Monday, January 29, 2018

2018 Cooksville Community Events

Saturday, April 28: Community Center Clean-Up Day (10:00am-1:00pm,Schoolhouse) All are welcome to come out with their favorite cleaning tools to air out the schoolhouse, sweep out overwintering beetles, and tidy up after the winter’s window restoration project. Donuts for all participants.

 Sunday, April 29: Arbor Day Celebration on the Commons (1:00pm-4:00pm, Commons, reception at schoolhouse) Hear an update from the Cooksville Tree Committee about the state of the Oak restoration project and the health of the area’s woods and environment. Rain or shine!

Wednesday, May 30: Cooksville Live at the English Barn (7:00pm-9:00pm,Cooksville Farmhouse Inn) A local talent review featuring area musicians, singers, and performers held in the lovely English Barn behind the Farmhouse Inn. Ample parking behind the barn. Free.

Wednesday, June 6:Stoughton Chamber Singers Concert (7:00pm-9:30pm, Congregational Church) Tickets are available from McGlynn’s Pharmacy in Stoughton, from the Singers, or at the door. $5.00 admission benefits the singers and the CCC. A reception will follow at the schoolhouse.

Tuesday, June 19:  Genealogy 101(7:00pm-9:00pm, Schoolhouse) Lisa Imhoff will help you launch your journey into family history. Nominal fee of $1 to cover handouts. Bring a pencil with an eraser! 

Wednesday, July 4: Independence Day Picnic (12:30pm-2:30pm, Commons)Potluck community meal under the Oaks. Share your favorite picnic fare and outdoor games. Rain location is the schoolhouse.

Tuesday, July 10: Wellness Series part I: Tai Chi workshop (6:30-8:30pm, Schoolhouse)Introduction to Tai Chi: Lisa Imhoff and her friends at Lotus Transforming Tai Chi Club will introduce you to this soft martial art of slow, gentle movements that improves balance, flexibility and strength. Bring comfortable shoes, water. Dress comfortably. Free admission.

Tuesday, July 17: Wellness Series Part II: Yoga workshop (6:30-8:30pm, Schoolhouse)Workshop for both new and experienced practitioners. Yoga offers physical, mental, and spiritual exercise and mindfulness training. Dress comfortably. Please bring an exercise mat if you have one, and a water bottle.

Wednesday, July 18:Old Settler’s Stories with Ruth Ann Montgomery (7:00pm-9:00pm, Schoolhouse) A presentation on some of the fascinating history of our area told by local Rock County historian, Ruth Ann Montgomery. Meet and greet to follow. Free event.

Saturday, August 11: Christmas in Summer (1:30pm-2:30pm, Schoolhouse) Experience a one-room schoolhouse holiday pageant as it was remembered by local residents who grew up attending small rural schools and enjoyed performing for their classmates and families. Always fun and full of surprises! Free event.

Monday, September 17: CCC Annual Meeting& Ice Cream Social  (6:30pm-8:30pm, Schoolhouse) All Community Center members are invited to hear about the state of the organization from its Board of Directors, and participate in Board elections. The community is welcome for ice cream before the meeting. New to the Community Center? Join us with a $25.00 lifetime membership.

Saturday, October 20: Cooksville Halloween Party (6:30pm-9:00pm, Schoolhouse) Old-fashioned harvest-time fun with crafts and games, a snack and dessert potluck, hot cider, bonfire, and outdoor scavenger hunt. A good time for all ages. Free event.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Village of Cooksville in the 1954 Book ,“Wisconsin Heritage”

In 1954, a large format book by Bertha Kitchell Whyte, titled “Wisconsin Heritage,” was published in Boston, containing sixteen chapters, with one chapter devoted to “Ralph Warner and Cooksville.” Other chapters in the book addressed such topics as Wisconsin’s early taverns, octagonal houses and barns, the lumber era, potteries and glass works, and Norwegian heirlooms.
In Chapter 15, Whyte focused on the historic village and its famous resident Ralph Lorenzo Warner (1875-1941) and his antiquarian work of art, the “House Next Door.” She wrote:

             “So successful was he in choosing for his setting the town, the house, the furnishings, the very flowers in the garden and food for the table, that for twenty years his home was a mecca for all who shared his pleasure in such things.”

