Sunday, November 12, 2023

Cooksville Photographs: People from the Past

Photographs of people from the Village of Cooksville's past---from the 1800s to the 2000s---have been collected over the years by local Village historians. Now the collections are being assembled in a newly created Archives and Collections Center located in the renovated basement of the historic Cooksville Congregation Church, owned and managed by the Historic Cooksville Trust, Inc.

The Village of Cooksville, founded in 1842, is located in the Town of Porter, Rock County, Wisconsin. Part of the Village was later founded in 1846 by the Porter family and it was named Waucoma, apparently meaning "clear water." (Also, prior to 1848, the State's name had a succession of Native American names, including Meskonsing, Miscousing, Ouisconsin and Wiskonsan, all originating from the State's name for its large central river.) 

Some of Cooksville's archived photographs have appeared in earlier blog stories. Here are a few more images of Cooksvillians and neighbors from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

Jack Robertson (1858-1930), fiddler, blacksmith

Cora Porter Atwood (1884-1952), historian

Leila Dow (1864-1930), artist

Stella (b.1866) and Charles Miller (1867-1948)

Ellen Pratt Gilley (1860-1944)

Isaac Gallup Porter (1827-1899)

John Savage (1879-1967) on the Yantzi River, 1940s: engineer/designer of dams 

A Cooksville School teacher

Cassius Newell (1856-1933}

Dorothy Kramer (1900-1971), artist

Joyce and Bill Wartmann, artists

Shirley and John Wilde, artists

Donations of photographs or other items to the Archives are always welcomed by the Historic Cooksville Trust. Contact Larry Reed (608) 873-5066.
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Monday, April 10, 2023


A print of the famous early 19th century Senator, Daniel Webster (1782-1852), has recently been donated to the Village of Cooksville’s growing collection of portraits of people from the past.
Daniel Webster (1782-1852)
The portrait of the famous Senator Webster was donated by Kathryn Howarth Ryan who had purchased the print in Washington, D.C. and who had hung it in her home, in the historic Duncan House on Webster Street (of course) in the Village of Cooksville where she lived for a number of years.

Senator Webster of Massachusetts had an important early connection to the Village of Cooksville and the Town of Porter, as well as nearby Dane County. He had purchased about 1200 acres of land from the U.S. Government when it first went on sale in 1837, and eventually he sold it to his friends, the Porters in Massachusetts and to various other early settlers. 

Some other people, portrayed artistically in paint, plaster or print, are now in the Village’s collections, but not all were personally connected to Cooksville. However, they are an indication of the interest in cultural and historic figures that early settlers had. Here are some of these from the Village collection.

John Milton (1608-1674)

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Henry Longfellow (1807-1882)


George Washington (right) (1732-1799)

George Washington family print (1792)

Andrew Jackson (1767-1845)

Henry Clay (1777-1852)

Here are a few artistic images of more recent people related to Cooksville that are in the collection:


Ann Eliza Porter (1821-1890)
Ralph Warner (1875-1941)

John Wilde (1919-2006) in his "WildeWorld II" print

Larry Reed, Cooksville


Wednesday, January 25, 2023


Many people from the Village of Cooksville’s past---from the 19th, 20th, and the early 21st centuries---appear in old photographs and in some painted portraits in the Cooksville Archives. There they can be seen today, although they have passed on.


Electa Johnson and L. Rowley in a family album.


William Porter c.1860

Two boys, tintype (unlabeled)

New dresses (unlabeled)

Some of the earliest settlers in the 1840s village, or in the surrounding Town of Porter, sat for portraits by Louis Daguerre’s 1837 invention of photography and later posed for portraits by the improved photographic techniques—glass ambrotypes and iron tintypes developed in the 19th century.

"Leut. Hoyt" and unknown, 1st Regiment
of the Wisconsin Heavy 
Artillery, album

About 250 of these early 19th century metal, glass, tintypes and treated paper photographs are in the Archives.

Unfortunately, a number of the people in the older photographs are not identified: no names are written on the old albums’ pages or on the backsides of many of the more modern photos.

