The Cook family 1936-1959

I would like once again to acknowledge that the house on Clifton Avenue I write about in this blog is on the traditional lands referred to as Treaty 4 Territory and that the city of Moose Jaw is located on Treaty 4 territory, the original lands of the Cree, Ojibwe(OJIB-WĒ), Saulteaux (SO-TO), Dakota, Nakota, Lakota, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation.

Greetings from Clifton Avenue,

I left you in 1936 when the Thomas family who had lived on Clifton Avenue since 1920 had returned to the United States.  The house may have become someone else’s responsibility, but the taxes were not paid, and the title for the house was taken over by the City of Moose Jaw. This was common in the middle of the depression. The city was applying The Arrears of Taxes Act, which came into effect in 1931. The problem of city revenues was explored in a MacLean’s article from 1935.   So the Cooks, the new tenants of 1037 Clifton, have the city as a landlord. For the next several years, the house will provide shelter to the Cook family and a number of other renters. One of the Cook descendants believes that Mrs. Cook actually ran a boarding house for some of the renters, that they ate together.  At times, there were as many as 9 adults living in the house according to the voters’ lists.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Who was left behind when Ernest Cook came to Moose Jaw?

Mr. Ernest George Cook arrived in Canada and Moose Jaw in 1902. He had been born in 1884 in New Malden, part of the historic county of Surrey, in England, and he did not fit the “Sifton description”  of the desirable immigrant who would live in the country and work very hard as a farmer.

I have puzzled over the reasons why this young man left his large family in England. In 1902, there were several motivations for people to move to Canada. Some folks were looking for economic opportunity and a better life; some were escaping from oppression and persecution. Others were looking for wide-open spaces and fewer people, and perhaps some were seeking adventure.  And some came because other people persuaded them to come. even in the early 1900s, now that steamships cross oceans and trains cross nations, there was power in advertising!  Check out prices and menu plans.  Some people came with complete or growing family units, and some people came alone.  I wonder if Ernest had read some of the promotional material supplied by businesses and governments to convince people in England to help colonize the western areas of Canada. 

Ernest had spent his short life until 1902  in urban centres and his only work experience had been as a clerk. However, in his teen years, his family of origin had undergone a lot of change.  Deaths in the family and repeated relocation were possible factors in young Ernest’s decision to explore the opportunities available in Canada. Plus there was precedence for emigration on both sides of his family tree. On his father’s side, one of Ernest’s grand-uncles, Edward William Cook (1827-1892), had moved to Australia in the 1850s, married a girl from Ireland, and changed from a clerk to a school teacher. 

On his mother’s side, some of Ernest’s ancestors had emigrated to North America about 50 years before Ernest was born.                                               

Ernest’s grandmother, Harriett Clark (b.1823), was the youngest of 9 children.  Ann, Hannah,  Elizabeth (2), and Harriett stayed on in England when five of their brothers and sisters in the 1830s were bound for North America. Lewis, William, and Esther ended up in Ontario, Canada while John and Mary stayed in New York. Harriett Clarke would have been 11 years old when her siblings began leaving for North America in 1834.  Lewis and John left first, sailing for about nine weeks and landing in New York.  Harriett Clarke stayed in Lowestoft, grew up there, and married in 1853.  She and her husband, James Cooper, had five children: Elizabeth Clarke (b.1854), HenryWilliam(b.1858), Harriett Anne(b.1859), Martha Eliza(b.1861), and Marian(b.1863)

More about  Lowestoft. 

Lowestoft, Suffolk England,  is the most easterly point of England.   Although there may have been barrel-makers (coopers) in Harriett (nee Clarke) Cooper’s family’s past, her father and his father had also been fishers, farmers, and blacksmiths.

According to one local history site, you can find the entire history of England in Lowestoft if you know where to look.  Photographs such as the one below may be a clue why Harriett and at least one of her sisters were looking for other employment options than what was prominent in Lowestoft during their youth.  At least two of James and Harriett Cooper’s children seemed determined that some of their history would be found in places other than Lowestoft.

Lowestoft, while Harriet Cooper grew up,  had two levels: the town up on a cliff and the village on the shore. The interesting trails that ran up and down between the two levels were called scores and are one of the things I don’t want to miss if I ever get to visit Lowestoft. Some of them might not be safe at night I would think.                                                                             

The 1871 census shows the family of Harriet Cooper in Lowestoft when she was 11 years old. In a few years, Harriett Anne and her older sister, Elizabeth Clarke, leave Lowestoft and find husbands for themselves before the next census in 1881. By the 1881 census,  these two women are no longer listed in the Lowestoft census pages for 54  Crown St.  Harriett is now a married woman of 21 living with her husband Frederick George Bristow Cook in Lambeth where he lists himself as an Army Agent’s Clerk. The marriage took place on Nov. 17, 1878 in Twickenham with at least one relative of the bride present.  Harriett’s sister, Elizabeth Clarke, now Bexfield had been married just a few months before to William Stephen Bexfield.  She signs the documents as a witness for her sister’s marriage.   

