COOK, JOHN F., who for twenty-six years was identified with the contracting and painting business in Pawnee, Ill., and who is now living retired from business activities, has been connected for a long period with the official life of Sangamon County. Mr. Cook was born in Grayson County, Ky., September 23, 1847, a son of James J. and Polly (Ashley) Cook. His paternal grandfather was born in Mercer County, Ky., where he spent his entire life attaining the advanced age of ninety-four years, while his maternal grandfather, a native of Grayson County, Ky., died in Missouri at the age of ninety-six years. James J. Cook was born in Mercer County, Ky., and was married in Litchfield, Ky., to Polly Ashley, who was born in Grayson County, that State. He spent his entire active life in agricultural pursuits, and is now living retired, having reached the age of eighty-nine years, while his wife died in 1866. They were the parents of the following children: John F., Squire, Evan, William, Robert, Daniel J., Solomon, Nancy J., Sarah E., and Amanda E., all born in Grayson County, and all now living except William, Solomon, Sarah A. and Nancy Jane.
John F. Cook received his education in the public schools of Grayson County, Ky., and remained at home until he had attained the age of twenty-five years, at which time he left the home farm and began to learn the painting trade. He came to Sangamon County, and located in business in Pawnee, where he has since resided, gradually working into contracting and making his business successful. He was always an energetic and enterprising business man, and his many sterling qualities gained him many friends. This, when considered with the fact that he always lived up to the letter of every contract made by him, assured his business success, and he succeeded in accumulating a competency that permitted him to retire from active business life. On August 1, 1864, Mr. Cook enlisted at Litchfield, Ky., in Company G, Thirty fifth Regiment Kentucky Mounted Infantry, under Captain Meredith, but in October of the same year was sent home on account of sickness, and never rejoined his regiment. He is a member of the Anti-Horse Thief Association. In politics he has always been a Republican, with Prohibition leanings, as he is a strict temperance man. He has been a member of the Village Board, Game Warden, Constable and Deputy Sheriff. With his family he attends the Methodist Episcopal Church.
On July 12, 1883, one mile east of Pawnee, Ill., Mr. Cook was married, by the Rev. William Wheeler, to Mary Nicholls, who was born October 13, 1858, in Clinton County, Ill., daughter of William H. Nicholls, a wagon maker, born June 24, 1830, in Clinton County, and Maria (Edsell) Nicholls, born in Illinois and died at Dawson, March 16, 1864. Mr. Nicholls was married four times, his first marriage, which occurred June 3, 1855, to Maria Edsell, resulting in the birth of four children: Ida A., Mary, Alice B. and William. Mr. Nicholls was married (second) September 7, 1865, at Dawson, Ill., to Nancy Miller, and there were the following children born to this union: Onetta and Otto H., who are deceased; Olive B., Oma J., and Annie E. Mrs. Nicholls died in Sangamon County, Ill., December 23, 1878, and Mr. Nicholls was married (third) December 20, 1883, to Mrs. Sarah (Brooks) Winchester, at Niantic, Ill., she dying in a hospital in Springfield, April 25, 1897, aged thirty-nine years. On June 3, 1903, Mr. Nicholls was married (fourth) at Virden, Ill., to Ina Hildreth, and she now lives at Virden, where he died June 23, 1907, being buried in the Divernon Cemetery.
Four children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Cook, namely: Lena, born August 25, 1878, married Charles Tilley, of Buffalo, Ill., and has three boys - Ronald, Paul and Ray; Maud, born February 6, 1886, of Pawnee, Ill., married Walter Saunders, and has two children, Frank and Stanley; Mabel, born January 23, 1890, and Flossie, born December 28, 1893, at home.