A Trobough Scandal: Cook vs. Cook

Augusta County, Virginia Chancery Court Case No. 108


Jacob Cook Sr., a widower, died intestate in 1818 leaving a modest personal estate and a 110-acre plantation in Rockingham County adjoining Adam Trobough and others. He and his wife, the former Elizabeth Rine, had six children: Valentine Cook, Elizabeth (wife of Adam Paulis), John Cook, Barbara (wife of Henry Frezner), Catharine (wife of James Hanna), and Pollu (wife of Jacob Deal).

A seventh child, Jacob Cook Jr., was omitted from the distribution of the estate on the grounds that he was born prior to his parents’ marriage and was therefore illegitimate.   He sued the administrators of Jacob Cook Sr.’s estate and the other six children on 29 December 1819 to recover his share of the estate, claiming that his father had always acknowledged and treated him as a son. He sued in Chancery on the grounds that he was due a fair share of the estate.

The other children responded that Jacob Cook Jr. was always known and recognized to be illegitimate and, in fact, that Jacob Cook Sr. was not his father – he was born before Elizabeth married Jacob Cook and his true father was Nicholas Trobough. A number of witnesses testified on both sides of the question of whether Jacob Cook Sr. had or had not recognized Jacob Cook Jr. as his son, on the veracity of the other side’s witnesses, and even on the question of whether a witness was drunk at the time he testified.

The following depositions mention Nicholas Trobough, William Trobough, Jacob Trobough and two different Michael Troboughs.

The following documents are transcribed with some spelling and punctuation altered for clarity. Comments are added in blue italic.

Deposition of John Rine (14 October 1820)

John Rine, a witness for the defendants, being sworn deposes that he lived with his father & family in the County of York in the State of Pennsylvania when his sister one of the family was suspected to be pregnant – that he in company with a William Trorebach took her to Baltimore to a brother of said Troarbach’s named Michael. This was about six weeks before Christmas, the year not recollected, that about the last day of March or first of April following, his sister came home to his fathers in company with Jacob Cook – having a child which at that time could not sit alone.   That Cook asked his father for her in marriage – the old man said he did not know what they might have been doing on the road & that they might do as they pleased. They afterwards went to Little York & was married. The deponent states that he never knew that Jacob Cook was in his father’s neighborhood before he came with his sister, neither did he know that he was in Baltimore at the time he took his sister there, that he had never heard that there was such a man until he see him with his sister on her return. He understood from Cook himself that he had been purchased by a Mr. Sly, a sort of relation, to serve for his passage from Europe and that he was released from the last half year of his time, that he drove Mr. Sly’s tram in the neighborhood of Baltimore but never to his knowledge as far as his father’s neighborhood.

Question by one of the defendants, James Hannah: Did you go voluntarily with your sister & Trarbach to Baltimore or did they ask you to go with them?

Answer: My sister had made her home at Troarbachs for some time – say a year or thereabouts before she went to Baltimore, spinning etc. She was not often at home. When her situation came to be known it was necessary she should move out of the State or swear to the father of the child, and as she refused to name the father or to swear to the child it was necessary for her to remove before the child was born — Troarbach with whom she lived was a married man & had two children — & asked me to go with her.

Question by the Court: Did you ever hear Jacob Cook own the child that he wife had at the time of their marriage as his child?

Answer: I never did then or at any time afterwards. He removed to Virginia some years before me. I removed & lived in the same neighborhood except at times and was frequently at his house & with him. I know that Cook raised the child and he lived with him and when he came of age he told him that he was then free from him and gave him a mare, saddle & bridle & told him it was all he must expect from him. He understood that he afterwards gave him another mare from the old man himself but did not know of it of his own knowledge.

Question by Defendants: Did you ever know of any familiarities pass between your sister & William Troarbach – more than should be common between a married man & a young woman who lived with him?

Answer: William Troarbachs father lived near him a widower he had but one daughter that lived with him – she was crippled and the old man took her to the springs. He got my sister to stay in the house & take care of it whilst he was absent. My sister was afraid to stay there at night by herself and got me to stay there at night with her. One night William Toarbach stayed there also – we all three slept together, my sister in the middle from what passed – I upbraided my sister in the morning – she fell to crying & suppose told Troarbach who came to me the next morning by daylight where I slept in the hayloft and doubling his fist threatened that if ever I told what had passed he would break my head. This happened the fall before she went to Baltimore – about the time the apples get ripe. And further sayeth not. John (his mark) Rine

[Note: Jacob Cook did not have a taxable aged 16 or over until 1788, when his son Jacob was taxed to him. Therefore Jacob Cook Jr. must have been born in 1771 and Elizabeth Rine impregnated in the fall of 1770.]

