Saturday, December 22, 2018

More from the Cooksville Archives – Part Four

Residing in the historic Cooksville Archives and Collections are the following items relating to Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, Frank Lloyd Wright and a 357-year-old book:

            Carolyn Mill Every was the cook for a period of time in the 1930s for America’s most famous acting couple, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. Later in her life, Carolyn lived in retirement in the historic John Seaver House in Cooksville in the 1980s.
Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne
            Carolyn was a friend of several village people. She entertained them at her home and socialized at their homes, where she often regaled them with stories of her time as the Lunts’ cook, companion and dog-caretaker.  Or as Carolyn wrote, “For a brief, magical time I became a part of the Lunts’ lives.”
            And Carolyn’s stories about her adventures with the Lunts were interesting, even intimate, and often humorous behind- the-scenes stories. Her Cooksville friends urged her to write them down, which she did. 
             In 1980 she gave Larry Reed a 15-page copy of her reminiscences, now in the Cooksville Archives. She wrote about the Lunts with great and enthusiastic affection, relating incidents and anecdotes about the Lunts and their famous theatre visitors. She described her times with the Lunts at their home, on the road, in the trains, backstage at theaters, and in the hotels in the many cities that the Lunts performed in. She wrote especially about her time living in the Lunts’ estate in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin—a home filled with famous theater guests with amusing adventures and a few misadventures in 1932-33.
            Carolyn grew up in Genesee Deport where her mother owned the small town’s old hotel where she was a popular cook, which was the reason her daughter Carolyn was hired as the Lunts’ nineteen-year-old-cook—and dog-walker, traveling companion, and friend of the family.
The Lunts in their kitchen
            At the urging of a Cooksville friend, Carolyn revised her 15-page memoir about her time with the famous couple, titling it, “Home Life of the Lunts,” and had it published in the Wisconsin Magazine of History, Spring 1983 ”—after deleting or altering some of the more risqué or perhaps unflattering episodes. (Larry Reed later donated to the Ten Chimneys Foundation his copy of Carolyn’s original version that she had given him.)
            Although Carolyn’s stay in Cooksville was brief and her departure unfortunately sudden, she certainly was a charming, gregarious, talented lady with many stories to tell at Cooksville cocktail time—or over a few midnight breakfasts. She went on to be a local award-winning writer of other stories, one of which is also in the Cooksville Archives.
            As Carolyn Every (1913-2003) wrote in her Lunts story, “I cherish most of all my memory of the two people who let me be a part of their glamorous life in the theater. Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne allowed me to enter their personal life to witness their mutual esteem and love—a love enriched with wisdom and humor—and the experience lasted a lifetime.”                 
           The Lunts home, “Ten Chimneys,” in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin, is now a beautifully restored estate, museum and research center open to visitors.                   

             In 1934, Frank Lloyd Wright designed a chapel for Cooksville. He named it a “Memorial to the Soil Chapel.”
            According to Wright, the small Prairie School-style family chapel was to be a “Chapel Cast in Concrete” and was inspired by Walt Whitman’s poem, “Pioneers! O Pioneers!”
The Memorial to the Soil Chapel for Cooksville
            The chapel was commissioned by the Gideon Newman family of Cooksville, one of the early families to settle in the village with their farm just north of the Badfish Creek. The chapel was designed for the side of a low hill on that farmland.
            The Newman family member that most likely commissioned the chapel was, Gideon  (1860-1944), a son of Gideon Ellis Newman (1823-1911) who had settled in Cooksville in 1850. The Newman family first lived in what is now the Cooksville Farmhouse Inn. Later the Newman family moved to their farmland north of Cooksville and the Badfish Creek, where Newman built another farmhouse and where the Cooksville Chapel was meant to be constructed. The son Gideon may have known Wright at the University of Wisconsin when they both were in attendance there. 
            In 1992, a reviewer of a Wright exhibit in a Milwaukee newspaper described the chapel project: “[The chapel] breaks from the brow of a hill—a smooth-walled, flat-roofed jewel of parallel lines. Molded from cast concrete, the building both accentuates and pays tribute to the land it embraces.”   
            On an existing drawing of the chapel, Wright wrote a description of his design as a “Memorial to the tiller of the ground making the earth a feature of the monument or vice versa.” The plan is a Wrightian design, horizontal and grounded, with very simple geometric shapes inside and out.
            Plans, elevation drawings, sketches, and mentions of the project in the Madison Capital Times newspaper in 1934 describe the project in detail.
Drawing of the Chapel
            However, for unknown reasons, the project was never built.  
            Copies of a number of drawings and sketches of the proposed Cooksville Chapel were provided to the Cooksville Archives by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Taliesin West (for the “Prospective and Plan, Chapel in Cast Concrete, “Memorial to the Soil” drawing) and, recently, by the Avery Library Archives of Columbia University, which shared 22 working drawings of the Chapel project contained in its F.L. Wright archival collection.

