Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Concert This Sunday

 Duet Concert

Sunday, October 23, 4:00 p.m.
Cooksville Lutheran Church

This special event is in honor of the 125th anniversary of the church.  Music includes hymn arrangements for audience and the duet along with music selections from Brigadoon,
The Fantasticks, Carousel, Gigi, and
Phantom of the Opera.

The concert is free and a
reception with goodies will follow.


Sunday, October 9, 2016

Cooksville Songs and Stories, 10/14/16

Join us in the English Barn at Cooksville Farmhouse Inn, 11203 N. State Rd 138, Evansville, WI, Friday, October 14, 7 p.m. for music, stories, treats, and an evening of October fun.  Folk, bluegrass, old country western, and classical Bohemian as well as stories of Halloween pranks and dark nights from the archives of 175 years of Cooksville history.  Refreshments follow.

Join us at 7.  Dress for the weather and bring a flashlight.  Free admission.  All are welcome.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The “Good Templars” in Cooksville

The Independent Order of Good Templars—an early American organization promoting alcohol abstinence— granted a charter to a group in Cooksville in 1861 to form its own Lodge, Number 123, named the “Rising Tide” Lodge. The signed charter, in poor condition, is in the Cooksville Archives with the faded names of about 31 “charter members” hand-written on the fragile paper document.
Cooksville's Good Templars Charter of 1861
In addition, a “Juvenile Temple” of the Independent Order of the Good Templars, apparently for younger people, was established on December 13, 1894, as Temple Number 63 named “Rising” with names of 37 young Cooksville members. This large, ornate, handsomely-framed charter is in excellent condition and is also in the Cooksville Archives. (It is unclear exactly what the special age qualifications were for “Juvenile” Temple members, if any.)
Cooksville's "Juvenile Temple" Charter of 1894
The minutes of Cooksville’s “Rising Tide” Lodge from October 10, 1885 to January 25, 1896, hand-written in a secretary’s ledger are in the Cooksville Archives and provide a glimpse of its activities.

The Good Templars Order, named after the crusader knights of a 12th century religious order in Jerusalem, was started in 1851 in New York State as a secret, ritualistic  society committed to a life-style totally free from alcohol. The Order was committed to “friendship (later changed to faith), hope and charity,” and it reflected the tradition of other early social, self-improvement, spiritual groups of the time. And it was politically charged to achieve its goal of freeing society of the “evils” of alcohol. (Apparently, Americans were consuming an average of almost 2 bottles of liquor per person per week by 1830.)
Evils of Alcohol cartoon, 19th Century
Cooksville’s Good Templars appear to have been very active, meeting almost every week, socializing and supporting members in their temperance cause, entertaining and educating themselves, and sharing their goals and their activities with others in the community. And they continually recruited new members. Generally, in the early years, 15-20 members attended the weekly meetings.

According to the existing local minutes, the Good Templars had a good time. They met regularly, free from alcohol, had lengthy programs, were very strict about everybody paying their dues, adhered to meeting rules and rituals, with all participating as officers or as various committee members. The Templars appears to have been very well-run, following rigid national rules of order and ritual, and was socially-active with enlightening cultural and educational programs. And lots of tea and lemonade were consumed.

The Cooksville chapter initially met in Van Vleck’s Hall above the Farm Implement Factory (Wisconsin’s first, demolished c.1928) that once stood on the corner of Webster and Dane streets. (The Hall was used for many occasions at various times, including as the Waucoma Academy for advanced learning and for some community meetings and parties, as well as for announcing breaking news about the Civil War from its second-story porch.) The group also met in the Masonic Lodge above the present General Store and in the second-story room of the existing Cheese Factory. Eventually in 1879 the new Congregational Church basement parlor became its headquarters, which the Good Templars helped to furnish with lanterns, an organ and firewood. The group held popular Oyster Suppers (at one such supper 80 tickets were sold) as well as seasonal Maple Sugar Dinners for themselves and for the public, with “entertainments” to raise money for their needs.

