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.]