            This large old book, dated 1661, is printed in Latin and consists of 210 pages with a black cover embossed with gold designs and two brass clasps. It is printed in red and black ink with three large, handsome, full-page Biblical etchings and one small one all printed in black. (Two of the large etchings have the following attributions: “F.Valegio” and “Phts Thomassmus f.1634.”)

            The book is a 1661 Catholic Church missal or book of devotions with contents to be used and read for various dates and occasions throughout the church year.  A name, perhaps the owner’s, is written in ink on the back of the title page: “Juan Polyao y Jancinta Carrera” or something similar. Perhaps that of its Spanish owner.
            A rough, muddled Google translation of the title page is: The Gospels which are to be read in the year both of the Holy time from the Roman Missal, by a decree of the holy Council Trent restoration and Pii V High priest, by order of the top. At Madrid.  Printed palace. In the year 1661.  (What “PiiV” refers to is unclear; perhaps a Pope?)

       This “Gospel Book” was collected and owned by Cooksville’s famous antiquarian and collector,  Ralph Lorenzo Warner (1875-1941), owner of the “House Next Door” (the historic Duncan House) in the village. But there is no information as to how, where, when or why he collected it. The book now resides in the Cooksville Archives and Collections established and maintained by Larry Reed.

        A number of other older books, some owned by or related to Cooksville’s early settlers or later residents are also part of the Cooksville collections. Some of these include:

            * Cicero’s Laelius. A Discourse of Friendship, Together with a Pastoral Dialogue Concerning Friendship and Love. 114 pages. Licensed, Rob. Midgley, London, 1691.

            *The New Instructor, Being the Second Part of the American Spelling Book. 240 pages. Compiled by Asa Rhoads, Stanford, [NY?], 1804.

                  * The Plays of Shakespeare, in Eight Volumes. Vol. V, Containing King Henry VI, Part 1, Part II, Part III…King Richard III. 417 pages. Philadelphia, 1823.  

                  * The Marriage Ring: or How to Make Home Happy.128 pages. By John Angell James, Boston, 1842.          

        * The Little Child’s First Reader, Adapted to Either Mode of Teaching; By Letters or By Words. 48 pages. Friends’ Educational Series. Philadelphia, 1862.

  [The Cooksville Archives is available to researchers and other interested persons by appointment. Contact Larry Reed (608) 873-5066.]

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Oddities in the Cooksville Archives - Part Three

           Here are a few more unusual items—a few documents, a story, a poem—from the Cooksville Archives that are interesting, or maybe just odd. They raise questions:  how did they end up in Cooksville and does that “cancer cure” work?


          For some reason, a modern typed copy of the will of George Washington’s mother, Mary Washington, dated May 20, 1788, appears in the Cooksville Archives. The copy was apparently printed by The Central Wisconsin Trust Company, Wis. 
           Mary’s will, “registered in the Clerk’s Office at Fredericksburg, Virginia,” states in part the following:       
         "I, Mary Washington, of Fredericksburg, in the County of Spotsylvania, being in good health, but calling to mind the uncertainty of this life…dispose of my worldly estate as follows…to my son, General George Washington,  all my land in Accokeek Run, in the County of Stafford, and also my negro boy George, to him and his heirs forever. Also my best bed…”  
Mary Washington
          To her other son, Charles Washington, she gives “my negro man, Tom…” among other items. And she gives her other slaves to her other children and grandchildren, along with her furniture, china, beds, bedding, wearing apparel and silver spoons as a “token… of my love for them.” 
          And so on, for two pages....
          Why is this copy in the Cooksville Archives? Probably because the 20th-century produced several wide-ranging genealogical researchers in the village of Cooksville. Some of their work is in the Cooksville Archives, which continue to be especially helpful and important for researchers involving the early settlers of the village.