Here are more of those portraits of people from Cooksville’s past:

Millie Leedle Osborn

Phebe Rebeeca Porter (1824-1854), in a painting

Modern photos are in the Cooksville Archives as well.


Ralph Warner (1875-1941)

E. Marvin Raney (1918-1980)

Chester Holway (1908-1986)


Michael Saternus (1936-1990)

Hank Bova (1936-2013) and Maurice Gras (1928-2003)

Eddie Julseth (1915-2011)


Karl Wolter (1930-2021)

Other photographs—old or new, people or places— related to the Village of Cooksville or the Town of Porter are always welcome. Contact the Historic Cooksville Trust at (608) 873-5066.

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Friday, November 25, 2022

The Historic Cooksville Trust Seeks Funds for the Cooksville Archives and Collections Project

The Historic Cooksville Trust, Inc., is seeking funds to continue its “Cooksville Archives and Collections Project” in the basement “parlor” of the historic Cooksville Congregational Church (built in1879), which it now owns.

The Cooksville Congregational Church Archives/Collections Project is underway.

 The Historic Cooksville Trust (HCT), a non-profit IRS 501 (c)(3) charitable organization was established in 1999 and assists the preservation and conservation of the historical heritage of Cooksville and the surrounding Town of Porter in Rock County. Projects in the past have included the preservation of important historic buildings and sites, as well as various educational programs and the "Welcome to Historic Cooksville" highway signs.

This major Church project has begun but recent inflation has greatly increased the costs, so additional funds are needed for this undertaking, as well as for assisting other future preservation projects in the historic village. (HCT has financially assisted about 20 other projects in the past.) 

"The Little Brown Church on the Corner"

Over the years the HCT, has been donated and has collected materials and objects related to the history of Cooksville and the Town of Porter. The new Archives and Collections Center Project is an essential undertaking to preserve and maintain the collections for the future. 

The Church basement Archives/Collections plan.

Visitors, researchers, residents, and groups will be able to utilize the Archives and Collections Center in the Church basement. Of course, the existing upper nave or auditorium of the Church will continue to be available for various ceremonies, musical programs and public events.           

The Church as the Town Hall, c.1950s

In the past, the historic Church served the community for church services, social events, lectures, and club meetings. Then in the 1940s-1960s, the Church became the Porter Town Hall, after which it was sold in 1971, and once again began serving as a venue for weddings, ceremonies and musical performances. 

Now the renovation of the landmark Church and the use of the basement as the new Archives and Collections Center will expand its purpose in the community.   

The Village of Cooksville, established in 1842, has been recognized as a special, well-preserved historic community for the past 180 years. The Cooksville Historic District is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the Wisconsin Register of Historic Places and is also designated a Historic Conservation District by the Town of Porter in which Cooksville is located.


Donations to fund the Church renovation project, as well as future projects, can be made to Historic Cooksville Trust, Mary Zimmerman, Treasurer, 10706 N. Tolles Rd., Evansville, WI 53536.  Questions can be addressed to Mary at (608) 628-8567 or to Larry Reed at (608) 873-5066. Donations are income tax deductible.


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Friday, November 18, 2022

Cooksville Cookbooks: Cookies Cakes, Candies, Curries and Casseroles, even a Cancer Cure

Recently, a copy of a 1941 cookbook was donated by Nancy Remley to the Village of Cooksville Archives. Titled the “Golden Anniversary Cook Book, Cooksville Lutheran Ladies Aid, 1891- 1941,” it was “dedicated to the pioneer women of this congregation” and contains about 65 pages of recipes contributed by the ladies.

The Village of Cooksville, in Rock County, Wisconsin, has been a busy community of cooks for about 180 years, appropriately enough. The Cooksville Archives collection contains a number of cookbooks from the past, including an1850s hand-written cookbook with a recipe for a “cancer ointment.”  

The old 1850s cookbook with the "cancer treatment" is a slender,18-page, hand-written cookbook that does not have a title nor an identified writer or owner. It is bound, written in ink with a neat, old-fashioned script and contains that “Receipt For making Cancer Ointment,” as well about fourteen other medicinal recipes and a similar number of cake, pudding, gingerbread, sausage, syrup, currant wine, and cordial “receipts.”

