September 8, 1860

The sinking of the Lady Elgin changed the Cook family forever.  Both family-wise with the loss of Jane and her daughter, Elizabeth Ann, and financially. The long awaited money from the sale of property in Canada was lost. There are many versions to be found both in print and online of what happened that night. So for this post I am going to let Jacob tell the story in his own words. As the anniversary approached in 1892, the Milwaukee Sentinel interviewed some of the remaining survivors, and sent an artist to capture their likeness to be published along with their memories. The article was published 4 Sep 1892.

Jacob was 51 years old the day he was interviewed on September 2nd, his story titled “An Appleton Man’s Escape. His Mother and Sister Were Both Lost–The Former’s Body Never Recovered.” reads:

“During the summer of 1860, while returning from an Eastern trip, my mother, my sister Libbie and I, together with twelve others, took passage on a propeller from Collingwood, Ont., to Milwaukee. We arrived near Milwaukee in the night, and it was so cloudy and dark that the captain thought it would not be safe to attempt to land so we continued on to Chicago, where we transferred to the first boat leaving for Milwaukee. That was the fated Lady Elgin, just about to return with more than 400 Milwaukee excursionists. Of the fifteen transferred only two reached Milwaukee. There was music and dancing on the boat, and it was about 1 o’clock in the morning when our party exchanged ‘good night’ and prepared to retire. Before I reached my room, the schooner and steamer collided with such force as to throw me off my feet. The schooner was bound for Chicago with a heavy cargo of lumber from further north, and it is the cause for much wonder among those acquainted with the circumstance, why it did not try to save the passengers of the Lady Elgin by at least throwing over some of the lumber. As it was, however, as soon as they could clear away from the wreck, they pushed on, with all possible speed, to Chicago, thinking, as the captain said they themselves had sustained serious injury. Be that as it may, my first impression, when the crash came, and we could see the bright lights and heavy jib-boom of the schooner looming up over us, was that the boat must have been struck by lightening.

We soon heard calls to throw down bedding and mattresses to stop the leak but it was found that they could do no good. The boat filled with water and settled rapidly. Heavy waves stuck us with terrific force, smashing the lamps, leaving us in total darkness. Calls for life-preservers were heard on all sides, and the few wooden ones that were thrown in were seized by many frantic hands. Mother and sister were each provided with one. Furniture tumbled about, people fell over and trampled upon each other, some prayed, some cried; some crazed with agony, called for their friends on shore to help them, while others, in despair, moaned that we were all lost. The creaking and grating of broken timers, the solemn sound of the bell calling for help, the sound of distress from the whistle, which continued as long as there was enough steam to make a noise; all added to the horror of the situation. Above this noise and confusion, was heard the voice of Capt. Wilson, telling us to get the women up on the hurricane deck. The deck was soon crowded. A few moments later a monster wave struck the boat, breaking the iron rods that sustained one of the heavy smoke stacks. A flash of lightning followed, lighting the scene for an instant, and we saw the smoke stack fall across the deck, crushing, and burying several women beneath it.

While mother and sister were sitting on the edge of the hurricane deck, strapped in their wooden preservers and waiting for the end, mother said that probably the boat was so near shore that it might not sink below the surface. Those were the last words I ever heard her speak for at that instant the boat went down, taking me with it. When I came up my hands touched something, which proved to be apiece of plank about eighteen inches wide by six feet in length. It was about 2 o’clock in the night when the boat went down and about 5 the next afternoon I drifted in near enough to the shore to reach the end of a pole held out to me by a man suspended by a rope in the hands of several others from the top of that high clay bank south of Racine. The sixth day after the Lady Elgin went down we found, but could not identify by a scar only, the body of my sister, but my mother we never saw again.”

A Face to a Name

I grew up hearing about the Cook Tragedy. The day  that the Lady Elgin sank, and my 3rd times great-grandmother Jane McGarvy/McGarvey Cook, drowned in Lake Michigan with $12,000 in gold pieces sewn into the hem of her dress. Her daughter perished with her, but her son miraculously survived. 

This tragedy almost ruined the Cook family, as Jane was returning to Wisconsin from Canada with the money that they had planned to use to pay for the six farms that they had secured. 

For most of my life, this is all that I knew about Jane. Other than what was included in a 1910 newspaper article by Lieut. Col. J. A. Watrous, which states: “…The father was utterly crushed. The great heart, strong intellect, the master mind, the loving, successful planner and leader, the pilot of the interesting family was no more; her going meant final disaster to the father, irreparable loss to nine surviving boys and girls…” 1 

That is until this summer when I happened upon an image of Jane on ancestry.com. In contacting the owner of the tree, I was put in touch with a cousin in Canada, the owner of the image. The image is also on familysearch.org at this link: https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/memories/L7J1-RG9 

Finally I was able to put a face to the name Jane McGarvy/McGarvey Cook. Jane was born 15 Dec 1810 2 3 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She married William Palmer Cook on 28 Mar 1832 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 4 They would have twelve children, including two sets of twins. I can only imagine!