For instance, the minutes for meetings in1886 indicate that one “Maple Sugar” supper was enjoyed at a meeting with 16 attending and $1.45 contributed, and that the Cooksville Lodge sent greetings to the newly-formed Lodge in Fulton, and that the Lodge accepted 75 cents from the Cooksville Library Association for its “use of the Lodge’s wood and lights” for the Library’s meetings. At the end of the Good Templar meetings there were entertainments: songs and “choruses,” instrumental music, recitations of poems, posed tableaus, readings of newspaper clippings by members and other such contributions by members, all done after the business portion of the meeting, which indicates very full and enjoyable evenings.

The brief formal minutes do not indicate any special prohibition or temperance projects, but, of course, the main purpose of the Good Templars was to support each other, to improve and enhance members’ lives and to generally promote their ideals of abstinence, no doubt by setting good examples for each other and for the community.  Perhaps the Good Templars may have succeeded in tempering the alcohol drinking habits of some citizens in Cooksville.

The members did provide funds for refurbishing (and heating and cleaning) the various meeting halls they used, with monies from their dues and funds received from their public parties and entertainments. Perhaps other charitable efforts may have been undertaken now and then but were not described in the existing minutes.

A comment in an unidentified (Evansville?) and undated (c.1876) newspaper clipping applauded the local Good Templars’ efforts for another special reason: “Old folks sometimes say that the Good Templars lodge is a sparking institution for the young folks, and here are some of the facts: Our lodge has had a good healthy existence for a little more than fifteen years, and there has been married from its ranks fifteen couples, besides quite a number of odd halves, or, as the Quakers say, marrying out. Can any lodge show a better record in this respect? And possibly it is better for the girls to pick up husbands here, than from the grog shops.”

The membership grew greatly in the late 19th century, apparently assisted by the new younger “juvenile” Good Templar members.(If male and under 16 years old, they had their quarterly dues lowered from forty cents to twenty-five cents; no indication if females paid more or less than that amount.) At a meeting on January 12, 1895, “8 gallons of oysters were disposed of and a barrel of crackers was cleared.” And on February 16, 1895, “Members present 83. Lodge closed in ritual form.”  Attendance in winter was always greater.
Waucoma House, 1850, inn and tavern, recent sketch

The Village of Cooksville had two taverns during the past 175 years of its history. The first was the stagecoach inn named “Waucoma House” (built c.1850 and demolished c.1913), which served as a tavern and hotel and, later in the 19th century, as a harness shop and a dressmakers shop, and was located on the corner of Main and Rock streets (Highways 138 and 59). The second later tavern was a small frame building erected on the same site about 1915 as a meat-market, then a liquor-licensed tavern, and finally used as a residence until about 1947 when it was moved to the western edge of Cooksville as a home for Paul Savage, later to be remodeled in the 1970s by Karl Wolter as his home.

The Archives records do not reveal the activities of the Good Templars of Cooksville as the 20th century began—and as the older original members and pioneers of Cooksville’s settlement passed on. The Good Templars’ minutes in the Archives end on January 25, 1896, thirty-five years after the “Rising Tide” Lodge first was organized in Cooksville. Undoubtedly, the efforts of the group continued on into the 20th century, perhaps more vigorously because the national temperance and prohibition movement succeeded in the passage of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting the production and sale of alcohol in 1920.
Prohibition photo, unidentified

However, Prohibition lasted only 13 tumultuous years and was repealed by the 21st Amendment to the Constitution in 1933. There are at present no taverns in Cooksville, but apparently consumption of wine, beer and whisky occurs now and then in the village.

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[The Cooksville Archives welcomes additional materials. Contact Larry Reed (608) 873-5066.]

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Isaac Hoxie’s Cooksville Cemetery Story: “The Home of the Dead”

Isaac A. Hoxie (1825-1903)

Isaac Hoxie (1825-1903) wrote an article about his visit to the Cooksville Cemetery while attending the “Old Folks picnic” in the summer of 1901 in Cooksville. (The Old Folks or Old Settlers’ Reunions would continue for another fifty years.)

Hoxie’s article is a touching remembrance of his family and friends who once settled, lived, died and were buried in the Cooksville cemetery.

