Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Village of Cooksville in the 1954 Book ,“Wisconsin Heritage”

In 1954, a large format book by Bertha Kitchell Whyte, titled “Wisconsin Heritage,” was published in Boston, containing sixteen chapters, with one chapter devoted to “Ralph Warner and Cooksville.” Other chapters in the book addressed such topics as Wisconsin’s early taverns, octagonal houses and barns, the lumber era, potteries and glass works, and Norwegian heirlooms.
In Chapter 15, Whyte focused on the historic village and its famous resident Ralph Lorenzo Warner (1875-1941) and his antiquarian work of art, the “House Next Door.” She wrote:

             “So successful was he in choosing for his setting the town, the house, the furnishings, the very flowers in the garden and food for the table, that for twenty years his home was a mecca for all who shared his pleasure in such things.”

She further praised Warner’s accomplishments:

            “Nothing was put in the house that did not belong in a home of the period or that could not be blended into a harmonious whole by the sensitive touch of the new owner… No telephone or other anachronism was permitted to break the spell of the interior. Many of the rugs the owner hooked himself in his workshop in the barn where he also had his loom…..  
Warner's parlor in the "House Next Door"
            “He was one of the earliest and most intelligent collectors in the state and knew better than anyone else how to display, and make desirable his own treasures. Usually these treasures were not for sale. A story he told with particular relish concerned one distinguished visitor, Joseph Hergesheimer, the author (popular 1920s novelist and passionate antique collector. Ed.), who rolled on the lawn in rage when he was not permitted to purchase a certain Stiegel bottle.” (Henry Stiegel was a mid-18th century American glass maker. Ed.) 
Visitors to the "House Next Door"
Whyte included eight photos in her story about Warner and the village, which she noted had been attracting visitors for about forty years. (And still does.)

Regarding the village, Whyte wrote:

             “Cooksville itself deserves a niche in any consideration of Wisconsin villages, a niche that is not in proportion to its present size. In its spacious central Common laid out according to the ancient pattern of commons in Colonial America and the charming mid- nineteenth century red brick houses which border it, it represents a part of New England that our pioneer ancestors transplanted to the prairies of southern Wisconsin.” 

The author ended her ten-page story about the village with:

              “Cooksville would make a lovely setting for a novel.”

 Unfortunately, Whyte made a number of factual errors in her Cooksville story. The inaccuracies, discovered just after the book was published, were pointed out by the new owners of Warner’s house at the time, Chester Holway (1908-1986) and Marvin Raney (1918-1980). In a letter to Whyte in early 1955, Holway lamented the fact that he had not been consulted when she was writing about his house and the village. (Nor had Raney, the local historian.) Holway— himself a writer, editor, journalist and gardener— listed “a number of errors” and misrepresentations in his long letter.  

Whyte replied that she hoped some of the errors would be corrected if the Boston publisher agreed and if a second edition were to be printed. (Apparently a second edition was published about 1961, but it is not in the Cooksville Archives.) 

Chester Holway
Here are some of the inaccuracies pointed out by Holway:

·         It was not true that the late Ralph Warner’s house could no longer be seen by visitors. “It has, in fact, been visited in these recent years by numerous individuals and by several groups,” Holway wrote to Whyte.
·         One photo labeled “Parlor” was actually Warner’s Morning-room.
·         The photo labeled “Porter home” is actually the Hoxie House, not a Porter home.
·         Warner purchased the house in 1911, not 1912.
·         Warner died in 1941, not 1939.
·         Chester Holway was not the “nephew” of Warner.
·         Warner did have a modern “anachronism” in the house that he concealed from guests: outlets for electrical lights.
·         The Old Settlers’ Picnic was no longer an annual event, having been discontinued after 1950.
·         Warner’s garden did not contain only old-fashioned flowers but included many new,  fashionable and exotic plantings, and was more “English” than “19th Century American.” 