This image of Jane is in the family archives of her 2nd great-granddaughter, through Jane’s daughter Loretta. Loretta and her twin, Watson Henry, were the 4th born to William and Jane. Well, to be truthful, the 4th and 5th born. It is believed that at the time that the family moved to Wisconsin in 1856, Loretta was stayed in Canada with her aunt, Jane’s sister, Elizabeth, and her husband, John Elliott. 

In conversation with Loretta’s grand-daughter, we believe that this image of Jane was taken in 1860, during her last visit home. Jane and Elizabeth’s mother, Elizabeth Eaken McGarvy was still alive, and I can sympathize with her as a mother of children living miles away, how important it would be to have an image of her daughter. In fact there is also an image of Jane and Elizabeth that appears to have been taken at the same time. 

There are many stories published in print, and on the web, about the Lady Elgin disaster, and also the Cook story. In another post I will add my view of what happened to the mix. But it all starts with looking Jane in the face. This woman who is said to have had a great heart, a strong intellect, was the master mind, the loving, successful planner and leader, and the pilot of the Cook family.

 

NOTES:

  1. “Historical Sketch of the Cook Family,” The Marshfield News, 14 Apr 1910, Thursday, p. 1, col. 6; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 12 Jan 2018).
  2. Frederick Douglas Hamilton Cook and Kathryn Ellen May (Somerville) Cook, Echoes from Andrew and Anna: A Historical/Genealogical Story of Andrew & Anna Christina (Palmer) Cook – The Gentle Cook Embrace, 2 volumes (Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada: The Andrew Cook Genealogical Society, 1992), II: 958. NOTE: This source lists her birth year as being 1809. See Footnote #3 for further information.
  3. Frederick Douglas Hamilton Cook and Kathryn Ellen May (Somerville) Cook, Echoes from Andrew and Anna: A Historical/Genealogical Story of Andrew & Anna Christina (Palmer) Cook – The Gentle Cook Embrace, 2 volumes (Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada: The Andrew Cook Genealogical Society, 1992), II: 958. NOTE: This source lists her birth year as being 1809. See Footnote #3 for further information.
  4. Ontario Archives of Ontario, Toronto, marriage certificate reel 2, vol 10, page 67 (1832), William Cook-Jane Mc Garvey; digital image,  “District Marriage Registers, 1801-1858,”Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 Oct 2010).

The Love of the Irish

In May of 2012 I started a blog that I titled: The Aroma of Bread. A Place for our family to gather and share memories of Marie’s kitchen. It began with scanning recipes from the cookbooks that we found in the utility room cupboards. Cookbooks falling apart, but many pages where we found handwritten notes about whether a recipe was “good” or where she was going when she made the dish. It didn’t really take off, so I stopped after a while. Now I would like to delete that blog, but will archive the posts. 

Archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” first published 22 Mar 2015.

Assorted Shamrocks. Old and New

Marie Campbell Fassbender loved her Irish  heritage. She was proud to be Irish, and she loved St. Patrick’s day. 

As the day would near, she would gather a collection of shamrock pins, and she would keep them handy. If you dared attempt to leave the house, or to walk into the house without wearing green, she would hand you a pin, and expect you to wear it. 

It would have been so much fun to sit down with a big map of Ireland, and map out the counties where her immigrant ancestors came from. I think she would have been surprised at the number!

County Cork, County Donegal, County Down, County Louth, County Monaghan, and County Tyron

The Hen Parties

In May of 2012 I started a blog that I titled: The Aroma of Bread. A Place for our family to gather and share memories of Marie’s kitchen. It began with scanning recipes from the cookbooks that we found in the utility room cupboards. Cookbooks falling apart, but many pages where we found handwritten notes about whether a recipe was “good” or where she was going when she made the dish. It didn’t really take off, so I stopped after a while. Now I would like to delete that blog, but will archive the posts. 

Archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” first published 3 Mar 2013.

Not every post will be a stellar post, but every post will be tied to a memory. I don’t have any idea what we were talking about, but all of a sudden the memory of what I will call the “Hen Parties” popped into my mind. 

