Sturkie Family History
Adventures of John Ira Sturkie

How John Ira Eloped with Mary Eliza Cook


John Ira Sturkie, son of Benjamin J. Sturkie, was a young cowboy who sought his fortune in west Texas where he worked for Rev John Franklin Cook, a wealthy rancher and preacher, who owned 50,000 to 60,000 acres. While he worked for Rev. Cook, he met and fell in love with Mary Eliza, the oldest daughter of John Franklin and his second wife, Mary Hart Cook. When the young cowhand asked permission to marry Mary Eliza, Rev. Cook refused the couple permission to marry. His reason was that Mary was used to the best and that John Ira was just a poor cowboy with nothing to his name but the brush-tailed pony he rode. Trying to be patient, the young couple decided to wait a month and ask again hoping Mary Eliza's father would change his mind.

When asked again, Rev. Cook declared that his word was final and refused to consent to the couple's marriage. Disheartened, John Ira collected his pay and prepared to leave for Dublin. Before he left, however, the pair hatched a plan to elope. Back in Erath County, the young cowhand borrowed a new wagon and got his brother, Lloyd Olen Sturkie, to return to West Texas and drive the team for the eloping pair.

The return trip took four days. Upon arrival, John Ira stopped about a mile from the Cook ranch house. It was late evening and Mary was expecting him. He walked the mile to the house waiting till John Franklin Cook went to bed. Mary had her hogback trunk packed. At ten p.m. he turned the knob on the door and walked into the ranch house, removing his shoes so as not to make a sound. He carried the trunk to where he had left his shoes and the two slipped out the front door.

John Ira and Mary Eliza arrived at Bell Plains just after sun up. A neighbor by the name of Austin, a Carmelite preacher, was a judge at Bell Plains. After purchasing the marriage license, the two were married and left for Dublin and then moved to Proctor, Texas. Family legend is that John Franklin Cook never forgave Mary for eloping and disinherited her. However, copies of Reverend Cook's wills do not support this part of the story.

In Proctor, Texas, John Ira and Mary bought an old log house (16 x 16) for 15 dollars and moved it log by log to rebuild it as a new house with a shingle roof , a gallery in front and a lean-to on the north side for a kitchen. The house had a rock chimney.*

*Story from 1969 interview with W.D. Sturkie, son of John Ira Sturkie