Sunday, October 12, 2014

Historic Cooksville Trust Celebrates 15th Anniversary

Historic Cooksville Trust brochure
The Historic Cooksville Trust, Inc., founded in 1999, is celebrating 15 years of assisting historic preservation in the Village of Cooksville and the surroundings area.

The Trust was incorporated as a private, non-profit, tax-exempt charitable organization in Wisconsin under federal IRS Code 501(c) (3) as a non-membership organization with a goal of preserving and conserving the historic heritage of Cooksville.

To carry out its mission, the Historic Cooksville Trust seeks donations of private funds, property, and historic easements. Donations to the Trust are tax deductible. Recently, three acres of nearby farmland and a historic house in Cooksville were donated to the Trust, in addition to funding for various preservation projects. The Trust also collects and maintains important archival materials (photographs and documents) and historical and cultural artifacts (paintings, furniture, books, pottery, etc.) that relate to the history and culture of the Cooksville community. 

Lutheran Church steeple project, 2004
The Graves Blacksmith Shop
So far the Trust has assisted nine preservation projects with grants of funds totaling about $60,000. The major projects have included assistance with rehabilitating the historic Blackman-Woodbury House, assistance with the re-construction of the Graves Blacksmith Shop, assistance with the restoration of the Cooksville Lutheran Church steeple, assistance to the Cooksville Community Center roof replacement project, and the funding for the installation of water and a rest-room for the first time in the history of the Cooksville General Store.

Other projects that received financial assistance from the Trust include the Community Center’s “Carving on the Commons” event, the Preserve Our Rural Landscape Celebration, and the Research and Letter Compilation for Opposition to the Cell Tower project. Also funded have been various educational materials, brochures and newsletters for the Trust.

Cooksville General Store, 2010
At present, the Historic Cooksville Trust has a 12-member Board of Directors with an additional six Honorary Board Members and an ex-officio legal counsel. The present Board members are Vicki Ballweg, Bob Degner, Steve Ehle, Lynne Eich, Will Fellows, Carl Franseen, Dennis Kittleson, Mary Kohlman, Rick Mackie, Mike McConville, Larry Reed and Nancy Remley. Honorary members include Greg Armstrong, Ellsworth Brown, Jim Danky, Katie Ryan, Patrick Ryan and Shirley Wilde. The Trust’s counsel is Marney Hoefer of Stafford Rosenbaum LLP.

The Trust offers information about the history of Cooksville and its early settlement, as well as preservation advice to persons about the state and federal income tax credits available for rehabilitating historic buildings and about standards for the treatment of historic buildings and sites. The Trust also offers group tours of Historic Cooksville upon request.

The Cooksville Historic District, in the “Town that Time Forgot,” consists of about 35 historic and architectural buildings, structures and sites within the village. In addition, eight historic properties are located within a two-mile radius outside the village. These properties were listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and 1980. The Cooksville Historic District is also locally designated under Town of Porter zoning.

[For more information, contact Larry Reed at (608) 873-5066.]

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Book plates, from Cooksville book owner

In 1884, some folks in Cooksville decided to start a local lending library. That December, the Evansville Enterprise’s Cooksville reporter announced that in Cooksville, “There will be a tree at the church on New Year’s eve, also an entertainment to be given, a small admission fee, ten and fifteen cents will be charged, the funds to go towards the Public Library which has been started here.”

By early 1885 the library effort in the village was moving ahead. The story writer from Cooksville with a dateline of February 4, 1885, in the Enterprise newspaper describes the villager’s venture:  

“Our library prospects are so flattering that I cannot resist the desire to inform your readers of its future outlook. A few of us banded together last December and incorporated a ‘Public Library Association of Cooksville’ and since January first we have accumulated upwards of $40 and no skating rink about it either. We hold sociables every two weeks. Last night we had a box sociable where ladies brought nicely decorated boxes and the gents bid them off at various prices. The boxes brought by Miss Belle Rice and Miss Mable Woodbury sold each for $1.25.... In two weeks there will be another sociable and the weight of each lady with name will be sealed in an envelope and the gent drawing such will pay 1.4 cts per pound and the lady designated for partner during---well as long as the spirit moves, which shall not be short of the gate.”

Money for the Library was raised in short order, probably because the ladies were good cooks and prepared tasty box-lunches— and tipped the scales sufficiently.

The Library Association believed book readers in general were divided into those who read for “information” and those who read for “momentary pleasure.” The first thirty volumes were soon obtained, including were such authors as Emerson, Thoreau, Mrs. Stowe, George Eliot, Hugo and Robinson.

Membership in the Public Library Association cost $1.00 per year, which allowed members to borrow books and vote at meetings. Fines were charged to members for over-due books.

In 1887, a new bookcase was purchased for $8.00 and a hundred cards with book titles and authors names were purchased for $2.00. New books continued to be purchased now and then as funds allowed.

By 1895, the Library consisted of 150 books, as well as a number of magazines such as Harpers Monthly, North American Review and Chautauqua. And in 1898, membership was reduced to 75 cents.
Book plate used by Ralph Warner in Cooksville

The location of the library moved around from home to home, depending on who was in charge of the library books at the time. The librarian checked out books collected late fees, solicited new membership fees, and ordered new books as the Association’s budget allowed and as the elected officers decided. It appears books were checked out regularly as the 19th-century ended.

