John R. Cook was born in Clear Creek, Ohio in 1825. At age 24 he moved to Wolf Lake, Indiana and opened a store. He became a man of wealth through investments in land and railroad stock. “In 1856 he removed to Rochester and embarked in the dry goods, grocery and hardware business, and for several years was one of the leading business men as a merchant in southern Minnesota. In 1864, having sold out his mercantile interest, he became the prime mover in the organization of the First National Bank, of which he was the principal owner.” He died in 1880, having earned the respect and esteem of the citizens of Rochester.