However, Holway did compliment Whyte on her effort and assured her that her book, even with its errors, “does not diminish an appreciation of the labor you have assuredly put into ‘Wisconsin Heritage.’ And it is a volume that is most welcome.”
Duncan House, or the "House Next Door"

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Christmas at the "Cooksville House" in 1953

Almost 65 years ago, preparations were being made at the “Cooksville House” for holiday gift-buyers. This village gift shop was in the old barn in the backyard of the historic Duncan House in the center of Cooksville. The shop was owned and operated by Marvin Raney, resident of the Duncan House.  
Marvin Raney at work
Raney had created the gift shop in his barn in order to display and sell the artful creations of his Cooksville neighbors and friends, especially Dorothy Kramer who specialized in ceramics and weavings. 

Also for sale were creations by a nearby blacksmith, a silversmith, wood-workers and other weavers. No doubt Raney also included some items from his own antiques collection. (He would later open a larger shop east of Cooksville to sell antique furniture, pottery, glassware, and much more.)  

An article in Madison’s Wisconsin State Journal, dated October 18, 1953, proclaimed:  “In Cooksville Shop, It’s Christmas in October.” Good publicity for a small rural gift shop.

The article’s writer, John Newhouse, describes Marvin Raney and “Mrs. Arthur Kramer” (as the writer refers to Dorothy Kramer) and their entrepreneurial efforts to operate their special Cooksville House gift shop and prepare for the coming holiday shoppers. Here are excerpts from that 1953 article: 

            “COOKSVILLE— A fey shop, if ever there was one, is the Cooksville House, which was once a barn. At the present moment it is decorated in Yule fashion, with Christmas tree and presents underneath.

            “The shop… nicely stocked with ceramics, hand-woven work, decorated wooden-ware, and hand-decorated tiles will be open from 2 to 5 in the afternoon…Depending on the weather.

            “There is no use telephoning the shop, or the home of the owner, Marvin Raney, an engaging young man with no visible means of support, who shudders slightly when the word “work” profanes his prescense (sic. prescience?).

            “He does not have a telephone in the house because they bother him. Occasionally someone figures out the circuitous route by which he may be summoned—at his own convenience—to a neighbor’s phone. ‘It is an imposition,’ he says—though not specifying who is being imposed upon. ‘Once more and I shall have to put in a phone.’ The phone, he says with an amused glint in his eyes, shall be in the barn, where it can ring and ring, unanswered but giving some satisfaction to the person trying to call him. 
Duncan House Barn, photo 1980s
            “The barn… was converted into a gift shop because it bothered him that the talents of a neighbor, Mrs. Arthur Kramer, were going to waste.

            “Mrs. Kramer specializes in weaving and in ceramics, having her own looms and her own kiln. 
Dorothy Kramer
            “Her husband, a Chicago advertising man, comes to Cooksville on weekends, and devotes himself to ‘potting,’ as Raney puts it. He has a potters wheel in a summer house and there he sits, kicking the wheel with an energetic toe and giving life and form to a blob of clay….

            “The pots made by Kramer are decorated by Elton Beckenridge (sic. Breckenridge) a Chicago artist who has bought a house in Cooksville…. 
Kramer pottery
             “And the pots are glazed and fired by Mrs. Kramer….

            “[O]ther artists have brought in their wares. R. L. Woods, a retired blacksmith at Janesville, contributed knives he makes… Mrs. T. O. Nuzum, also of Janesville, brings in weaving. Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Chevalier, of Delavan, are working with silver, and they, too, are contributing.

            “Converting the shop into a barn (or vice versa. Ed.) called for a certain amount of energy, but Raney does not count it as work since it was very interesting.

            “The floor of the barn goes up in spots and down in spots, and threatens to decant the visitor out a door and into the gardens.

            “And these, with their formal walks and rare plantings, are not a bad place to be decanted.

            “The (Duncan) house belonged at one time to Ralph Warner, and was known as ‘The House Next Door.’ Warner, esthete, musical, and a man tremendously interested in gardens and antiques, developed gardens and house in the Early American tradition….

