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Willis and Lyman Cook

Few people had a greater impact on Woonsocket's industrial development than brothers Willis and Lyman Cook.

Sons of Levi and Rhoda Cook, Willis and Lyman were born in Cumberland on September 5, 1803 and December 15, 1805 respectively. Levi Cook was a prosperous farmer and member of the General Assembly. Being close in age, the brothers worked together on the farm and attended school together in the winter. Leaving home at the age of majority, they learned the machinist's trade and came to work in the shop of Thomas Arnold in Woonsocket.

Cook Block on Main Street in the 1890's from the Woonsocket Library Historical Collection In 1828, Willis and Lyman formed a partnership with Willing Vose and established a foundry and machine shop under the name Willing Cook & Company. The company produced textile machinery on Main Street on the current site of the Ballou Harris Lippitt Mill until the business was destroyed by fire in 1835. After the fire, Willis and Lyman relocated their business further down Main Street to the current site of the Commercial Building. The business became known as the Woonsocket Foundry Company.

In 1868, Willis and Lyman ended their long and profitable partnership when they sold the Woonsocket Foundry Company to Simeon S. Cook. That business continued to grow and eventually became the Woonsocket Machine & Press Company, the largest manufacturer of fly frames in the world. Willis retained the partnership's real estate interests, and Lyman retained the manufacturing interests. In 1868, the brothers built the Cook Block on Main Street. Located across from the current City Hall, the Cook Block was one of the finest buildings on Main Street.

Willis Cook from the Woonsocket Library Historical Collection In politics, Willis was an active opponent of the Dorr party. He was President of the Smithfield Union Bank and was one of the original incorporators of the Woonsocket Institution for Savings. He was also a director of the Woonsocket Gas Company and the American Worsted Company. He served several terms in the General Assembly and was an active member and supporter of the Woonsocket Universalist Church.

Lyman Cook House from the Woonsocket Library Historical Collection Lyman was active in several other manufacturing interests that contributed greatly to the city of Woonsocket. He was one of the original incorporators of the Bailey Wringer Company and the Woonsocket Rubber Company. He was President of the Woonsocket National Bank, the Hautine Sewing Machine Company (a predecessor to the Taft-Peirce Manufacturing Company), the Woonsocket Nail Company and the Woonsocket Institution for Savings. He was also a director of the Providence Worcester Railroad. Lyman served two terms in the General Assembly was active in the Baptist Church and later in the Episcopal Church.

This site utilizes information from:

  • History of Providence County Rhode Island edited by Richard M. Bayles and published by W. W. Peston & Co., New York, 1891
  • History of Woonsocket written by E. Richardson and published by S.S. Fosse Printers, Woonsocket, 1876 (printed by Higginson Book Company, Salem, MA)

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