COOK, JAMES WILLIAM, lumber merchant and politician; b. in Williamsburgh Township, U.C., 11 Jan. 1820, son of George Cook and Sarah Casselman, and grandson of John Cook (Van Keugh), loyalist; d. at Morrisburg, Ont., 21 May 1875.
As the oldest of five brothers, James William Cook succeeded his father and his uncle, John Cook (1791–1877), in the management of the family’s square timber business (to become known as Cook and Brothers), which began on the Castor and South Nation rivers in eastern Upper Canada. The firm had its headquarters at Morrisburg, but by the 1870s it had expanded to include operations in pine forests centring on Belleville, Toronto, Barrie, and Quebec City, and was claimed to be the largest square timber business in Canada. The principal office of the firm, however, was maintained by J. W. Cook at Morrisburg during his lifetime, with his two younger brothers, George J. (1824–1902) and John L., managing the branch offices. The firm continued to have a prosperous existence into the 20th century, when its operations reached into the Muskoka and Algoma districts.
James William Cook represented Dundas County in the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada, 1857–61 – as had his uncle John Cook in the assemblies of Upper Canada and the Province of Canada, 1830–45. Two of his brothers were also politicians: Simon Sephrenus (1831–92), mla of Ontario for Dundas, 1867–75; and Hermon (Herman) Henry*, mp 1872–78 and 1882–91, mla of Ontario 1879–82. The three brothers, as well as John Cook, were all Reform or Liberal politicians.
PAC, Map division, S/420 (1862); RG 31, A1, 1851, Williamsburgh Township, Canada West; 1861, Williamsburgh Township, Canada West; 1871, Williamsburgh Township, Ontario. PAO, Legislative Assembly papers, biographical sketches of members of the assembly, 1792–1840, comp. J. S. Carstairs and W. D. Read. Can. biog. dict., I, 35–38. Lovell’s Canadian dominion directory for 1871 . . . (Montreal, ). J. S. Carter, The story of Dundas, being a history of the county of Dundas from 1784 to 1904 (Iroquois, Ont., 1905). Cornell, Alignment of political groups. James Croil, Dundas; or, a sketch of Canadian history, and more particularly of the county of Dundas, one of the earliest settled counties in Upper Canada (Montreal, 1861), 280. J. E. Defebaugh, History of the lumber industry of America (2v., Chicago, 1906–7). J. G. Harkness, Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry: a history, 1784–1945 (Oshawa, Ont., 1946), 218. Hunter, Hist. of Simcoe County.