            “The land upon which Cooksville’s square is laid out was once owned by Daniel Webster and—so says an unverified story—he lost it on taxes. The houses, of pink brick, were built in the decade 1848-58, and Cooksville people are inordinately proud of them.” 
The" Cooksville House"  moved to Webster Street

NOTE: The “Cooksville House” was soon moved from the historic Duncan House barn on State Road 59 to the historic house on Webster Street  known as Waucoma Lodge north of Raney’s, where it was managed until the late 1950s by Marvin Raney (1918-1980) and Dorothy Kramer (1900-1971). Unfortunately, the Kramer pottery studio next to Dorothy's and Arthurs's house burned down in 1956. A few years later, Raney would open a large antique store, the “Only Yesterday Shop,” in the historic granary building on the Joseph Porter Farmstead just east of Cooksville, which Raney operated until the early 1970s.  

Some of Kramer’s ceramics and weavings, as well as some of Raney’s rug weaving and antique collection are now in the Cooksville Archives and Collections. For more information, contact Larry Reed.



Friday, November 17, 2017

More Photos of the Class of 1947 Students at Cooksville’s School

Here are more photos of Cooksville School students from 1947.Thanks to Cooksville School teacher Edith Cavey Johnson for sending these additional photos of her pupils to the Cooksville Archives collection. Also thanks to Marjorie Kloften Hipke, one of her students in the 1947 photograph, presently a resident in Evansville, who has helped to identify her classmates. (A previous Blog story here shared those earlier other  photos of the 1947 classmates.)
But you will notice that two of these student  portraits do not have last names written on them: Dale and Dennis in the bottom row. If anyone knows their identity, please share their names.

The Town of Porter once had nine rural one-room schools in operation, including Cooksville. These schoolhouses were scattered around the township on land usually donated by the farmer-owner. Four schools were in the north of the township, two in the center, three in the south— all serving the growing population for over a hundred years.
Cooksville Schoolhouse, photo c.1920-30
The nine schools included Cooksville, Eagle, Forest Academy, Lineau, Miller, Stebbinsville, Stevens, White Star, and Wilder schools.  Of these, seven remain standing; the Stebbinsville School burned down in 1942 and White Star School has been demolished. Most have been converted to residences; one is now the Porter Town Hall and one now serves as the Cooksville Community Center.
Lineau School, photo c. 1952
The earliest school in the historic Village of Cooksville was a brick building on the Public Square built about 1850. But because of structural problems and its small size, it was replaced in 1886 with the present wooden frame building, with bell tower and two entry doors, one for boys and one for girls, a very traditional New England-Puritanical design.

However, in 1961, all the one-room rural schools ceased their educational existence because the school districts were consolidated into a few large districts that would also contain higher-level “high” schools. The Town of Porter students then went to schools in the cities of Stoughton, Edgerton or Evansville, ending the 100-year history of Porter’s rural, one-room schools. 
The historic Cooksville Schoolhouse facing the village’s historic Public Square is now the home of the Cooksville Community Center established in 1962— with some learning and a lot of socializing  still going on in the old village schoolhouse.
Cooksville School Class of 1924-25

Above is a photograph of an earlier Cooksville School student body. These are the students of 1924-25, with their teacher Lloyd Porter (1882-1967), a grandson of one of the village’s original 1846 settlers, Joseph K. P. Porter. Also included with the photo is a list of the names of those pictured. (Many thanks to whoever took the time to write down the identities of the teacher and the classmates in the photo.)

A number of the photographs in the Cooksville Archives, are unfortunately not identified with names or dates or locations written on the back or somehow attached. But any and all such Cooksville photographs, etc., are always welcomed additions to the Archives.

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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Historic Home Rehab Tax Credits Recently Used in Historic Cooksville

Wisconsin’s income tax credit program for historic homes has been used twice in Cooksville this past summer.

