Inducted in 1998
The immediate family members and descendants of George B. and Emma (Rader) Cooke figure prominently in every aspect of the origins, birth, and early development of the Ellensburg Rodeo. Whether in positions of high-level administrative and financial leadership, or positioned aboard the backs of bucking broncs, the Cookes are part of the Ellensburg Rodeo tradition. And the beginnings of the Cookes’ important family story lie in pre-Civil War America.
Family historian Marion Cooke Hayes writes that her great-grandfather Charles P. Cooke was born in Ohio in 1827 and served in the Mexican-American War. He crossed the Great Plains via wagon train bound for California in 1849 and, in 1851, married Susan Brewster in Salem, Oregon. Cooke moved on to Washington Territory in 1868, where he served as Yakima County Auditor and in the Territorial Legislature and Council. In 1870 the Cookes herded 175 cattle over the Saddle Mountains and into the Kittitas Valley, where Charles established a working ranch and was elected County Commissioner. He died in 1888 and Susan died in 1921, survived by a family of nine which included their seventh son, George B. Cooke.
George B. Cooke was born in Polk County, Oregon, in 1864 and came of age on his father’s Kittitas Valley cattle ranch. In 1884 he wed Emma Rader, a Californian whose family, like the Cookes, were pioneers who had braved the overland trail journey west. With Charles’ help, the young couple (George was twenty and she fifteen) worked their ranch up the Naneum into a sizeable spread. Six of their ten children lived to maturity—Katie, Chester, Guy, Florence, Ruby, and Lloyd. Guy’s oldest boy—George B.—lived briefly with his namesake as a youth and remembered a big rambling house with men and women constantly coming and going and “many meetings held at the house.” In the early 1920s, the men who attended those meetings founded the Ellensburg Rodeo.
George B. Cooke was one of the community leaders who joined Leonard Davis, Doc Pfenning, and Cliff Kaynor to give birth to the first Ellensburg Rodeo. Family historian Marion Cooke Hayes writes “he was one of the organizers of the Rodeo and furnished cows, calves, and steers during its early years. He served on the Rodeo Board of Directors from 1924-26…George and his son Guy helped build the rodeo’s first bucking chutes.” George’s grandchildren remember seeing their grandfather “carrying the flag and riding a beautiful horse with a silver saddle at the head of the rodeo parade.” George B. Cooke died just three years after the first Ellensburg Rodeo, in 1926.
All six of George B. and Emma Rader Cooke’s children, and their grandchildren as well, retained an interest or involvement in the cattle business and rodeo. Katie Cooke Bull moved to Calgary, Alberta, where her husband Charles served on the Board of the Calgary Stampede. Lloyd Cooke rode broncs in the first (’23) Ellensburg Rodeo, placing third; he and his sister Florence also rode in the rodeo’s nighttime historical pageant. Lloyd followed the rodeo road for several years thereafter, riding (and winning) in New York’s famed Madison Square Garden Rodeo. Later, Lloyd’s son Kenny carried on the family tradition as a 1950s RCA bareback competitor and employee of Christian Brothers Rodeo Stock Contractors.
Guy Cooke became a rancher like his father and grandfather. He also succeeded his father on the Ellensburg Rodeo Board and in furnishing stock to the rodeo. Guy’s five children were George B. (II), Marion, Eva, Louise, and Glen, all of whom were active in the Fair and Rodeo. Glenn competed in the Kittitas Valley roping event and eventually bought his father’s ranch and raised purebred Hereford cattle. George B. became a Montana cattle buyer.
Thus, all of the Cookes have left a legacy to the Rodeo that can be traced back to their nineteenth century pioneer forbearers. Perhaps Guy Cooke best expressed his family’s loyalties to the ranch and rodeo way of life when, upon being named Kittitas County Cattleman of the Year in 1953, he stated, “I am no farmer. The farm implement I use most is the saddle and horse.”