Hoxie had come to Cooksville with his parents from Maine in 1846, along with his five sisters and brothers including Benjamin, who would become Cooksville’s prominent architect, builder, carpenter and one of Wisconsin’s important horticulturists.
Benjamin Hoxie House, built c.1852
 Isaac helped his brother Benjamin in their thriving door, sash and shutter manufacturing business in Cooksville in the 1840s-50s, which provided the new settlers in the area with the needed doors, windows and “blinds” for their new homes and commercial buildings.  Later, Isaac went into the newspaper business, establishing and operating a number of local newspapers including Evansville’s first newspaper, the Citizen, in 1866, and later the Evansville Review, as well as the Oconomowoc Local and the Deerfield Enterprise. Eventually, Isaac operated a clothing store and owned several buildings in Evansville.
Hoxie's printing press: oldest in Wisconsin

While in the newspaper business in Evansville, Isaac Hoxie operated the oldest printing press in Wisconsin, a Ramage Printing Press manufactured in Philadelphia in 1851-54. The press, previously used by others in the state, was donated by his son Wilbur to the Wisconsin Historical Society in the 1880s, where it remains. 

After Isaac visited the Cooksville Cemetery that day in 1901, he wrote his article entitled, The Home of the Dead, describing his visit and his thoughts. Here are some of his words:

“While attending the Old Folk’s picnic in Cooksville….I visited the old cemetery where were buried the kindred and loved ones of my family, and noticed the many changes that time has wrought in the years since I made [Cooksville] my home in 1846. Then I was only a boy in my minority. The cemetery was neither located nor platted [then], but the early death of a Mr. Hammond from the state of Maine, who coming west to visit friends, met death early, making it necessary that some suitable location should be made …One after another dropping away still no location was made and graves were dug just the same but with little regard to order... and it was not until Dr. Porter died that a cemetery was permanently located and the ground properly laid out [in 1861].

“It was to the southeastern corner under embowering pines and matted foliage my attention was particularly directed. Here I found an unpretentious slab bearing the chiseled name of my father, Allen Hoxie, who died February 26, 1862, aged 65 years, with this further beautiful inscription: ‘My faith is knowledge now.’ The next grave was that of my mother who died some years later, and bore the simple inscription ‘Our Mother’—Olivia Hoxie, wife of Allen Hoxie, died Sept. 8, 1876, aged 79 years…
Allen Hoxie (1797-1876) tombstone

“Nearly hidden by soughing [moaning] pines and creeping vines were the remains of her [his wife] who plighted her troth, came west, and bore life’s burdens with me from April 14, 1852 to May 22, 1896,—44 short and happy years. We began our new life in Cooksville, and it was fitting that her remains should here find a resting place. She is gone! no longer shrinks from the winter’s winds, or lift[s] her calm, pure forehead to summer’s kisses. But as the ashes of the oak is no epitaph to tell what flock it has sheltered, the dust of her grave is speechless, yet her noble deeds and Christian life are ever bright upon the silent tablet of memory….

“As I stood by the graves of the departed ones, on this beautiful autumn I could scarcely refrain a tear while looking back through the vista of fifty-five years—beautiful years, when I made Cooksville my home, silently exclaiming what marvelous changes God has wrought….

“But I must hasten away to the banqueting hall, for the little village is already astir with teams and gaily dressed people to pay homage to months and years long gone bye.

“In song and story this little nook in the northwestern portion of Rock county has ever borne an honorable record. From its founders, John Cook, the Porter family and a host of others who made our representative hall and temple of justice fervid with eloquence, have lived and whose remains find a resting place here.”  [signed] I. A. Hoxie.
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[This clipping from an unidentified newspaper, probably the Evansville Review, is part of the Cooksville Archives. The Cooksville Cemetery, the Isaac Hoxie House, and the Benjamin Hoxie House are part of the Cooksville Historic District.  The Cooksville Archives welcomes donations of papers, photographs, objects, etc., related to Cooksville’s history. Larry Reed.]

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

More Anniversaries to Celebrate in Old Cooksville… by Larry Reed

This year 2016, and next year in 2017, the Village of Cooksville celebrates a number of special but lesser-known important anniversaries as the community remembers its early formal establishment 175 years ago. (A previous story in the Cooksville News Blog of April 28, 2016, lists a number of major mile-stones in the village’s history.) 

It’s not just the major anniversaries of the village’s early “birth dates”—two of them!— of 1842 and 1846 that are to be celebrated: those dates when Cooksville was first founded by the Cook brothers175 years ago and four years later when its large contiguous neighbor, the Village of Waucoma, was founded by the Porter brothers. 

