From the Mayflower History Website, http://www.mayflowerhistory.com by Caleb H. Johnson:
Francis Cooke was born about 1583. His origins have not been discovered, but it is probable he was born in England, perhaps from the Canterbury or Norwich areas. He married Hester le Mahieu on 20 July 1603 in Leiden, Holland; she was a French Walloon whose parents had initially fled to Canterbury, England; she left for Leiden sometime before 1603. Francis Cooke and Hester le Mahieu's marriage occurred in Leiden, Holland six years before the Pilgrim church made its move there, so he was living there long before their arrival and must have met up with and joined them afterwards. His wife Hester was a French Walloon. What brought Francis to Holland in the first place is unknown: religious persecution of Protestants in England did not really begin until after King James took power in 1604. In 1606, the Cookes left Leiden and went to Norwich, Norfolk for a time (for what reason is not known), but returned to have their first son, John, baptized at the French church in Leiden, sometime between January and March, 1607. In Holland, Cooke took up the profession of a woolcomber.
Francis, and his oldest son John, came on the Mayflower to Plymouth in 1620. He left behind his wife Hester and his other children Jane, Jacob, Elizabeth and Hester. After the Colony was founded and better established, he sent for his wife and children, and they came to Plymouth in 1623 on the ship Anne.
Francis lived out his life in Plymouth. Although he kept a fairly low profile, he was on a number of minor committees such as the committee to lay out the highways, and received some minor appointments by the Court to survey or lay out land. He was a juror on a number of occasions, and was on the coroner's jury that examined the body of Martha Bishop, the 4-year old daughter who was murdered by her mother Alice. He received some modest land grants at various times throughout his life. He lived to be about 80 years old, dying in 1663; his wife Hester survived him by at least three years and perhaps longer.
Francis Cooke was born, probably in England, and probably after August 1582, and died at Plymouth, MA on April 7, 1663, "above 80." He married (intention in Leyden, Holland, June 30, 1603 ) Hester Mahieu. Francis Cooke's youth is entirely unknown to us; he was a young man of about 20 when he first appeared in Leyden records in 1603, described as a woolcomber from England. It is not unlikely that he was new to Leyden at the time and had learned his trade in England, although whether in the Norwich area or not is unknown. Allowing for his youth and a period for courtship, perhaps he arrived in Leyden in 1602 aged 19 or so.
On April 25, 1603, Francis Cooke appeared as witness to the betrothal of Raphael Roelandt, a woolcomber who would be a witness at his own betrothal a few months later. In his own betrothal of June 30, 1603, "Francis Cooke" is identified as a bachelor from England, with the occupation "woolcomber" and Hester Mahieu is described as an unmarried young woman from Canterbury in England. Cooke was accompanied by two witnesses, Phillippe de Veau and Rapheal Roelandt, whose names do not indicate any particular family relationship to either party. Hester, on the other hand, was accompanied by her mother and her sister, both of whom were named Jenne/Jeanne Mahieu.
The bethrothal record is in the ecclesiastical bethothal register. The register listed couples whose weddings were to be solemn ized in the Dutch Reformed Church or the Walloon Reformed Church (or sometimes in the German and English Reformed Churches). It was not used for couples whose marriage vows were exchanged in any of the dissenting churches, which included the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Remonstrant, Mennonite, and English Separatist or Pilgrim congregations.
Although the banns were read, as was customary, the marriage itself is not recorded in the records of these Dutch Reformed churches. The German and English Reformed congregations had not yet b een established in 1603. The marriage, therefore, was probably solemnized in the Leiden Walloon Reformed Church, whose marria ge records before September 1604 are, unfortunately, missing.
On November 6, 1603, Francis Cooke appeared as a baptismal witness for the ancestor of the Delano family, Philippe, son of Jan de Lannoy and Marie Mahieu. Philip Delano was one of the six single men associated with Francis Cooke's family in 1627. Quite possibly his mother Marie Mahieu was a sister of Hester (Mahieu ) Cooke.
Francis and Hester evidently left for Norwich on August 8, 1606, as a note in the Walloon Library of Leiden mentions their departure on that date with letters of transfer. Both the departure and the return to communion in Leiden with a similar letter indicate that Francis Cooke and his wife Hester were members of the Leiden Walloon congregation. The Cookes evidently returned briefly to Leiden between the quarterly dates of communion, which they missed, in order to have their son Jean (John) baptized within the Leiden Walloon congregation with family as godparents to raise him in case be became orphaned.