The records of the Library in the Cooksville Archives are sketchy, and it is not known when the Library Association ceased operation. By the early 20th-century, large public libraries had been established in small cities near Cooksville, many with funding from Andrew Carnegie, which made borrowing a wide selection of library books possible for many more people.
“Waucoma Lodge,” Cooksville. c.1920.

In the 1960s, “Waucoma Lodge,” once the Cooksville home of Susan Porter (1859-1939) and, later, Cora Porter Atwood (1884-1952), contained several book cases filled with a variety of books—novels, histories, geographies, poetry—as well as magazines. Waucoma Lodge may have been the last home of the Public Library.  Certainly, the two women had been very active in Cooksville’s cultural and intellectual life, and they may have eventually become the caretakers of the old Library’s collections. The contents of the bookcases in Waucoma Lodge were probably the remnants of the once-popular Cooksville Public Library.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Charlotte Love, Cooksville, born in 1772

Charlotte Love, age 96
Charlotte Rose Love, pictured here at age 96, was born before the Revolutionary War of 1776 and is the earliest- born person buried in the Cooksville (Waucoma) Cemetery.  She was born March 29, 1772, in Connecticut, and died April 11, 1868, in the Town of Porter. Charlotte’s memorial stone is located in the old section at the southern end of Cooksville’s cemetery.

Charlotte married Richard Love (1772- 1847) and lived in Chautauqua, New York, where she had nine children.  At least five of her children moved to Cooksville about 1845-46, and Charlotte soon joined them in the village after her husband died in New York State. One of her grandsons operated Waucoma House, Cooksville’s stagecoach inn in the 1850s.

Besides Charlotte Love, eleven other persons born in the 18th century are buried in the Cooksville Cemetery. (The original name is Waucoma Cemetery because it is located in the portion of the village next to Cooksville platted as Waucoma by Joseph Porter in 1846.)

The others include:  Isaac Porter (1783-1854), Mary Nibbs (1789-1870), Amey Pitman Porter (1789-1871), Jasper Billings (1790-1869), Jane Billings (1791-1869), Betsy Hume (1793-1880), Andrew Smart (1793-1880), Polly More Bassett (1793-1886), John Seaver (1795-1886), and Allen Hoxie (1797-1862).

By Larry Reed

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

More School Days Stories (Part 2): Tough Discipline in the Schoolhouse by Larry Reed

Vietta Montgomery, Cooksville School teacher 1890

Porter School room, c. 1920
 William Stokes wrote about his school days in Porter Township in the 1850s, including memorable disciplinary measures by the teachers—some very stern—that took place in the school room. Here is Part 2 of Stokes’ story:

“In our school, there were some very unruly boys and girls, especially among those who were approaching manhood and womanhood. Mr. Maine was a great stickler for order. He had various methods of bringing this about…. Roland Cox the third was especially obstinate. I remember very well the means that brought young Roland to time. Flogging would not subdue him. Next to flogging came the bleeding of the nose. Mr. Maine had a method of taking a pen knife and cutting a little vein in the nose. This would make a boy bleed profusely, but this had little effect on Master Roland. The teacher then resorted to the final test of throwing open the large stove door, where there was a glowing fire, taking Roland by the seat of his trousers and his coat collar, threatening to throw him into the big stove. This final test was more than Roland was able to stand. He succumbed and ever after was prompt in obeying the commands of his teacher. I have never seen the bleeding test or fire test used in any school since.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Two Historic Houses for Sale in Cooksville

Two historic houses in the Cooksville Historic District—the Longbourne House and the John Seaver House— are for sale. Both are located on the Public Square in the Village of Cooksville.

The rural community of Cooksville, which is located in northwest Rock County, is often called “a wee bit of New England in Wisconsin” and was established in 1842, enlarged in 1846 by the addition of the Village of Waucoma next to it. The village was designated an official state and federal historic district in 1973 and is a locally designated historic area as well.
Longbourne House

The historic Longbourne House, built about 1854, is a charming two-story Gothic Revival house constructed of Cooksville vermilion brick with decorated bargeboards at the roofline and porch. The residence has four bedrooms and two bathrooms, and features a great room as well as parlor, study and dining room.

The house was built for Thomas W. Longbourne, an Englishman, who operated the local flour mill. Longbourne sold the house in 1866 to Charles Woodbury, who operated the Cooksville store, and it was often the residence of local storekeepers. A large contemporary addition to the rear enhances the home’s livability and harmonizes with the historic house. The former small wood-framed addition was moved, re-designed and converted to a two-car garage.

The Longbourne House was bequeathed by the late Hank Bova to the Historic Cooksville Trust, Inc. Hank was a director of the Historic Cooksville Trust.

The second house for sale is the historic John Seaver House. This l½ story frame Greek Revival house was built circa1849 by John W. Fisher, a local carpenter. The clapboard exterior and front porch of this historic house have been restored, and a new addition to the south and a new garage were added. Extensive garden plantings extend to the rear of the property. This house is located next to the Longbourne House.

The historic rural Village of Cooksville, also known as “the town that time forgot,” has long been known for its well-preserved and carefully rehabilitated historic buildings, including the Cooksville General Store (the oldest in the state), the schoolhouse (now the Cooksville Community Center), two historic churches, and the 1840s and 1850s historic homes and barns.

For more information about the historic houses for sale, contact Sharon Milliken, First Weber Realtors, at her office (608) 828-5107, or cell (608) 347-8162.

Posted by Larry Reed
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