " at ten dollars a month, and save half of it." We shall have studied his life and character to little purpose if we fail to discover that taking care of money is quite as important an element in all prosperity as earning or making money.
Copyright © 2003 Annie Weaver / Lisa K. Slaski