This region was once home to Oto and Missouri Indians, who ceded their land to the government before Nebraska Territory was created in 1854. White settlers arrived in 1857 and founded a town and post office named Helena about four miles west of here. Spring Creek Post Office was established in 1868 about two miles to the southeast. A settlement named Bob Town, with a school, a church, and a few businesses, grew up nearby. When the Crete branch of the Missouri Pacific Railroad was built along the south fork of the Little Nemaha River in 1888, the rails bypassed Helena and Bob Town. John William Cook founded a new town named after his father, Andrew Cook Sr., on the railroad right-of-way. Spring Creek Post Office moved to Cook; Helena and Bob Town disappeared.
Cook had about fifty residents when the first train arrived in November 1888, and the village incorporated in 1891. Because of many artesian wells nearby, Cook became known as "Artesian City."