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Below is a family biography included in the Biographical Annals of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania published in 1904 by T. S. Benham & Company and The Lewis Publishing Company; Elwood Roberts, Editor.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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JAY COOKE, a resident and citizen of Montgomery county, Pennsylvania, honored throughout the nation and favorably known to the entire civilized world for his eminently useful and patriotic services during the Civil war, was to the nation in that tremendous struggle what another masterly financier, Robert Morris, was to it in its infancy, during the battling for independence.

He is a native of Ohio, born in Sandusky, August 10, 1821. He is of Puritan ancestry, and his father, Eleutheros Cooke, was an early settler in that state. The elder Cooke located at what was then called Portland, which was then changing from an Indian village to what is now known as the city of Sandusky, and there built the first stone house in the village. He was the leading lawyer in that region, and represented his district in the legislature for a number of years, both before and after he had served in congress, (1831- 33) and was primarily instrumental in procuring the granting of the first railroad charter in the world, in 1826. Mr. Cooke was a man of great public prominence, and was orator on the occasion of a visit by President Harrison (1835) and other of the great men of that day.

Jay Cooke, after completing his education, entered the banking house of Enoch White Clark & Company, in Philadelphia, in 1838. He soon gave evidence of that masterly ability which was afterward to stamp him as the foremost financier of the world in his day, and before attaining his majority was made the confidential clerk of the firm, with power of attorney, and personally conducted many of its most important transactions. On his twenty-first birthday he was admitted to partnership, and was a member of the firm for sixteen years. During this period he personally effected the sale of the Western, Northern, Wyoming & Delaware Divisions of the Pennsylvania Canal, and assisted in the negotiation of the government loans required to carry on the Mexican war. This special experience served to fit him for the masterly part he was to take in financiering the much more important conflict of 1861-65.

Early in 1861 Mr. Code associated with himself William G. Moorhead in the banking firm of Jay Cooke & Company. The firm opened houses in New York and Washington City, under its own name, and established a branch house in London in connection with Hugh McCulloch & Company, under the firm name of Jay Cooke, McCulloch & Company. This banking business, probably the most extensive in the country, was carried on with entire success, including the building and financing of nearly all the older railroads of the country, and until the setting in of the panic of 1873, the inevitable revulsion from the unprecedented inflation of the period immediately following the war. The era of shrinkage and liquidation had come, and many hitherto prosperous banking establishments went down in the general crash. Jay Cooke & Company were heavily involved in consequence of their effort to carry through the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad, the most stupendous and important enterprise of the times. Their suspension was a national calamity, and expressions of regret were universal, the fact being generally recognized that their failure was consequent upon their making possible the construction of that great transcontinental line which promised so much to the prosperity and development of the west and of the nation at large. It is gratifying to note that Mr. Cooke, with wonderful courage and indominatable will, set himself to the work of self-restoration, and in a few years had retrieved his shattered fortune.

A peculiar tribute is due Mr. Cooke for his great services during the Civil war period. The story is one which in a sense belongs to a past age, and only one who lived through the tremendous conflict which absorbed the energies of the American government and of the people for nearly five years can form an adequate idea of the vastness of his task and of the necessities which called into exercise his magnificent abilities as a financier. Without the successful negotiation of the government loans, the war could not but have proved a failure, no matter how brave the soldiers of the Union upon the field of battle, or how skillful their generals. When President Lincoln issued his initial call for seventy-five thousand men, following the assault upon Fort Sumter, the national treasury was practically bankrupt, and the credit of the country was at a low ebb. President Buchanan had been obliged to pay twelve per cent interest for a loan to carry on the government upon its ordinary basis during the latter part of his administration. The enormous sums of money required to equip and maintain the army and navy, in fact to create them, were not to be had until the genius of Mr. Cooke was invoked to aid in the sale of the government bonds whose issuance was imperatively necessary as the sole resort. To Mr. Cooke, as the fiscal agent of the government, was entrusted the great task of negotiating the loans, and nobly did he fulfill the trust, devoting to it his undivided attention and weighing himself down with a vastness of responsibility which would have crushed one of less heroic mould. Appealing to the patriotism of the American people and enlisting the aid of their local leaders in every walk of life, he achieved a remarkable success, negotiating all the great government loans, amounting to the stupendous sum of more than two thousand million of dollars, and at a less compensation that his firm had received for negotiating the Mexican war loans of less than seventy million dollars. At one critical time he saved to the United States Treasury one hundred millions of dollars, at the same time elevating the national credit to a higher point than that of any nation on earth, and making possible the death-stroke to the great rebellion. It is not too much to say that Mr. Cooke was in the field of these, his stupendous transactions, as necessary to this great result as was Lincoln in the presidency, Grant on the field, and Farragut on the sea. During all the years of the great conflict, Mr. Cooke enjoyed confidential relations with the principal public men of that day. He made repeated visits to Washington for conference with President Lincoln, Secretary of the Treasury Chase, Senators Fessenden and Sherman, and General Grant, besides many others, and all the great men named visited him from time to time at his home near Philadelphia.

For many years past Mr. Cooke has resided in Montgomery county, in the serene enjoyment of a happy and well-earned retirement. Upwards of eighty years of age, he preserves his mental faculties unimpaired, keeping closely in touch with the events of a period less stirring than was his own, and secure in the affection of his family and of a troop of friends who hold him in honor for the usefulness of his life and the nobility of his character. Soon after the war he erected the palatial residence which is his home in Cheltenham township, at Ogontz, so named for the Indian Chief of the early days of Ohio, his father’s chosen friend, upon whose shoulder he had been carried as a child.

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This family biography is one of more than 1,000 biographies included in the Biographical Annals of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania published in 1904 by T. S. Benham & Company and The Lewis Publishing Company.  For the complete description, click here: Biographical Annals of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

View additional Montgomery County, Pennsylvania family biographies here: Montgomery County, Pennsylvania Biographies

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