She further praised Warner’s accomplishments:

            “Nothing was put in the house that did not belong in a home of the period or that could not be blended into a harmonious whole by the sensitive touch of the new owner… No telephone or other anachronism was permitted to break the spell of the interior. Many of the rugs the owner hooked himself in his workshop in the barn where he also had his loom…..  
Warner's parlor in the "House Next Door"
            “He was one of the earliest and most intelligent collectors in the state and knew better than anyone else how to display, and make desirable his own treasures. Usually these treasures were not for sale. A story he told with particular relish concerned one distinguished visitor, Joseph Hergesheimer, the author (popular 1920s novelist and passionate antique collector. Ed.), who rolled on the lawn in rage when he was not permitted to purchase a certain Stiegel bottle.” (Henry Stiegel was a mid-18th century American glass maker. Ed.) 
Visitors to the "House Next Door"
Whyte included eight photos in her story about Warner and the village, which she noted had been attracting visitors for about forty years. (And still does.)

Regarding the village, Whyte wrote:

             “Cooksville itself deserves a niche in any consideration of Wisconsin villages, a niche that is not in proportion to its present size. In its spacious central Common laid out according to the ancient pattern of commons in Colonial America and the charming mid- nineteenth century red brick houses which border it, it represents a part of New England that our pioneer ancestors transplanted to the prairies of southern Wisconsin.” 

The author ended her ten-page story about the village with:

              “Cooksville would make a lovely setting for a novel.”

 Unfortunately, Whyte made a number of factual errors in her Cooksville story. The inaccuracies, discovered just after the book was published, were pointed out by the new owners of Warner’s house at the time, Chester Holway (1908-1986) and Marvin Raney (1918-1980). In a letter to Whyte in early 1955, Holway lamented the fact that he had not been consulted when she was writing about his house and the village. (Nor had Raney, the local historian.) Holway— himself a writer, editor, journalist and gardener— listed “a number of errors” and misrepresentations in his long letter.  

Whyte replied that she hoped some of the errors would be corrected if the Boston publisher agreed and if a second edition were to be printed. (Apparently a second edition was published about 1961, but it is not in the Cooksville Archives.) 

Chester Holway
Here are some of the inaccuracies pointed out by Holway:

·         It was not true that the late Ralph Warner’s house could no longer be seen by visitors. “It has, in fact, been visited in these recent years by numerous individuals and by several groups,” Holway wrote to Whyte.
·         One photo labeled “Parlor” was actually Warner’s Morning-room.
·         The photo labeled “Porter home” is actually the Hoxie House, not a Porter home.
·         Warner purchased the house in 1911, not 1912.
·         Warner died in 1941, not 1939.
·         Chester Holway was not the “nephew” of Warner.
·         Warner did have a modern “anachronism” in the house that he concealed from guests: outlets for electrical lights.
·         The Old Settlers’ Picnic was no longer an annual event, having been discontinued after 1950.
·         Warner’s garden did not contain only old-fashioned flowers but included many new,  fashionable and exotic plantings, and was more “English” than “19th Century American.” 

However, Holway did compliment Whyte on her effort and assured her that her book, even with its errors, “does not diminish an appreciation of the labor you have assuredly put into ‘Wisconsin Heritage.’ And it is a volume that is most welcome.”
Duncan House, or the "House Next Door"

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Christmas at the "Cooksville House" in 1953

Almost 65 years ago, preparations were being made at the “Cooksville House” for holiday gift-buyers. This village gift shop was in the old barn in the backyard of the historic Duncan House in the center of Cooksville. The shop was owned and operated by Marvin Raney, resident of the Duncan House.  
Marvin Raney at work
Raney had created the gift shop in his barn in order to display and sell the artful creations of his Cooksville neighbors and friends, especially Dorothy Kramer who specialized in ceramics and weavings. 

