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Aaron J. Cooke (1834-1907)
Born in Bloomfield, NY - Long time merchant in Bay City.

  • 1878 Biography. Contributed by Jim Petrimoulx - Mar. 2008.
  • Note: Added paragraphs to text for easier reading.
    American Biographical History Of
    Eminent and Self-Made Men
    Michigan Volume
    Cincinnati - Western Biographical Publishing Company (1878)


    Cooke, Aaron J., Merchant, Bay City, Michigan,
    was born at East Bloomfield, Ontario County, New York, and is the son of George J. and Frances C. (Hills) Cooke. His father is of English descent, and a son of Colonel A. J. Cooke, who served in the War of 1812.

    Mr. Cooke attended a district school until he was fifteen years of age, when he went to a select school at Penn Yan, New York, and remained one year; after this, he attended Genesee Wesleyan Seminary for three years.

    Immediately after leaving school, he obtained a position as clerk in a dry goods store at Penn Yan, where he remained eleven years, and then formed a partnership with a fellow clerk, and bought out his employer.

    On the breaking out of the war, he resolved to enter the army; but was strongly opposed by his father, who wished him to remain in the store.

    He enlisted in the 33rd New York Regiment, and afterwards in Berdan’s Sharpshooters, but was not sworn into the service on account of the opposition made by his father.

    On the 14th of September, 1862, he enlisted in the 148th New York Regiment and received the commission of Second Lieutenant; January 8,1863, he was promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant. From July until October 1863, he was in charge of the Norfolk city-prison; and from October 11, 1863, to January 26, 1864 was Acting Engineer Officer under General Wistar. He was engaged in the battles of Drury’s Bluff , Cold Harbor, and Petersburg, in the last of which he was wounded in the shoulder. Mr. Cooke rejoined his regiment in November, at Fort Burnham, Virginia and was soon detailed Judge Advocate of a general court-martial at the headquarters of General Terry. January 3, 1865 , he was detailed as Acting Commissary of Subsistence of the Second Brigade, Third Division , Twenty-fourth Army Corps, and announced on the staff of Colonel J. H. Potter. January 31, he was commissioned Captain of Company F, 148th New York Regiment, Volunteer Infantry . He was among the first to enter Richmond upon its evacuation by the Confederates in 1865. April 8, he was detailed Acting Commissary of Subsistence; and on April 15th was announced as post Commissary on the staff of Brigadier-General F. T. Dent, Military Commander of Richmond. He was discharged with his regiment in July 1865. Mr. Cooke received his first commission from Governor Morgan; his second from Governor Seymour; and his third from Governor Fenton.

    After the close of the war, he was highly complimented by General Dent, who said that a commission would be secured him if he wished to remain in the army; but Mr. Cooke thinking that army life, in time of peace, might become monotonous, declined the offer.

    He soon afterwards removed to Auburn, New York, and engaged as salesman in the dry goods establishment of H. Brooks where he remained one year.

    In the fall of 1866, he removed to Bay City, Michigan, and entered into partnership with Mr. Langworthy, forming the firm of Cooke & Langworthy. In 1874 a new partner Mr. Romer was added to the firm, and the name changed to Cooke & Co. Mr. Cooke is the buyer of the firm; and has by his sound judgment and diligent application done much to win the confidence of his fellow citizens.

    He is the owner of a large and very valuable library, which he commenced collecting when a clerk on a very limited salary, and increased as his means allowed. The city library, now one of the finest in the State is in a very prosperous condition ;and, in a great measure , owes its establishment to Mr. Cooke, who kept the necessity of such an institution prominently before the people. He is president of the Library Association.

    His political views accord with those of the Republican party. His parents are members of the Congregational Church, but he attends the Presbyterian. February 22,1871. He married Miss Julia Wright, a daughter of J. A. Wright D.D. of Bay City, Michigan. By his pleasing manners and strict integrity of character Mr. Cooke has won the esteem of all who know him.

  • 1907 Obituary. - Contributed by Jim Petrimoulx - Mar. 2008.
    Bay City Tribune - Friday, November 15, 1907 (Page 4)

    Is A Loss To Book Lovers

    Death of Aaron J. Cooke
    Removes a Much-Loved Figure
    Won Fame As A Bibliophile
    Gave Labors to Advancement of Knowledge
    Without Reward - Was Brevet Major in Rebellion


    The funeral of the late Aaron J. Cooke, mention of death early yesterday morning was made in The Tribune yesterday, will be held Saturday afternoon at 2:30 o’clock from the residence, 258 North Madison avenue. The request is made that friends omit flowers.

