Carnival of Genealogy - 68th Edition, is "A Tribute to Women". This posting is about a Quaker Minister who I admire and is a collateral ancestor of mine. Charity Wright Cook was a prominent minister and missionary and served God by reaching out and preaching the word by travelling all through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Virginia plus many other states and even abroad to England and Ireland throughout her life. Charity was born to John Wright and Rachel Wells on February 12, 1745 probably in Prince George’s County, Maryland. She is the older sister of my ancestor, Susannah Wright who was married to “Big” Isaac Hollingsworth. Susannah also became a minister and travelled occasionally with Charity. Growing up in a Quaker Family she most likely was influenced by the women in the church and most likely at some point in her life got the “calling”. Women in the Quaker faith were allowed to serve as religious leaders. They believed that all people regardless of what their sex have an “inner light” that allows them to receive revelations from God. Charity eventually married to Isaac Cook around 1763 and became a mother to 11 children. I chose to write about her because of the many memoirs, diaries, Friends records describing her in such glowing terms. I felt that she had to have been such an influence on people’s life that people were encouraged and loved by her. Among many anecdotes regarding some of my Quaker ancestors, in the book, “Annals of Newberry, South Carolina by John Belton O’Neall, 1892", He gives this account of Charity and Susannah. “In the women’s meeting, on the preacher’s bench, under their immense white beavers, I recall the full round faces and forms of the sisters, Charity Cook and Susannah Hollingsworth. Both wives, both mothers of large families, still felt it was their duty to preach “Jesus and him crucified”. Her sister, Susannah, was not so gifted. Henry O’Neall and other young Friends, used to affirm, that when Aunt Suzey, as she was called, began to pray, they could always keep ahead of her by repeating the words she was about to say.” I find this tidbit so interesting! How many times do we find such a personal story about our ancestor? There in that same book, John O’Neall mentions a few more “stories” about their father (John Wright) and Susannah’s husband, “Big” Isaac which is so wonderfully written. John Belton O’Neall recounts another incident regarding Charity, “Charity Cook was a gifted woman. She travelled the States extensively, and twice visited England and Ireland. Her husband, Isaac, once drove into Rabun’s Creek (near Laurens County, SC) at a time when it was high, drowned two horses, and only escaped drowning himself by riding a chunk of land, and she swam to shore and thus saved herself”. Apparently Charity was a determined woman and didn’t let anything in life get in her way. Susanna, my ancestor would accompany her sister from South Carolina to the meetings in Virginia and Western Pennsylvania and travelling during the severe winter of 1796-97. The crossing of the mountains was difficult at best and dangerous. In the Memoirs of Life, Travels and Religious Experience of Martha Routh, during the voyage from America in 1797 to Liverpool she said, “Dear Charity is much the better sailor of us three women, and frequently visits me, when she can get across the stairs. Later on, during the voyage, “This afternoon while Charity was paying me a visit, the sea broke in so suddenly upon us; it seemed like the bursting of a water spout. When we had got things put to rights, we had a second attack as heavy as the first, which seemed to try out Stewards patience.” On the 19th, Eleventh month of 1799, written in a memoir of Sarah Stephenson, she stated, “Dear Charity Cook (of South Carolina) is confined here in with small pox. 29th of the eleventh month, we returned from Quarterly Meeting and found Charity very ill, the doctor doubting her getting over that night, but yesterday and today the disorder seems more favourable”. Dublin, the 11th, Twelfth Month, “We left Charity Cook with the appearance of a favourable recovery”. This was during a mission trip to Lurgan Meeting, Ireland. Extracted from the “Charleston Courier of 1807”: “A Quaker Woman’s Sermon” (Given by Charity) “Dear Friends: There are three things I very much wonder. The first is that children should be so foolish as to throw up stones, brickbats and clubs into fruit trees to knock down the fruit; if they would only let one another alone, it would fall itself. “The second is that men should be so foolish and even wicked as to go to war and kill one another; if they would only let one another alone, they die of themselves. And the third and last thing, which I wonder at most of all, is that young men should be so unwise as to go after the young women, if thy would only stay at home, the young women would come after them”. I find this sermon interesting, as accounts say that her husband, Isaac often took care of their 11 children while she travelled. 15th, Third month of 1809, In a letter to his children, written by John Simpson “Dear Children: I and my dear wife are at present at John Buckman’s, expecting to attend Wrightstown Meeting in company with Charity Cook, who seems to enjoy a pretty good state of health for a woman of her years, and has been enabled to travel through this cold winter season, which I have thought might be an encouraging example to others to press forward in their religious duty”. In the diary of Edward Pease, he states that American Friends such as Charity Cook and Mary Swett, often puzzled their British colleagues when they would stroll down Melksham Street after dinner with pipes in their mouths! In 1820, at the Baltimore Meeting, Charity was about 80 years of age, being a fine specimen and strong American Constitution as observed by one. Charity and family eventually went from Bush River Monthly Meeting on to the Miami Meeting into what was Warren County, Ohio. I am sure that she actively participated in that meeting and made her mark there. Her family joined the Caeser’s Creek Monthly Meeting where is died at the 13th of 11 month 1822 aged 76 years, 11 months, 11 days and buried at Caeser’s Creek Friends Burial ground. Even though Charity was not my direct ancestor, reading accounts of her work, travels, and life were inspiring to me. She had many fascinating adventures which of course were fraught with danger and hardships but her utmost determination and living by what she believed in during tough times is truly amazing!


Janet Iles said...

You are fortunate that you have so much information about the life of Charity. Thank you for sharing her with us.

Bill West said...

What a remarkable woman! Thank you for telling us about her.