Grove C. Cook, a native of Kentucky, came to California in 1841 as a member of the Bidwell-Bartleson Party, the first overland emigrant wagon train to set out from the United States to cross the continent to the Pacific Slope.
The party was forced to abandon its wagons in eastern Nevada after blazing a trail across the desert immediately north of Great Salt Lake. The party, after detouring south along the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada in order to find a crossing, entered Mexican Alta California by a route which traversed the Sierra Nevada in the vicinity of Sonora Pass. They arrived at Dr. John Marsh's ranch at the base of Mt. Diablo in Contra Costa County on November 4, 1841, after an arduous journey of nearly six months.
Cook worked for John C. Sutter at Sutter's Fort in Sacramento for several years before settling in the Santa Clara Valley. He took part in the war with Mexico and in California's bid for statehood. He served on the alcalde's committee for the Pueblo de San Jose, operated a boarding house for a time, and was active in political affairs in California's early years.
In 1845 he bought the Rancho de los Capitancillos near San Jose on which the New Almaden quicksilver mine was later developed. He thus became the first American to own part of this historic mine. In recognition of this association, a piece of cinnabar ore, donated by the New Almaden Quicksilver County Park Association is affixed to the base of this monument.
His first wife, Sophronia, sister of the Sublette brothers of fur trapping fame, divorced him while he was enroute to California in 1841. At Sutter's Fort on December 28, 1854, he married Rebecca Kelsey, who had come overland to Oregon in 1843 and then to California the following year.
Several other early-day emigrants are also buried in Evergreen Cemetery. Among them are: William Blackburn, member of the Swasey-Todd Party of 1845; members of the Imus family of the Joseph Aram Party of 1846; and members of the Arcane family who braved Death Valley in 1849.
Cook died on February 15, 1852, while on a visit to Santa Cruz.
In cooperation with the Santa Cruz County Historical Trust, this marker has been placed by the California-Nevada-Hawaii Chapter of the Oregon-California Trails Association to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Bidwell-Bartleson Party.Oregon-California Trails AssociationSeptember 28, 1991
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