Deposition of Michael Earman (14 October 1820)

Michael Earman of lawful age a witness for the defendants being sworn, says on the question being asked him to state all that he knows respecting Mrs. Cook and the present plaintiff – that he knew Mrs. Cook before she was married, she lived in York County in the State of Pennsylvania and about fifty miles from Baltimore in Maryland – that he never knew that Jacob Cook, afterwards her husband, had been in that neighborhood where this deponent then lived with was within three miles from where Nicholas Troarbach lived and where she, Elizabeth Rine, afterwards Mrs. Cook, then lived. That his deponent knows from his own observations and knowledge and from the general sense of the neighborhood freely expressed that she was Big with child and as the Laws of the State of Pennsylvania were very severe against young persons in her situation, she was taken to Baltimore in Maryland by her brother John Rine and William Toarbach to Nicholas Troarbach’s brother Michael who lived in Baltimore, as he understood from the parties. That after she had been delivered of a child, she came up to York County in company with Jacob Cook and was afterwards married to him. That said deponent also states that Jacob Cook & family moved to the neighborhood where this deponent has lived for upwards of thirty years – Cook moved first – that in conversation with Mrs. Cook since he has lived a neighbor, and on asking the question, she made answer and said that the child was Nicholas Troarbach’s.

Question by the plaintiff’s attorney: Do you not know that Jacob Cook’s father always owned him as his son and treated him as such?

Answer: He never owned him for his son to my knowledge – he was always very kind to him, treated him as one of the other children and made no distinction that this deponent could see. All children raised in a family, whether bond or free, are always treated alike when they behave themselves. He never hear him say that he would make him equal to his children. He knows that Jacob worked very well for the old man & that the old man thought a great good deal of him – but never gave him a trade or ___ little education so far as the deponent knows. And further sayeth not. Michael (his mark) Earman

 Deposition of Michael Earman (12 June 1821)

Michael Earman made a second, briefer, deposition in the case eight months later in which he again stated: “I asked the old woman whose child the present plaintiff was – she made answer and said he was Nicholas Trarbauch’s child…”

Deposition of Christeena Deal (14 October 1820)

Christeena Deal of lawful age being sworn says that Mr. Cook was often in her house and she has often heard him say that Jacob Cook was not his son. He had raised him & sent him to school but his wife had him three or five months before he had ever seen her, that when he had left him he had given him a horse, saddle & bridle. And further sayeth not. Christeena (her mark) Deal

 [Several other depositions on this same vein, pro and con, were given on the question of whether Jacob Cook Sr. acknowledged Jacob Cook Jr. as his son are omitted here. Only a few explicitly address the question of whether the child was born before the marriage, as this one does.]


Depositions Taken in Robertson County, Tennessee:

On 10 October 1820, several depositions were taken in Robertson County, Tennessee at the house of Joel Moore Esq. by Joel Moore and George Barber, Justices for Robinson County, at the direction of the Court at Staunton.   Depositions were taken from Jacob Wideck (aged about 38), George Widick (26), John Wideck (41), Elizabeth Zeck (54), and Michael Trobough (53) – all former residents of Rockingham County.

Deposition of Michael Trobough taken in Robertson County, Tennessee (10 October 1820)

Michael Trobough… being of sound mind and about 53 years of age and being duly sworn on the holy evangelist of Almighty God the truth to speake in said cause deposeth and sayeth that his first acquaintance with Jacob Cook Senior was in Pennsylvania and moved in company with him to Virginia, Rockingham County, that he heard Jacob Cook Senr. say that he would give Jacob Trobough a red Jacket to nurse Jacob Cook Junr. and Jacob Trobough went and stayd some time and came away and further this deponent sayeth that sd. Cook then wanted me for a nurse and I always heard Jacob Cook Senr. call Jacob Cook Junr. my Jacob.   Michael (his mark) Trobough.

Deposition of John Widick taken in Robertson County, Tennessee (10 October 1820)

John Widick… being of sound mind and about 41 years of age and being duly sworn on the holy evangelist of all mighty God the truth to speak in said cause deposeth and sayeth that he lived near neighbor to Jacob Cook Senr. in the sate fo Virginia, Rockingham County, and oft times heard Jacob Cook Senr. call Jacob Cook Junr. my Jacob. I then removed to the Western Country and stayd about 3 years and then returned back to Virginia and as I got to Jacob Cook Senr. he was plowing and after some compliments he askd me how fare I lived from Jacob Cook. I told him., he then askd me how he was coming on. I also told him, he then insisted for me to go to the house with him and said he had some old ry whiskey. I then went on to the house with him and after we got to the house and after a run of discourse the old gentleman says John you say my son Jacob is doing well, he then replied that my son Jacob and my daughter Polly has done me more good than all the rest of my children. Some time after that I saw the old man and he told me that he wanted to send a letter to Jacob by me and I also brought a letter from the old gentleman to Jacob Cook Junr. and further this deponent sayeth not. John (his mark) Widick.