Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Cooksville Through the Years: More Bits and Pieces of Life in the Village .....

Thanks to several past village historians and collectors of Cooksville’s history, the Cooksville Archives contain a great deal of valuable evidence (and fun anecdotes) of everyday village life over the past 175 years. 
Here are some of those historical notes. Many are quoted from the sources — newspapers, diaries and letters — in the Archives: 
1836.  The population of the Wisconsin Territory (which included the present Iowa, Minnesota and part of the Dakotas) was 22,214 when it was first established in1836, with about half or 12,000 living east of the Mississippi River in what is now the State of Wisconsin. The early settlers often followed narrow Native American trails as they traveled through the prairies toward what soon would be Cooksville.
1840.  John Cook bought 80 acres of land in Rock County from the U.S. Government when sales began in 1837.  After arriving to what soon would be his home near the Bad Fish Creek, Cook and his family first lived in their oxen wagon while building a temporary log cabin.
1842.  Cook platted his Village of Cooksville and constructed a saw mill at the end of the newly-named Mill Street on the banks of the Badfish Creek; then he built his home with hewn posts and beams and clapboard siding—the present Cook House.
Cook House, built 1842 photo ca.1930s
1842.  On September 28, 1842, Daniel Webster, of Marshfield, Massachusetts, sold to John Porter, of Duxbury, Massachusetts, 952.22 acres of land in Rock County, Territory of Wisconsin (for about $1.65 per acre).  Webster had purchased the land from the U.S. Government in 1837.
John Porter (1795-1865)