The various medicinal “receipts” are for the treatment of illnesses such as dropsy, dysentery, coughs, colds, itches, piles and tape worms, as well as cancer, with ingredients such as various roots, leaves, berries, flowers and tree barks, as well as the occasional sulfur, turpentine and pumpkin seeds.

The cancer ointment recipe is interesting because it contains tree barks (white pine, elder, elm, hemlock, red dogwood) as ingredients, two of which are now associated with the treatment of some cancers, namely, pine bark and the red dogwood (osier) species bark.  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.”

The cake recipes also in this old cookbook include a Mrs. Pecks Cake (perhaps this is from Rosaline Peck, Madison’s first innkeeper in the late 1830s), a Tea Cake, Temperance Cake, Cider Cake, Caroline Cake, and a couple of nut cakes and a Rice Plumb (sic) Pudding.  Some measurements are in “gills” and some require butter the size of a walnut, a hen’s egg or a goose egg. 

Another nineteenth-century cookbook found in the village—actually a famous nationally published cookbook titled “Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book,” by Mrs. D.A. Lincoln, 1889— was originally owned by Mrs. J. W. Sales, probably of Janesville. She apparently passed it on to Cora Atwood of Cooksville. The last ten unprinted pages of the published book have been filled with more than 50 hand-written recipes of various kinds from friends (one is dated 1915), including a recipe for “Scotch Woodcock” (chopped hard-boiled eggs in cream sauce on toast).

Two World War II era commercial recipe booklets are also in the archives. One entitled, “A Guide To Wartime Cooking” (1943) has 46 pages and was published by the H.J. Heinz Company of Pittsburg and includes a “Nine Point Plan for Wartime Eating.” It addresses the need for “managing the food supply: shopping under the point ration program… packing a lunch pail that will keep your man strong and healthy, wide awake on the job.”

Another WW II booklet (undated) with 26 pages is titled, “Wartime Recipes From Canned Foods” and was published by the American Can Company, New York. It states: “It is imperative that we plan our menus carefully and use our ration points for the canned foods which help to make the family meals adequate from the standpoint of good nutrition” and to “show you many different ways of making a can of food serve more People.”

A 1951 "Cook Book: Favorite Recipes” was compiled and printed by the Cooksville Mother’s Club and contains 78 pages including a section on helpful hints that “may be there to help you when your husband’s help won’t do.” Lillian Porter’s preface, titled “Cooksville: Community of Culinary Culture,” describes the history of the Village of Cooksville and its creative cookery as a “pleasant mixture of nationalities, creeds and customs,” including a brief history of Cooksville, its early settlers and the women who were “expert wielders of the egg beater and rolling pin.” One intriguing “Sandwich Hint” is an “Orange - Cream Cheese - Peanut Butter” spread containing those three ingredients. The Club was associated with and provided support to the Cooksville School with various fund-raising efforts.

In 1981, the Cooksville Lutheran Church published a 104-page cookbook of its “Lutheran Favorites” and titled it “Our Daily Bread," with recipes of cakes, cookies and other sweets and a number of favorite soups, salads and “main dishes."

Another addition to the collection is a more recent “Cooksville Lutheran Church Cookbook,” dated 2006 and re-printed in 2016. The cook book, below, contains about 362 pages of recipes including a section titled, “Canning & Freezing, Norwegian, Nationality & This and That” and shares recipes for Lefse and Tres Leches Cake, among others.

These old cookbooks reveal the tastes of the times and the foods prepared, preserved and eaten— with many desserts to be devoured. They are illuminating and sometimes tempting records of the nourishing breakfasts, lunches and dinners through more than 180 years of cooking in and near the little—and always hungry and well-fed— Village of Cooksville.

Perhaps there are other personal village cookbooks with Cooksville family recipes (or “receipts”), sitting on back shelves or stored in attic boxes, waiting to see the light of somebody’s kitchen and to help fill the cookie jars.

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                      Larry Reed