Sketches Of

Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers


(pages 123 - 124)

Hezekiah Cantrell Cooke was born in Greenville District (county), S. C., November 4, 1806. He was the second son of William Henry and Mary (Cantrell) Cooke, being one of a family of twelve children. He was a direct descendant of Robert Cooke, a Scotchman, a "saddler and shoemaker by trade," whose wife was Sarah Fielding, from Devonshire County, England. This couple came across the waters and settled in Maryland, "St. Mary's County," in the year 1720. Another Robert Cooke, grandfather of Hezekiah, was married to Susannah Watson, Culpepper County, Va., January 6, 1778, and died at his home in White County, Tenn., November 12, 1841, in the (90th year of his age. Young Cooke came with his parents to Tennessee in 1819, and settled in McMinn County. At the age of eighteen be made a profession of religion and was baptized by Elder William Wood into the fellowship of Connessauga Church. In 1830 he was married to Miss Mary Wood, a daughter of Elder William Wood, which union was blessed with a large family of children. In November, 1847, he was "licensed" to preach, and later was "ordained." For a long time be "fought his impressions" to preach, but the Lord "chastised" him into duty by the rod of affliction; both his health and his business projects failed. He promised the Lord if he would give him back his health, and not kill him, he would preach. His health was restored, and he kept his vow. Laying himself as a minister of Christ on the altar of service, he not only regained his health, but prospered financially and spiritually, the Lord's work also prospering in his hands. In giving an account of Elder Cooke's call to the ministry, and his resistance, justice requires, I think, this additional statement:  It was not simply his original, natural, Adamic stubbornness that made him rebel, but his high ideal of the qualifications of a minister made him hesitate and shrink from the respon­sibilities of preaching the everlasting gospel to dying men.

In his earlier ministry Elder Cooke was somewhat inclined, it is said, to Arminian views, in regard to God and man and the plan of salvation; but as he went deeper into the question of theology he adopted the Andrew Fuller theory of the atonement, and became what is known as a "moderate Calvinist," one who is a thorough believer in the "doctrines of grace" but who also believes in the just accountability of man as a moral agent. "As a preacher he was not what the world would call eloquent, but he presented the truth with a power, force and perspicuity seldom excelled and rarely equaled." He was a pastor of some three or four churches in the bounds of the Sweetwater Association, and was gaining considerable reputa­tion as a theological debater when death cut short his career of promising and increasing usefulness. He died of pneumonia January 24, 1859, leaving a widow and several children, a great number of relatives and a host of friends to mourn his departure. The temporary resting place of his mortal remains is the homestead burying ground on Connessauga Creek. "Dust thou art, to dust returnest, was not spoken of the soul."


Burnett, J .J.  Sketches of  Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers.  Nashville, Tenn.:  Press of Marshall & Bruce Company, 1919.


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