The State’s program for the rehabilitation of the exterior of a historic house, which can be financially helpful, is a 25% refund of qualified rehab expenses in the form of an income tax credit.

 The credits in Cooksville were granted for projects on the historic Longbourne House (1854) and the historic Van Buren House (1848). The two projects basically involved re-roofing the two residences.

Many historic homes in Cooksville have been restored and rehabilitated by owners, as have the two churches, the schoolhouse, the store, a blacksmith shop, as well as several outhouses. This has amounted to a total of about 20 historic buildings restored in the official Cooksville Historic District, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the State of Historic Places, and is also designated as a Historic Conservation District by the Town of Porter.

For at least the past forty years, Cooksville’s historic property owners have been rehabbing and thereby preserving their buildings. Their investments have enhanced the 19th-century character of the historic village—and, of course, have improved the value of their properties. These undertakings help ensure the future of the historic community, which celebrated its 175th birthday this year and which, hopefully, will be preserved for another 175 years.

The State of Wisconsin’s “Historic Homeowners' Tax Credit Program” helps preserve the historic homes, neighborhoods and villages throughout the State. The Tax Credit Program, administered by the Wisconsin Historical Society, provides the 25% tax credit to encourage and assist home-owners preserve part of the State’s historic built environment.

The tax credit is available to owners who rehab, repair and restore the exteriors of their historic residences. Most approved exterior (and some interior) work qualifies for this dollar-for-dollar income tax credit, which is used to write-off the owners’ State income taxes.

All the historic home owners in the official Cooksville Historic District are eligible to apply for the rehab tax credit. The application process is simple and quick but must be completed and approved before beginning the exterior rehab project. (Major exterior projects in Cooksville’s historic district must also be approved in advance by the Town of Porter’s Historic District Committee.) Potential historic older homes located elsewhere in the Town of Porter and not yet officially designated as historic by the State could be determined to be eligible for this rehabilitation tax credit through the application process.

The projects on the two historic homes in the Cooksville Historic District— the Longbourne House and the Van Buren House— resulted in new wood shingle roofs.

Scott on the Longbourne House roof
Scott Johnson and Lauren Hamvas, owners of the Longbourne House, have been busy rehabbing the house since they purchased it earlier this year. Scott has a Ph.D. in archaeology and learned about historic preservation programs from training by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and from experience working for archaeological consultants. Scott runs the Low Technology Institute where he researches pre-industrial technology and how it might be adapted for use in the future. And he and Lauren have been spending a lot of time rehabbing their house and gardens, for themselves as well as for their chickens and bees.
Longbourne House
Larry Reed has been rehabilitating his Van Buren House on and off for the past 40 years. But no chickens and only a few bees are permanent residents of his property, along with some other critters.

Van Buren House
The Wisconsin “Historic Homeowners' Tax Credit Program” has proved to be beneficial to the State in several ways .The program returns to the owner 25% of the cost of approved rehabilitations in the form of a Wisconsin income tax credit, and the State benefits from jobs created as well as from the investment in its historical heritage.

The Wisconsin Historical Society's State Historic Preservation Office administers the tax credit program. The application process is usually quick and easy. Basic requirements for the program are the following:

1. Make sure your home is a historic home. This means a home that is individually listed in the National Register or State Register of Historic Places, or a historic home that contributes to a National Register or State Register-listed historic district, or is a home that is determined to be eligible for an individual listing in the State Register of Historic Places.
2. You must plan to spend a minimum of $10,000 on eligible work that meets historic preservation standards.
3. You submit your Tax Credit Application before you do any work.

4. Your application is reviewed by the Wisconsin Historical Society.

5.  If your application is approved, you proceed with the project.

6. You notify the Wisconsin Historical Society when the work is completed.

For specific advice about the tax credit program or for advice on other technical historic architecture issues or preservation guidelines, contact Jen Davel by phone at (608) 264-6490 or by email: jennifer.davel@wisconsinhistory.org at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison.

