Family lore states that when the Cooks left Stockbridge, Calumet, Wisconsin in the late 1870s they took clippings of the peonies that were growing on the property. We know that they did like peonies, as they can be seen in later Cook photos taken in Unity, Marathon, Wisconsin.
As far back as my memory goes, my paternal grandmother lived in one side of a duplex that she owned in Neenah, Winnebago, Wisconsin. As with most homes where the driveway marches closely to the house leading to a detached garage, there was a strip garden next to the house. Included in this small garden was an enormous red peony plant. Again, family lore tells the tale that this was an actual clipping of the peony that grew on the Cook property in Stockbridge. While I cannot speak to that, as we would have to analyze what variety of peony grew in Wisconsin during that time period, and was this that variety of peony, I can state that when my mother and I left the duplex for the last time that May day in 1986 following my grandmother’s death, we made the decision to dig up the peony, the Cook Peony.
I may never know if this peony can be dated back to the 1800s, but I can attest to the fact that this peony, which was included in every garden during my grandparents years in Wausau, Marathon, Wisconsin during the 1930s, moved with them to Nicolet Blvd. in Menasha, Winnebago, Wisconsin, and then on to my grandmother’s 1960s duplex, has now lived in a garden at my parents home since 1986. And in addition, a transplant has been happily multiplying here in my own garden since the late 1990s. That is still an old peony.