           Also, for some reason, the Cooksville Archives has a lengthy four-page, typed letter-cum-article entitled, “Those Wicked Uncles.” Internal evidence indicates that the piece was written in 1936 when Edward VIII was the British king (for less than a year) and is signed only with an “M.”  
           The subjects of the article are the seven playboy uncles of Queen Victoria (1819-1901), who were the surviving sons of King George III (1738-1820). It appears the article had been written as a letter and sent to a friend because the author at the end of the exposé piece asks the recipient to “Excuse the mistakes… I had to write this in a hurry...You might criticize it for me.”— And signs it, “Love, M
Queen Victoria
          The author discloses the skeletons in the closets of those seven wicked uncles, relating their numerous amorous assignations, jilted lovers, profligate dissoluteness, frequent adulteries, and their general scandalous behavior in the late 18th   and early 19th- centuries. It’s mildly amusing, although the Queen was probably not amused.
          The article’s author believes that the Queen’s wicked uncles’ behavior led to the “ultra-respectability” and moderation of the Victorian Era that lasted from 1837 to1901 under Victoria’s reign.

           The Village of Cooksville has been a village of many cooks, appropriately enough.  It produced a number of cookbooks over the past 170 years, including an old one with a recipe for a “cancer ointment.”
          The c.1850s cookbook with the “Receipt For making Cancer Ointment” also has recipes for concocting medicines for “Dropsy,” “Dysentery,” “Piles,” “Tape Worm,” and other ills, as well as recipes for the more usual cakes, cookies and sausages.
          The old, handwritten, slender (18 pages of recipes) cookbook does not have a title and is not identified as to ownership or writer. It appears to have been created in the mid-19th century in ink and in a neat, old-fashioned script (an occasional old-fashioned “f- shaped letter is formed instead of an “s-shape” for the first “s” when a double “ss” is required).   Also, measurements include “gills,” “size of a hen’s egg,” or “a goose egg.”
         The cancer ointment recipe is interesting because it contains, among its several ingredients, various tree barks: white pine, elder, elm, hemlock, red dogwood. Two of these ingredients— pine bark and red dogwood (ozier) species bark— have recently been associated with the treatment of certain cancers. 
        The “receipt” in the booklet for making the cancer ointment is as follows:
"Take of red Ozier, Stinking Elder, Hemlock Boughs, White pine bark, two quarts each.  Boil them together until the strength is gotten out, then strain it. Put to this Mutton tallow, honey, bees-wax, the marrow of a hog’s jaw and fresh Butter of each the size of a hen’s egg. Simmer it moderately over a slow fire until it becomes an ointment.”
        This probably should not be tried at home. But, then again, why not?

         Cooksville had a very active prohibition group in the 19th century.  In 1864, The Independent Order of Good Templars, a secret society that promoted total abstinence from alcohol, established a chapter named the Rising Tide Lodge, Number 123, in Cooksville. Meetings in the village were held every two weeks and appear to have been popular social gatherings until the end of the 19th century
Electa Savage and son Paul
          One member, Electa Savage (1845 -1927), was inspired to write a poetic address instead of the usual lecture for a meeting of the village’s chapter, which normally met in the Congregational Church’s basement parlor. Electa’s poem was a denunciation of demon rum  at the February 28, 1888, meeting.  
           No doubt lots of tea and lemonade were served. Here are portions of her six-page poetic message to the temperance members:

 “I’ve been asked to write an essay
And read it to the Club:
And so I sat me down one day
With a kind of pen called ‘stub,’

To write the rambling thoughts that came
Into my busy brain,
Thoughts that I know are somewhat lame
And yet-I hope not vain…

We ask all true and earnest friends
To help us fight the foe,
We’re bound to work until life ends,
Yes, the saloon must go.