Other generous State and Federal income tax credits are available for rehabilitating non-owner occupied, income-producing historic buildings (stores, commercial structures, businesses, rental properties). These credits are a combined 20% State tax credit and a 20% Federal tax credit, for a total of 40%, available for rehabilitating income-producing historic buildings (not owner-occupied residences). Some different requirements apply to this State-Federal 40% tax credit program. For more information, contact the Wisconsin Historical Society at the telephone number and email address above.

You may also contact Larry Reed (608-873-5066) for information about the Village of Cooksville’s and the Town of Porter’s various historic preservation programs.
Cooksville Historic District, Town of Porter, Rock County

[Thanks to Scott Johnson and his neighbor, Joe Lawniczak, Design Specialist with the Wisconsin MAIN STREET Program, for the photos of the Longbourne House.]

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Cooksville School Students of 1947 and the 1881 “School Rules”: Two New Donations to the Village Archives

Two recent donations to the historic Cooksville Archives document the history of school life in the past. One donation is a collection of photographs of pupils from the Cooksville School in 1947, all students of teacher Edith Cavey Johnson.  The second donation is a framed piece of stitchery from 1881 listing the “Rules of Our School,” ten sensibly strict admonitions stitched on a piece of cloth.

Some of  Cooksville's class photos of 1947

The collection of student class photographs was donated by Edith, the Cooksville School teacher in the mid-1940s. The donation came about because Edith had attended the recent “175th Celebration of Cooksville: 1842-2017,” a program presented in the Cooksville Schoolhouse on June 10, 2017. Edith’s son had driven her down from her home in Oshkosh to attend the event, which featured a presentation by Jerry Apps and a slide show by Larry Reed about the history of Cooksville, from the past to the present.

Edith with her Cooksville Class in the old photograph
One of the slides in the history presentation was the photograph (above) of  Edith's Cooksville school class miss-dated “1934” with the young teacher standing behind her students next to the schoolhouse.

Edith viewing her and her class, at the June 2017 "Celebration" in Cooksville
When Edith saw that slide projected on the screen at the presentation, she quietly laughed and  mentioned that she was the teacher in the photograph with her students!  Except, Edith said, the caption on the photo should read “1944,” when she was teaching in Cooksville, not “1934.” She wasn't that old! The audience cheered and applauded at the wonderful coincidence of Edith being in attendance to see herself up on the screen—and applauded loudly when she corrected the date of the photo. Edith happily posed for more photos that day this past summer, including one of herself looking up at the screen, where she was then 19 years old  posing with her students in 1944. That was 73 years ago, and now Edith is… oh, well, we shouldn’t tell a lady’s age.

When Edith returned to Oshkosh after the program this summer she sent a letter to Larry, the Cooksville historian, in which she enclosed a number of individual class photos of her pupils from 1947—young smiling boys and girls of varying ages, most identified with their names—names that still resonate in Cooksville’s family histories.

Edith wrote in her letter accompanying the photos:

“Cooksville is a special place. I am happy you & others are keeping it vital. Your church (Larry’s) was a town hall when I was in Cooksville. Franz & Melvin kept the township road equipment in the basement. In 1946 we had our annual Christmas program there because our school was too small for the crowd. In 1946, I became 21 & Olga Porter came to Holm’s (where she was boarding) to get me & take me to the polls. She wanted to make sure I voted. Keep up the good work. (signed) Edith Cavey Johnson.”

The second recent school-related donation to the Cooksville Archives was a framed piece of stitchery stitched by someone named “Elizabeth” in 1881. The stitchery stated the ten strict “Rules of Our School.”(Number nine was “Don’t spit.”) But we do not know which well-mannered one-room schoolhouse in the Town of Porter was the one where students were admonished by these rules not to “fidget,” not to say “bad words,” and to do “what the teacher says.”
"Rules of Our School" 1881
The simply framed “Rules” sewn by "Elizabeth" were recently discovered in, and rescued from, the Town of Porter dump, now known at the “Recycling Center,” by the sharp-eyed Center Monitor, Russ Skjolaas, who gave the charming artifact to Bob Degner, a Saturday regular at the Recycling Center, who in turn donated it to the Cooksville Archives.

