Review of OLD KENTUCKY by Joshua Flood Cook by RichardBaldwinCook []
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Old Kentucky

by Joshua Flood Cook

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Review of OLD KENTUCKY by Joshua Flood Cook   (2009-07-24)


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by RichardBaldwinCook

J F Cook (1834-1912) was 74 when this memoir was published in 1908. It reads as the casual and sentimental reflections of an old man, who is looking back on his youth in mid-19th century Kentucky. The book is valuable as a family history and as a window into the point of view of a genial, well-read and self-confident 19th century white southerner, who found his way out of rural poverty and into a career as an educator/school administrator. Devout from an early age and throughout his life, J F Cook was ordained at about age 24, as a Baptist minister. He then served for 30 years as president of La Grange College (now Hannibal-La Grange College), and then for a few years as president of Webb City College - both schools in Missouri. In about 1869, J.F. Cook received an honorary doctorate from Baylor University and was ever after referred to as Dr Cook. Joshua Cook and his first wife, Susan Farmer Cook (1838-1890) were the parents of four children, John Ernest, Lula, William and Cecil. After Sue's death, Joshua married and was widowed a second time and married a third time, to Drucilla Hirons (?-1962) and became the father of a fifth child, son Howard.

OLD KENTUCKY is marked throughout with the afterglow of old age. J F Cook remembers his KY boyhood with fondness and takes the time to write with compliment if not always with candor of the people and family members he recalls from his early years in Shelby County, KY. The book is probably most valuable for the family reminiscences Joshua included. Full disclosure requires me to state that Joshua Flood Cook was my great-grandfather. But for his inclusion of a number of incidents about relatives, we would know little to nothing about these ancestors. (Children! Write your memoirs! A few paragraphs will be better than nothing.)

J F Cook was forward in soliciting copy for his book from well known personalities. There is a chapter ("Kentuckians and Bordermen") written by President Theodore Roosevelt - taken with permission from one of TR's own books. There is also a chapter ("Kentucky During the Civil War") by Missouri politician Champ Clark, Speaker of the US House of Representatives. (Ernest Cook, JF's oldest son, was in law practice with Champ Clark for a few years in Missouri.) The book also contains a chapter ("Kentucky, Her History and her People") by Reuben T. Durrett, who helped found an important research archive in Louisville, the Filson Club. J F Cook dedicated his book to Durrett.

J F Cook's OLD KENTUCKY preserves memories from before, during, and subsequent to the US Civil War (1861-65), during part of which war, he served as a chaplain in Mississippi to southern soldiers. One may always wish for more data, insights or ringing assessments in a memoir, which encompassed epic events. J F Cook did not write a magisterial work of history but his memoir may be read with profit for its comments about Shelby County KY and Kentucky in general, in the 19th century.

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