Also for sale were creations by a nearby blacksmith, a silversmith, wood-workers and other weavers. No doubt Raney also included some items from his own antiques collection. (He would later open a larger shop east of Cooksville to sell antique furniture, pottery, glassware, and much more.)  

An article in Madison’s Wisconsin State Journal, dated October 18, 1953, proclaimed:  “In Cooksville Shop, It’s Christmas in October.” Good publicity for a small rural gift shop.

The article’s writer, John Newhouse, describes Marvin Raney and “Mrs. Arthur Kramer” (as the writer refers to Dorothy Kramer) and their entrepreneurial efforts to operate their special Cooksville House gift shop and prepare for the coming holiday shoppers. Here are excerpts from that 1953 article: 

            “COOKSVILLE— A fey shop, if ever there was one, is the Cooksville House, which was once a barn. At the present moment it is decorated in Yule fashion, with Christmas tree and presents underneath.

            “The shop… nicely stocked with ceramics, hand-woven work, decorated wooden-ware, and hand-decorated tiles will be open from 2 to 5 in the afternoon…Depending on the weather.

            “There is no use telephoning the shop, or the home of the owner, Marvin Raney, an engaging young man with no visible means of support, who shudders slightly when the word “work” profanes his prescense (sic. prescience?).

            “He does not have a telephone in the house because they bother him. Occasionally someone figures out the circuitous route by which he may be summoned—at his own convenience—to a neighbor’s phone. ‘It is an imposition,’ he says—though not specifying who is being imposed upon. ‘Once more and I shall have to put in a phone.’ The phone, he says with an amused glint in his eyes, shall be in the barn, where it can ring and ring, unanswered but giving some satisfaction to the person trying to call him. 
Duncan House Barn, photo 1980s
            “The barn… was converted into a gift shop because it bothered him that the talents of a neighbor, Mrs. Arthur Kramer, were going to waste.

            “Mrs. Kramer specializes in weaving and in ceramics, having her own looms and her own kiln. 
Dorothy Kramer
            “Her husband, a Chicago advertising man, comes to Cooksville on weekends, and devotes himself to ‘potting,’ as Raney puts it. He has a potters wheel in a summer house and there he sits, kicking the wheel with an energetic toe and giving life and form to a blob of clay….

            “The pots made by Kramer are decorated by Elton Beckenridge (sic. Breckenridge) a Chicago artist who has bought a house in Cooksville…. 
Kramer pottery
             “And the pots are glazed and fired by Mrs. Kramer….

            “[O]ther artists have brought in their wares. R. L. Woods, a retired blacksmith at Janesville, contributed knives he makes… Mrs. T. O. Nuzum, also of Janesville, brings in weaving. Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Chevalier, of Delavan, are working with silver, and they, too, are contributing.

            “Converting the shop into a barn (or vice versa. Ed.) called for a certain amount of energy, but Raney does not count it as work since it was very interesting.

            “The floor of the barn goes up in spots and down in spots, and threatens to decant the visitor out a door and into the gardens.

            “And these, with their formal walks and rare plantings, are not a bad place to be decanted.

            “The (Duncan) house belonged at one time to Ralph Warner, and was known as ‘The House Next Door.’ Warner, esthete, musical, and a man tremendously interested in gardens and antiques, developed gardens and house in the Early American tradition….

            “The land upon which Cooksville’s square is laid out was once owned by Daniel Webster and—so says an unverified story—he lost it on taxes. The houses, of pink brick, were built in the decade 1848-58, and Cooksville people are inordinately proud of them.” 
The" Cooksville House"  moved to Webster Street

NOTE: The “Cooksville House” was soon moved from the historic Duncan House barn on State Road 59 to the historic house on Webster Street  known as Waucoma Lodge north of Raney’s, where it was managed until the late 1950s by Marvin Raney (1918-1980) and Dorothy Kramer (1900-1971). Unfortunately, the Kramer pottery studio next to Dorothy's and Arthurs's house burned down in 1956. A few years later, Raney would open a large antique store, the “Only Yesterday Shop,” in the historic granary building on the Joseph Porter Farmstead just east of Cooksville, which Raney operated until the early 1970s.  

