Cook Station, Missouri, A Short History
by William McKellipps
Cook Station takes its name from Christopher Columbus Cook who served as a Captain in the Confederate Army in the Civil War. After returning from the war Captain Cook donated two miles of land through what is now Cook Station for the St. Louis, Salem, and Little Rock railroad, which later became the Salem branch of the St. Louis – San Francisco Railroad built from 1872-1873.(1)
The town of Cook Station sprang up around the railroad. There was also a spur branch of the railroad running from Goltra (HWY M & the Mine Road) to the Sligo furnace. The spur followed the mine road (railroad spikes can still be found along the road today) until the mine road intersects the Taff Branch, from there the old rail bed cuts southeasterly through the valleys across Roberts cemetery road and on to Sligo. The old rail bed is still shown on maps and gps systems. This spur line carried iron ore to the furnaces, probably timber as well. The Craig Iron Bank is located on the mine road and is still visible. The spur line to Sligo was pulled up around 1930 after the furnace closed. The Salem Branch of the Frisco was pulled up following a flood in 1985. The tracks were badly damaged from the flood and the line had not been used regularly in a year or two.
Cook Station had two churches, Cook Station Baptist Church and the Canaan Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Goodspeed states, “Cook Stations Baptist Church was organized March 8, 1879 by Rev. A.F. Randall, T.E. Carr and John Godby…The Schoolhouse in District No. 1, Township 36, Range 5 west, is used for religious worship. The pastors have been Revs. T.E. Carr and John Godby.”(2) “Canaan Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized about 1862. It is located in the southwest part of the county, on the St. Louis, Salem, & Little Rock Railroad, near the county line…The Church building erected in 1881 is a two-story frame, the upper story being used for a Masonic Hall, and cost about $500.”(3) The latter church is still in use today as the Canaan Community Church.
The post office operated from 1874-1997.(4) William Taff was the postmaster in 1877. Goodspeed listed Lewis Taff as postmaster of Cook Station when the book was published in 1888.(5) It was previously located in the mercantile then moved to a building directly across the road where the vacant lot is next to the bank building.
Lewis Taff owned the first store in Cook Station, which was the mercantile.(6) The mercantile is the only existing store left in Cook Station, however it has not been in operation since the mid 1990’s. There were previously two other stores in Cook Station; the Conway store at the intersection of YY and M which closed in the 1970’s and the YY Pittstop which closed in the early 2000’s.
“The Cook Station Bank was established in 1913 with O.P. Watson as president and William H. Carr as cashier. The bank continued to operate successfully until closed during the depression of 1929.”(7)
The School house was one of the last rural schools to be closed under the reorganization plan of the early 50’s.(8) The last class held at Cook Station School was in 1960. The previous school house was in the open lot adjacent to the present building.
The section house still stands next to the mercantile. Grace Bonnot (nee Nanna) stated in 1975, “I guess it would be called a tank town as all the trains stopped here to take on water. I was born here Nov. 17, 1891. I and the rest of my sisters and brothers except the oldest and the youngest were born in what was called the section house. There were eleven children in all and nine of them were born in the section house.”(9)
The Hotel is next to the section house and is open for rentals. Grace Bonnot stated about the hotel “Bill Dunlap owned the first and only hotel here, it is where the Johnsons now live. I don’t know what year it was built but that is where the salesmen stayed when they had to stay overnight here. In those days they were called drummers.”(10) It should be noted that this was the only hotel, however, Dunlap was the first of several owners of the Hotel. Leander Johnson (T.E. “Huck” Johnson’s father)
Leander Johnson (T.E. “Huck” Johnson’s father) bought the hotel after Dunlap and ran it for years. Huck grew up in the Hotel, and his mother Mabel died there in 1917.
Cook Station has always had a great sense of community. We are smaller now but growing in population. As long as the sense of community is maintained, Cook Station will always have a bright future.