Harvey Toliver Cook was born on April 23, 1848, in Troy, SC. He attended a private subscription school for his primary and secondary education. After serving in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, he moved to Greenville, SC, to study at Furman University.
Cook supported himself while attending college by teaching in a private academy. He graduated in 1873 with the Bachelor of Philosophy degree and continued teaching while working on the Master of Arts. In September 1881, he joined the faculty at Furman as Professor of Greek and Latin. He served at Furman for a total of 37 years, where he was famous for his jokes and good humor.
Cook was a member of the First Baptist Church of Greenville from 1869 until his death, except for a brief hiatus when he helped to establish the Pendleton Street Baptist Church. He was an active participant and keen observer of denominational life. One lasting contribution was his effort in 1890 to establish a Baptist Historical Society in the state. Though that attempt was short-lived, he continued the work of preserving Baptist history. The materials that he collected and stored in a closet in the library on the old Furman campus form the nucleus of the present South Carolina Baptist Historical Collection at Furman University Special Collections and Archives.
Cook married Cornelia Agnes Carpenter on January 24, 1875. They had eight children: Lillian Cook Hunt, Jessie May, John, Lucia, Benjamin, Will, Robert Edwin, and Mary Octavia. Harvey T. Cook died in Greenville on February 8, 1943, at the age of 94.