Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cooksville Lutheran Harvest Dinner 11/11/12

Cooksville Lutheran Church, Harvest Dinner November 11th Members of the Cooksville Lutheran Church are busy preparing for the annual Harvest Dinner, scheduled for Sunday, November 11th, noon-3 PM. Church services will precede the meal, commencing at 10:15 AM. Tickets will be on sale the day of the event in the new church addition, the Fellowship Hall, which is handicapped accessible and air-conditioned. . Individuals /families are invited to eat at the Church; or carry-out meals are available. The meal will consist of the traditional homemade Thanksgiving meal: turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, baked squash, cranberries and lefse, and pie. The church building is handicapped accessible and air-conditioned. The Cooksville Lutheran Church is located in northern Rock County, at the junction of state roads 59, 138 and Tolles Road, between Edgerton, Stoughton and Evansville. The mailing address for the Church is 11927 West Church Street, Evansville, but it is located in the village of Cooksville. The website address is www.cooksvillelutheranchurch.org Please call me if you have questions, 1-608-302-1722; Hopkins@litewire.net

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Entertainments of various kinds—parties, community gatherings, occasional pranks—were part of the active social life of 19th century Cooksville. They were the highlights in the hard-working, semi-isolated Cooksville community, before small villages were “hard-wired” with telephones, radios, televisions, the Internet, and the internal combustion engines of the 20th century.
Being neighborly and sharing simple pleasures were important attributes in small towns in the mid-and-late-1800s, with self-organized activities serving as sources of social interaction, individual pleasure and sometimes intellectual stimulation. As recorded in journals, diaries and local newspaper gossip columns, the village tea-time parties and supper-parties that lasted until the wee hours were frequent events, often with music, singing, dancing and lively discussions. At one party at Mr. Duncan’s, “we fell into a pleasant little discussion upon the sounds of the vowels.” (Maybe not all the talk was lively.) Recipes, home remedies and plants were exchanged and gossip shared at house visits in the afternoon or the evening. Picnics, especially school picnics, were popular gatherings on the village Public Square or in Dow’s Grove west of the village by the Badfish Creek. And Waucoma House, the village’s stagecoach inn and tavern, was the site of social interaction (and alcoholic refreshments) before it was demolished in 1915. Card-games, especially euchre and whist, were enjoyed and holiday parties and family festivities usually involved friends and neighbors. The Porters, just east of Cooksville, once gave a party gathering for eighteen guests where fresh oysters— a popular dish to serve— were to be featured; however, the barrel of oysters, shipped in from Milwaukee or Chicago and stored in the cool basement, had spoiled, and the hostess, Ann Eliza Porter, had to improvise on that occasion. But, she wrote in her journal, “we got along quite well without them” and at 3 a.m. “our company went home under a mellow flood of moonlight.”
Ann Eliza Porter and Joseph K.P. Porter had arrived in 1847, and Ann brought the first piano to the community. She was a well-trained musician and was the moving spirit in the many musical events in the community, including productions of “H.M.S. Pinafore” and “Laila.” She was also a popular one-woman “elocutionist,” dramatically reciting poems and stories. She was also remembered as shocking the community by sitting beside her husband in church instead of sitting on the side reserved for women. Village neighborliness sometimes took the form of “donation parties.” Such parties, the fund-raising charities of their time, were common, especially to assist the elder and were usually held at the Masonic Hall or the Congregational Church basement. At one such party, for the Widow O’Brien and her five children who faced a bleak winter, neighbors who had little money to donate came with gifts of pork, flour, and vegetables. At the Widow’s party they danced and played games, one of which involved a large flat pan half-filled with raisins and half-filled with whiskey, which was then set afire. The players had to pick the raisins out of the burning whiskey with their fingers. One little boy remembered crawling around on the floor beneath the crowd of adults and snatching up the hot raisins that were dropped. “Black berrying” was turned into pleasurable social outings. In the 1860s many diary entries by the Dow family recorded outings into the woods near Bellville and Dayton where black berries were picked, picnic suppers were eaten, and partiers camped overnight in the woods or in a nearby barn if it rained, and came home in the morning. “Had a fine time,” the diarist wrote. In 1876, a major July 4th celebratory project was undertaken by two Cooksvillians, who otherwise had extremely different religious beliefs but shared very patriotic feelings. Gideon Newman was a Maine Protestant, and John Savage was a Vermont Puritan, They argued frequently about religion, wasting time and energy, until finally both men decided to cease discussing religion and divert their energies into something constructive. Both men decided upon a project to raise a “liberty pole” in the Cooksville Public Square to celebrate America’s 100th birthday on July 4, 1876. (Liberty poles were erected during the Revolutionary War as protests against British rule, and continued to be popular public expressions of American freedom in the 19th century, as are flag poles today.) The community supported the idea of a Cooksville liberty pole wholeheartedly, and Newman and Savage were selected to secure the logs. The two men took their horse teams and journeyed to northern Wisconsin and brought back two fifty-foot logs. William Graves, a local blacksmith, and John Fisher, a local carpenter, went to work to taper the two logs together from 36 inches at the base to 8 inches at the top, with a splice at the center fastened with steel bands and bolts to connect the two fifty-foot sections. On July 4, 1876, it was reported that three thousand people gathered on the Public Square to watch the raising of this impressive Liberty Pole. A ten-foot hole was dug, with a forty-foot trench leading into it. The pole was rolled into the trench, and then slowly raised with ropes, pulleys and sheer strength. The Liberty Pole, a ninety-foot symbol of the American Spirit, was a result of the efforts of two men who disagreed on religion but agreed on democratic principles. As part of the ceremony, ten little girls, “Future Mothers of America,” raised the flag. Ann Eliza Porter, Cooksville’s talented soprano, sang two patriotic solos, and John Savage sang a song, “Tenting on the Old Camp Ground.” Community singing was led by Thomas Morgan accompanied on the portable melodeon, a small organ, by his daughter, Net. The program that day also included a fife and drum corps and “talks” by Thomas Earl, Benjamin Hoxie, Joseph Porter, Harrison Stebbins, James Gillies, John Savage, J.P. Van Vleck and John Dow. The Liberty Pole remained in place for six years, towering over the village. In 1882, the Evansville Enterprise newspaper reported that the Liberty Pole had been sawn down. (However, photos from about 1910 show a tall flagpole standing in the middle of the Public Square, perhaps a replacement .) (TO BE CONTINUED.)