Daniel Webster (1782-1852)
Porter's new land was just to the east of John Cook's newly platted village of Cooksville. Four years later, in 1846, Porter platted the larger Village of Waucoma next to Cooksville.
1849.  “Post Office established in Cooksville in 1849, mail brought horseback from Union, on the main stage-road from Janesville to Madison…”  The growing community of Union was the mid-way rest stop with an inn and tavern between Janesville and Madison; Cooksville was the only other village in the area. [History of Rock County, 1879.]
1850.  Cooksville grew quickly. Its businesses included a saw mill and a grist mill, the Waucoma House stagecoach inn and tavern, a sash and door factory, three stores, a blacksmith shop, a wagon shop, a harness shop, a tailor shop, a cabinet maker, two shoe shops, a post office, a log school house, an academy, and two brickyards.
Waucoma House Tavern and Hotel, based on a sketch, built ca.1850, demolished ca.1910
1866.  “Mr. John P. Van Vleck [of Cooksville’s Van Vleck Farm Implement Factory] is turning out great numbers of the Eureka Corn Planters.” His butter churns and potato planters began selling very well, as did his “handy farm gates.”   Van Vleck (1818-1901) was one of the oldest settlers in Rock County, and his Farm Implement Factory was the oldest one in Wisconsin. 
Van Vleck's implement shop was powered by a horse walking in a circle. It also housed a second-floor meeting room, often used as an advanced school hall. In 1928, the deteriorated building was torn down.
1873.   “A son of Mr. Hubbard Champney, while plowing out corn unearthed a piece of metal which…proved to be an old Mexican silver piece about the size of a dollar, and bearing the date 1350 (sic).” (Perhaps a typo for "1850?") [Evansville Review 1873.]
1875.  “Mr. Hoxie found a few days since, an unfinished arrow, a spear head, convex on one side, slightly concave on the other, which measures five inches long and two and one-fourth wide. This is one of the largest of this kind of Indian relics ever found in the vicinity.”
1876.   “A Pioneer Festival is to be holden (sic) at Cooksville Wednesday to-day. There is intended to have an early picnic supper, and the balance of the time will be devoted to social pastime, and talk of pioneer life in that early settlement of that place. Evansville ought not to have that little burg outstrip it in social enterprise and pioneer movements.” [Evansville Review, 1876.]
1877.   “The Old Settlers reunion at Cooksville was a very enjoyable evening…by ye old folks….it was voted that the organization be made permanent with meetings held semi-annually… Mrs. J.K.P. Porter took the stand and read an original poem written for the occasion. The poem was good, abounded in thought, and was full of the pathos of ye olden times. She was vociferously enchored (sic).” [Evansville Review, 1877.]
An Old Settlers reunion picnic, about 1945. 
1878.  “The terrible mud has started a subscription paper to raise funds to build sidewalks in Cooksville… to lay plank walks on some of the principal streets… at least enough so that one can get to the post office without getting lost in the mud…This town is putting on some style with sidewalks and now a street lamp at the crossing in front of Mr. Robertson’s store…”.
1879. The village’s first church—the Cooksville Congregational Church— was built in Cooksville, designed by the village’s own expert designer-carpenter, Benjamin Hoxie. The church included a lower-level “parlor,” which was used by other churches and local organizations. Previously, church services had been held in the saw-mill, the schoolhouse, and local residences.
Cooksville Congregational Church (1879), photo ca.1910
1879.  “This ‘burg’ [Cooksville] is putting on metropolitan airs with four street lamps. Mr. James Fairgrieve, our tinner, has displayed both taste and skill, besides a generous gift of a fine street lamp, and the same has been put in position at the corner of the church by B.S. Hoxie.” [Janesville Daily Recorder.] 
1880.  “Sunday while Mrs. Aris of Janesville was walking down town [in Cooksville] she fell through one of our trap sidewalks and received some slight injuries.”
1880.  “The Sunday School festival and New Year tree on New Year’s Eve was a happy time for all interested, and the number interested was more than the church could hold…The tree stood some over twelve feet high, beautifully decorated with gifts for all. Even the pastor, Rev. O.G. May, was not omitted, for among his presents was a fine metal plated string of bells presented by the boys and girls, which was an accompaniment to the new cutter presented by the older people…”
1880. Cooksville businesses now included a grist mill, two stores, two blacksmith shops, an agricultural implement factory, a tin shop, a cheese factory, a brick school house, a Good Templars Hall and the Waucoma House hotel and tavern.
1883.  “As we stepped into the studio at Mr. Dow’s old home, we could not help but remark that Miss Brash [school teacher?] has fully succeeded, in drawing out the artistic qualities of our home talent, along the line of painting… This is indeed a land of artists. Cooksville: Most every other one you meet has brushes and a palette or an easel under his arm.” [John Dow’s daughter, Leila, went on to teach art and organize the Madison Art Guild.]
Leila Dow's landscape painting ca. 1900
1894.  “Mr. Forest has the frame up for his new blacksmith shop. That makes five blacksmith shops in Cooksville Those of Messrs. Graves, Barry, Courter, Hanson and Forest.”
1903.  “The Cooksville post office has been discontinued and all mail formerly addressed to that office should be addressed to Evansville RFD.” [Wisconsin Tobacco Reporter, 1903.]
1915.  From Bryon Campbell’s book, “Pioneer Days,” published in 1915:  “The next stop [near Tolles Road on the stage coach route from Janesville to Madison in the 1840s-50s] was the Ball Tavern, so called because of the sign that hung from the limb of an oak tree at the corner of the house, a round wooden ball about as large as a man’s head. This tavern was built by a Mr. Osborn.” 
1936.  “Cooksville Woman Was Movie Star’s Teacher.”  That was the headline of a 1936 story in the Janesville Daily Gazette. The woman was Susan Porter (1859-1939) who was living in the Backenstoe-Howard House (“Waucoma Lodge”) on the Public Square in Cooksville. 
Susan Porter 
Susan had been a teacher at the Racine High School, and the famous actor of stage and screen, Fredric March (1897-1975), was one of her students. March had written Susan a letter in 1936, which prompted the newspaper story. 
Fredric March  
March closed his letter with, “…as ever, your devoted pupil…” March starred on stage and in films from the 1920s to the 1970s.
1962.  The Cooksville Community Center was established in the village’s one-room schoolhouse on the Public Square, after rural schools were consolidated in 1961. The CCC continues to support social, educational and entertaining activities in the community.