On New Year's Day 1608 among those admitted to communion by letter of transfer from another Walloon congregation were "Francois Cooke et Esther sa femme, de Norwich." This entry tells us that before 1608, Francis and Hester had lived in Norwich among the Walloon there.
On May 20, 1608, a Couck child, whose first name is not given, was buried in the Pieterskerk. The burial record indicates that at the time the father Franchoys Couck lived on the Levendaal, a canal on the southeast side of Leiden. A daughter, Elizabeth, was baptized on December 26, 1611. The Cookes' next child Jacob (and perhaps their daughter Mary, although it is more likely Mary was born at Plymouth) was presumably baptized in the Separatist congregation of Leiden, for which no records are preserved.
Francis Cooke and his son John embarked on the Speedwell at Delfshaven, Holland in Juy 1620, leaving behind Hester and the other children. At Southampton or Plymouth, England they were transferred to the Mayflower and in her set sail from Plymouth on Wednesday, September 6, 1620.
Francis Cooke was the 17th signer of the Mayflower Compact. On Friday, February 16, 1620/1, while Capt. Myles Standish and Francis Cooke were at work in the woods they were recalled by an alarm at the approach of Indians, who did not more damage than to carry off the tools left in the woods. The Indians returned the tools a month later.
After the common house had been completed, houses for the families were built. Since the winter had seen so many deaths, the Pilgrims were reduced to 19 families and each of these 19 received a parcel of land about fifty feet deep. Frontage was proportional to the number in the family, about eight feet per person. Lots were cast to decide each family's position in the "two rows of houses" which were to be built "for more safety." This allotment was for their use for only the year, to build houses and plant gardens, and they could not pass the land down to their heirs. Francis Cooke appears on a diagram of "meersteads & garden plots of [those] which came first laid out 1620" with his plot being on the south side of the street, with Isaac Allerton and Edward Winslow on his east and west.
In the late 1623 Plymouth Land Division, he received two acres as a passenger on the Mayflower with his son John, plus four acres for the rest of his family which came on the Anne in August 1623. Some of this land was apparently sold to William Bradford by 1639. In 1627, when personal ownership of land became a fact, Francis received 20 acres for each share held in the Plymouth Company, that is, for each member of his family.
The Division of Cattle made at Plymouth on May 22, 1627 assigned the first lot to Francis Cooke, wife Hester, sons John and Jacob, and daughters Jane, Hester, and Mary as the first seven persons in the first company, along with six unmarried men who were associated with Francis Cooke, viz: Moses Simonson, Phillip Delano, Experience Mitchell, John Faunce, Joshua Pratt and Phinihas Pratt. This is the earliest Plymouth Colony records found which names the wife and children of Francis. Not surprisingly, the six unmarried men associated with the family included friends and relations. Philip Delano, then 23, was probably Hester's nephew. Experience Mitchell was to marry Francis's daughter Jane shortly after this.
Francis Cooke was one of the "Purchasers" who in 1627 bought all the rights of the London "Adventurers." One month after the Division of Cattle he signed the agreement between the "Purchasers " and the "Undertakers" by which the latter were to have, for six years, the control of the entire trade of the plantation with the outside world.
Francis Cooke was on the 1633 Plymouth list of freemen ahead of those admitted January 1 1632/3 and also on the March 7, 1636/7 and 1639 lists of Plymouth freemen. He was also in the Plymouth section of the list of freemen of 1658.
In the tax list drawn up by order of the General Court held January 2, 1632/3, he was taxed eighteen shillings to be paid in corn at six shillings per bushel. One year lated, January 2, 1633/ 4, his tax was nine shillings and his son John was taxed nine shillings.
On January 7, 1632/3, Robert Hicks and Francis Cooke were appointed arbitrators to settle a diference between Dr. Samuel Fuller and Peter Brown.
James Hurst, Francis Cooke and John Doane took the inventory of Martha Harding's estate which was presented to the court October 28, 1633. James Hurst, Francis Cooke and Phineas Pratt took the inventory of Francis Eaton's estate on November 8, 1633.
On October 1, 634, John Jenney, Francis Cooke and five others were appointed to lay out highways for Plymouth.
A law was passed November 15, 1636 requiring every man to register his cattle marks. Francis Cooke's are recorded as follows : "Francis Cooke a hole in the left eare and a slit in he (* ) right eare downe the middest of the eare."