Now it’s time to find out more about the man who will become the father of Ernest George Cook from Clifton Avenue, Moose Jaw.  Who are the people he comes from, and where will he live to raise his family?

The paternal side of Ernest Cook’s family can be traced quite clearly back through four generations. His father, Frederick George Bristow Cook had been born in Hammersmith in 1852.  Three generations of George Cooks before him had been born in the areas near London and seem to have lived urban lives as “gentlemen” whether acknowledged as thus by others or merely by themselves. It was the custom for the groom and his father and the bride’s father to record their occupations on the marriage documents. So Ernest George Cook’s father (m.1878), grandfather (m.1852), great-grandfather (m. 1823), were all listed as gentlemen when they were married.  Of course, in those days there was no tracking of occupations for women in most documents.

Frederick George Bristow Cook was the firstborn to George Richard Cook and his wife  Elizabeth Thompson Hixon who, as you can see below, had a large family of seven sons and 5 daughters between 1852 and 1877.  The 1861 Census for England was taken on the night of 7 April 1861. Young Frederick Cook is missing from his family’s listing in the census document.  He shows up at his 81-year-old grandmother’s house at 28 Phillmore Place in Kensington. It seems that he was on a school break because Easter was on March 31 that year just one week before the census was taken. He was 8 years old in 1861. There was another grandson there at the time.  His name was James Thompson Hixon (25), and he lists himself as an artist.  There are a couple of his drawings on The British Museum website:  both pictures of an Arab. Their grandma Maria Hixon was only to live one more year.  The Cook family address in that year was 4 Brunswick Villas in Hammersmith. 

In 1871 at census time, the G R Cook family has grown to nine children including baby James who is about seventeen months old.  Frederick who is 18 is listed as a clerk.  His father, George Richard Cook, is also a clerk working at the War Office. The Cooks are living at Castelnau No. 4 Villa.  This housing development was noted for 20 pairs of “exceptional classical villas” which were built in 1842 by Major Boileau. The villa seems to have had enough room for the 9 children plus a cook, a nursemaid and a housemaid. Some of the Castelnau homes have been preserved in a conservation area, and some are on the market for over 4 or 5 million pounds.

So Frederick G B Cook at age 26  is the gentleman who marries 19-year-old Harriett Cooper from Lowestoft in 1878.


The 1881 census takes place before Frederick and Harriett Cook have any children. FGB Cook is 27 years old and is employed as an Army Agent’s Clerk. Harriet is now 21 years old and after being married for 2 years and 5 months is expecting their first child when the census is taken.  Lambeth is their location, close to central London.  They must have had only part of the house at 19 Hubert’s Grove; there seems to be another family also in the house. The census was taken on Sunday evening April 3,  just 11 days before Madeline Elizabeth Cook was born on April 14, 1881. The house or flat they were living in must have very soon seemed inadequate because the family had relocated before the baby was baptized on September 4th.

Lime Grove and later Acacia Grove, New Malden are where George and Harriett continue to expand their family through the 1880s.  In May of 1883, Cecil was born, and he was baptized on October 7th.  On November 12, 1884, George Ernest Cook was born. A double baptism takes place after sister Daisy Millicent was born on April 27th.  Two babies, 1 year and 5 months apart, both baptized on August 1, 1886.  The next baptism is a triple baptism:  Mary Freda born Sept. 5th, 1888, Hettie born Dec. 29th,1890, and Mary Phyllis born July 9th, 1892.  They were all baptized on August 31, 1892.  It seems that Hettie was named after  Harriett’s mother, Harriett, who had just died in 1889. So now Ernest Cook has three relatives named Harriett to keep straight: his grandmother who has passed away, his mother, and his sister. I hope he was better at it than I have been.

Mary Phyllis only lived until the 16th of September that year.  She died at 2 months when Ernest Cook was just turning 8.

Ronald Philip Cook, the third son,  was born in September of 1893 and baptized in August of 1894. Sisters kept coming:  Twins, Maggie and Norah in 1895, Elsie in 1897, and Doris in 1899. Watch for Ronald, Norah, and Hettie. They will have Moose Jaw play a part in their stories.