1963.  "Meeting Arranged by Cemetery Group. Those residing in the area surrounding the Old Ball Tavern cemetery… will hold a public meeting at 8 pm Monday, May 20, in the Porter band hall for the purpose of electing officers…. Land for the cemetery was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Porter M. Potter to the school district of Porter on Nov. 7, 1848. At the time the Ball Tavern school was located directly north of the cemetery. Several years later it was moved to a more central location and was named Forest Academy by Patrick Riley. Approximately 200 are buried in the cemetery [on the corner of Tolles Road and STH 14] and the earliest burial was in 1848. Among those interred in the cemetery are four soldiers, at least one of who was a Civil War Veteran.”
1973.  The Village of Cooksville’s history and its buildings were researched by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and the Rock County Historical Society, with assistance from Marvin Raney, Cooksville historian. A portion of the village was nominated as the “Cooksville Historic District” and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. It was the second historic district from Wisconsin to be listed in the N.R.H.P. 
1980.  The Cooksville Historic District and the surrounding area in the Town of Porter and the Town of Union were further researched by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. This resulted in the Cooksville Historic District being enlarged to encompass twelve additional properties of historical significance. Also, ten related historic and archeological resources within a two-mile radius of Cooksville were also determined to be historically important to the area. 
On September 17, 1980, the enlarged Cooksville Historic District and the nearby Historic Resources (mostly significant farmhouses) were listed together in the National Register of Historic Places as the first “Multiple Resources Entry” from Wisconsin to be placed in the National Register. 
1999.  The Historic Cooksville Trust, Inc., was established as a non-profit organization to assist with historic preservation and conservation efforts in the historic village and surrounding area. The HCT provides technical information about resources, income tax credits, and matching grants.
 [Additional Cooksville-related materials for the Archives are always welcomed. Contact Larry Reed (608) 873-5066.]

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Stephen Patterson Ehle Obituary

Obituary for Stephen Patterson Ehle

Stephen Patterson Ehle died on January 15, 2019, at Agrace HospiceCare in Fitchburg, Wisconsin.

Born on January 16, 1949, Steve was the third child of Claire Olin and Rose Patterson Ehle of Evansville, Wisconsin. He leaves behind his son Jonathan Prentice Ehle of Madison, brother John (Rosemary) of Mequon, Wisconsin, sister Kathleen (Paul) Campbell of Minneapolis, former wife and good friend Jennifer Eager Ehle, and girlfriend Karbet Sawtelle as well as his Patterson aunts, Elvina, Nancy Jo, and Lois, and numerous Patterson and Ehle cousins. Rose Ehle died in 1975 and Claire Ehle died in 2010.

Steve spent nearly all of his growing up years in Evansville, where, as a little boy, he enjoyed sitting on Great Grandpa Patterson’s lap with his siblings being read countless books, thereby learning the structure of language and laying the groundwork for his many years as a journalist.

Steve loved his Evansville class, was friends from an early age with both girls and boys, and remained friends with classmates for the rest of his life. In high school he excelled in sports, lettering each year in baseball and also playing basketball and participating in track and field. He played baseball for the University of Wisconsin-Madison during his freshman year and later played semi-pro baseball for 11 years, pitching a no-hitter in the 1970s. Steve was the only player to be elected to the Home Talent All-Star Team five times.

After graduating from UW-Madison in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Radio/TV Journalism, Steve held positions as editor/reporter/photographer for the National Farmer’s Organization’s Guidelight, at Varco-Pruden, at Leader Printing (his parents’ business), and as area correspondent for Madison’s Capital Times. Steve and Jennifer Eager married on December 27, 1975, and initially lived and worked in the San Antonio area and in Portland, Indiana, where Steve was City Editor of the Commercial Review.

In 1979 Steve and Jennifer moved to Cooksville, where they lovingly renovated and expanded the John Cook residence. Between 1979 and 1986, while Steve was Editor of the Stoughton Courier-Hub, it received 26 awards from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. From 1986 to 2009 Steve was Editor of the trade publication Wood Digest. While interviewing and photographing business owners and leaders for Wood Digest, Steve formed lasting friendships all over the U.S. and enjoyed traveling for business to eight European countries, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Steve’s last position before free-lancing was as Wisconsin Coordinator for WoodLINKS Wisconsin (2003-2010) and actively supported the successor organization, Woodworking Career Alliance, as well.  Steve was passionate about ensuring that the woodworking industry would be supplied with qualified workers going forward, and was involved with programs to promote vocational and technical education in secondary and post-secondary schools.