Or that important and famous “non-event” event of 1857, the year the railroad did not come to Cooksville. That would be 160 years ago when it didn’t happen, thus helping to preserve much of the village’s early and historic architecture and atmosphere. 

Ralph Warner at his "House Next Door"
But also important is an event 105 years ago, in 1911, the year Ralph Lorenzo Warner arrived, purchasing the Duncan House, which he named the “House Next Door” (next door to his friend Susan Porter’s home, “Waucoma Lodge”). Warner’s restoration efforts soon put old Cooksville on the map in local, state, and national publications with his creation of an antique house filled with antiques and set in antique gardens, all of which he shared with friends, neighbors, journalists and a large interested public who experienced something new and intriguing in his historic home filled with historic objects and who experienced his shared and charming antiquarian attitude. And, thus, historic preservation began in Cooksville (and Wisconsin) 105 years ago.

Also notable is the year when electricity first came to Cooksville —and that would be 100 years ago in 1917. That is when an electric power line was run from the Stebbinsville power dam on the Yahara River west to Cooksville. Folks were given the first opportunity to sign up for that new-fangled source of light, and the Congregational Church and five households signed up. (But candles and kerosene were probably kept handy, just as they still are today.)

Cooksville School House, c. 1910

Also, the present one-room School House, now the Cooksville Community Center, was built 130 years ago in 1886, to replace the original old, small, deteriorating brick school house. Also something to celebrate.

And 2017 will mark 55 years ago, in 1962, that the Cooksville Community Center was formed and purchased the one-room School House from the discontinued School District. The CCC was established as a non-profit, charitable, membership organization, and the historic School House on the Public Square is still the setting for various programs, celebrations, wedding receptions, family reunions and meetings.

"Friends Celebrating?" an unidentified and undated tintype
All these historical events, added to the others, have made the Village of Cooksville the charming, interesting, lovely, atmospheric, living and lively community that it is. Thanks to people, past and present, the now exists and will continue to celebrate many more anniversaries in the future. History is always being made in the village!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Join Us for an Evening of Story and Song in Cooksville

Fendrick and Peck, a folk duo, will perform at Cooksville Farmhouse Inn's English Barn on Friday, September 9th at 7:30 pm.  They are local artists with roots in Stoughton, WI and have performed all across the country.

Skip Anderson, winner of the 2015 Best Music Writing Award, states, "Fendrick & Peck harken back to the glory days of American folk music—stringed and strong. With inventive songsmithing and well-paired vocals...the duo reminds us why the genre continues to redefine its glorious, and refreshingly humble, relevance." 

Check out the performers at their website to listen to their music:

A suggested donation of $20 is much appreciated for the performers, but not required, especially for families with children.  Dress for the weather because the barn has "farmer stained glass" and is not weather-proof.  For more information call (608) 772-2550.

"Fendrick & Peck are future legends and presently merely amazing with their originals and occasional covers.”–The Coffee House (Milwaukee, WI)
Fendrick and Peck's Lucky Penny was selected as CD of the week by DJ Rich Warren of the Midnight Special Nov. 28, 2015 (Chicago, IL).

"Fendrick and Peck are a hard traveling, neo-traditionalist folk duo....  They released Lucky Penny this year, and it is one of my favorites of the year." -Ear To The Ground Music Blog, 2015 (Nashville, TN)

English Barn, Degner property, 138 & 59 in Cooksville
Farmer Stained Glass
"Perhaps one of the most talked about acts to appear at NERFA this year was the duo of Fendrick and Peck. There was a “buzz” generated by their performance on Thursday night that built all weekend. Folk radio mainstay Mary Cliff from Washington DC met this duo and invited them to come to NERFA. Wisconsin natives, currently residing in Nashville, Fendrick and Peck are the contemporary embodiment of what makes American folk music so intriguing. Their original songs could easily be confused for ancient ballads that were treasured by folk song collectors during the folk revival. There is a refreshing old time sensibility to their songs that can easily be accessed by contemporary audiences. Madeline Fendrick has a gorgeous voice and a delightful sense of humor that wins over audiences. Brian Peck displays a respectful understanding of the traditions that can be found in his instrumentals as well as his songwriting. It is encouraging to find new artists like this and I hope they will get support from the folk community so that we can have more chances to witness their performances." -Ron Olesko's Folk Music Notebook