COOK, MICHAEL URIAS, farmer, butter producer, and breeder; b. 7 Feb. 1824 in Williamsburgh Township, Upper Canada, son of Michael Cook and Frederica Weegar (Weager); m. 1 April 1849 Margaret Gallinger (d. 1890), and they had five sons and three daughters; d. 5 Feb. 1912 near Aultsville, Ont.
Of United Empire Loyalist descent, Michael Urias Cook’s father was a farmer in Williamsburgh, in the St Lawrence valley. In 1832 he moved his family to a farm in Osnabruck Township near the village of Charlesville (later renamed Aultsville). Michael was educated at local schools and attended high school in Matilda (Iroquois). After his marriage to Margaret Gallinger in 1849, the couple settled on a farm near Gallingertown. About 1869, however, they and their family moved back to the homestead at Aultsville.
Cook ran a mixed farming operation, with a specialization in dairying, which was beginning to take off in eastern Ontario [see David Murdoch Macpherson]. The census of 1871 shows that he sold over 1,750 pounds of butter and kept 14 milch cattle, Ayrshires being his breed of choice until the early 1880s. In 1881 he made a decision that would earn him a place in Canadian agricultural history: he decided to import Holstein-Friesian cattle. Cook’s decision has traditionally been attributed to his reading of American farm periodicals, which heavily promoted this breed, and to the influence of his progressive son Minard Michael.
The exact date of Cook’s first importation of the Holsteins, which were new to North America, is not known. American herd-books indicate that in 1882, in conjunction with B. B. Lord of Sinclairville, N.Y., he imported nine cows and two bulls from Smiths and Powell, prominent stockbreeders in New York State. However, a bill of sale from Cook in 1892 notes that his herd was established in 1881. In determining the first importer of Holsteins into Canada the date is important because a Winnipeg breeder, Archibald Wright, is known to have imported Holsteins from the United States in 1881. Whatever Cook’s status, there was one first he could clearly claim – he was the first individual to import Holsteins into Canada from the Netherlands, where the breed originated. In 1883, in cooperation with Lord and under the name of “Aultsville Stock Farm, Lord, Cook and Son,” he brought in over 100 Holsteins. Many were immediately offered for sale and were exhibited at the Toronto Industrial Exhibition and the Guelph fair, where they created a great deal of interest. In June 1883 the Farmer’s Advocate and Home Magazine, a popular periodical of the time, praised Holsteins, with their characteristic black and white markings, as “large, handsome, easily fattened, desirable and profitable for beef, of remarkable quiet disposition, wonderful milk producers – in fact the best dairy stock known.”
Over the next few years, the firm of Lord, Cook and Son continued to sell and exhibit Holsteins; its cattle contributed to the foundation of Ontario’s present herd. (Holsteins now comprise 95 per cent of Canadian dairy cattle.) Cook also promoted the breed by helping to establish the Dominion Holstein Breeders’ Association in September 1884 and acting as its first president (1884–87). With the breed’s increasing popularity, Cook’s dominance as a breeder declined. He retired from farming in 1891, and his remaining cattle were sold off at a dispersal sale. Minard took over the operation of the farm, where the senior Cook lived till his death in 1912.
Michael Cook had been a staunch Liberal and a leading member of the Aultsville Methodist Church. Much of his farm was flooded in the 1950s during the construction of the St Lawrence Seaway, but his home has been preserved as the Doctor’s House at Upper Canada Village near Morrisburg.
AO, RG 22-194, reg.P: 481–82. NA, RG 31, C1, Osnabruck Township, [Ont.], 1851; 1861; 1871, div.1: 94; 1881. Ontario Heritage Foundation (Toronto), R. L. Fraser, “Holstein-Friesian cow in Canada” (typescript, n.d.; copy in Upper Canada Village Reference Library, Morrisburg, Ont.). Stormont Land Registry Office (Cornwall, Ont.), Abstract index to deeds, Osnabruck Township, concession 1, lot 33 (mfm. at AO). Upper Canada Village Reference Library, “Descendants of John Cook, U.E.L.,” comp. Lynne Cooke and K. VanderBaaren (1986). Cornwall Standard, 23 Feb. 1912. Farmer’s Advocate and Home Magazine, 1880–92. Freeholder (Cornwall), 23 Feb. 1912. Weekly Globe (Toronto), 18 Sept. 1885. Canadian Stock-Raisers’ Journal (Hamilton, Ont.), 1 (1883–84), prospectus (August 1883); no .2 (December 1883) (copies in Ontario Agricultural Museum Library and Arch., Milton). Century of achievement [special issue of the Holstein Journal commemorating the centennial of the Holstein Assoc. of Canada] (Don Mills [North York], Ont., 1984; copy in the Ontario Agricultural Museum Library and Arch.). Illustrated historical atlas of the counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, Ont. (Toronto, 1879; repr., ed. Ross Cumming, Port Elgin, Ont., 1972). Peter Lewington, Canada’s Holsteins (Markham, Ont., 1983). M. S. Prescott et al., Holstein-Friesian history (diamond jubilee ed., Lacona, N.Y., 1960). G. E. Reaman, History of the Holstein-Friesian breed in Canada (Toronto, 1946). Stormont County Holstein Club, Our first century . . . 1881–1981 (n.p., 1981; copy in Upper Canada Village Reference Library).