Steve had numerous interests.  For all of his adult life he did photography both professionally and personally.  As a proud father he created sensitive portraits of Jonathon that showed his love for and fascination with his little son. American history was a life-long interest and the histories of Evansville and Cooksville a special focus. He loved movies of all kinds and knew movie history, actors, and dialogue by heart. Coin collecting was a boyhood interest that persisted his entire life. In his last days Steve especially enjoyed reminiscing about travel experiences. Steve’s volunteer work was very important to him and included the Historic Cooksville Trust, the Stoughton Area Resource Team, Cooksville Lutheran Church, and ZorShrine in Madison. Steve was accepted into the Scottish Rite of Free Masonry and attained the 32nd Degree. He was a member of Waucoma Masonic Lodge 90, which met in Cooksville. Steve was funny, kind, smart, generous, and loving. He loved dogs and birds, enjoyed cooking, and even more, loved to make people laugh. Until very near the end he was planning his next dinner party, a trip to Nova Scotia with Karbet, and the next movie to see with Jonathan. A donation in Steve's memory could be made to Cooksville Lutheran Church, Stoughton Area Resource Team, or Agrace HospiceCare in Fitchburg. 

A memorial to celebrate Steve’s life will be held Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, at 4:00 p.m. at the Cooksville Lutheran Church, village of Cooksville. northern Rock County.  

Saturday, December 22, 2018

More from the Cooksville Archives – Part Four

Residing in the historic Cooksville Archives and Collections are the following items relating to Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, Frank Lloyd Wright and a 357-year-old book:

            Carolyn Mill Every was the cook for a period of time in the 1930s for America’s most famous acting couple, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. Later in her life, Carolyn lived in retirement in the historic John Seaver House in Cooksville in the 1980s.
Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne
            Carolyn was a friend of several village people. She entertained them at her home and socialized at their homes, where she often regaled them with stories of her time as the Lunts’ cook, companion and dog-caretaker.  Or as Carolyn wrote, “For a brief, magical time I became a part of the Lunts’ lives.”
            And Carolyn’s stories about her adventures with the Lunts were interesting, even intimate, and often humorous behind- the-scenes stories. Her Cooksville friends urged her to write them down, which she did. 
             In 1980 she gave Larry Reed a 15-page copy of her reminiscences, now in the Cooksville Archives. She wrote about the Lunts with great and enthusiastic affection, relating incidents and anecdotes about the Lunts and their famous theatre visitors. She described her times with the Lunts at their home, on the road, in the trains, backstage at theaters, and in the hotels in the many cities that the Lunts performed in. She wrote especially about her time living in the Lunts’ estate in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin—a home filled with famous theater guests with amusing adventures and a few misadventures in 1932-33.
            Carolyn grew up in Genesee Deport where her mother owned the small town’s old hotel where she was a popular cook, which was the reason her daughter Carolyn was hired as the Lunts’ nineteen-year-old-cook—and dog-walker, traveling companion, and friend of the family.
The Lunts in their kitchen
            At the urging of a Cooksville friend, Carolyn revised her 15-page memoir about her time with the famous couple, titling it, “Home Life of the Lunts,” and had it published in the Wisconsin Magazine of History, Spring 1983 ”—after deleting or altering some of the more risqué or perhaps unflattering episodes. (Larry Reed later donated to the Ten Chimneys Foundation his copy of Carolyn’s original version that she had given him.)
            Although Carolyn’s stay in Cooksville was brief and her departure unfortunately sudden, she certainly was a charming, gregarious, talented lady with many stories to tell at Cooksville cocktail time—or over a few midnight breakfasts. She went on to be a local award-winning writer of other stories, one of which is also in the Cooksville Archives.
            As Carolyn Every (1913-2003) wrote in her Lunts story, “I cherish most of all my memory of the two people who let me be a part of their glamorous life in the theater. Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne allowed me to enter their personal life to witness their mutual esteem and love—a love enriched with wisdom and humor—and the experience lasted a lifetime.”                 
           The Lunts home, “Ten Chimneys,” in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin, is now a beautifully restored estate, museum and research center open to visitors.                   

