Harold J. Cook

Harold Cook
Harold Cook

(July 31, 1887 - September 29, 1962)


The Lusk Herald
October 4, 1962


Harold J. Cook, Noted Sioux County Resident, Dies Saturday

Dr. Harold J. Cook, 75, of Agate, a Nebraskan who was nationally and internationally known as a paleontologist, died Saturday in Scottsbluff hospital where he had been for about two weeks suffering from a heart condition.

He was the son of the late Capt. James Henry Cook, who established the Agate Springs Ranch in 1886 and where Dr. Cook had spent all of his life and developed the world-famous fossil beds.

He was an author of books and treatises on paleontology, was a recognized practicing geologist, developed the Cook Museum of Natural History, and contributed to development of the Scotts Bluff National Monument as it is known today.

He headed the historical and archeological reconnaissance survey in 1933 at the Scotts Bluff National Monument, served as custodian in 1934-35 and was project superintendent when the summit road was built, and the present museum and headquarters facilities were planned and begun.



Famed Family

Dr. Cook was descendant of the famed British Cook family. His great-grandfather was the fabled sea captain who explored the South Seas in the late 1700's. His grandfather was captain in the British Royal Navy and his father was one of the last of the true western frontiersmen who made three cattle drives and helped lay out some of the major cattle trails from Texas, served as a professional hunter during the building of the Union Pacific Railroad, guided U. S. troops in the Apache war against Geronimo and later was a scout for General Miles when the Battle of Wounded Knee in 1891 closed the Sioux Indian wars.

Dr. Cook was born at Cheyenne, Wyo., July 31, 1887. He attended the University of Nebraska 1907-08 and Columbia University 1909-10, and did laboratory research at the American Museum of Natural History, New York City, 1909-10.

In 1906 he participated in the Nebraska state geological survey and in 1909 was a member of the field staff of the American Museum of Natural History. From 1925-30 he was curator of paleontology at the Colorado Museum of Natural History, Denver.

In 1925-26 he was a special lecturer at Chadron State Teachers College and in 1929 at Western State College of Colorado.



Author of Note

He was co-author of "Fossil Vertebrates in American Museum of Natural History," 1915, and wrote many articles giving results of discoveries made by himself and others in fossil fields of Nebraska and Colorado, among them "New Trails of Ancient Man," "New Geological & Paleontological Evidence Bearing on the Antiquity of Man in America:," and discovered in Nebraska Hesperopithecus harold cookii Osborn, "oldest known near relative of the human race."

Membership listings in "Who's Who in America" include the following: past member Nebraska State Park Board, charter member Nebraska Reclamation Association, Fellow A. A. A. S., American Nature Association, American Society of Mammalogists, member Southwestern Colorado Archeological Society, American Museum of Natural History (honorary life member), Paleontology Society of America, International Society of Archeology, Nebraska State Historical Society.

National Institute of Social Sciences, American Association of Petroleum Geologists, American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, American Forest Association, Nebraska Academy of Science, Colorado-Wyoming Academy of Science, Archeological Institute of America, Nebraska Alumni Association, Sigma Gamma Epsilon, Phi Sigma, Delta Sigma;

He was also an honorary member of the Texas Archeological and Paleontological Society. He was awarded an honorary doctorate degree in 1952 by South Dakota State School of Mines at Rapid City.

Survivors include his widow, Mrs. Margaret C. Cook of Agate; four daughters, Mrs. George H. Hoffman of Agate, Mrs. Grayson E. Meade of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Mrs. Wayne F. Howard of Spokane, Wash., and Mrs. Loy M. Naffziger of Pullman, Wash; and 11 grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his parents and by one brother, John, who died in 1919.

Funeral services were held at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Benson-Jolliffe Funeral Home with the Rev. Ward R. Conklin officiating. Burial following cremation was at Fairview Cemetery.

A memorial has been established to the Heart Fund.



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Scientist Paid Tribute to Harold Cook at Time of His Death in '62

(By Dr. Florence Dowden Wood)

The following article appeared in the Bulletin of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontologists following Mr. Cook's death, Sept 29, 1962, and The Sun reprints it now to give emphasis locally to his reputation and the importance of his dream.

Harold James Cook was born at Cheyenne, Wyoming, into a family with keen interest in territorial expansion and expectancy of discovery. Harold fitted into this environment by aptitude and inclination, his father being a Western frontiersman in its finest sense and his great-grandfather, the famous British Captain Cook, and explorer of the South Seas in the Eighteenth Century. As his trails crossed those of the early scientists and explorers, James H. Cook, Harold's father, met among others, Cope, Leidy, King, Marsha and Hatcher. He talked with them whenever possible and remembered all he heard. When he established the Agate Springs Ranch in 1886, through avid reading he had good knowledge of practical experience in the natural sciences, which appealed to Harold as a growing boy.

Harold's first fossil collecting was in 1892 when he helped E. H. Barbour remove a large Daemonelix near the Agate home. The structure contained unidentified skeletal parts, later shown to be Syndyoceros cooki, based on a skull collected in 1905 by Harold and named in honor of the youthful helper. Captain James Cook called attention to fossil bone on his ranch, and Hatcher had made plans to work the Agate deposits but died without realizing them. It was not until the end of the collecting season in 1904 that O. A. Peterson, Hatcher's brother-in-law, came to make a serious examination of the prospect. Harold at 17 guided him to what became "Amherst Point". Peterson, planning to go further that day, had left instructions with his helper to have the team ready to leave the moment he got back. An exciting experience for Harold came when Peterson yelled from far away, "Put the team in the barn. We aren't going anywhere!" From 1905 on, as the Carnegie Museum removed specimens, interest and activity of the Agate Quarries doubled and redoubled.




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