The fourth Tuesday of every January was the night for the White Clover Dairy  Shareholder meeting. In the early 80s following the buy-back of WCD from the Nestle Company, the meetings were held in the school basement with snack

Easter, March 26, 1989

s and of course a few beers following the meeting. By 1985 the meeting was moved to the small dining room of Van Abels. As the company continued to prosper, dinner was being added to the meeting agenda, and the wives were invited to join the men for dinner.

So the question became, what to do with the women while the men were meeting, as they would have ridden out to Hollandtown with their husbands. So in the solid tradition of Fassbender hospitality, Marie invited the wives to join her in her home for cocktails, snacks and conversation.

When I joined the party in 1988, the tradition, and the party, was in full swing. I had worked till 5:00 p.m. and then had the 20 minute drive to Hollandtown, so I was a bit late. I still remember walking into the living room as all eyes turned to me, and I  looked at them. They were already settled with their drinks. Plates of cheese and sausage, nuts, and assorted other snack items filled the tables. Every last one of them dressed in heels and hose – including me. That is how we dressed in those days. Drinks and conversation flowed until the appointed time when we all got into our cars and drove over to Van Abels to join the men for dinner. 

Christmas 1984

Thankfully this tradition only lasted a few more years, and sometime in the early 90s we were invited to join the men at Van Abels for the Shareholder meeting. It was also a relief for Marie. While she loved to host people in her home, she did not especially enjoy these evenings. 

There are very few pictures that fully show the living room as it was in those days. These images hopefully will spark memories of this room, and all of the times gathered for plates of cheese and sausage, beverages and time spent as a family.

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Exceptional Talent. Come More Regular

In May of 2012 I started a blog that I titled: The Aroma of Bread. A Place for our family to gather and share memories of Marie’s kitchen. It began with scanning recipes from the cookbooks that we found in the utility room cupboards. Cookbooks falling apart, but many pages where we found handwritten notes about whether a recipe was “good” or where she was going when she made the dish. It didn’t really take off, so I stopped after a while. Now I would like to delete that blog, but will archive the posts. 

Archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” first published 13 January 2016.

In 1938, when Marie was 16 years old, she and her  brother, Arthur, would head to Chilton on Saturday, for a 2:00 p.m. music lesson. Marie, piano, and Arthur the violin. While cleaning out her attic in 2013, I discovered her piano report card tucked into a music book. It made me smile.

Stated on the “Student Account and Lesson Record” side of the card, her lessons that year cost forty cents a lesson, and her Book 5 lesson book was sixty cents. Well, to say “that year” is a bit of a stretch. Her report card states that she attended nine lessons between January 7th and April 15th.

The best part of the report card is the reverse side, the “Student Record Card.” From this side we learn that she was interested in playing Popular or Classical music, not Hill Billy or Church. Her ultimate ambition for taking piano: Entertainment. Her report card was mostly “A” for accuracy, concentration, aptitude, memorizing, analyzing, and general playing ability. She received a “B” for her rhythm, and a “C” for phrasing. The definition of phrasing is: “Does the music make sense–is it pleasing?” Hmmm. I would love to know what that means.

My favorite part of the card is her teacher’s remarks: “Exceptional talent. Keep on doing the best. Come more regular.” 

Caramel Frosting

1/2 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup milk

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1 tsp vanilla

Melt butter in a saucepan on low. Stir in brown sugar, and cook for 2 minutes. Add milk, cook until boils. Cool until lukewarm.

When lukewarm, add mixture to a small bowl. Using a hand mixer on low speed, add the sifted powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix until blended, then increase the speed of the mixer to high, and and mix until a spreading consistency.

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The Secret Garden

I have always loved Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book The Secret Garden. I love the book, I loved the broadway play, (and was lucky enough to have seen the original broadway cast), and I also love the movie that was released in 1993. There is a dream scene in the movie, where a young child is walking through huge fronds of greenery. I have to admit this is not a favorite part of the movie for me, I can just feel the sadness that this child feels as it searches for its mother. 

My great-grandfather was a major gardener, the gardens on his property in Wausau, Marathon, Wisconsin were massive. I just wish that there had been color photos back in the early 1900s, so that I could really seen them in all of their splendor. As a side note, he also raised prize winning chickens, had sheep and other animals on his little “farm” in the city. But that is for another post. 

As I was adding a few photos to my Legacy Family Tree database this morning, I came across this image of my grandmother, Anola Josephine Cook, age 15 months. She was photographed in September 1911 walking through massive fronds of greenery in her father’s garden. I couldn’t help but be taken to the scene in The Secret Garden. I can be pretty confident though that she was walking straight towards her father who was holding camera. Knowing he would be right there to pick her up if she fell down. 

 

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