Thanks to Edith, Russ and Bob for saving and sharing these pieces of  bygone-school days in old Cooksville and the Town of Porter.
Cooksville Schoolhouse, c.1930
The historic Cooksville Schoolhouse (1886) next to the village’s Public Square (1846) is now home to the Cooksville Community Center (CCC), which has owned the schoolhouse since 1962 after the area school districts were consolidated. To become a member of CCC or for more information including how to rent the schoolhouse for various purposes, contact Bill Zimmerman (608) 628-8566 or Mark Ballweg (608)-334-9653.

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Cooksville in the Newspapers: 1926 Article about R. L. Warner

The little historic Village of Cooksville has been making news in magazines and newspapers for the past hundred years or more, probably since 1866 when the area’s first newspaper was printed in nearby Evansville, with gossip-column tidbits about 19th-century Cooksville’s comings-and-goings.

 Earlier stories in the Cooksville News Blog have described some of these journalistic attempts to capture the news and the flavor of life in the 1842 village. Lengthy articles were printed in the 20th and 21st centuries, and all served to illustrate life in the village through the decades.

 An article headlined. “Antique Collector in ‘House Next Door’ Dislikes Modernism,” in the Wisconsin State Journal, dated August 8, 1926, focused on the village’s favorite (and most famous) resident at the time, Ralph Lorenzo Warner. (However the writer Richard Brayton misidentified Ralph as “H. L. Warner.”) This very romantic and sentimental newspaper article begins with a quote from Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911), a New England poet.

 Some excerpts from Brayton’s article:

 “Let me live in a house by the side of the road, and be a friend to man.” For most of us these lines represent a pretty sentiment, pleasant enough to repeat in idealistic hours, but not out of the question for practice in this materialistic age. Yet occasionally we find a man who, weary of the bustle and the petty bickering of modern life, finds courage to retire to the side of the road and live his life in an idealistic a manner as his fancy may dictate.

Ralph Lorenzo Warner, photo c.1920
Such a man is H (sic). L. Warner, better known as :”the man next door,” whose collection of antiques, and quaint old home, as well as his reputation as an authority on antiques, have become known all over the country despite his antipathy for publicity…. Yet he is a genial, cordial man, who enjoys people and guests more than anything in the world, with the exception, perhaps, of antiques.

 In the little village of Cooksville, which is three (sic) miles from Stoughton, where Mr. Warner lives in the red, vine-covered, brick house….(the land) was once part of a land grant to Daniel Webster. Mr. Warner is the most cherished and beloved citizen…. [T]here is always the highest praise “for the man next door”…. Everywhere the villagers are seen lolling in the sun. One old man sits picking a banjo which has only two strings and no back; a buxom young woman is churning butter and laughs at a chubby baby that is trying to get its foot in its mouth….

 “Where does Mr. Warner live?” the young woman repeats, “Why, in the house next door.”… If one could only come to Mr. Warner’s house without asking directions, he would know it was “the house next door,” for there is a quaintness and an atmosphere about it that is not duplicated even in Cooksville….

"House Next Door" photo c.1915
Mr. Warner was working among the flowers in his immense beautiful old fashioned garden….Mr. Warner explained that he did not want publicity because it brought him a flood of visitors, upsetting his plans for a retired life. “It has come to a point, where it is necessary for me to absolutely refuse any visitors, who have not first written me of their intended visit.”…

 Mr. Warner has a dislike for anything modern, and therefore, he has no telephone, or other electrical apparatus of any kind in his house….

