COOK'S FORT. Cook's Fort, three miles southeast of Rusk in Cherokee County, was built in late 1839 or early 1840 by a military company under the command of Capt. G. K. Black for protection of the settlers against hostile Indians. The fort, named in honor of Joseph Thomas Cook, who owned the land and had the primitive fort and stockade built, became a gathering place for new settlers in the area and gave them a sense of security while they scouted for a location of their own. There were no Indian attacks, and no soldiers were stationed nearby. The Cherokee Indians had been removed in 1839 to Indian Territory.
Cook and his wife, Mary (Moore), had come from South Carolina through Alabama and Mississippi before they arrived in the San Augustine area in the early 1830s. By 1834 they were in Nacogdoches. Most of their eleven children, if not all, came with them and lived at the fort. Cook had received Mexican grants of a league and a labor of land. After Texas independence, he spent three months with Capt. Michael Costley's company of rangers (September 11-December 11, 1836), for which service he received 320 acres of land. Several of his children and his sons-in-law received warrants for land.
His son James Cook owned the league of land adjoining that of his father. On it he built a store and blacksmith shop. This was the beginning of a settlement that had an estimated population of 250, including slaves, by 1846, when Cherokee County was formed from Nacogdoches County. At that time the locating commission looked favorably on Cook's Fort as the county seat. It was centrally located, on the well-traveled Nacogdoches-Neches Saline Road, and near the road to Fort Houston. It is said that James Cook was opposed to making Cook's Fort the county seat because that function would interfere with his large-scale farming interests. Thus a new town was formed and called Rusk. Those not engaged in farming moved to the new town, and the little settlement at Cook's Fort declined.
Several hundred acres of land including the fort site were still owned by Cook's descendants in 1967, when they received a Texas Land Heritage Award for having a farm in continuous operation for over 100 years. Many of the Bibles, furniture, and silver the Cooks brought to Texas were destroyed in a fire. In the nearby Salem Cemetery Joseph and Mary Cook are buried on land they donated for the cemetery. A Texas Centennial marker was placed by the state of Texas at the site of Cook's Fort in 1936.
Helen Wooddell Crawford, Cemeteries of Mid Cherokee County, Texas (1973). Ogreta W. Huttash, Historical Markers of Cherokee County, Texas (Jacksonville, Texas, 1982). Thomas L. Miller, Bounty and Donation Land Grants of Texas, 1835–1888 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967). Mrs. Harry Joseph Morris, comp. and ed., Citizens of the Republic of Texas (Dallas: Texas State Genealogical Society, 1977). Gerald S. Pierce, Texas Under Arms: The Camps, Posts, Forts, and Military Towns of the Republic of Texas (Austin: Encino, 1969). Hattie Joplin Roach, The Hills of Cherokee (1952; rpt., Fort Worth, 1976). Hattie Joplin Roach, A History of Cherokee County (Dallas: Southwest, 1934). Gifford E. White, Character Certificates in the General Land Office of Texas (1985).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Ogreta W. Huttash and Chris Martin, "COOK'S FORT," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qbc38), accessed December 07, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.