Who is Francis Cooke?
Francis Cooke (c. 1595/1599 April 7, 1663 Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay Colony) was a Separatist who fled religious persecution under English King James I, and in 1620 traveled to the New World on the Mayflower.
Francis is described in Leiden Walloon church marriage records dating from 1603 as a “woolcomber out of (uyt) England”, however his exact origin is unknown.
In Leiden, sometime after July 20, 1603, as Franchoys Couck, he married Hester le Mahieu, born in Lille, the daughter of Protestant refugees from England.
While in Leiden, Francis and Hester were members of the Walloon church. In 1606, they left Leiden briefly for Norwich, England, where they joined another Walloon church, returning to Leiden in 1607, possibly for religious reasons. Between 1611 and 1618, the Cookes were members of the Separatist congregation in Leiden.
Francis Cooke, with son John, departed Plymouth, England on the Mayflower on September 6/16, 1620, the small 100 foot ship having 102 passengers with about 30 crew members. The first month in the Atlantic, the seas were not severe, but by the second month the ship was being hit by strong north-Atlantic winter gales causing the ship to be badly shaken with water leaks from structural damage. There were two deaths, but this was just a precursor of what happened after their Cape Cod arrival, when almost half the company would die in the first winter.
On November 9/19, 1620, after about 3 months at sea, including a month of delays in England, they spotted land, which was Cape Cod. And after several days of trying to get south to their planned destination of the Colony of Virginia, strong winter seas forced them to return to the harbor at Cape Cod hook, where they anchored on November 11/21. The Mayflower Compact was signed that day.
Francis Cooke was active in Plymouth civil affairs in the 1630s and 40s - committees to lay out land grants and highways, petit jury, grand jury, coroner’s jury. He appears on the 1643 Plymouth list of those able to bear arms. At some point in 1638 or afterward, he settled at Rocky Nook on Jones River, within the limits of Kingston, a few miles from Plymouth.
Francis Cooke married Hester Mahieu in Leiden, Holland on July 20, 1603 or shortly thereafter. They had seven children. Her parents were Jacques and Jenne/Jeanne Mahieu, from France.
Hester died after June 8, 1666 and was buried at Burial Hill in Plymouth, Mass. His burial place is unknown.
Their son John came with his father on the Mayflower and survived to live a long life. In the summer of 1623 Hester came over with her other children Jane, Jacob and Hester on the ship ‘Anne’ or ‘Little James.’