Thursday, September 29, 2016

Isaac Hoxie’s Cooksville Cemetery Story: “The Home of the Dead”

Isaac A. Hoxie (1825-1903)

Isaac Hoxie (1825-1903) wrote an article about his visit to the Cooksville Cemetery while attending the “Old Folks picnic” in the summer of 1901 in Cooksville. (The Old Folks or Old Settlers’ Reunions would continue for another fifty years.)

Hoxie’s article is a touching remembrance of his family and friends who once settled, lived, died and were buried in the Cooksville cemetery.

Hoxie had come to Cooksville with his parents from Maine in 1846, along with his five sisters and brothers including Benjamin, who would become Cooksville’s prominent architect, builder, carpenter and one of Wisconsin’s important horticulturists.
Benjamin Hoxie House, built c.1852
 Isaac helped his brother Benjamin in their thriving door, sash and shutter manufacturing business in Cooksville in the 1840s-50s, which provided the new settlers in the area with the needed doors, windows and “blinds” for their new homes and commercial buildings.  Later, Isaac went into the newspaper business, establishing and operating a number of local newspapers including Evansville’s first newspaper, the Citizen, in 1866, and later the Evansville Review, as well as the Oconomowoc Local and the Deerfield Enterprise. Eventually, Isaac operated a clothing store and owned several buildings in Evansville.
Hoxie's printing press: oldest in Wisconsin

While in the newspaper business in Evansville, Isaac Hoxie operated the oldest printing press in Wisconsin, a Ramage Printing Press manufactured in Philadelphia in 1851-54. The press, previously used by others in the state, was donated by his son Wilbur to the Wisconsin Historical Society in the 1880s, where it remains. 

After Isaac visited the Cooksville Cemetery that day in 1901, he wrote his article entitled, The Home of the Dead, describing his visit and his thoughts. Here are some of his words:

“While attending the Old Folk’s picnic in Cooksville….I visited the old cemetery where were buried the kindred and loved ones of my family, and noticed the many changes that time has wrought in the years since I made [Cooksville] my home in 1846. Then I was only a boy in my minority. The cemetery was neither located nor platted [then], but the early death of a Mr. Hammond from the state of Maine, who coming west to visit friends, met death early, making it necessary that some suitable location should be made …One after another dropping away still no location was made and graves were dug just the same but with little regard to order... and it was not until Dr. Porter died that a cemetery was permanently located and the ground properly laid out [in 1861].

“It was to the southeastern corner under embowering pines and matted foliage my attention was particularly directed. Here I found an unpretentious slab bearing the chiseled name of my father, Allen Hoxie, who died February 26, 1862, aged 65 years, with this further beautiful inscription: ‘My faith is knowledge now.’ The next grave was that of my mother who died some years later, and bore the simple inscription ‘Our Mother’—Olivia Hoxie, wife of Allen Hoxie, died Sept. 8, 1876, aged 79 years…
Allen Hoxie (1797-1876) tombstone

“Nearly hidden by soughing [moaning] pines and creeping vines were the remains of her [his wife] who plighted her troth, came west, and bore life’s burdens with me from April 14, 1852 to May 22, 1896,—44 short and happy years. We began our new life in Cooksville, and it was fitting that her remains should here find a resting place. She is gone! no longer shrinks from the winter’s winds, or lift[s] her calm, pure forehead to summer’s kisses. But as the ashes of the oak is no epitaph to tell what flock it has sheltered, the dust of her grave is speechless, yet her noble deeds and Christian life are ever bright upon the silent tablet of memory….

“As I stood by the graves of the departed ones, on this beautiful autumn I could scarcely refrain a tear while looking back through the vista of fifty-five years—beautiful years, when I made Cooksville my home, silently exclaiming what marvelous changes God has wrought….

“But I must hasten away to the banqueting hall, for the little village is already astir with teams and gaily dressed people to pay homage to months and years long gone bye.

“In song and story this little nook in the northwestern portion of Rock county has ever borne an honorable record. From its founders, John Cook, the Porter family and a host of others who made our representative hall and temple of justice fervid with eloquence, have lived and whose remains find a resting place here.”  [signed] I. A. Hoxie.
*   *   *
[This clipping from an unidentified newspaper, probably the Evansville Review, is part of the Cooksville Archives. The Cooksville Cemetery, the Isaac Hoxie House, and the Benjamin Hoxie House are part of the Cooksville Historic District.  The Cooksville Archives welcomes donations of papers, photographs, objects, etc., related to Cooksville’s history. Larry Reed.]

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

More Anniversaries to Celebrate in Old Cooksville… by Larry Reed

This year 2016, and next year in 2017, the Village of Cooksville celebrates a number of special but lesser-known important anniversaries as the community remembers its early formal establishment 175 years ago. (A previous story in the Cooksville News Blog of April 28, 2016, lists a number of major mile-stones in the village’s history.) 

It’s not just the major anniversaries of the village’s early “birth dates”—two of them!— of 1842 and 1846 that are to be celebrated: those dates when Cooksville was first founded by the Cook brothers175 years ago and four years later when its large contiguous neighbor, the Village of Waucoma, was founded by the Porter brothers. 

Or that important and famous “non-event” event of 1857, the year the railroad did not come to Cooksville. That would be 160 years ago when it didn’t happen, thus helping to preserve much of the village’s early and historic architecture and atmosphere. 

Ralph Warner at his "House Next Door"
But also important is an event 105 years ago, in 1911, the year Ralph Lorenzo Warner arrived, purchasing the Duncan House, which he named the “House Next Door” (next door to his friend Susan Porter’s home, “Waucoma Lodge”). Warner’s restoration efforts soon put old Cooksville on the map in local, state, and national publications with his creation of an antique house filled with antiques and set in antique gardens, all of which he shared with friends, neighbors, journalists and a large interested public who experienced something new and intriguing in his historic home filled with historic objects and who experienced his shared and charming antiquarian attitude. And, thus, historic preservation began in Cooksville (and Wisconsin) 105 years ago.

Also notable is the year when electricity first came to Cooksville —and that would be 100 years ago in 1917. That is when an electric power line was run from the Stebbinsville power dam on the Yahara River west to Cooksville. Folks were given the first opportunity to sign up for that new-fangled source of light, and the Congregational Church and five households signed up. (But candles and kerosene were probably kept handy, just as they still are today.)

Cooksville School House, c. 1910

Also, the present one-room School House, now the Cooksville Community Center, was built 130 years ago in 1886, to replace the original old, small, deteriorating brick school house. Also something to celebrate.

And 2017 will mark 55 years ago, in 1962, that the Cooksville Community Center was formed and purchased the one-room School House from the discontinued School District. The CCC was established as a non-profit, charitable, membership organization, and the historic School House on the Public Square is still the setting for various programs, celebrations, wedding receptions, family reunions and meetings.

"Friends Celebrating?" an unidentified and undated tintype
All these historical events, added to the others, have made the Village of Cooksville the charming, interesting, lovely, atmospheric, living and lively community that it is. Thanks to people, past and present, the now exists and will continue to celebrate many more anniversaries in the future. History is always being made in the village!