    Aaron J. Cooke was born in Bloomfield, N.Y., May 12,1834. He attended school at Lima, N.Y., and when about 15 years old entered a dry goods store in Penn Yan, N.Y. When the Civil war broke out, 1861, he enlisted in the 148th New York Infantry and served three years. He arose from the rank of a private through various grades to a captaincy, being commended for bravery on the field. He was wounded in the shoulder at Petersboro and was brevetted a major for gallantry before his discharge. After the war he entered a dry goods store in Auburn, N. Y., and after a year’s experience , came to Bay City in 1866. He formed a partnership in the dry goods business with D.A. Langworthy and in 1874 the firm bought out the business of Munger Bros., consolidating it with their own. J. F. Romer retained his interest in the Munger Bros. Firm and became associated with Cooke & Langworthy, and the firm became Cooke & Co. In 1882 Mr. Langworthy retired and in 1883 Mr. Cooke sold his dry goods interest to C.F. Lovell and Fred Lovell, but retained his carpet business, which he conducted for some years. After his retirement he was appointed city librarian, holding that post ten years. He had, up to the time of his appointment, been a trustee of the library board since its organization. He also assisted in the organization of the Old Second National bank, was made one of its first directors, and served on the board for many years.

    The deceased was married February 22, 1871, to Miss Julia Wight, daughter of Rev. and Mrs. J. Ambrose Wight. He was a member of H.P. Merrill post, G.A.R. and the Loyal Legion.

    During the ten years that Mr. Cooke was city librarian, he distributed at cost thousand of books among local buyers and lovers of books. His extensive knowledge and a desire to inculcate the love of books and reading among Bay Cityans, impelled him to spend much time and labor on behalf of those who desired the best class of reading. Through years of experience he became thoroughly familiar with all the publishing house and the book auctions in New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago. He invested his money freely, buying thousands of rare and valuable books and selling them to all who desired them at the cost price. Many persons who became acquainted with him because of his position as librarian were inspired by the same spirit that animated him. His genial, kindly manners, his approachableness, and his self-sacrificing spirit endeared him to hundreds who will feel his removal keenly. His position as a bibliophile was recognized throughout the state.

    Mr. Cooke was partial to historical subjects. The study of wars and warriors, campaign plans and battlefields was almost a hobby with him. He delighted in comparing the battle plans of great men such as Grant, Napoleon, Frederick the Great, Gustavas Adolphus, Peter the Great, Washington, Sherman and other Civil war leaders, and when ensconced in a big arm chair with a sympathetic listener before him, would from memory detail the moves of great battles in history, comparing them and discussing minutely the results or errors and the probabilities had the plans been perfectly administered.

    The deceased had suffered for several years from an incurable malady which progressed very slowly. About three years ago he resigned as city librarian, after holding the post for nearly ten years, but the library board refused to accept the resignation and instead gave him a leave of absence in the hopes that his health would be bettered and that he would be able to resume his work. He returned, somewhat benefited, but the inroads of the disease soon made it necessary for him to give up active work. Even then, so loath were the trustees to part with him that when unable to spend the day at his office, he was requested to remain in charge and spend a few hours daily in the library. After a time even this became too much for his feeble condition and he was obliged to remain at home. To the last however, he retained his interest in the public library and was ever ready to aid by gifts the dissemination of good literature.

    Mr. Cooke is survived by a widow, two daughters, Mrs. James C. McCabe, Mrs. W. F. Jennison, and a son George Wight.

  • Related Note & Pages

    Aaron J. Cooke

    Related pages:
    First Congregational Ch.
    Gansser, Augustus H.
    Langworthy, Daniel A.
    McCabe, James C.
    Park & Munger Co.
    Wight, Mr. & Mrs.
    People Referenced
    Brooks, H.
    Cooke, A. J. Col. (g-father)
    Cooke, George J. (father)
    Cooke, George W. (son)
    Dent, F.T. Gen.
    Fenton, Gov.
    Hills, Francis (mother)
    Jennison, W.F. Mrs. (dau.)
    Langworthy, Daniel A.
    Lovell, C.F.
    Lovell, Fred
    McCabe, James C. Mrs. (dau.)
    Morgan, Gov.
    Potter, J.H. Col.
    Romer, J.F.
    Seymour, Gov.
    Terry, Gen.
    Wight, J.A.
    Wight, Julia (wife)
    Wistar, Gen.
    Subjects Referenced
    24th Army Corps
    33rd NY Reg.
    148th NY Reg.
    Auburn, NY
    Berdan's Sharpshooters
    Bay City, MI
    Bay City Library Assoc.
    Civil War
    Congregational Church
    Cooke & Co. (dry-goods)
    Cooke & Lanworthy (dry-goods)
    E. Bloomfield, NY
    Genesee Wesleyan Seminary
    H.P. Merrill post
    Loyal Legion
    Munger Bros. (dry-goods)
    Norfolk city-prison
    Ontario Co., NY
    Pen Yan, NY
    Presbyterian Chuch
    Republican party
    Second National Bank
    War of 1812
    WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.