Francis Cooke (1583-1663)

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Francis Cooke was born 1583 in England and died 7 April 1663 in Plymouth, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, United States of unspecified causes. He married Hester Mahieu (1582-1666) 1603 in French Walloon Church, Leiden, South Holland, Netherlands.

1620 Mayflower passenger and early settler of Plymouth Colony One of 26 Mayflower pilgrims known to have descendants. Signer of the Mayflower Compact.

Vital Statistics Edit

  • Born about 1583 in England (Or in England)
  • 30-Jun-1603 Married Hester le Mahieu in Leiden Walloon Church
  • 1606 left Leiden to goto England
  • 1607 Return Voyage from England to Leiden Holland
  • 1620 - Voyage to America in Mayflower
  • 7-Apr-1663 - Died in Plymouth, MA

Biography Edit

Early Life Edit

Francis must have been born no earlier than 1583, for he is listed in the Plymouth Colony ARTA record which only included men age 60 or under. Could not have been born much later than 1583 for he would be under age 20 when he was married in 1603.

He is described in Leiden Walloon church marriage records dating from 1603 as a "woolcomber out of (uyt) England". He could have been a refugee from religious persecution elsewhere in continental Europe.

In Leiden, sometime after July 20, 1603, as Franchoys Couck, he married Hester le Mahieu, the daughter of Protestant refugees from the Walloon Flanders area. The Mahieus, from Lille, had resided in Canterbury, then London, since the 1570s before moving to Leiden in 1590.

Mayflower Voyage Edit

In 1620, Francis, his son John, and nephew Philippe de Lannoy boarded Speedwell, at Delftshaven. The ship leaked twice badly and returned to Holland. Francis and John then sailed on the ship Mayflower to Plymouth Colony in the New World.


Mayflower at Provincetown Harbor

The Mayflower, originating from London with a group of Adventurers bound for the New World rendezvoused on 22 July with the Speedwell just arriving from Holland with a group of religious refugees from Leiden. Originally intended to sail jointly to the English Colony in Virginia it soon became evident that Speedwell was not seaworthy. Passengers and cargo were combined onto Mayflower (with many left behind) for the journey, finally departing on September 9.

During the voyage fierce storms blew the ship off course, arriving at Cape Cod on the Eastern Massachusetts coastline on November 9th. For two days they attempted to sail south to Virginia but exhausting supplies and fierce storms caused them to abort this effort and drop anchor at what is now Provincetown Harbor. On November 11th, the group decided to settle here and start their own colony. They wrote a governmental contract called the Mayflower Compact, Francis was the 17th of the 41 signers on this document.

Mayflower compact 2016

Signing the Mayflower Compact 1620, a painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris 1899

About the middle of December 1620, the ship moved and dropped anchor in Plymouth Harbor. All the while the pilgrims were conducting several exploring missions of the area and negotiations with the local natives. Almost half of the passengers died, suffering from an outbreak of a contagious disease described as a mixture of scurvy, pneumonia and tuberculosis. In the spring, they built huts ashore, and on March 21, 1621, the surviving passengers disembarked from the Mayflower into their new settlement at Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Plymouth Colony Affairs Edit

Francis was active in Plymouth civil affairs in the 1630s and 40s - where he appears frequently in records of committees to lay out land grants and highways, petit jury, grand jury, coroner’s jury. He appears on the 1643 Plymouth list of those able to bear arms.

At some point in 1638 or afterward, he settled at Rocky Nook on Jones River, within the limits of Kingston, a few miles from Plymouth.

Francis Cooke died in 1663 in Plymouth.

Marriage & Family Edit

Francis Cooke was betrothed to Hester Mahieu (1582-1666) at the French Walloon Church (Vrouwekerk) in Leiden on June 30, 1603, with she joining the church one month prior to her betrothal. Her family were Protestant (Walloon) refugees from Lille, France to England. She was probably born in the late 1580s with her family coming to Leiden about 1590. Mary Mahieu, a possible sister of Hester, married Jan de Lannoy in Leiden and their child Philip de Lannoy had Francis Cooke as a witness to his baptism in the Vrouwekerk on November 6, 1603. Cooke’s nephew Philip “Delanoy” would later join the Separatist Church in England and arrived in Plymouth in November 1621 on the ship Fortune.[3]

It is known that Francis Cooke and his wife departed Leiden in August 1606 for Norwich in county Norfolk in England, which may have been where he originated but there is no proof has been found in records of the time. The Leiden congregation had some Separatist members who had fled Norwich, and the Cooke’s may have contacted the Separatists there. The Cookes did not remain in Norwich long as their son John was baptized at the Walloon Church in Leiden between January and March 1607 with the couple receiving communion in Leiden on January 1, 1608.[5] Francis and his wife Hester were identified as “Franchoys Cooke et Esther sa femme” in Leiden after their return from Norwich, taking communion in Leiden’s Walloon church on New Year’s Day, 1608.[6]

In February 1609, members of Pastor John Robinson’s English Separatist church came to Leiden. The Cookes did not then become members of the Walloon church, but did join the Leiden congregation sometime later, after their daughter Elizabeth was baptized on December 26, 1611.[7]

When the English Separatist church in Leiden decided to go to America in 1620, Francis Cooke decided that from his family only he and his thirteen year–old son John would go over. Hester, Jane and Jacob came to Plymouth in 1623 on the Anne. Two more children, Hester and Mary, were born in Plymouth, Massachusetts.


Offspring of Francis Cooke and Hester Mahieu (1582-1666)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Jane Cooke (1604-1666)
John Cooke (1607-1695) 20 May 1608 Leiden, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands 23 November 1695 Dartmouth, Bristol County, Massachusetts Sarah Warren (c1613-1696)

Elizabeth Cooke (1611-1627)
Jacob Cooke (1618-1675) 20 May 1618 Leiden, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands 18 December 1675 Plymouth Colony, Plymouth, Plymouth County, Massachusetts Damaris Hopkins (1628-1669)
Elizabeth Lettice Shirtleff (1648-)

Hester Cooke (1620-)
Mary Cooke (1625-1714)


Vital Records Edit

Bradfords Passenger List Edit

In 1651, fellow Pilgrim William Bradford (1590-1657) wrote of him:

"Francis Cooke, and his sone John. But his wife and other children came afterwards."

"Francis Cooke is still living, a very old man, and hath seen his children's children have children. After his wife came over with other of his children; he hath three still living by her, all married and have five children, so their increase is eight. And his son John which came over with him is married, and hath four children living."

References Edit

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