HISTORIC: Old Clemmons homeplace has a colorful past

By Ann Sheek

The oldest house on the eastern side of Clemmons is the Cook-Bingham House. The house, at 3907 Hampton Road just off U.S. 158, was built sometime between the early 1800s and 1839. It is owned by heirs of the late Hal Bingham, who bought the historic house in 1947. According to Cook family tradition and some local historians, the house was built for a bride as a wedding present. The bride supposedly was Nancy Jarvis (1823-1919), daughter of James and Sarah Cheshier Jarvis, who was married in 1839 to Jacob Cook (1814-1859). She was the only girl in a family of 10 children, and outlived all her brothers.

The May 1, 1919, issue of The Union Republican newspaper in Winston-Salem gives the obituary of Nancy Cook. The article states: ''She was married to Jacob Cook, Nov. 11, 1839 and ever afterwards lived at the old Cook home near Clemmons, where her husband was born and reared.'' This suggests, of course, that the house was there before the Cooks' marriage. The great-granddaughter of Jacob and Nancy Cook, Jane Cook Corn of Mauldin, S.C., said that her research revealed that Jacob Cook owned 123 acres around this homeplace, which would include a large portion of the central part of Clemmons. Cook also owned a large farm on Muddy Creek. Corn believes that the house was probably built before the marriage and that Jacob had inherited it.

Old deeds of the Cook property were registered in Davidson County and destroyed by a courthouse fire, so the exact date of construction cannot be established for the house. However, when the house was sold in 1919, the deed states that the land had been owned by Jacob Cook for 80 years or more. The house is a two-story brick structure in the Greek Revival style. Bricks are laid in common bond, and the house features exterior-end chimneys and a hipped roof. A boxed cornice and sawn work frieze accent the roof line, and a transom and sidelights surround the front door. Walls in the house are three bricks thick, according to Clemmons resident Diane Bingham McGee, one of the owners of the house. She said that her father, Hal Bingham, had built a kitchen addition to the house in the 1950s, and that there are four rooms downstairs and four rooms upstairs.  McGee says that a date on the house chimney reads 18?5, with the third number illegible.

Jacob and Nancy Cook's children were born from 1841 to 1858, according to their great-granddaughter. One son died in infancy. The children were: James (a Confederate veteran); Alpha (killed in Civil War at Cedar Creek battle in Virginia); Alexander (who lived at the homeplace as a farmer); Sarah (never married); Mary, who married Carlos Strupe; Simeon (a farmer); Frank (a farmer, magistrate, teacher, who also ran a cannery and brickyard) and Jacob (a carpenter and contractor).  In 1859, Jacob Cook Sr. accidentally fell from the barn loft behind his home and died from his injuries. His youngest child was only 1 year old at the time of his death, and his 36-year-old widow Nancy continued to live with her children on the farm. Nancy Cook lived to be 96 years old, surviving most of her children. She was a member of the Muddy Creek Baptist congregation.  When this church was moved to Clemmons, she gave land for a church and in 1874, for a cemetery on the corner of what is now Stadium Drive and U.S. 158. When the first Sunday school of this church was organized in 1876, Nancy Cook was a primary-age teacher.

In 1902 when a new brick Baptist church was built, Nancy's son Frank was on the building committee. Cook family tradition has it that the bricks from this church were made in Frank Cook's brickyard, which was near the site of the present Clemmons Milling Co. This oldest part of the present-day church has been demolished.

Corn says that her research revealed that the Cook homeplace and land were mortgaged in 1884 to a J.C. Wharton for $300. The mortgage was paid off in 1902. Corn said that times were very difficult for the Cook family during this period of time, but they worked diligently to hold on to their land.  The family retained ownership of the property until Nancy Cook's death in 1919, when her household goods, house and land surrounding it were sold at auction to Charles M. Hooper. He kept the homeplace until 1947, when he sold the house to Hal Bingham. Hooper sold other former Cook land to various people, including T.H. Haywood for Arden Farm.

Printed in Winston-Salem Journal on 2 April 1998.