Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cooksville "Jots" - Life in the Village, by Larry Reed

Newspapers often published  weekly “gossipy” columns of so-called “jots,”  which were brief, newsy tid-bits about weddings, births, illnesses, funerals, visiting relatives, various parties, and a few tragedies. These columns were very popular in the late 19th century and on into the 20th.

The Cooksville jots are just that— bits and pieces of every-day village life , consisting of family events, homey aphorisms, brief glimpses of the lives and times of Cooksvillians written by local correspondents for local newspapers.

The Cooksville Archives has a number of newspaper clippings, sometimes pasted into scrapbooks or old ledgers, which contain these published writings by early “Cooksville columnists.”  For almost a hundred years, these local happenings— neighbors’ comings-and-goings, accidents to man or animal, and almost anything else newsworthy— got printed in the local newspapers, if the village’s columnist was made aware of them.

Here are a few of these Cooksville “jots” from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, mostly undated and sometimes written by unidentified correspondents:

 “It is reported that a new charm will soon grace Brother Isaac’s smile. Take care of your hearts, girls,—for he evidently means business.” [1874]

“John Vanfleck [Van Vleck? Ed.] lost his best cow last Saturday. Too much clover the cause.” (1893)

“The new meat market is in full bloom… a fine steak was given free to all who came in the first day.”

“A Hop and Eat. The Masons of Cooksville, having completed their new Hall, purpose to have a Ball, St. John’s day, Dec. 27. The Evansville Band do the music, and E.T. Stonburner prepares the cuisane [sic] department. We can dance some to the music of the latter, when properly “mixed” with bivalves, the former has too many short crooks, for our “pedalihoes [sic].”  [1867. You had to be there, I guess, eating an oyster dinner, perhaps? Ed.]

“A man was considered conceited if he went about with his hat brim turned up in front.”

 “Put the wrong foot out of bed first when you get up in the morning and you will be cross all day.  Always get up with the right foot foremost.”

“A pleasant dinner party was held at J.A. Savage’s last Saturday. Among the items of talk, one was the discovery of counterfeit money in an old stump in Dow’s woods…”

“A good many cisterns are dry and people are getting ice from the pond to wash with. Some fall in and find two feet of mud under the ice.”

 “To cut the finger nails on Sunday morning is a sign that you will do something you are ashamed of before the week is out.”

“The funeral of Mrs. Towne was largely attended, Wednesday. The Coroner’s inquest decided that her death was accidental or caused by temporary insanity. Investigation showed that poverty was not the cause of the rash act, as was at first supposed.” [1879. She had jumped in the mill pond. Ed.]

Ralph Warner, “House Next Door” (photo c. 1918)
“Mr. [Ralph Lorenzo] Warner is settled in his new home, which he purchased because the old-fashioned fireplace appealed to his love of old things...  He loves everything that is old and is pleased to show his curios to interested friends.” (1912)

“If the bottom of your foot itches, you may know that you are to step on strange lands.”

“SIDELIGHTS ON THE FIDDLERS’ CONTEST. Jack Robertson, Cooksville, was the heavy prize winner. He ought to go into vaudeville; he can do more things with a violin than a Ford owner can do with a screw-driver…. That boy can play a fiddle in bed with a quilt over him better than most of them.”
Jack Robertson (1858-1930)

“Jack won five of the prizes [at a Fort Atkinson fiddlers’ contest], a beautiful card table, a fine clock, a pair of woolen blankets, a nice flour bin and a two-dollar piece of bacon.”

“Don’t make a friend a gift of a knife, for according to every authority versed in sign lore, if you do it will cut your friendship.”

“Blow out the candle and if the wick continues long to smolder, look for bad weather. If it goes out quickly the weather will be fair.”

Electa Savage (1845-1927)
“A great white cat, 16 years old, that hunts rabbits and other wild animals and birds, is the pet of Mrs. Electa Savage, residing at Cooksville… Last week the big cat brought in eight rabbits, a meadow mole, and several sparrows. She will tackle a ground-hog without hesitation, and more than one dog has met with disaster while encroaching on her territory.”

 “Four young men of Evansville pass’d through Cooksville Wednesday evening to attend the masquerade ball at Stoughton.” [1897]

“Something new... for this community, at least:  the frog farm that has been opened on the Lawrence farm near Cooksville…. A tank, 16x42 feet, and 6 feet deep, with a capacity for 40,000 dozen of frogs, has been made.” [1916]

“A meeting in the [Congregational] church basement last Friday was held to find out if it would be well to have the electric lights here from the Stebbinsville power. It was decided that the following would have their homes lighted: Joe Porter, Fred Miller, Ole Fursett, Lars Erickson, Bert and Chester Miller, and the church.” [1917]

“Four animals went to a circus—a duck, a pig, a frog and a skunk. All of them got in except one. The duck has a bill, the pig had four quarters and the frog had a greenback, but the skunk had only a ‘cent’.” [1926]

“The new basement of the Cooksville Lutheran Church… will be dedicated Sunday... The steeple, which was blown down in a severe storm in 1929, was rebuilt and a new bell installed.” [1930]

Cooksville Lutheran Church (photo c.1950)
“Cooksville Church Plans Annual Lutefisk Supper…. Sixteen hundred pounds of lutefisk has been ordered and 200 pounds of meat to make Norwegian meatballs. Several hundred pies, 1,400 lefse, rolls, cabbage salad, cranberries, and plenty of coffee are included in the menu…” [1956]

 “When a Jotter’s far too weary
For writing up what ‘might have been,’
How this jotter’s heart grows cherry [sic; cheery? Ed. ]
If some jots are handed in.”  [1874]
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[From the Cooksville Archives, courtesy of the many “weary Jotters” these “jots” were found in donated scrapbooks and in the local newspaper clippings donated to the Archives by Ruth Ann Montgomery, Evansville WI.  Larry Reed]

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Monday, January 5, 2015

The new Cooksville Guide Books are here!

 Come take a self-guided tour of the village, either from your armchair or on foot. The Guide contains beautiful full-color pictures of the historic homes and landmarks of the village, and is full of interesting facts about the area and the people who made it unique. Makes a great gift. On sale now at the Cooksville Country Store for $10.  Proceeds benefit the Cooksville Community Center.

Photo: The new Cooksville Guide Books are here!  Come take a self-guided tour of the village, either from your armchair or on foot. The Guide contains beautiful full-color pictures of the historic homes and landmarks of the village, and is full of interesting facts about the area and the people who made it unique. Makes a great gift.  On sale now at the Cooksville Country Store.