             In 1934, Frank Lloyd Wright designed a chapel for Cooksville. He named it a “Memorial to the Soil Chapel.”
            According to Wright, the small Prairie School-style family chapel was to be a “Chapel Cast in Concrete” and was inspired by Walt Whitman’s poem, “Pioneers! O Pioneers!”
The Memorial to the Soil Chapel for Cooksville
            The chapel was commissioned by the Gideon Newman family of Cooksville, one of the early families to settle in the village with their farm just north of the Badfish Creek. The chapel was designed for the side of a low hill on that farmland.
            The Newman family member that most likely commissioned the chapel was, Gideon  (1860-1944), a son of Gideon Ellis Newman (1823-1911) who had settled in Cooksville in 1850. The Newman family first lived in what is now the Cooksville Farmhouse Inn. Later the Newman family moved to their farmland north of Cooksville and the Badfish Creek, where Newman built another farmhouse and where the Cooksville Chapel was meant to be constructed. The son Gideon may have known Wright at the University of Wisconsin when they both were in attendance there. 
            In 1992, a reviewer of a Wright exhibit in a Milwaukee newspaper described the chapel project: “[The chapel] breaks from the brow of a hill—a smooth-walled, flat-roofed jewel of parallel lines. Molded from cast concrete, the building both accentuates and pays tribute to the land it embraces.”   
            On an existing drawing of the chapel, Wright wrote a description of his design as a “Memorial to the tiller of the ground making the earth a feature of the monument or vice versa.” The plan is a Wrightian design, horizontal and grounded, with very simple geometric shapes inside and out.
            Plans, elevation drawings, sketches, and mentions of the project in the Madison Capital Times newspaper in 1934 describe the project in detail.
Drawing of the Chapel
            However, for unknown reasons, the project was never built.  
            Copies of a number of drawings and sketches of the proposed Cooksville Chapel were provided to the Cooksville Archives by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Taliesin West (for the “Prospective and Plan, Chapel in Cast Concrete, “Memorial to the Soil” drawing) and, recently, by the Avery Library Archives of Columbia University, which shared 22 working drawings of the Chapel project contained in its F.L. Wright archival collection.

            This large old book, dated 1661, is printed in Latin and consists of 210 pages with a black cover embossed with gold designs and two brass clasps. It is printed in red and black ink with three large, handsome, full-page Biblical etchings and one small one all printed in black. (Two of the large etchings have the following attributions: “F.Valegio” and “Phts Thomassmus f.1634.”)

            The book is a 1661 Catholic Church missal or book of devotions with contents to be used and read for various dates and occasions throughout the church year.  A name, perhaps the owner’s, is written in ink on the back of the title page: “Juan Polyao y Jancinta Carrera” or something similar. Perhaps that of its Spanish owner.
            A rough, muddled Google translation of the title page is: The Gospels which are to be read in the year both of the Holy time from the Roman Missal, by a decree of the holy Council Trent restoration and Pii V High priest, by order of the top. At Madrid.  Printed palace. In the year 1661.  (What “PiiV” refers to is unclear; perhaps a Pope?)

       This “Gospel Book” was collected and owned by Cooksville’s famous antiquarian and collector,  Ralph Lorenzo Warner (1875-1941), owner of the “House Next Door” (the historic Duncan House) in the village. But there is no information as to how, where, when or why he collected it. The book now resides in the Cooksville Archives and Collections established and maintained by Larry Reed.

        A number of other older books, some owned by or related to Cooksville’s early settlers or later residents are also part of the Cooksville collections. Some of these include:

            * Cicero’s Laelius. A Discourse of Friendship, Together with a Pastoral Dialogue Concerning Friendship and Love. 114 pages. Licensed, Rob. Midgley, London, 1691.

            *The New Instructor, Being the Second Part of the American Spelling Book. 240 pages. Compiled by Asa Rhoads, Stanford, [NY?], 1804.

                  * The Plays of Shakespeare, in Eight Volumes. Vol. V, Containing King Henry VI, Part 1, Part II, Part III…King Richard III. 417 pages. Philadelphia, 1823.  

                  * The Marriage Ring: or How to Make Home Happy.128 pages. By John Angell James, Boston, 1842.          

        * The Little Child’s First Reader, Adapted to Either Mode of Teaching; By Letters or By Words. 48 pages. Friends’ Educational Series. Philadelphia, 1862.

  [The Cooksville Archives is available to researchers and other interested persons by appointment. Contact Larry Reed (608) 873-5066.]

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Oddities in the Cooksville Archives - Part Three

           Here are a few more unusual items—a few documents, a story, a poem—from the Cooksville Archives that are interesting, or maybe just odd. They raise questions:  how did they end up in Cooksville and does that “cancer cure” work?