Some of Kramer’s ceramics and weavings, as well as some of Raney’s rug weaving and antique collection are now in the Cooksville Archives and Collections. For more information, contact Larry Reed.



Friday, November 17, 2017

More Photos of the Class of 1947 Students at Cooksville’s School

Here are more photos of Cooksville School students from 1947.Thanks to Cooksville School teacher Edith Cavey Johnson for sending these additional photos of her pupils to the Cooksville Archives collection. Also thanks to Marjorie Kloften Hipke, one of her students in the 1947 photograph, presently a resident in Evansville, who has helped to identify her classmates. (A previous Blog story here shared those earlier other  photos of the 1947 classmates.)
But you will notice that two of these student  portraits do not have last names written on them: Dale and Dennis in the bottom row. If anyone knows their identity, please share their names.

The Town of Porter once had nine rural one-room schools in operation, including Cooksville. These schoolhouses were scattered around the township on land usually donated by the farmer-owner. Four schools were in the north of the township, two in the center, three in the south— all serving the growing population for over a hundred years.
Cooksville Schoolhouse, photo c.1920-30
The nine schools included Cooksville, Eagle, Forest Academy, Lineau, Miller, Stebbinsville, Stevens, White Star, and Wilder schools.  Of these, seven remain standing; the Stebbinsville School burned down in 1942 and White Star School has been demolished. Most have been converted to residences; one is now the Porter Town Hall and one now serves as the Cooksville Community Center.
Lineau School, photo c. 1952
The earliest school in the historic Village of Cooksville was a brick building on the Public Square built about 1850. But because of structural problems and its small size, it was replaced in 1886 with the present wooden frame building, with bell tower and two entry doors, one for boys and one for girls, a very traditional New England-Puritanical design.

However, in 1961, all the one-room rural schools ceased their educational existence because the school districts were consolidated into a few large districts that would also contain higher-level “high” schools. The Town of Porter students then went to schools in the cities of Stoughton, Edgerton or Evansville, ending the 100-year history of Porter’s rural, one-room schools. 
The historic Cooksville Schoolhouse facing the village’s historic Public Square is now the home of the Cooksville Community Center established in 1962— with some learning and a lot of socializing  still going on in the old village schoolhouse.
Cooksville School Class of 1924-25

Above is a photograph of an earlier Cooksville School student body. These are the students of 1924-25, with their teacher Lloyd Porter (1882-1967), a grandson of one of the village’s original 1846 settlers, Joseph K. P. Porter. Also included with the photo is a list of the names of those pictured. (Many thanks to whoever took the time to write down the identities of the teacher and the classmates in the photo.)

A number of the photographs in the Cooksville Archives, are unfortunately not identified with names or dates or locations written on the back or somehow attached. But any and all such Cooksville photographs, etc., are always welcomed additions to the Archives.

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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Historic Home Rehab Tax Credits Recently Used in Historic Cooksville

Wisconsin’s income tax credit program for historic homes has been used twice in Cooksville this past summer.

The State’s program for the rehabilitation of the exterior of a historic house, which can be financially helpful, is a 25% refund of qualified rehab expenses in the form of an income tax credit.

 The credits in Cooksville were granted for projects on the historic Longbourne House (1854) and the historic Van Buren House (1848). The two projects basically involved re-roofing the two residences.

Many historic homes in Cooksville have been restored and rehabilitated by owners, as have the two churches, the schoolhouse, the store, a blacksmith shop, as well as several outhouses. This has amounted to a total of about 20 historic buildings restored in the official Cooksville Historic District, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the State of Historic Places, and is also designated as a Historic Conservation District by the Town of Porter.

