|Triumph of Henry and Arabella Cook|
|Original Owners of the Keyes House|
by Debbie Robison |
January 21, 2008
How did emancipated slaves rise from poverty to become
successful? This article examines the lives of Henry and Arabella Cook who were
likely slaves before the Civil War; both living near the southern Fairfax
County/Loudoun County border.
Keyes House, ca. 1884/5
Fairfax County Inventory of Historic Places
In 1870, Henry Cook was living near
Henry, born in October 1849, was the eldest of the children.
He, his parents, and siblings were all born in
The Cooks purchased 3 acres of land in 1878 from George L. Howard and A. B. Howard for sixty dollars near Henry’s parents’ property. Their property is identified on the Hopkins Map of 1878 by the name “Hy Cook.”
Henry and Arabella Cook did not immediately build a house on the land. The census records of 1880 hint at the sacrifices made by the Cooks as they worked for a successful future. Though married, Henry Cook lived in A. B. Stowell’s household, and worked as a laborer, while Arabella Cook lived and worked nearby in Conrad Shear’s household at Sully as a servant.
Likely after saving up the funds through their separate employments, the Cooks had a house constructed on their three-acre farm by 1885, the first year the building was assessed for taxes. The house was well constructed, and contained decorative hardware and moldings similar to houses constructed during that period in the nearby Floris area. Over the years, additions were constructed to the house. The house was originally two-stories high with the gable end of the house facing the street. The house was two bays wide in front, and two bays deep. Entrance into the house was through the four-panel front door located on the northeast corner of the dwelling. The first floor is composed of a large room dominated by a staircase on the southern wall that leads to the upstairs bedrooms. An interior-end chimney at the rear of the house allowed smoke from stoves to be carried away.
The location of the house is depicted on an 1885 road case
map. [Note: The current house address is
In 1900, Henry and Arabella Cook
were living with Alice Goodwin in Washington, D.C. Henry worked at a Dry Goods
Store, and Arabella worked as a cook.
By 1910, the Cooks were back home working their home farm.
The Cook’s may have owned and operated their own store near
Henry Cook was involved with the
religious community, and very likely donated land for the
Henry and Arabella Cook did not have any children, though they did have young relatives living with them for a time while they attended school. Alfonso Neal, a cousin, was twelve years old in 1910 when he was living with the Cooks. Mary F. Lee, another cousin, was thirteen years old in 1920 when she was living with Arabella Cook.
Henry Cook died, possibly in early 1917. His will was probated February 14, 1917, and his list of heirs included his brother, Israel Cook, 6 sisters, and 15 nieces and nephews. In 1920, his widow, Arabella, was sixty-five years old and operating the home farm. She owned her home free of a mortgage. How many among us today can say the same?
Following is a list of Henry Cook’s heirs in 1917.
Israel Cook, brother, full age,
Mrs. Laura Delaney, sister, full age, 909 R N.W. Washington, D.C.
Mrs. Susie Harris, sister, full age, same address
Mrs. Cassie Devine, sister, full age, same address
Mrs. Kate Plummer, sister, full age, 3d & H. N.W. Washington, D.C.
Miss Lisha Cook, sister, full age, 9 Harwick Str.
Mrs. Augusta Washington, niece, full age,
Mrs. Mattie Hogan, niece, full age, same address
Miss Marian Lucas, niece, full age, same address
Miss Pinkey Lucas, niece, full age, same address
Mr. Zebedee Lucas, nephew, full age, same address
Miss Grace Ambrose, niece, full age,
Miss Enla Ambrose, niece, full age,
Mr. Henry Ambrose, nephew, full age,
Mr. John Massey, nephew, full age,
Miss Pauline Massey, niece, full age,
Miss Effie Massey, niece, full age,
Mr. Morton Grove, nephew, full age, address unknown
Miss Katie Grove, niece, full age, address unknown
Mr. James Cook, nephew, age not known, address unknown
Miss Susie Cook, niece, age not known, address unknown
 United States Federal Census, 1870 and 1900.
 FXBD Z4(104):163, April 20, 1878.
Hellman, “Keyes House,”
 FX DB Q9(225):170, September 28, 1925.
 FXDB Z8(208):365, September 14, 1922.
 FXDB O9(223):68, April 29, 1910.
C. O’Neill, “
 United States Federal Census, 1910 and 1920.
 FXDB C8(185):544, February 14, 1917.