          For some reason, a modern typed copy of the will of George Washington’s mother, Mary Washington, dated May 20, 1788, appears in the Cooksville Archives. The copy was apparently printed by The Central Wisconsin Trust Company, Wis. 
           Mary’s will, “registered in the Clerk’s Office at Fredericksburg, Virginia,” states in part the following:       
         "I, Mary Washington, of Fredericksburg, in the County of Spotsylvania, being in good health, but calling to mind the uncertainty of this life…dispose of my worldly estate as follows…to my son, General George Washington,  all my land in Accokeek Run, in the County of Stafford, and also my negro boy George, to him and his heirs forever. Also my best bed…”  
Mary Washington
          To her other son, Charles Washington, she gives “my negro man, Tom…” among other items. And she gives her other slaves to her other children and grandchildren, along with her furniture, china, beds, bedding, wearing apparel and silver spoons as a “token… of my love for them.” 
          And so on, for two pages....
          Why is this copy in the Cooksville Archives? Probably because the 20th-century produced several wide-ranging genealogical researchers in the village of Cooksville. Some of their work is in the Cooksville Archives, which continue to be especially helpful and important for researchers involving the early settlers of the village.

           Also, for some reason, the Cooksville Archives has a lengthy four-page, typed letter-cum-article entitled, “Those Wicked Uncles.” Internal evidence indicates that the piece was written in 1936 when Edward VIII was the British king (for less than a year) and is signed only with an “M.”  
           The subjects of the article are the seven playboy uncles of Queen Victoria (1819-1901), who were the surviving sons of King George III (1738-1820). It appears the article had been written as a letter and sent to a friend because the author at the end of the exposé piece asks the recipient to “Excuse the mistakes… I had to write this in a hurry...You might criticize it for me.”— And signs it, “Love, M
Queen Victoria
          The author discloses the skeletons in the closets of those seven wicked uncles, relating their numerous amorous assignations, jilted lovers, profligate dissoluteness, frequent adulteries, and their general scandalous behavior in the late 18th   and early 19th- centuries. It’s mildly amusing, although the Queen was probably not amused.
          The article’s author believes that the Queen’s wicked uncles’ behavior led to the “ultra-respectability” and moderation of the Victorian Era that lasted from 1837 to1901 under Victoria’s reign.

           The Village of Cooksville has been a village of many cooks, appropriately enough.  It produced a number of cookbooks over the past 170 years, including an old one with a recipe for a “cancer ointment.”
          The c.1850s cookbook with the “Receipt For making Cancer Ointment” also has recipes for concocting medicines for “Dropsy,” “Dysentery,” “Piles,” “Tape Worm,” and other ills, as well as recipes for the more usual cakes, cookies and sausages.
          The old, handwritten, slender (18 pages of recipes) cookbook does not have a title and is not identified as to ownership or writer. It appears to have been created in the mid-19th century in ink and in a neat, old-fashioned script (an occasional old-fashioned “f- shaped letter is formed instead of an “s-shape” for the first “s” when a double “ss” is required).   Also, measurements include “gills,” “size of a hen’s egg,” or “a goose egg.”
         The cancer ointment recipe is interesting because it contains, among its several ingredients, various tree barks: white pine, elder, elm, hemlock, red dogwood. Two of these ingredients— pine bark and red dogwood (ozier) species bark— have recently been associated with the treatment of certain cancers. 
        The “receipt” in the booklet for making the cancer ointment is as follows:
"Take of red Ozier, Stinking Elder, Hemlock Boughs, White pine bark, two quarts each.  Boil them together until the strength is gotten out, then strain it. Put to this Mutton tallow, honey, bees-wax, the marrow of a hog’s jaw and fresh Butter of each the size of a hen’s egg. Simmer it moderately over a slow fire until it becomes an ointment.”
        This probably should not be tried at home. But, then again, why not?

         Cooksville had a very active prohibition group in the 19th century.  In 1864, The Independent Order of Good Templars, a secret society that promoted total abstinence from alcohol, established a chapter named the Rising Tide Lodge, Number 123, in Cooksville. Meetings in the village were held every two weeks and appear to have been popular social gatherings until the end of the 19th century
Electa Savage and son Paul
          One member, Electa Savage (1845 -1927), was inspired to write a poetic address instead of the usual lecture for a meeting of the village’s chapter, which normally met in the Congregational Church’s basement parlor. Electa’s poem was a denunciation of demon rum  at the February 28, 1888, meeting.  
           No doubt lots of tea and lemonade were served. Here are portions of her six-page poetic message to the temperance members:

 “I’ve been asked to write an essay
And read it to the Club:
And so I sat me down one day
With a kind of pen called ‘stub,’

To write the rambling thoughts that came
Into my busy brain,
Thoughts that I know are somewhat lame
And yet-I hope not vain…

We ask all true and earnest friends
To help us fight the foe,
We’re bound to work until life ends,
Yes, the saloon must go.

