Nebraska Authors

James Henry Cook

Born 1857-08-26 MI (USA)

Died 1942-01-27
Agate Springs, NE (USA)

Lincoln, NE (USA)
Wyuka Cemetery

Cook, raised in Michigan, went west to Texas in the 1870s and became a cowboy at a time when American cowboys were still learning their trade from the Mexicans, capturing wild cattle in the Llano Estacado in southwest Texas and driving them north to sell at railheads or ranches in Kansas and Colorado. He survived many cattle drives. He served as a scout for the U.S. military in the Apache uprising. He moved north and worked as a market hunter out of Colorado and Wyoming, selling game to the railroads and hotels. He built a business as a hunting guide to wealthy English aristocrats and the American rich.

Even before he settled on fossil rich land in Nebraska, he met and befriended some of America's most distinguished geologists and paleontologists, including Ferdinand Hayden, Clarence King, and the dueling paleontologists Edward Cope and O.C. Marsh. He acquired the Old 04 Ranch in the Niobrara valley by marriage and expanded and built it into the Agate Springs Ranch. He welcomed paleontologists to excavate the unique fossils on the ranch, and his son Harold J. Cook became a distinguished paleontologist.

James H. Cook's memoir Fifty Years on the Old Frontier, 1923, is especially interesting because it recounts his 35 year friendship with the Oglala Lakota Sioux chief Red Cloud. He probably knew Red Cloud better than any other white man. Red Cloud and his band visited Cook on the Agate Springs Ranch on many occasions and for a time the Sioux tried mightily, without success, to have Cook appointed as their Indian Agent. Cook was also a friend of the Northern Cheyenne.

In 1965 the National Park Service acquired land from the Cook family for Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. Thomas Myers, curator of anthropology for the University of Nebraska State Museum at UNL, was awarded a contract in 1988 to identify, describe and catalog artifacts, photographs and documents from the James H. Cook collection.


Places Lived

Agate Springs Ranch, NE
New Mexico

Author Of

  • Biography
  • Nonfiction


Reminiscences; Memoirs; Ranching History; Native Americans; Frontier Settlement


Big Game Hunter
Native American Scout

Places Worked

Agate Springs Ranch, NE


Father of Harold Cook
Friend of Red Cloud


Wild Horses of the Plains. 1919.
Fifty Years on the Old Frontier. 1923.
Longhorn Cowboy. 1942 and 1984.
Cowboy, Hunter, Guide, Scout and Ranchman. 1957.

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James Henry Cook

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(e.g. Author is buried in Fremont, not in David City / Also wrote for the Daily Nebraskan during her time as a student)