Ira Cook (October 6, 1821 - March 11, 1902) was an American surveyor, mayor, banker, tax collector, city council member, investor and entrepreneur from Des Moines, Iowa.

Ira Cook
Man in dark suit, seated in an armchair, holding a pamphlet.
Ira Cook of Des Moines, Iowa, depicted for his biography in the 1908 book "Pioneers of Polk County, Iowa; And Reminiscences of Early Days"
Mayor of Des Moines, Iowa
In office


Ira Cook was born October 6, 1821 in the Town of Union, Broome County, New York.[1] His father, one sister and her husband moved to Iowa in 1835 and settled on land in what is now Davenport.[1] Ira and the remainder of his family moved to Iowa in the spring of 1836.[2] He lived in Tipton, Iowa from 1838-1941, working on the family farm and having the chance to meet then Iowa Territorial Governor Robert Lucas.

Early careerEdit

In 1849 he teamed with John Evans on a contract which began his four-plus year career as a government surveyor. After leaving his surveying career and Davenport, Cook moved to Des Moines in 1855 and entered the banking business with the firm of Cook, Sargent & Cook.[3][4]

He married Mary C. Owens on April 25, 1854.[5] He and his wife were given a three-year-old girl to care for by the child's father in 1857. Fearful that they might lose the child due to provisions in her father's will, Cook consulted with John A. Kasson, then practicing law in Des Moines. Together they drafted a bill concerning the adoption of children in Iowa. When the bill passed, the Cooks promptly adopted the little girl, raising her as their own. Mary gave birth to a daughter of their own on June 5, 1859, Rachel Faxton Cook[6] and teir second child was Carrie L. Cook.[5]

Mayoralty, Washington and returnEdit

He was elected Mayor of Des Moines, Iowa in 1861 and resigned not long after.[7] Beginning in 1860 he engaged in insurance and real estate with C. C. Dawson.[4] He moved to Washington D.C. in 1862 and assumed a position in the Post Office Department.[7] He took a position as a Deputy United States Revenue Collector in 1864.[7] In 1866 he moved back to Des Moines and was elected to two terms on the City Council.


In 1875, he became a stockholder in the Iowa Loan and Trust Company, one of the most important financial institutions in the State of Iowa at the time.[5] In 1880 he was elected one of Iowa Loan and Trust Companies trustees.[7] In 1896 he partnered with G. M. Hippee and others to form the Des Moines Syrup Refining Company, which operated to make syrup, sugar, and glucose from corn.[8]

Cook wrote a number of articles that were published in different newspapers in the state.[5] He wrote "Government Surveying in Early Iowa", published in the January, 1897, issue of The Annals of Iowa.[1]


He died March 11, 1902[9] and was buried in Woodland Cemetery in Des Moines.[8] Visitors to the State Historical Museum in Des Moines will find Ira Cook featured in the “You Gotta Know the Territory” exhibit.

Mary C. Owens Cook was born November 6, 1831, and died March 7, 1918. She was interred beside Ira at Woodland Cemetery.[10]


  1. ^ a b c Rittel, PLS, Daniel F. "The Footsteps of Ira Cook". The Iowa Surveyor. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
  2. ^ Andrews, Lorenzo F. (1908). Pioneers of Polk County, Iowa; And Reminiscences of Early Days. I. Des Moines: Baker-Trisler Company. pp. 414–420. OCLC 3983698. Retrieved July 31, 2018 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Andrews 1908, p. 417.
  4. ^ a b Brigham 1911, p. 327.
  5. ^ a b c d Brigham 1911, p. 328.
  6. ^ "Rachel Faxton Cook's grave site". Find A Grave. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
  7. ^ a b c d Andrews 1908, p. 418.
  8. ^ a b "IRA COOK". IAGenWeb Project. Retrieved 22 October 2012.
  9. ^ Brigham, Johnson (1911). Des Moines, the pioneer of municipal progress and reform of the middle West, together with the history of Polk County, Iowa, the largest, most populous and most prosperous county in the state of Iowa. II. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company. pp. 327–328. OCLC 1851917. Retrieved July 31, 2018 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ "Mary C Owens Cook grave site". Find A Grave. Retrieved 23 October 2012.

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