By Mary Catherine Brooks
Wyoming County Bureau Chief
Where the graves of a few prominent historic Wyoming County figures were located had become a mystery for historians until a four-wheel rider, Billy Hearns, stopped to stretch his legs and noticed the grave markers placed there by the Cook Reunion Association 61 years earlier.
In 2011, when Hearns discovered the graves located just off W.Va. 971, the few graves in the cemetery were covered with thick brush and trees. Those graves included John Cook(e) Jr., the son of first Wyoming County settler John Cooke, and his son, Isaac Cook, who was a county probate judge from 1872 until 1878.
Pat Adams, president of the Wyoming County Genealogical Society, believes the discovery to be significant.
“I think it’s important that it be noted,” Adams emphasized, “because John Cooke Jr. was one of our first settlers.”
She sought volunteers to clear off the small cemetery and enlisted the help of Bobby Jenkins, of Pineville; Lonnie Green, of Rock View, and his twin brother, Johnnie Green, of Key Rock.
The three spent several hours working to clear the thick vegetation covering the graves.
They also found the grave markers for W.A. Cook, who died May 13, 1890, according to the headstone, which had been knocked over. The stone is nearly three feet high and about three inches thick.
Another stone marked the grave of Louvena Roach, wife of John O. Cook, 1851-1878.
The few remaining graves were unmarked, except for one marked SAM.
Adams noted there are also several pets buried in the area, marked with pet names and small crosses.
“There are about eight Cook cemeteries in the area,” explained Jerry Stafford, owner of Stafford Family Funeral Home.
Stafford said there is a larger, maintained cemetery past the small unmarked cemetery. The earliest marked grave in that cemetery is 1932, he said.
The property was believed to have belonged to Isaac Cook, according to historians.
Isaac Cook (1820-1897), the son of John Jr. and Jennie Albert Cook, had a son, John Oliver Cook, who was born in 1848, according to historian Paul Ray Blankenship’s “From Cabins to Coal Mines.”
John Cook Jr. also had a son, William Anderson Cook, born in 1819, according to Blankenship.
Isaac Cook also had a son, William Anderson, who was born in 1854, according to Blankenship.
John Jr. and Jennie Albert Cook(e) were probably laid to rest in the Cook cemetery on a hillside in Lynco, “which overlooked the Isaac Cooke farm, but their final resting place was never marked,” according to Blankenship’s book.
Fourteen “gentlemen justices” met in the home of John Cooke Jr. on March 22, 1850, to organize the new Wyoming County government. Wyoming County was created by a law passed Jan. 26, 1850.