In February of 1899, Elizabeth Thompson (Hixon) Cook, Ernest Cook’s paternal grandmother died and was buried at age 66. On September 24th of the same year, her son, George Frederick Bristow Cook,  also died,  at age 46 leaving his wife Harriett with a family of 12, ranging in age from Madeline at 18 to Doris at 3 months. Ernest Cook’s father was buried on September 28th in the same graveyard as his infant daughter, Phyllis. Ernest was 14.

When FGB Cook’s will was read, 323 pounds was left to his wife Harriet. The British system used the abbreviations £ for pound, ‘s’ for shilling and ‘d’ for pence. They are abbreviations for the Latin words libra, solidus and denarius.  According to an online CPI inflation calculator, £323 in 1899 is worth £41,778.71 today which might be about 72,003.94 CAD today.

There was a census taken on March 31, 1901, a year and a half after GFB Cook died, and we see a listing of the Cook family without their father/husband. The youngest child, Doris, is listed as 1 year old.  “Hethe”  the mother is 40 years old and her children range in age from 19 down.  Ronald (7), Daisy M (16). and Mary F.(13) are not listed. The family are living at #5 Linton Crescent in Hastings, in the county of Sussex.  Harriett has returned to a coastal town this time on the south side of England rather than the east coast like Lowestoft, where she had lived as a child.

Living this close to the sea would not be strange to Harriett, but probably it was to her children. I assume that moving with this many children and personal items would have happened by train in 1900-01.  The distance from New Malden to Hastings might not seem like much to us now, but making the trip with a large family would have been a challenge in 1900.  I think perhaps they did not move their furnishings, and that Harriett would have to buy new furnishings for their home on Linton Crescent.

#5 Linton Cresc.

There was a “General House Furnisher” in business on High Street. Mr. Stewart Spencer, a widower, at age 44 with 3 teen-aged daughters were living above the business.

1902 finds Ernest George Cook in a lineup to buy a ticket to Canada, not just to the eastern shores but to the western prairies. Likely a train ride took him from New Malden to Liverpool, and there he boarded the Tunisian.

“Launched in 1900, the Allan Line’s Tunisian was built by Alex Stephen & Son of Glasgow. She took her maiden voyage on 5 April 1900, from Liverpool to Halifax and Portland, Maine. A month later, she made her first trip to Québec and Montréal.”  (

When Ernest George Cook buys his ticket to sail on the Tunisian to Canada, he lists himself as 19 years old. He plans to depart from Liverpool on the 29th of May,  1902, travelling by “steerage”, so he won’t have a first or second class cabin for the week-long trip to Montreal.  A long list gives names of single men leaving from Liverpool on the Tunisian.  The top name on the page has written “Winnipeg” as his ultimate destination and all the rest of the names in the long list have ditto marks under the name of that city. These men have likely purchased tickets that include railway transport to Winnipeg after arriving by ship in Montreal. Although Ernest Geo Cook lists his age as 19, he was probably was 17 years and 7 months.

A long trip for a young man

Steerage passengers were advised to hire an “outfit supplied by the company” that included: Woods’ Patent Life-Preserving Pillows, Mattress, Pannikin to hold 1 1/2 pint, Plate, Knife, Nickel-plated Fork and Nickel-plated Spoon…, leaving passengers to provide bed-covering only. We have no way of knowing if Ernest had some time between his sea voyage and his train ride to Western Canada.

The first evidence of Ernest’s presence in Moose Jaw is his listing in the 1906 Census of the Prairie Provinces.  “Earnest” cook is listed as a “Roomer” on West Fairford.  He appears to live with Mrs Gould and her three children and 7 other roomers, all men, 20ish.

In the 1907 Henderson Directory, Ernest is listed as a clerk in the accounting office of the CPR.  However in the Moose Jaw Times: Tuesday, Sept. 24th of 1907 is the following announcement:  Mr. Ernest Cooke, (sic) of the Dominion Lands Office, underwent an operation at the hospital yesterday. His many friends will be pleased to know that he is doing as well as can be expected. 

This Main St. Office would be the one where Ernest worked.

In 1908, Ernest is living at 65 Main (66 Main was the Seaborn Block).  In his early years of employment in Moose Jaw, Ernest met the people who would provide accommodation for him, introduce him and mentor him as a business partner ready to strike out on his own in the future.  He will meet his future life partner. 1912 begins a new decade for Ernest. In the second decade of his life in Moose Jaw, Ernest will marry a woman whose sister is married to a prominent Moose Jaw businessman.  He will meet his brother, Ronald, at the train and welcome him to Moose Jaw.  These are stories for the next time.