 Mr. Warner is one of the country’s leading authorities on antiques, and he has collected them all his life…. The hand woven coverlets on the beds in his upstairs rooms, were delightful to look upon. The rows and rows of pewter pots, kettles and dishes in the dining room, were a treat to the unpracticed eye, and his furniture, of which a Dutch duck-foot table of maple, dating from 1725, was deserving of unlimited appreciation… Mr. Warner, himself, made the rugs scattered freely over the floors of his home….

"House Next Door" interior

Although Mr. Warner depends for his living almost entirely upon the little money he can realize from his dinners, and the few antiques he is willing to part with, he discourages visitors…  “There are too many, who come now,” he said. “I wish those who come to do so because they have been told of my collections by mutual friends and to arrange for their coming by a note addressed to me. Other visitors, I cannot hope to give time to, even when they come from long distances, as is often the case….”

*   *   *

Ralph Lorenzo Warner continued to welcome and entertain friends, neighbors and visitors for a number of years. But a stroke in 1932 ended his quietly busy days of gardening, antiquing, traveling and sharing his “house by the side of the road” for all to see and appreciate— and in the process put the Village of Cooksville on the map as one of the earliest historic preservation projects in Wisconsin, the Midwest and the nation. He died in Florida in 1941 in the care of his sister Eveline.
Eveline, photo by her brother Ralph L. Warner
[More of these printed articles from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries about Cooksville and its residents are filed in the Cooksville Archives. Larry Reed.]

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Dorothy Kramer Toigo Pottery Donated to Cooksville

Recent donations of Dorothy Hansen Kramer Toigo pottery and other artifacts to the Cooksville Archives and Collections have been made by Pete Toigo, grandson of Dorothy’s last husband, John Toigo (1899-1975).
Donated pottery, on a Dorothy weaving
One of Cooksville’s 20th-century artists, Dorothy Hansen Kramer Toigo (1900 - 1971).was an art teacher and artist. She spent about 45 years in Cooksville, pursuing her various artistic endeavors, while living in the Benjamin Hoxie House. She first married Arthur Kramer, a fellow artist and pottery-maker who died in 1962. In 1970, she married John Toigo, whom she knew in Chicago in the 1930s. They lived briefly in New York City in 1970, returning to Cooksville in 1971, where she died of cancer. She is buried in the Cooksville Cemetery

Dorothy and John's wedding announcement
John Toigo

Dorothy’s artful pottery—vases, bowls and other creative forms— have a distinctive style, based on ceramic pottery from ancient Korea. She also produced small utilitarian pottery pieces, many with her drawings of Cooksville’s historic houses. She also created artistic weavings from her “Cooksville Looms,” as her label reads. She sold, many of these items from the "Cooksville House,” a shop she and Marvin Raney established in the 1950s in the village’s Duncan House Barn, then later in the “Waucoma Lodge,” a name given to the Backenstoe-Howard House, the former residence of Susan Porter.
"Cooksville House" gift card, 1950s
Earlier this year, Pete Toigo, a musician in New York State, also donated several paper items consisting of photographs, note cards and other material related to Dorothy. Included among them was a book entitled A Young Man of That Time by Mildred H. Osgood that describes the life and times of Dorothy’s grandfather, De Witt Clinton Salisbury of Oregon, Wisconsin.

Helen Hansen Naysmith, Dorothy's sister, and Pete Toigo's father Romolo Toigo,
For more information about Dorothy, see the Cooksville News Blog “Cooksville’s Artists: Dorothy Hansen Kramer Toigo,” from October 27, 2015; also information about her sister, Helen, who married John Toigo in 1972, and later Frank Bradley.

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[The three photographs above of Dorothy, of John Toigo, and of Helen, Dorothy’s sister, with Romolo Toigo (Pete’s father), were provided by Pete Toigo. Thanks to Pete for helping to tell the Cooksville story of Dorothy and her last husband John Toigo, Pete’s grandfather.

The Cooksville Archives and Collections continue to grow as friends of historic Cooksville continue to donate family-related and history-related objects, photographs, letters, articles and other documents and memorabilia related to the village and the surrounding area. For information contact Larry Reed (608) 873-5066.]