Republicans and Democrats:
Don’t sit-astride the fence,
Just leave your whiskey and beer vats
And wake to common sense…

Then altogether with a will
Take off your hats and sing,
We’ll wage the war till Alcohol
No more shall be the King.”
        However, the Cooksville’s Waucoma House tavern and inn had operated into the early 1900s. But its business lagged because of a lack of stagecoach travelers and village customers, and it soon went out of business as a tavern.  And, of course, the Eighteenth Amendment enacted in 1920 imposed Prohibition in the country, closing saloons— at least until 1933—but apparently hard cider could still be had in the village.

[There are more original poems and stories by Cooksvillians in the Cooksville Archives.]

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Some More Stories, Oddities, Mysteries in the Cooksville Archives - Part Two

Here are a few more interesting (and unusual) items in the Cooksville Archives, all Civil War-related, including a couple of hand-written stories, a travel log, and a photograph album. 
 CIVIL WAR SOLDIERS PHOTO ALBUM.   A small, well-preserved Civil War era photograph album of Union soldiers circa 1860s is part of the Cooksville Archives.

          The album has a handsomely embossed cover with gold-edged pages and a brass clasp and is undated and the original owner is unidentified. It contains 39 small photos of uniformed Civil War soldiers, some paper and some tin-type photos, and 10 photos of civilian-attired men including a child. Thirteen of the 49 photos are unidentified, and the photos fill the album’s pages.

          The uniformed military men probably all belong to Company H, 1st Regiment of the Wisconsin Heavy Artillery; many are identified as such. The first photo in the album is labeled “Capt Chas Taylor Co. H. 1 Wis Art.”; perhaps the album belonged to him or his family. Some of the other last names include Hoyt, Hubbel, Prentice and several Warners. (Ralph L. Warner was a resident in Cooksville in the early 20th century.) 
          Although it's unclear if any of these soldiers or their relatives ever resided in or near Cooksville, there is no evidence of that. The album’s origin and past owner(s) remain mysteries. Some of the photographs were taken by the "New Gem Gallery" in Alexandria, Virginia, the "Only Place in the City," where "Beautiful  Pictures for Albums... can be taken in cloudy weather as well as clear, and be finished in twenty minutes," so states the backs of several of the tintypes.

 A NIGHT OF TERROR IN THE CIVIL WAR.  The Archives contain a copy of a 15-page, hand-written account of a frightening Civil War episode involving an incident in the State of Kansas in 1863, which occurred shortly after a band of Confederate guerillas carried out an infamous massacre known as the Quantrill Raid. That event at Lawrence, Kansas, occurred on August 21, 1863, resulting in the killing of over 150 people.
The Quantrill Raid, Kansas, 1863
          The first-person account of the episode after the murderous Raid that is in the Cooksville Archives is titled “A Night of Terror.” It relates a fearful night on the Sunday after the Quantrill Raid, when another raid on the community was expected.

          The writer is named Mrs. Duncan C. Allison, “nee Miss Isidore Johnson,” and she apparently was a survivor of Quantrill’s raid at Lawrence. In her story, Mrs. Allison tells of the burying of the victims of Quantrill’s massacre and then describes what happened the following Sunday, when news of a second raid was suddenly shouted in the night, raising the alarm to the exhausted and recovering community. With that warning of more possible killing and burning began the writer’s story of “Night of Terror.”

          Heeding the sudden warning of a second raid by the Confederate marauders, frightened citizens quickly gathered up their children and a few valuables and fled into the night fearing the arrival of gunmen on horseback. Stumbling in panic in the darkness, they ran to hide in the nearby Kansas corn field.

          As the people fled into the tall corn stalks, the writer recounts that one “old lady stopped, crying, ‘I have forgotten my mother’s teaspoons,’ and started back. Her daughter said: ‘never mind the spoons, Mother, we have no time to get them.’ But when the old lady replied in reproachful tones: ‘Your Grandmother’s spoons that I brought from Scotland with me must be saved,’ she let her go….”  The frightened people hid in the corn fields for hours.
"A Night of Terror"
          But it turned out to be a false alarm; there was no second raid, and those Kansas folk including the writer of the story survived their fear-filled night of terror and crept back to their houses. The writer reports that the old lady who fretted about the forgotten spoons had sprained her ankle in her flight; however, “when telling of that awful night, she would say triumphantly, ‘But I saved my Mother’s teaspoons.’ " 

          But why and how a hand-written copy of Mrs. Allison’s story of that Kansas night ended up in the Cooksville Archives is unknown. At any rate, this personal account of enduring that night of terror is told in simple, vivid, touching detail.

