Saline Presbyterian Church was Founded in New York

 02/08/2016 - 14:16

Peter Cook and his wife Rachel were such devout Presbyterians, they were willing to take their church from New York to the frontiers of Michigan.

The couple joined forces with several other families, with last names including Kanouse and Hathaway, and established a church on May 22, 1831. Then they all boarded a boat on the Erie Canal with their children and a few belongings, then took another boat to Detroit, like a floating church headed for Saline.

Each of the families bought land in northeast York Township, around Willis Road and Warner Road.

The little band of Presbyterians wasted no time finding a spot in Saline to build a little wood frame house of worship. The elders were David Hathaway, Peter Cook, and his son Jacob Cook. All three of them had been chosen for their positions back in New York.


Before they were able build their wooden church, they held services in homes, stores, and schools.

Their first church was constructed by local contractor Daniel Wallace, who built the “Wallace Block” of downtown Saline on the east side of South Ann Arbor Street.

Not long after arriving in York Township, the band of Presbyterians unfortunately had to find a place to bury their loved ones. For example, in 1837, one of the Kellogg girls died; she is among the first who was buried in the Cook Cemetery.

This little graveyard is a charming treasure on Warner Road south of Willis Road.

Peter Cook, born in 1776, lived in that corner of York Township near Saline, and lived to be 85. His wife, Rachel, is buried beside him at Cook Cemetery, and she also lived into her 80s.

Peter’s son Jacob has a grave marker listing him has “Hon. Jacob Cook” because he served in the Michigan Legislature. Jacob held various positions with York Township including Justice of the Peace, in addition to his efforts on behalf of the Presbyterian Church in Saline.

Jacob’s son, Peter Cook “Jr.” was a small child when he came to Michigan from New York with his parents and grandparents. He lived in a log cabin most of his life. Sometime in the 1860s or 1870s  he had a frame home built on the south side of Willis Road.

The younger Peter Cook was elected to the Michigan legislature, just like his father, in 1872. Then in 1878, when the Ann Arbor Railroad built its tracks near his home, he got himself appointed postmaster of the “Urania” train station at Willis Road.

There was no actual town by the name of Urania. There was only a train station. The station was simply named after Urania Richards, whose husband had donated money to build the train station.

The original Presbyterian founders were long gone by 1898 when church members erected a stone and brick edifice, which still stands. It was built on the same spot as the first wooden church.

Thanks to Robert Lane, the Saline Historical Society, and Donna Cook Bradbury of Moscow, Idaho, who told me she is related to every single person in the Cook Cemetery.

Martha Churchill is a local historian and the author of several books about local history. She can be contacted at [email protected].

Martha Churchill
Martha Churchill is an attorney, author, and local historian who resides in Milan. Visit her website at