Republicans and Democrats:
Don’t sit-astride the fence,
Just leave your whiskey and beer vats
And wake to common sense…

Then altogether with a will
Take off your hats and sing,
We’ll wage the war till Alcohol
No more shall be the King.”
        However, the Cooksville’s Waucoma House tavern and inn had operated into the early 1900s. But its business lagged because of a lack of stagecoach travelers and village customers, and it soon went out of business as a tavern.  And, of course, the Eighteenth Amendment enacted in 1920 imposed Prohibition in the country, closing saloons— at least until 1933—but apparently hard cider could still be had in the village.

[There are more original poems and stories by Cooksvillians in the Cooksville Archives.]

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Some More Stories, Oddities, Mysteries in the Cooksville Archives - Part Two

Here are a few more interesting (and unusual) items in the Cooksville Archives, all Civil War-related, including a couple of hand-written stories, a travel log, and a photograph album. 
 CIVIL WAR SOLDIERS PHOTO ALBUM.   A small, well-preserved Civil War era photograph album of Union soldiers circa 1860s is part of the Cooksville Archives.

          The album has a handsomely embossed cover with gold-edged pages and a brass clasp and is undated and the original owner is unidentified. It contains 39 small photos of uniformed Civil War soldiers, some paper and some tin-type photos, and 10 photos of civilian-attired men including a child. Thirteen of the 49 photos are unidentified, and the photos fill the album’s pages.

          The uniformed military men probably all belong to Company H, 1st Regiment of the Wisconsin Heavy Artillery; many are identified as such. The first photo in the album is labeled “Capt Chas Taylor Co. H. 1 Wis Art.”; perhaps the album belonged to him or his family. Some of the other last names include Hoyt, Hubbel, Prentice and several Warners. (Ralph L. Warner was a resident in Cooksville in the early 20th century.) 
          Although it's unclear if any of these soldiers or their relatives ever resided in or near Cooksville, there is no evidence of that. The album’s origin and past owner(s) remain mysteries. Some of the photographs were taken by the "New Gem Gallery" in Alexandria, Virginia, the "Only Place in the City," where "Beautiful  Pictures for Albums... can be taken in cloudy weather as well as clear, and be finished in twenty minutes," so states the backs of several of the tintypes.

 A NIGHT OF TERROR IN THE CIVIL WAR.  The Archives contain a copy of a 15-page, hand-written account of a frightening Civil War episode involving an incident in the State of Kansas in 1863, which occurred shortly after a band of Confederate guerillas carried out an infamous massacre known as the Quantrill Raid. That event at Lawrence, Kansas, occurred on August 21, 1863, resulting in the killing of over 150 people.
The Quantrill Raid, Kansas, 1863
          The first-person account of the episode after the murderous Raid that is in the Cooksville Archives is titled “A Night of Terror.” It relates a fearful night on the Sunday after the Quantrill Raid, when another raid on the community was expected.

          The writer is named Mrs. Duncan C. Allison, “nee Miss Isidore Johnson,” and she apparently was a survivor of Quantrill’s raid at Lawrence. In her story, Mrs. Allison tells of the burying of the victims of Quantrill’s massacre and then describes what happened the following Sunday, when news of a second raid was suddenly shouted in the night, raising the alarm to the exhausted and recovering community. With that warning of more possible killing and burning began the writer’s story of “Night of Terror.”

          Heeding the sudden warning of a second raid by the Confederate marauders, frightened citizens quickly gathered up their children and a few valuables and fled into the night fearing the arrival of gunmen on horseback. Stumbling in panic in the darkness, they ran to hide in the nearby Kansas corn field.

          As the people fled into the tall corn stalks, the writer recounts that one “old lady stopped, crying, ‘I have forgotten my mother’s teaspoons,’ and started back. Her daughter said: ‘never mind the spoons, Mother, we have no time to get them.’ But when the old lady replied in reproachful tones: ‘Your Grandmother’s spoons that I brought from Scotland with me must be saved,’ she let her go….”  The frightened people hid in the corn fields for hours.
"A Night of Terror"
          But it turned out to be a false alarm; there was no second raid, and those Kansas folk including the writer of the story survived their fear-filled night of terror and crept back to their houses. The writer reports that the old lady who fretted about the forgotten spoons had sprained her ankle in her flight; however, “when telling of that awful night, she would say triumphantly, ‘But I saved my Mother’s teaspoons.’ " 

          But why and how a hand-written copy of Mrs. Allison’s story of that Kansas night ended up in the Cooksville Archives is unknown. At any rate, this personal account of enduring that night of terror is told in simple, vivid, touching detail.

