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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Saturday, June 14, 2014

More School Days Stories: The Stokes Family (Part 1) by Larry Reed

Drawing: typical small one-room schoolhouse
The Cooksville School class with teacher Lillian Erickson, c.1900.

Recently, Laura Stokes of Tucson, Arizona, and Griff Stokes of Spokane, Washington, provided the Cooksville Archives with an interesting story of their ancestors’ settling in the Town of Porter in the 1840s.

Their great-great grandfather, Charles Stokes (1812-1891), who had emigrated from England to eastern America, settled on a farm near the southern edge of the Town of Porter (about 5 miles south of Cooksville) in the Wisconsin Territory in 1841. His farmstead was located along the stagecoach route between Janesville and Madison and was where he married Ann Eliza Kimble and where he claimed to have erected the first frame house in the township. [He may have gotten his sawn lumber from a Janesville mill, or possible from the closer Cooksville sawmill established in 1842.]
The Stokes eventually had thirteen children, two of which died in infancy.  In 1917, one of the sons, William Henry Stokes, born in 1845, wrote a brief autobiography, later revised by family members, which contains recollections of his life in Porter Township, as well as later in Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota. It was William Stokes’ two great grandchildren who recently donated a copy to the Cooksville Archives.

A portion of William Stokes’ memoir concerns his school days as well as some of the daily chores of the Stokes children in the 1840s and 1850s. His descriptions of his early schoolhouse building and his teachers—and the corporal punishment sometimes meted out— are vivid and undoubtedly accurate.
Stokes writes: “The principal of this narrative [himself, William Stokes] spent his boyhood days in the town of Porter where he lived til the age of nineteen. Was educated in the district schools and my boyhood was usually that which falls to the lot of the average country boy. My parents did not think that children just came into the world to play and frolic but they thoroughly carried out the Puritan idea that children should do their share of the work, which I commenced to do at an early age. I remember at the age of ten, I had to help do the chores and milked seven cows.

“Some of the boys said that I had the easiest job because I would have the milking done and was at the house ready for breakfast before they got through their work but all seemed to be very well satisfied and we got our chores done in time to attend the District School, a mile from home, the first built in our township. [Possibly the White Star School, no longer standing.]

“….This was not a log school house as the early settlers of Rock County, Wisconsin, were highly favored in having hard-wood saw mills. Our little school was built from the lumber sawed by the little mill, five miles away. The school house was built in a rectangle, probably thirty to thirty two feet long, and eighteen to twenty feet wide. It was built in the usual manner with joists and studding, oak siding covered with clap boards, with oak shakes for shingles, and the flooring was of oak. The outside was weather beaten as it had never been painted. The interior: in the center, towards the front of the school house was a huge box stove, something like five feet long, by two feet wide and perhaps two and one- half feet high. There was a door in the front, wide enough to take in four foot wood. Surrounding the stove about four feet from the outer edge was a wooden frame made out of two by four foot studding.

“The inside of this frame was filled with dirt for fire protection. On the top was a large spider or vessel which was usually kept full of water. The seats parallel with the stove were made of slabs with wooden legs. The front seats were made lower than the back ones, being graded to accommodate the children according to their sizes and the length of their legs. There were no backs to these seats, nor were any deemed necessary to support the body. These seats occupied about half or a little more of the school house. Then came a seat crossways of the room for our recitations. Just in front of this was the crack which we all had to toe during our spelling and other recitations. In front of this and to the rear of the room was a raised platform, perhaps one foot or more in height to accommodate the teacher and the writing desks of the advanced pupils. The teacher had no desk but a common chair. At the right, facing the rear at the end of the room was the blackboard where the written work was demonstrated. The A.B.C. class and the highest classes were all accommodated, seated and gave recitations in the same room. This arrangement altho not perfect, had its advantages as it gave the younger classes the opportunity of listening to the recitations of the older classes and by this means, they were often qualified to enter the advanced classes before they had commenced the studies of the higher grades. In my own individual case, I think I learned more and got along faster by listening to the recitations of the older classes than in any other way….. In this way, I learned the multiplication tables and at the age of seven received a present from my mother for knowing them perfectly.

“Our school house was in very close proximity to the country burying ground which was probably two acres in extent. The south line extended along the Janesville & Madison road. According to my earliest recollections there passed four stage coaches each way over this road. These four horse coaches carried the mail from Milwaukee via Janesville to Madison, Wisconsin. The passing of the mail coach was an event which livened up our otherwise usual quiet lives. These coaches ran each way in relays, some would have black horses, some white and some bay. These drivers were experts. The horses usually went on the dead run, only stopping a few moments at the post office to allow passengers to get on and off. The crack of the driver's whip could be heard at some distance and many a boy received a smarting cut when attempting to climb on the back to steal a ride. This also was the main road from Mineral Point. Almost daily, there were large wagons passing by, loaded with lead and drawn by from six to eight ox teams. Their camping place was only a short distance from our school house and after they were gone, we children use to look over the grounds to find anything that might have been left.

“If the teachers who taught school in the days of old could be lined up in a row, I think they would compare very favorably with those of today. However most of the teachers were of the sterner sex. Only occasionally were women allowed to teach. Once in a while in the summer schools, we had lady teachers. I think my first teacher was a Miss Hitchcock. She was an old maid. I remember very well coming home the first day of school and describing the teacher. This description was not at all flattering….  Mortimer Maine was my next teacher, a gentleman of rare ability and a splendid instructor. He had the happy faculty of getting the good will of his pupils. I remember very well how good he was to me, a shy, delicate, very timid little youngster, with a thin face and large deep set eyes. How easily he ingratiated himself into my affections.

“I remember the whistles he used to make for me. When t came to spelling the silent ‘i,’ I was warned by a slight wink of the eye, which I soon caught onto. This might have been called partiality, but I did not study this quality of the human mind at that date. I knew his assistance and the wink of his eye would push me to the head of the spelling class, where the one that missed the words would have to go to the foot and the good speller worked himself toward the head of the class.”
Young Stokes soon had much sterner teachers.

[To be continued: Tough Discipline in the Schoolhouse.]
                        (Thanks to Laura Stokes, Tucson, Arizona, and Griff Stokes, Spokane, 
Washington, for sharing their ancestor’s story of settling in the Town of  Porter.)