The Fairhaven Pilgrim That Owned Both West and Pope’s Islands
John Cooke came to the shores of Massachusetts in the 1620s aboard the Mayflower. Yeah, that Mayflower.
Cooke was born in 1607 in Leyden, Holland, sailing first on the Speedwell for the New World. He transferred to the Mayflower when the Speedwell sprung a leak during the voyage.
According to the Fairhaven Office of Tourism website, Cooke first arrived in Plymouth but in 1652 helped to found the Dartmouth territory, which today includes the City of New Bedford and the Town of Fairhaven.
The Tourism Office stated Cooke built a homestead overlooking the Acushnet River on land between Riverside Cemetery and Woodside Cemetery.
There is a plaque in a small lot on the north side of Howland Road between Main and Sycamore Streets where Cooke built a garrison for protection from Native Americans when relations with the local tribes soured during King Philip's War in the 1670s.
Cooke was a prominent figure in government and religious communities in Plymouth and Dartmouth and even spread his influence into what is now Tiverton, Rhode Island.
"Cooke owned West Island, which he bought from Wampanoag leader King Phillip," the tourism office reported. "The town gave Cooke Popes Island, then known as Ram Island, as payment for services."
The tourism office stated that Cooke "died on November 23, 1695, at the age of 88, the last male Mayflower passenger."
There is a monument in Cooke's honor on the Fairhaven waterfront at the foot of Pilgrim Avenue. The plaque attached says Cooke was buried there, but some historians disagree.
The Cooke monument is steps away from one dedicated to Joshua Slocum, the first man to circumnavigate the world alone in a sailboat.
There is so much history in our area to be appreciated.