 FROM COOKSVILLE TO A CONFEDERATE GENERAL.  In the Archives is a story titled “The First Tragedy of the Town of Porter.” The tale is hand-written on five-pages in pencil and is unattributed.  It appears to be a truthful story, which has a Civil War connection. Here is a summary:

          A Kentucky slave-owner named Mr. Castleman bought several thousand acres from the U.S. Government in the 1840s in Section 9, Town of Porter, near Cooksville, purchased through his local agent, Frank Sayre of nearby Fulton. Castleman built himself a large farm house on the rich, well-wooded, well-watered land for his family. 
"The first Tragedy of the Town of Porter" story
          Castlemen’s daughter, sent out East to school, met a handsome, hard-drinking young man named Kile, an Eastern wine-merchant’s son. They married and moved to the Midwest farm in Wisconsin, which Kile’s family hoped would ease his drinking habit.

          From then on the story gets a bit convoluted, with Kile’s  new wife apparently spending too much time traveling the Rock County area with the young  Doctor Tandy (a foster son of Mr. Castleman’s, no less), perhaps distressing Kile and apparently leading to Kile’s sudden death, either from suicide by drugs or by excessive drinking, or both.      
          The sad story, as written, does not end there. It continues with the involvement of the newly- widowed Mrs. Kile’s two Castleman brothers. They had spent their boyhoods in the 1850s on the Castleman farm near Cooksville. But when the Civil War broke out, the brothers went south to move the Castleman family’s slaves from Kentucky further south to a “safer” Arkansas. One of the brothers then enlisted in the Confederate Army, quickly rising to the rank of Major General. And thus ends this story of the” First Tragedy,” one of love, death and civil war. 

          Apparently it is a sadly true story involving early Town of Porter settlers, excessive drinking, and the making of a General in the Confederate Army. (Note: The Castleman brother may have become the quasi-famous Confederate General John B. Castleman (1841-1918), of Louisville, Kentucky, who survived the war and a subsequent execution order, living to later became a U.S. Army Brigadier General.)

 FROM COOKSVILLE TO NEW ORLEANS IN 1864.  Recently donated to the Archives are a few pages of a travel log kept by Ezra Stoneburner of Cooksville, who enlisted in the Union Army in 1864 and traveled south to participate in the Civil War campaign. He kept a simple travel log of his journey, the first pages of which were donated by his descendents to the Archives, along with some Stoneburner family genealogical information.

          Stoneburner enlisted into Company F, Thirty-fifth Wisconsin Infantry Regiment, organized at Camp Washburn, Milwaukee, in 1864, apparently the last company mustered into U.S. service in the Civil War. The Company traveled by land and rivers down to New Orleans for active duty in areas of Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama. Along the way Corporal Stoneburner briefly described some of the scenery, the weather, and his illnesses in those first pages of what must have been a lengthier log-book.

           After the South’s surrender, Stoneburner’s Company was transferred to Texas and the Rio Grande River area until March 1866, when he—now Sergeant Stoneburner—and his Company were mustered out of service. He returned to Madison, where he was finally paid off and discharged on April 16, 1866.
Ezra and Mary Stoneburner

          Stoneburner returned home to Cooksville and once again operated the old grocery store on the corner of Main and Dane streets in the Waucoma part of Cooksville. (That store no longer stands.) He later operated a meat market and also farmed in the area.

          Stoneburner lived in the village for the rest of his life, along with his wife Mary and their four children. In 1889 he bought “Waucoma House,” the old stagecoach inn and tavern, remodeled it and lived there. (The old inn was torn down about 1910.) Stoneburner was elected the first President of the Thirty-fifth Wisconsin Regimental Association in 1902 and died in 1908. The 78-year-old Civil War veteran is buried in the Cooksville Cemetery.
Ezra Stoneburner, President of the Thirty-fifth Wisconsin Regimental Association, 1902 Reunion, Janesville. Ezra is 4th from the right, back row.

 [The Cooksville Archives continue to provide interesting bits and pieces of our history. More items are always welcome. Larry Reed, (608) 873-5066.]

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