Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Man in the Statue

William Henry Harrison Cook was a great man of many talents who came to be one of the most prominent and notable citizens of Pineville, Wyoming County, West Virginia.
My Great Grand Uncle was born in 1840 in Logan, Virginia (West Virginia was not formed until 1861 when Virginia seceded from the Union). His parents were Thomas Munsey Cooke and Rebecca Jane Sizemore – granddaughter of George Sizemore.
When the Civil War was tearing his homeland apart, he signed up for service in the 7th Regiment West Virginia Volunteer Cavalry in 1863. He must have been a good soldier because he enlisted as a Private and when the unit mustered in 1865 at the end of the conflict, he held the rank of Sergeant. He obviously survived the war after serving during several important battles and skirmishes unlike his unfortunate brother.
Edward H. Cook, his brother, along with James J. Cook and Adam W. Cooper, his cousins, were captured near Wytheville, Va. These men, along with many others, were sent to the Confederate Prison at Andersonville in Georgia which was a horrible fate, indeed. They all died while at Andersonville of dysentery and starvation.
Immediately after the war, William went home and started the first free school in Wyoming County teaching the first classes in his father’s kitchen which, at the time, was just above the Rock Castle Baptist Church. He joined the church and was baptized 4 years later and became a preacher. He gave his first sermon on Christmas Day the following year in the home of a distinguished minister only a few miles from the Rock Castle church.
He apparently became a very talented minister and much in demand actually serving several churches at the same time. And we think our lives are busy. Can you imagine preaching at different churches on the same day - traveling on horseback? Well, he did this for almost 45 years, being ordained in 1873.
As if it wasn’t enough preaching and serving different churches, he played a big part in building several new churches in the state and is said to have baptized hundreds of converts to the faith. And in all his spare time, he ran for and won seats in the House of Delegates and in the State Senate of West Virginia Legislature serving for 12 years.
He served the Raleigh Association as moderator for 14 years and also the Rock Castle Association as moderator for 10 years. Preachers must be good at that kind of thing.
Today, there is a roadside marker with his name honoring his service to the country, state, faith and people that he loved. If you visit the County Courthouse in Pineville, you will see a statue there of  Rev.William Henry Harrison Cook in his role as statesman and preacher, one of the first and most influential members of that community.

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