Obituary - John Robert Cooke

10 November 1931 The Gundagai Times and Tumut, Adelong and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser

A son of the very earliest settlers in the Tumut district and a native of the place, in the person of Mr. John Robert Cooke, died at home, 'The Hill,' Tumut, on Tuesday night, after a few months illness, at the age of 80 years.

Deceased was the son of Robert Cooke, whose father fought in the Battle of Waterloo under Wellington, and when the son Robert decided to set out for Australia, his father obtained for him a letter from the 'Iron Duke' to the State Secretary in N.S.W. This letter is still in existence.

Young Cooke landed in Australia in 1836, and two years later came on to Tumut.

He had a store in the original township near the 'Mill Angle.' Then he took up land on the Gilmore Creek, where Mr. Johnstone now lives, then called 'The Pound Station.' 

Later he went to the Upper Murray, and finally in 1850 acquired 'Petfield,' buying the blocks at a Crown Land Sale.

Robert Cooke was mixed up in the Tichborne case in rather a curious way.

Orton arrived in Tumut in company with Davis and two other men, and the four started a butcher's shop in Fitzroy-street.

They did very well, as John Bridle, the town butcher, refused to sell anything but beef, not even selling mutton.

Orton bought a pig from Mr. Cooke, but did not pay him for it. Later, when Mr. Cooke took a trip to England and the Tichborne case was before the public, be happened to mention that the man owed him money.

The latter got to the ears of the interested parties, and Mr. Cooke was served with a subpoena, and had to remain in England for many months in case his evidence should be required.

'Petfield,' which embraces a number of farms on the Tumut River above Shelley's Bridge up to the Mill Angle, eventually fell into the hands of the subject of his obituary, John Robert Cooke, and remained in his possession up till the time of his death, he having taken over the management on behalf of the estate upon his father's death 38 years ago, and coming to live at 'The Hill' Tumut, 18 years after.

The farms, mostly, were leased to tenant farmers. In the early part of his career he was connected with banking, and was for eight years with the Bank of New South Wales at Adelong in the balmy goldfield boom days, relinquishing hat profession upon the death of his father.

Deceased's part in our public institutions was chiefly concerned with the Tumut A. and P. Association, of which he was a president and life member; but many of his activities in public affairs and opinions on public questions were expressed through the columns of the local press. For a number of years be was a director of the Tumut Butter Factory, and was the largest shareholder from the inception of the company when its works were situated on 'Rosebank,' and taken over from the late W. D. P. O'Brien.

He was also a shareholder in other local companies which did not have such a prosperous career as the butter factory.

When Local Government was inaugurated he was one of the first Shire Councillors for Gadara Shire and also held the presidency for a term.

He was a life member of the Tumut Hospital and was on the committee in its early history. A cautious man in all his investments, yet liberal in giving assistance to any project that had for its bona fide object the improvement and prosperity of the town and district.

And in all his transactions his word was his bond.

Endowed with business acumen and being of simple tastes and habits he amassed a deal of wealth, which he invested shrewdly, owning town properties as well as farms, and holding Government and private stocks.

In 1894 he married Miss Isabel Hannah, daughter of the owner of Cawabee Station, Narandera.

The issue was three daughters (Mrs. H. Heath of Ledville, Mrs. J. R. Foster, of Bank New South Wales Orbost, VicĄ and Mrs. E. G. Nixon, of Gunnedah), and one brother, James, and one sister, Mrs. Stevens, both of Sydney, survive.

Mrs Chas. Smith (sister) and Edward (brother) predeceased him.