Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
As proposed by the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument Association, Agate, Nebraska
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Captain James H. Cook (1857-1942) acquired the Agate Springs Ranch in 1887, from his father-in-law, Dr. E. B. Graham, who had established it a few years earlier as the O-4 Ranch. Prior to this, Captain Cook had for 20 years been a pioneer of the wild West in the truest sense.

At the early age of 16, James left his home in Michigan and became a cowboy, riding herd on the unpredictable Texas longhorns on the long cattle drives from Mexico to Montana. In 1878, he was a big game hunter and guide in Wyoming and later a ranch manager in New Mexico.

Captain Cook served with distinction as a scout attached to the Eighth U. S. Cavalry in New Mexico during the Geronimo campaign of 1885-86 against this famous Apache chieftain.

Captain James H. Cook in 1918. Courtesy Mrs. Margaret C. Cook

It was soon after this campaign that he married Kate Graham and settled down for the rest of his life at Agate Springs Ranch in western Nebraska in what had been the heart of the Sioux Indian country.

During his trailing and scouting days he had made friends with Professors E. D. Cope and O. C. Marsh who in their time were two of the world's most renowned paleontologists. Because of his associations with these two and other prominent scientists, Captain Cook developed a keen interest in paleontology.

Also, he was very interested in Indian affairs, and was considered a friend by many Indians, including leaders of the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes. From the late 1890's until his death in 1942, his Indian friends visited him at his ranch and presented him with many valuable and historic Indian artifacts as tokens of their friendship. Most famous of his Indian friends was Red Cloud, the daring chieftain of the Sioux. Some of the most interesting gifts presented by the Indians were a ceremonial jacket of Chief Red Cloud, a gun used by Dull Knife's band in their daring escape from Fort Robinson in 1879, and a cowhide pictograph of Custer's Last Stand painted during the summer of 1909 at the Agate Springs Ranch by two warriors.

Captain Cook's book Fifty Years on the Old Frontier is a most interesting personal account of his life which vividly captures the atmosphere of the times. It is recommended reading for anyone desiring more information about the Agate Springs area and the early West.

Captain Cook passed on to his son, Harold J. Cook (1887-1962) an interest in and an awareness of science; also the family tradition of exploration and discovery started by Harold's great great grandfather James Cook, the famous English explorer and navigator who circumnavigated the globe lust before the American Revolution.

Dr. Harold J. Cook in 1950. Courtesy Dr. R. E. Lemley

The original Cook home which is still the hospitable headquarters for the Agate Springs Ranch

The Agate Springs Ranch was Harold Cook's home all his life. Harold won an international reputation in the field of paleontology, and throughout his life contributed a great deal to this science by writing scholarly technical papers and by awakening public interest in this field—especially among school children—by leading tours to the Agate quarries.

A lovely scene today at the Agate Springs Ranch resulting from Captain Cook's hard labors near the turn of the century

When Harold died recently, a part of the flavor, history and hospitality of the old West was lost. Those who had the pleasure of visiting him and listening to his accounts of the early days were indeed privileged.

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Last Updated: 12-Nov-2010