For at least the past forty years, Cooksville’s historic property owners have been rehabbing and thereby preserving their buildings. Their investments have enhanced the 19th-century character of the historic village—and, of course, have improved the value of their properties. These undertakings help ensure the future of the historic community, which celebrated its 175th birthday this year and which, hopefully, will be preserved for another 175 years.

The State of Wisconsin’s “Historic Homeowners' Tax Credit Program” helps preserve the historic homes, neighborhoods and villages throughout the State. The Tax Credit Program, administered by the Wisconsin Historical Society, provides the 25% tax credit to encourage and assist home-owners preserve part of the State’s historic built environment.

The tax credit is available to owners who rehab, repair and restore the exteriors of their historic residences. Most approved exterior (and some interior) work qualifies for this dollar-for-dollar income tax credit, which is used to write-off the owners’ State income taxes.

All the historic home owners in the official Cooksville Historic District are eligible to apply for the rehab tax credit. The application process is simple and quick but must be completed and approved before beginning the exterior rehab project. (Major exterior projects in Cooksville’s historic district must also be approved in advance by the Town of Porter’s Historic District Committee.) Potential historic older homes located elsewhere in the Town of Porter and not yet officially designated as historic by the State could be determined to be eligible for this rehabilitation tax credit through the application process.

The projects on the two historic homes in the Cooksville Historic District— the Longbourne House and the Van Buren House— resulted in new wood shingle roofs.

Scott on the Longbourne House roof
Scott Johnson and Lauren Hamvas, owners of the Longbourne House, have been busy rehabbing the house since they purchased it earlier this year. Scott has a Ph.D. in archaeology and learned about historic preservation programs from training by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and from experience working for archaeological consultants. Scott runs the Low Technology Institute where he researches pre-industrial technology and how it might be adapted for use in the future. And he and Lauren have been spending a lot of time rehabbing their house and gardens, for themselves as well as for their chickens and bees.
Longbourne House
Larry Reed has been rehabilitating his Van Buren House on and off for the past 40 years. But no chickens and only a few bees are permanent residents of his property, along with some other critters.

Van Buren House
The Wisconsin “Historic Homeowners' Tax Credit Program” has proved to be beneficial to the State in several ways .The program returns to the owner 25% of the cost of approved rehabilitations in the form of a Wisconsin income tax credit, and the State benefits from jobs created as well as from the investment in its historical heritage.

The Wisconsin Historical Society's State Historic Preservation Office administers the tax credit program. The application process is usually quick and easy. Basic requirements for the program are the following:

1. Make sure your home is a historic home. This means a home that is individually listed in the National Register or State Register of Historic Places, or a historic home that contributes to a National Register or State Register-listed historic district, or is a home that is determined to be eligible for an individual listing in the State Register of Historic Places.
2. You must plan to spend a minimum of $10,000 on eligible work that meets historic preservation standards.
3. You submit your Tax Credit Application before you do any work.

4. Your application is reviewed by the Wisconsin Historical Society.

5.  If your application is approved, you proceed with the project.

6. You notify the Wisconsin Historical Society when the work is completed.

For specific advice about the tax credit program or for advice on other technical historic architecture issues or preservation guidelines, contact Jen Davel by phone at (608) 264-6490 or by email: at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison.

Other generous State and Federal income tax credits are available for rehabilitating non-owner occupied, income-producing historic buildings (stores, commercial structures, businesses, rental properties). These credits are a combined 20% State tax credit and a 20% Federal tax credit, for a total of 40%, available for rehabilitating income-producing historic buildings (not owner-occupied residences). Some different requirements apply to this State-Federal 40% tax credit program. For more information, contact the Wisconsin Historical Society at the telephone number and email address above.

You may also contact Larry Reed (608-873-5066) for information about the Village of Cooksville’s and the Town of Porter’s various historic preservation programs.
Cooksville Historic District, Town of Porter, Rock County

[Thanks to Scott Johnson and his neighbor, Joe Lawniczak, Design Specialist with the Wisconsin MAIN STREET Program, for the photos of the Longbourne House.]