 FROM COOKSVILLE TO A CONFEDERATE GENERAL.  In the Archives is a story titled “The First Tragedy of the Town of Porter.” The tale is hand-written on five-pages in pencil and is unattributed.  It appears to be a truthful story, which has a Civil War connection. Here is a summary:

          A Kentucky slave-owner named Mr. Castleman bought several thousand acres from the U.S. Government in the 1840s in Section 9, Town of Porter, near Cooksville, purchased through his local agent, Frank Sayre of nearby Fulton. Castleman built himself a large farm house on the rich, well-wooded, well-watered land for his family. 
"The first Tragedy of the Town of Porter" story
          Castlemen’s daughter, sent out East to school, met a handsome, hard-drinking young man named Kile, an Eastern wine-merchant’s son. They married and moved to the Midwest farm in Wisconsin, which Kile’s family hoped would ease his drinking habit.

          From then on the story gets a bit convoluted, with Kile’s  new wife apparently spending too much time traveling the Rock County area with the young  Doctor Tandy (a foster son of Mr. Castleman’s, no less), perhaps distressing Kile and apparently leading to Kile’s sudden death, either from suicide by drugs or by excessive drinking, or both.      
          The sad story, as written, does not end there. It continues with the involvement of the newly- widowed Mrs. Kile’s two Castleman brothers. They had spent their boyhoods in the 1850s on the Castleman farm near Cooksville. But when the Civil War broke out, the brothers went south to move the Castleman family’s slaves from Kentucky further south to a “safer” Arkansas. One of the brothers then enlisted in the Confederate Army, quickly rising to the rank of Major General. And thus ends this story of the” First Tragedy,” one of love, death and civil war. 

          Apparently it is a sadly true story involving early Town of Porter settlers, excessive drinking, and the making of a General in the Confederate Army. (Note: The Castleman brother may have become the quasi-famous Confederate General John B. Castleman (1841-1918), of Louisville, Kentucky, who survived the war and a subsequent execution order, living to later became a U.S. Army Brigadier General.)

 FROM COOKSVILLE TO NEW ORLEANS IN 1864.  Recently donated to the Archives are a few pages of a travel log kept by Ezra Stoneburner of Cooksville, who enlisted in the Union Army in 1864 and traveled south to participate in the Civil War campaign. He kept a simple travel log of his journey, the first pages of which were donated by his descendents to the Archives, along with some Stoneburner family genealogical information.

          Stoneburner enlisted into Company F, Thirty-fifth Wisconsin Infantry Regiment, organized at Camp Washburn, Milwaukee, in 1864, apparently the last company mustered into U.S. service in the Civil War. The Company traveled by land and rivers down to New Orleans for active duty in areas of Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama. Along the way Corporal Stoneburner briefly described some of the scenery, the weather, and his illnesses in those first pages of what must have been a lengthier log-book.

           After the South’s surrender, Stoneburner’s Company was transferred to Texas and the Rio Grande River area until March 1866, when he—now Sergeant Stoneburner—and his Company were mustered out of service. He returned to Madison, where he was finally paid off and discharged on April 16, 1866.
Ezra and Mary Stoneburner

          Stoneburner returned home to Cooksville and once again operated the old grocery store on the corner of Main and Dane streets in the Waucoma part of Cooksville. (That store no longer stands.) He later operated a meat market and also farmed in the area.

          Stoneburner lived in the village for the rest of his life, along with his wife Mary and their four children. In 1889 he bought “Waucoma House,” the old stagecoach inn and tavern, remodeled it and lived there. (The old inn was torn down about 1910.) Stoneburner was elected the first President of the Thirty-fifth Wisconsin Regimental Association in 1902 and died in 1908. The 78-year-old Civil War veteran is buried in the Cooksville Cemetery.
Ezra Stoneburner, President of the Thirty-fifth Wisconsin Regimental Association, 1902 Reunion, Janesville. Ezra is 4th from the right, back row.