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

“Cooksville Has Quaint Old English Houses and a New England Commons,” According to a 1929 Newspaper Article

An article with the above headline, clipped from an unnamed newspaper (probably the Evansville Review), is filed in the Cooksville Archives with a hand-written date of “1929.” The writer, Jessie M. Hill, relates some “quaint” stories about the village—which he found to be a bit of “Old England” as well as a bit of “New England.” (Of course, when Cooksville was founded in 1842, all of America had been legally “English” until 59 years before.)

Here are excerpts from Hill’s story. It begins:

            “A lost aviator whose plane might chance to land in the little village of Cooksville in the northwest part of Rock County would have a hard time determining where he was by looking around the town.  The open square of five acres in the center of the town would remind him of some old New England Hamlet, but the red houses with their many gables and low inviting doorsteps would remind him of old England.
Newell House , photo c.1920s
            “There probably is not another village of its kind in this state, and possibly not in the entire middle west.

            “It is a quaint and unusual town which has not changed much during the last 75 years. William Porter, who is now 79 years old, can not remember the building of a single new house in the village….For many years the town had a post office on a stage coach line and at an early date, the village was larger than Evansville….

            “A history of Rock county says Cooksville was laid out in 1842 by John Cook, who purchased the west half of section 6…. [Porter] platted the ground on his east half of this section…. and laid out the village of Waucoma. Although it is not known commonly by that name today, it is still used in registering land transfers.

            ‘Fight Over Store’

            “An unusual story is told about these two villages. The owner of a store in Cooksville is said to have sold out his business to another man with the understanding that he would not open another store in Cooksville for at least a year. The promise was kept to the last letter of the agreement, but he went across the street and started a store in Waucoma almost at once….
General Store, photo c.2010

              'Houses Are Brick’

            “A half dozen or more of brick houses, all of the same color red bricks and built in an old English style with inviting entrances and lawns filled with large shade trees, attract the visitor’s attention as soon as he arrived in Cooksville. Benjamin S. Hoxie, a man of English descent, is credited with the designing and the building of most of these houses…. more than half of the buildings…. [face] the commons which is now used as a playgrounds for the Cooksville school children, the grounds for the Porter township play day and the annual old settlers’ day…. The rest is a natural Burr oak grove, said to be one of only two in the United States….
Susan Porter's home, "Waucoma Lodge"
            "Much of the material for this story was secured from….Miss S. [Susan, ed.] Porter, who lives in another of the fine old brick houses.

            “One of the important early land marks has been torn down during the last 20 years. This is the wooden tavern, famous among travelers as a gay place with a ball room and a bar.   

Sketch of "Waucoma House," Cooksville's stagecoach inn and tavern
            “Another building which has been taken down is the shop run by John Van Vlock [Vleck, ed.]. He was an inventor and made the first corn planter and farm gates. For a time the post office was in his shop.
Van Vleck Farm Implement Factory, demolished 1928

            ‘Brings Material Fame’

            “R.L. Warren [Warner, ed.], whose house is pictured, had done more to bring recent fame to the village than any one else. Eighteen years ago he purchased one of the largest houses in town, and moved from Chicago [Racine, ed.]. The house is famed for its beautiful old furniture and the garden is said to be one of the best in the state. Stories about the place have appeared in many magazines including “House Beautiful” it is said. During the summer the owner occasionally serves tea or meals to visitors who make appointments in advance.

R.L. Warner's "House Next Door" built 1848


                    "House Next Door" Interior photos c. 1920s

“It is impossible to list all of the families that have lived here, but the list includes such names as Seaver, Savage, Stebbins, Morgan, Dow, Shepard, Porter, Cook, Dr. Smedt, Chambers and Blackman.”

John Seaver House, built c.1849

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[This is another in a series of articles published about Cooksville over the years, found in the Cooksville Archives. Larry Reed, editor.].