On December 24, 1636 John Harmon, son of Edmond of London, contracted to became the apprentice of Francis Cooke for seven years "from the first of Octbr, 1636, to the exiraon of the said terme, and then to be dowble apprelled" and to received twelve bush els of corn from him.
On March 7, 1636 Francis Cooke sued Mr. John Browne, the elder and Thomas Willet, together with several other men working for th em: Thomas Lettis, James Walter, John Browne the younger and Thomas Teley. The charge was that on November 9, 1636 they had caused in damages by abuse and injury to some of his cattle, viz: "vnreasonably abuse the cattle of the said Francis Cooke, insomuch that therevpon one cowe cast her calf, & hath lost her milk, & is in danger to be lost herself." The jury found in Franci s Cooke's favor against John Browne the elder "3=9C damnage, & 13s . 6d. charges of the suite." On June 7, 1637 Francis Cooke was granted an execution against John Browne.
Under an agreement recorded March 2, 1640/1 the Purchasers and Old Comers received grants of land in three areas near present-day Yarmouth, Dartmouth and Rehoboth, "the purchasers, or old comers, witnes two in especiall, thone beareing dated the third of March, 1639, thother in December ye first, 1640..."
Francis Cooke's name appears in two lists of the townsmen of Ply mouth. The first is dated December 10, 1646. The second is undated, but was probably made between 1648 and 1659. Francis Cooke's team is mentioned in a list of teams, with men assigned to each, for drawing wood; but part of the leaf is missing and the purpose is unclear. There is no date, but it was probably made between 1648 and 1652.
Francis Cooke was on several committees and held a number of offices as follows: Committee to lay out the twenty-acre grants January 3, 1627/8; committee to lay out land, May 5, 1640 and Octo ber 5, 1640; committee to lay out highways, October 1, 1634, Ma y 2, 1637, February 1, 1640/1, and June 10, 1650; Plymouth petit jury, January 2, 1637/8, September 3, 1639, December 3, 1639 , March 3, 1639/40, June 2, 1640, June 7, 1642, September 7, 1642, and March 7, 1642/3; Plymouth grand jury, June 5, 1638, June 2, 1640, March 7, 162/3, and June 6, 1643; surveyor of highways, March 1, 1641/2, June 7, 642 and June 4, 1645; Coroner's jury, July 22, 1648, on the body of a four-year old daughter of Richard and Allis Bishop; and arbitrator in land dispute between Thomas Pope and William Shurtleff, August 2, 1659. (continued Misc . Notes #3)
Francis Cooke was assessed 18s. in the Plymouth tax list of March 15, 1633 and 9s. in the list of March 27, 1634. On December 3, 1638 a small parcel of land which had been previously granted to Francis Cooke was instead granted to Thomas rince. On February 4, 1638/9 "a parcell of vpland lying at the end of Gooman Shawes land at Smilt River is graunted to Francis Cooke." On October 5, 1640 Francis Cooke and Jon Cooke, Jr. were granted a parcel of upland "puided it doe not exceede two hundred acres of uplandes and the meddow before yt" along with a parcel of upland "containing about 10 or 12 acres." On October 17, 1642 Francis Cooke was one of those who received six acres apiece "if it be there to be had" at North meadow by Joanes River. On April 9, 165 0 Francis Cooke gave "his sonne Jacob Cook" all his right in one hundred acres at North River granted him October 5, 1640. In March 1651 Francis and John Cooke are recorded as among the proprietors of the Plymouth lands at Punckateesett (now Little Compton, RI), and on April 1, 1663/4 they are shown as owners of the eighteeneth lot. Francis Cooke received a grant on January 4 , 1655/6 "...3 holes of meddow lying at the Hither end of the Greate meddow Caled Jons river." He is on the list of Purchasers.
The will of Francis Cooke was dated he 7th day of the 10th month (December) 1659, presented at Court on June 5, 1663 and attested by witnesses John Alden and John Howland. The inventory of the personal estate of Francis Cooke, amounting to over =9C86 was taken May 1, 1663 by Ephraim Tinkham and William Crow and presented at Plymouth on Jne 5, 1663.
Governor William Bradford, writing in early 1650/1, says, "Francis Cooke is still living, a very olde man, and hath seene his childrens children have children; after his wife came over (with other of his children), he hath 3 still living by her, all maried, and have 5 children; so their encrease is 8. And his sone John, which came over with him, is maried, and hath 4 children living."