 [The Cooksville Archives continue to provide interesting bits and pieces of our history. More items are always welcome. Larry Reed, (608) 873-5066.]

                                                          *   *   *   *   *

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Some Items, Oddities, Mysteries in the Cooksville Archives - Part One

The Cooksville Archives are an important historical collection dating back 175 years and more. They contain materials in boxes, in files, on shelves, in card catalogues, in old chests, and in many notebooks, and includes old cook books, newspaper clippings, diaries and letters, poems and stories, photographs and photo albums, as well as slides in carousels, and paintings, prints and weavings—all presently stored in various places; attics, parlors, bedrooms, a barn and elsewhere.

Some of the archival paper items—writings, articles, diaries, clippings, notes— are strange, even mysterious and sometimes amusing, but always interesting. And some items, of course, are sad, even tragic. All speak to us by describing the past of Cooksville and the Town of Porter, from the earliest Wisconsin territorial days to the present.

Here are some of the unusual bits and pieces from the Archives. Some are quoted word for word, some are abbreviated, and some are summarized:
Electa Savage
 FROZEN ICE CREAM.  In the late 19th century, Cooksville had an ice-cream “shop” in the home of Electa Savage (1845-1927), who lived in the Benjamin Hoxie House on the Public Square. On summer weekends, she provided the community with fresh home-made ice cream frozen by ice from the Badfish Creek mill pond, the ice having been “buried” in her backyard ice-house pit, protected from the summer heat.
        Electa undoubtedly gathered lots of news in the summers for the various local newspapers for which she served as the Cooksville Correspondent for many years.

 A FROG FARM.  “Something new... for this community, at least: a 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.” (So reported a newspaper clipping in 1916.)

Chester Holway
BOOK MANUSCRIPTS IN THE ARCHIVES.  Two book-length manuscripts, one in typed original form and one a carbon copy in two volumes, are in the Cooksville Archives.
        The two-volume carbon copy, titled “Country Growth,” was published in 1940 by August William Derleth (1909 –1971), an American writer and anthologist who lived in Sauk City, Wisconsin. Derleth was credited with bringing supernatural fiction into print in hardcover in the US that previously had only been readily available in the England. And he was a leading American regional writer of his day; his most serious work is considered to be the ambitious Sac Prairie Saga, a series of fiction, historical fiction, poetry, and non-fiction naturalist works designed to memorialize life in the Wisconsin he knew. 
       The other manuscript, unpublished, is titled “Gathering Waters,” written by Cooksville resident, Chester P. Holway (1904-1986) in the late 1930s and early 1940s. In it Holway describes a journey around Wisconsin during that time as he discovers historic and scenic sites, out–of- the-way places, and interesting people in his travels throughout the state. Holway was a journalist, editor and horticulture-writer, and lived in the village from 1941 to 1986.
       Holway and Derleth apparently were friends and corresponded occasionally with each other, which is probably why Derleth’s manuscript copy  and a few letters are in the Cooksville Archives.

SIGOURNEY WEAVER. The famous American actress of stage and screen, Sigourney Weaver, saw pictures of Cooksville in the 1970s, provided by her aunt Sylva Weaver Kastler Rowland who owned a house in Cooksville for many years. (Sylva had married a Cooksville gentleman.) Sigourney told her aunt Sylva that she “admired the {village] greatly as a wonderful place for Summer Little Theater.”
Sylva had owned the Van Buren House in Cooksville after her husband, Donald Kastler, died in 1947; she then sold the house to Michael Saternus and Larry Reed in 1976. Sylva shared Sigourney’s words with them in a letter she wrote, ending a note about Sigourney, “I trust you saw her in ‘Alien.”’ (Didn’t everybody?) 

Haile Selassie

HAILE SELASSIE.  Speaking of famous people, Haile Selassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia, may have visited Cooksville in the 1930s (or perhaps later), according to a Porter family member. Selassie apparently knew a Porter (possible Joe Porter) on the University of Wisconsin faculty who was involved in world affairs or with agricultural issues.  Selassie may have consulted with the UW-Madison and with this Porter relative, and this may have led to Selassie’s visit to the large Porter farm near Madison at Cooksville, according to a report.  (At least, that’s the story.)

