This pectoral cross belonged to Msgr. Thomas Cooke, the first bishop of the diocese of Trois-Rivières (1852-1870).

A pectoral cross is worn by ecclesiastical authorities, including bishops.

Usually held by a chain around the neck, the cross is worn at chest level, hence the term “pectoral,” and is clearly visible on the outside of the clothing.

As for Thomas Cooke, he was born on February 9, 1792, in Pointe-du-Lac, a suburb of Trois-Rivières. His mother was named Isabelle Guay; his father, Thomas Cook, was of Irish origin. The latter, also named John Thomas, secretly embarked on a ship bound for North America, planning to settle there. Thomas was discovered during the journey and attracted the captain’s sympathy. The latter, upon safe arrival, entrusted the young Cook to one of his friends who lived on Saint Helen’s Island, near Montreal. This friend would teach the young Irishman the miller’s trade at the mill that the influential William Grant (1744 in Scotland-1805 in Quebec City) had built there around 1778-1779. Shortly thereafter, as the seigneur of Pointe-du-Lac, Thomas Coffin (1762-1841), the husband of Marguerite Godefroy de Tonnancour, made it known that he needed a miller at his seigneurial mill, and Thomas Cook offered his services. There, he met Isabelle Guay, also known as Élisabeth, whom he married on September 6, 1790. They had at least nine children: Thomas (1791-1791), Thomas (1792), Marie-Pauline (1793), André (1795), Marguerite (1796), Pierre (1799), Jean-Baptiste Richard (1801), Brigitte Émilie (1802-1804), and Marie Anastasie (1804).

A valued citizen, Cook the miller met a tragic end. He drowned in December 1808 while attempting to cross the Saint-Maurice River between Trois-Rivières and Cap-de-la-Madeleine at nightfall. According to Le Bulletin des recherches historiques, volume XXXIX from February 1933, which recounts, among other things, a few lines from the book Les Ursulines des Trois-Rivières depuis leur établissement jusqu’à nos jours, third tome, published in 1898, page 22, it might have been a deliberate action taken by an unsavoury associate, but light has never been shed on all the circumstances of this tragedy.

Whatever the case may be, Thomas, the son, who was studying at the Séminaire de Québec, was devastated when, much like his brothers and sisters, he learned of the death of his father, whose body was never recovered. In November 1806, they had lost their mother at the age of 33.

Despite being of Irish Catholic origin, Thomas, the son, added an “e” to the end of his family name. After attending the colleges of Nicolet, Québec, and Saint-Hyacinthe, Thomas Cooke was ordained as a priest by Msgr. Joseph Octave Plessis on September 9, 1814.

His ecclesiastical career began in Rivière-Ouelle (1814-1818). From 1818 to 1824, he was the parish priest of Caraquet and served Tracadie, New Brunswick. He returned to Lower Canada in 1824 and served as parish priest of Jeune-Lorette until 1835. Then, he was appointed parish priest of Trois-Rivières (1835-1852). Upon his arrival in the latter city, he was appointed vicar general and, seventeen years later, elected first bishop of the new diocese.

Msgr. Cooke died on April 30, 1870.

Musée Pierre-Boucher Collection
1979 562 M