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Cooksville School Students of 1947 and the 1881 “School Rules”: Two New Donations to the Village Archives

Two recent donations to the historic Cooksville Archives document the history of school life in the past. One donation is a collection of photographs of pupils from the Cooksville School in 1947, all students of teacher Edith Cavey Johnson.  The second donation is a framed piece of stitchery from 1881 listing the “Rules of Our School,” ten sensibly strict admonitions stitched on a piece of cloth.

Some of  Cooksville's class photos of 1947

The collection of student class photographs was donated by Edith, the Cooksville School teacher in the mid-1940s. The donation came about because Edith had attended the recent “175th Celebration of Cooksville: 1842-2017,” a program presented in the Cooksville Schoolhouse on June 10, 2017. Edith’s son had driven her down from her home in Oshkosh to attend the event, which featured a presentation by Jerry Apps and a slide show by Larry Reed about the history of Cooksville, from the past to the present.

Edith with her Cooksville Class in the old photograph
One of the slides in the history presentation was the photograph (above) of  Edith's Cooksville school class miss-dated “1934” with the young teacher standing behind her students next to the schoolhouse.

Edith viewing her and her class, at the June 2017 "Celebration" in Cooksville
When Edith saw that slide projected on the screen at the presentation, she quietly laughed and  mentioned that she was the teacher in the photograph with her students!  Except, Edith said, the caption on the photo should read “1944,” when she was teaching in Cooksville, not “1934.” She wasn't that old! The audience cheered and applauded at the wonderful coincidence of Edith being in attendance to see herself up on the screen—and applauded loudly when she corrected the date of the photo. Edith happily posed for more photos that day this past summer, including one of herself looking up at the screen, where she was then 19 years old  posing with her students in 1944. That was 73 years ago, and now Edith is… oh, well, we shouldn’t tell a lady’s age.

When Edith returned to Oshkosh after the program this summer she sent a letter to Larry, the Cooksville historian, in which she enclosed a number of individual class photos of her pupils from 1947—young smiling boys and girls of varying ages, most identified with their names—names that still resonate in Cooksville’s family histories.

Edith wrote in her letter accompanying the photos:

“Cooksville is a special place. I am happy you & others are keeping it vital. Your church (Larry’s) was a town hall when I was in Cooksville. Franz & Melvin kept the township road equipment in the basement. In 1946 we had our annual Christmas program there because our school was too small for the crowd. In 1946, I became 21 & Olga Porter came to Holm’s (where she was boarding) to get me & take me to the polls. She wanted to make sure I voted. Keep up the good work. (signed) Edith Cavey Johnson.”

The second recent school-related donation to the Cooksville Archives was a framed piece of stitchery stitched by someone named “Elizabeth” in 1881. The stitchery stated the ten strict “Rules of Our School.”(Number nine was “Don’t spit.”) But we do not know which well-mannered one-room schoolhouse in the Town of Porter was the one where students were admonished by these rules not to “fidget,” not to say “bad words,” and to do “what the teacher says.”
"Rules of Our School" 1881
The simply framed “Rules” sewn by "Elizabeth" were recently discovered in, and rescued from, the Town of Porter dump, now known at the “Recycling Center,” by the sharp-eyed Center Monitor, Russ Skjolaas, who gave the charming artifact to Bob Degner, a Saturday regular at the Recycling Center, who in turn donated it to the Cooksville Archives.

Thanks to Edith, Russ and Bob for saving and sharing these pieces of  bygone-school days in old Cooksville and the Town of Porter.
Cooksville Schoolhouse, c.1930
The historic Cooksville Schoolhouse (1886) next to the village’s Public Square (1846) is now home to the Cooksville Community Center (CCC), which has owned the schoolhouse since 1962 after the area school districts were consolidated. To become a member of CCC or for more information including how to rent the schoolhouse for various purposes, contact Bill Zimmerman (608) 628-8566 or Mark Ballweg (608)-334-9653.

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