VISABLE FROM OUTER SPACE.  A boy from Cooksville created the largest permanent structures in the world, visible from outer space, because he was the best dam designer and builder in the world.  That was Cooksville’s famous son, John L. Savage. 
          Collier’s magazine wrote, “If you spin a globe of the world and jab a finger at a continent, the chances are good that you’ll strike a part of the earth that has been changed by John Lucian Savage [who is] changing the living standards of millions of people” by engineering those huge dams throughout the world in the 1930s and later.   The recently completed Yangtze River Gorge dam project was begun with Savage's studies.
John Savage in a Yangtze River Gorge, 1944
            Savage (1879-1967) grew up along the Badfish Creek that had three dams for him to explore, and then he went on to bigger things. Savage received many accolades and honors, including several gold metals—which were stolen from his home in Colorado on three different occasions.
           Savage stayed in touch with his Cooksville friends, especially when the annual “Old Settlers Reunions” took place on the Public Square in the village, and he was fondly remembered as” the best dam man in the world.” 
          A friend of his, Benjamin D. Rhodes, later wrote: “Perhaps the final irony of his life was that John L. Savage, a man who hated publicity and was dedicated to public service, had actually left to posterity monuments as permanent as any created in the entire history of mankind.” (A lengthy 30-page article by Rhodes in the Wisconsin Magazine of History, Vol.72, Number 4, Summer, 1989, “From Cooksville to Chungking,” details Savage’s long career.)                                     
John Savage and young Chinese friends, 1944

A DIARY OF A CRUISE TO SOUTH AMERICA IN 1843.  William Micaiah Porter (1818-1891) was the oldest of the three brothers, sons of Dr. Isaac Porter, who all eventually settled in Cooksville. (William’s brother Joseph platted the Village of Waucoma in 1846 next to Cooksville and managed the sale of that new village’s lots.)
                Before coming west to live in Wisconsin like his brothers, the 25-year-old William took a trip to Brazil as a passenger on a merchant ship for three months in 1843-44. He kept a detailed diary of his voyage to South America, which is now in the Cooksville Archives. The diary is a 57 page, 4” x 6” booklet, hand-written in ink, which describes his journey from his home in Charlton, Massachusetts, to Pernambuco and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, traveling on-board the merchant ship “Brandywine.”  
          William sailed to South America to visit his uncle William, a merchant there, and to experience the sights of Brazil and would return home after three months with the “brig” loaded with coffee and tapioca. William’s diary relates his bouts of seasickness, the storms at sea, the porpoises and flying fish, and the sighting of slave ships sailing from Africa to America. He admired the impressive scenery of Brazil’s coastline and enjoyed lavish meals with Brazilian and American merchants in Rio. He also caught a glimpse of Pedro II, the Emperor of Brazil. And his diary tells of the slow-sailing back northward to home through the doldrums of the mid-Atlantic.
William Porter
           At the end of his diary, William includes some of his expenses on the three-month trip and lists the various types of monies he carried with him for his expenses: “One hundred & five dollars in American gold, Twenty eight $ [dollars] ninty [sic] eight cts in british gold, Thirty dolars [sic] twenty-five cts, Three dollars sixty cts in ten cent pieces. Amount $167.83.”  
          Five years later, in 1849, William Porter moved from Massachusetts to Wisconsin, but soon headed west to mine for gold in California in 1850, but the records do not mention if he struck it rich. He returned in 1852 to become a merchant and implement dealer in Decatur, Wisconsin—until Mr. Brodhead’s railroad by-passed that new village because the local Decatur folks would not help fund his railroad construction, causing Decatur to become a ghost-town. William then moved permanently to Cooksville (where his two brothers also lived), bought farm land, operated a sorghum mill, and settled down, becoming a Town of Porter Supervisor and a Justice of the Peace. 
          William and his wife Aura had five children, one of whom was Susan Malvina Porter (1859-1939), who was very active in village life, collecting local history and maintaining the old Cooksville Congregational Church until her death. Her passing marked the last of the old local Congregationalists, and that first village church was given to the Town of Porter and used as the Porter Town Hall for the next 30 years.
Cooksville Congregational Church ( built 1879), with a recent musical gathering

[End of Part One: Some Items from the Cooksville Archives.]

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