I will be speaking to the Northern Waters Genealogical Society on May 3rd, giving my talk “Putting Down Roots in the Land Records. A Beginning Look at Land Records.” Since it has been a couple of years since I last revised this presentation, I felt I needed to freshen it up a bit. I had no idea what I was in for when I began this process. We are amazingly lucky here in Outagamie County, that the early land records are browseable on FamilySearch, in the “Wisconsin, Outagamie County Records 1825-1980.” While these records are not yet indexed, the collection does include a limited number of county index books for both Grantees (buyers) and Grantors (sellers), but the whole online collection is available to browsing.
The rabbit hole that I fell down into will be the topic of the next few blog posts, but I wanted to start with this story. My ancestor Jacob H. Cook moved his pharmacy business from Unity, Marathon County, Wisconsin, to Appleton, Outagamie County, in 1883. The Unity fire of December 18, 1882 being the final straw in prompting a move, as his drug store was entirely destroyed by the fire.  He must not have had the energy to rebuild yet again, as in March 1879, the building that was both his home, and his place of business, burned to the ground. And now to have this new, “much handsomer store” entirely destroyed. The final straw, they were moving to the “city.”
The family lived in several houses in Appleton before purchasing their final home, which was located at 675 Drew Street. This home was located on the corner of Drew and Fisk, (now known as E. Franklin Street). Kitty-corner from City Park. This neighborhood must have been a beautiful one, as City Park was just across the street, Lawrence University just to the south, and the life of downtown just two blocks away.
Jacob purchased the home from James E and Ellen McKinny, who were residents of Lancaster, Grant County at the time of the sale. He purchased the house situated on Lots 4 and 5 of Section 35, for $2,100.00, on April 9, 1895. The frontage on Drew Street was 60 feet, and the lot extended 112 feet along Fisk Street. I love how many of these old land records include the sentence: “…according to John Stephens map of the City of Appleton, published in 1872…) This map is available for viewing online at the Outagamie County, Wisconsin website. Take a look. The family lived in this home till sometime in late 1909-early 1910 (the online grantor records at FamilySearch only go to 1901, a stop at the courthouse is in order), when they moved to New Orleans to be closer to their children.
“The house at 675 Drew Street is no longer standing – at least on Drew Street. In May 1923 the First Methodist congregation was looking for property to build a modern, Gothic style church, which was to be designed by Childs and Smith, noted Chicago architects. The congregation purchased five properties at the intersection of Drew Street and Franklin Street, Jacob’s former house at 675 Drew Street being the corner lot. ‘Possession of the property will be obtained on Aug 1 and removal of the buildings will be undertaken as soon thereafter as possible. The buildings will be sod and moved to other lots before the end of the summer.’ H. A. Schmalz lived in the house at this time, and the article states that the lot at 675 Drew measured 60 feet on Drew Street, and 112 feet on Franklin Street.  They broke ground Sunday, July 16, 1924, and the dedication service was held on Sunday, October 25, 1925. The First Methodist church was estimated to cost $250,000, but is reported to have actually cost $350,000.  ‘The new edifice is one of the largest and most beautiful in the country. With one exception, it as the largest pipe organ in the middle west. The organ cost between $30,000 and $35,000.” 
Jacob was a well respected citizen of Appleton, holding the position of Steward for the Northern Wisconsin Hospital for the Insane in Oshkosh, Winnebago County, he was the first Commander, and a charter member of George D. Eggleston G.A.R. Post 133, and for many years served as a Justice of the Peace, listing his pharmacy as his place of business. The pharmacy building still stands on the corner of Oneida street, and Market Street (now known as Soldiers Square). The Appleton Public library holds this linked image taken some time after Jacob sold his business to Montgomery, and I took the following images in 2006. Included in the gallery is a postcard of Oneida Street taken from College Avenue. Jacob’s building is located on the opposite side of the street, across from the library building just visible down Oneida Street.
Jacob lived a full and active life here in Appleton. There is more to tell about his story.
- “State News,” Oshkosh Northwestern, (Oshkosh, WI), December 22, 1882: p.1.
- “Methodists to Build Church Opposite Park, Five Properties On Drew and Franklin-sts Purchased For Building Site,” Appleton Post-Crescent, (Appleton, WI), May 10, 1923: front page.
- Susan C. Fassbender, A Snapshot: Jacob Harrison Cook, (Appleton: self published, 2006): 16-17.
- “Dedicate $350,000 M. E. Church Here Tomorrow,” Appleton Post-Crescent, (Appleton, WI), October 24, 1925: 11.