Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Concert This Sunday

 Duet Concert

Sunday, October 23, 4:00 p.m.
Cooksville Lutheran Church

This special event is in honor of the 125th anniversary of the church.  Music includes hymn arrangements for audience and the duet along with music selections from Brigadoon,
The Fantasticks, Carousel, Gigi, and
Phantom of the Opera.

The concert is free and a
reception with goodies will follow.


Sunday, October 9, 2016

Cooksville Songs and Stories, 10/14/16

Join us in the English Barn at Cooksville Farmhouse Inn, 11203 N. State Rd 138, Evansville, WI, Friday, October 14, 7 p.m. for music, stories, treats, and an evening of October fun.  Folk, bluegrass, old country western, and classical Bohemian as well as stories of Halloween pranks and dark nights from the archives of 175 years of Cooksville history.  Refreshments follow.

Join us at 7.  Dress for the weather and bring a flashlight.  Free admission.  All are welcome.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The “Good Templars” in Cooksville

The Independent Order of Good Templars—an early American organization promoting alcohol abstinence— granted a charter to a group in Cooksville in 1861 to form its own Lodge, Number 123, named the “Rising Tide” Lodge. The signed charter, in poor condition, is in the Cooksville Archives with the faded names of about 31 “charter members” hand-written on the fragile paper document.
Cooksville's Good Templars Charter of 1861
In addition, a “Juvenile Temple” of the Independent Order of the Good Templars, apparently for younger people, was established on December 13, 1894, as Temple Number 63 named “Rising” with names of 37 young Cooksville members. This large, ornate, handsomely-framed charter is in excellent condition and is also in the Cooksville Archives. (It is unclear exactly what the special age qualifications were for “Juvenile” Temple members, if any.)
Cooksville's "Juvenile Temple" Charter of 1894
The minutes of Cooksville’s “Rising Tide” Lodge from October 10, 1885 to January 25, 1896, hand-written in a secretary’s ledger are in the Cooksville Archives and provide a glimpse of its activities.

The Good Templars Order, named after the crusader knights of a 12th century religious order in Jerusalem, was started in 1851 in New York State as a secret, ritualistic  society committed to a life-style totally free from alcohol. The Order was committed to “friendship (later changed to faith), hope and charity,” and it reflected the tradition of other early social, self-improvement, spiritual groups of the time. And it was politically charged to achieve its goal of freeing society of the “evils” of alcohol. (Apparently, Americans were consuming an average of almost 2 bottles of liquor per person per week by 1830.)
Evils of Alcohol cartoon, 19th Century
Cooksville’s Good Templars appear to have been very active, meeting almost every week, socializing and supporting members in their temperance cause, entertaining and educating themselves, and sharing their goals and their activities with others in the community. And they continually recruited new members. Generally, in the early years, 15-20 members attended the weekly meetings.

According to the existing local minutes, the Good Templars had a good time. They met regularly, free from alcohol, had lengthy programs, were very strict about everybody paying their dues, adhered to meeting rules and rituals, with all participating as officers or as various committee members. The Templars appears to have been very well-run, following rigid national rules of order and ritual, and was socially-active with enlightening cultural and educational programs. And lots of tea and lemonade were consumed.

The Cooksville chapter initially met in Van Vleck’s Hall above the Farm Implement Factory (Wisconsin’s first, demolished c.1928) that once stood on the corner of Webster and Dane streets. (The Hall was used for many occasions at various times, including as the Waucoma Academy for advanced learning and for some community meetings and parties, as well as for announcing breaking news about the Civil War from its second-story porch.) The group also met in the Masonic Lodge above the present General Store and in the second-story room of the existing Cheese Factory. Eventually in 1879 the new Congregational Church basement parlor became its headquarters, which the Good Templars helped to furnish with lanterns, an organ and firewood. The group held popular Oyster Suppers (at one such supper 80 tickets were sold) as well as seasonal Maple Sugar Dinners for themselves and for the public, with “entertainments” to raise money for their needs.

For instance, the minutes for meetings in1886 indicate that one “Maple Sugar” supper was enjoyed at a meeting with 16 attending and $1.45 contributed, and that the Cooksville Lodge sent greetings to the newly-formed Lodge in Fulton, and that the Lodge accepted 75 cents from the Cooksville Library Association for its “use of the Lodge’s wood and lights” for the Library’s meetings. At the end of the Good Templar meetings there were entertainments: songs and “choruses,” instrumental music, recitations of poems, posed tableaus, readings of newspaper clippings by members and other such contributions by members, all done after the business portion of the meeting, which indicates very full and enjoyable evenings.

The brief formal minutes do not indicate any special prohibition or temperance projects, but, of course, the main purpose of the Good Templars was to support each other, to improve and enhance members’ lives and to generally promote their ideals of abstinence, no doubt by setting good examples for each other and for the community.  Perhaps the Good Templars may have succeeded in tempering the alcohol drinking habits of some citizens in Cooksville.

The members did provide funds for refurbishing (and heating and cleaning) the various meeting halls they used, with monies from their dues and funds received from their public parties and entertainments. Perhaps other charitable efforts may have been undertaken now and then but were not described in the existing minutes.

A comment in an unidentified (Evansville?) and undated (c.1876) newspaper clipping applauded the local Good Templars’ efforts for another special reason: “Old folks sometimes say that the Good Templars lodge is a sparking institution for the young folks, and here are some of the facts: Our lodge has had a good healthy existence for a little more than fifteen years, and there has been married from its ranks fifteen couples, besides quite a number of odd halves, or, as the Quakers say, marrying out. Can any lodge show a better record in this respect? And possibly it is better for the girls to pick up husbands here, than from the grog shops.”

The membership grew greatly in the late 19th century, apparently assisted by the new younger “juvenile” Good Templar members.(If male and under 16 years old, they had their quarterly dues lowered from forty cents to twenty-five cents; no indication if females paid more or less than that amount.) At a meeting on January 12, 1895, “8 gallons of oysters were disposed of and a barrel of crackers was cleared.” And on February 16, 1895, “Members present 83. Lodge closed in ritual form.”  Attendance in winter was always greater.
Waucoma House, 1850, inn and tavern, recent sketch

The Village of Cooksville had two taverns during the past 175 years of its history. The first was the stagecoach inn named “Waucoma House” (built c.1850 and demolished c.1913), which served as a tavern and hotel and, later in the 19th century, as a harness shop and a dressmakers shop, and was located on the corner of Main and Rock streets (Highways 138 and 59). The second later tavern was a small frame building erected on the same site about 1915 as a meat-market, then a liquor-licensed tavern, and finally used as a residence until about 1947 when it was moved to the western edge of Cooksville as a home for Paul Savage, later to be remodeled in the 1970s by Karl Wolter as his home.

The Archives records do not reveal the activities of the Good Templars of Cooksville as the 20th century began—and as the older original members and pioneers of Cooksville’s settlement passed on. The Good Templars’ minutes in the Archives end on January 25, 1896, thirty-five years after the “Rising Tide” Lodge first was organized in Cooksville. Undoubtedly, the efforts of the group continued on into the 20th century, perhaps more vigorously because the national temperance and prohibition movement succeeded in the passage of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting the production and sale of alcohol in 1920.
Prohibition photo, unidentified

However, Prohibition lasted only 13 tumultuous years and was repealed by the 21st Amendment to the Constitution in 1933. There are at present no taverns in Cooksville, but apparently consumption of wine, beer and whisky occurs now and then in the village.

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[The Cooksville Archives welcomes additional materials. Contact Larry Reed (608) 873-5066.]