Research Thoughts

The House That Cook Built – Part 2

The Cast of Characters

To begin where I ended the last post: As I began my research into the home, I came across many statements regarding this once-majestic dwelling place. Comments that it had been a brothel, [1] a gin house, bordello, and gambling joint. [2] The home that Harry H. Cook built for his bride, [3] the home that the “owner of the paper mill,” Edwin Yule built. Another article states that after Harry died the home was sold to Ed Yule his “nephew” and he renovated it for his bride. [4] So many stories surrounding the origin of this house. It is almost as if I am watching a stage play.

Here are the “Cast of Characters,” although not in order of appearance, but as a family group.

  • Samuel Andrew Cook, known as S.A. (1849 – 1918)….Owner of the property. Serial entrepreneur
    • Jennie Christie (1849 – 1895)….Deceased wife of S. A. Cook
  • Maud Christie Cook (1878 – 1949)….Daughter of S. A. and Jennie Cook
    • Charles Frank Lancaster (1867 – 1933)….Husband of Maud Christie Cook
  • Henry Harold Cook, known as H. H., or Harry (1881 – 1931)…Son of S. A. and Jennie Cook
    • Martha Wheeler Paine (1895 – 1993)…Wife of H. H. Cook
      • Henry Hosford Cook (1918 – 1927)…Son of H. H. and Martha Cook

Mary Jane Watson…Maternal 1st Cousin to S. A. Cook, daughter of Mary McGarvy and John Eves Watson.

Andrew Yule…Husband of Mary Jane Watson

They raised their children in Aurora, York, Ontario, Canada 

  • Watson A. Yule, ak Watt (1870 – 1935)…A resident of Neenah, Winnebago, Wisconsin in 1895 Resident of Alexandria, Madison, Indiana in 1900
    • Emly/Emily Ada Perryman (1872 – 1958)…Wife of Watson. Married 31 Dec 1907 in Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada
  • John Campbell Yule, aka Jack (1872 – 1943)…A resident of Alexandria in 1900
    • Dora Rynerson (1870 – 1899) …Wife of John. Married 15 Dec 1897 in Erath County, Texas
    • Grace Jane Crouse (1881 – 1952)…Wife of John. Married 15 May 1903 in Alexandria
  • Edwin Watson Yule, aka Ed (1874 – 1970)…A resident of Alexandria in 1901
    • Georgina Louise Lemon (1874 – 1959)…Wife of Edwin. Married 17 Jul 1901 in Aurora, York, Ontario, Canada
  • Edward Boyd Yule (1876 – 1972)…Did not emigrate to America
  • Walter Scott Yule (1879 – 1921)…Did not emigrate to America

To paraphrase: “The Cooks were a family, to begin with.” For decades this extended family had resided near each other in Canada, specifically communities in York, Ontario Province. S.A.’s parents, William and Jane McGarvy Cook were the first to leave. In 1856 they emigrated to Stockbridge, Calumet County, Wisconsin. I have written posts about their early years in Wisconsin and the sinking of the Lady Elgin, an event that changed the family forever. [5] What didn’t change for the family was their love, and the closeness that they felt to the family left behind in Canada. Before her death, Jane had been very close to her mother and sisters, Elizabeth McGarvy Watson, and Mary McGarvy Watson. The Cook children can be documented crossing back and forth visiting their grandmother, aunts, and cousins. 

Jane’s sister, Mary, and her husband, John Eves Watson had eight children. Their fourth child Mary Jane married Andrew Yule, and they in turn had six children. The firstborn was a girl they named Mary Jane who died in infancy. The next five were sons, born between 1870 and 1879, ages that matched closely to the family down in Wisconsin. As the boys grew older, they were ready to spread their wings and try life in the United States. The first to come south was 25-year-old Watson. He joined his uncle, S. A. in Neenah, sometime before June 20, 1895. [6]

The summer of 1895 was a pivotal year for the Cook family. S. A. had been elected to the House of Representatives and was planning to fulfill his duty to his country and state, leaving his family home in Neenah while he attended to government business in Washington DC. Going alone to Washington allowed 17-year-old Maud, and 14-year-old Harry to continue their schooling in Neenah uninterrupted. Jennie would not be alone, as her sisters Elizabeth, Emeline, and Margaret were residing with the family in their large home on Commercial Street. 

Then, unexpectedly, on July 27th, 49-year-old Elizabeth Christie passed away. She had “been an invalid for about a year and for two months past had been confined to her bed.” [7] S. A. purchased a family plot in Oak Hill Cemetery, and it was there that she was laid to rest.

S. A. Cook, 1896

Two months later, on September 10th, Jennie, who had “been in delicate health the past few years” left with her sister, Margaret, for Aurora, Canada, in the “hopes that a change of climate might benefit her health.” Sadly, instead of improving, she took a turn for the worse, and S. A. was called to her bedside. Taking Harry with him, and accompanied by Watson, he rushed to Canada where she sadly passed away on September 19th. Jennie was just 46-years-old. Her remains were brought back to Neenah for burial near her sister in Oak Hill Cemetery. [8]

The passing of Jennie changed S.A.’s plans for Washington, DC. He decided to take the family with him. He rented a home in the city and made arrangements to leave earlier than originally planned so that he could settle Maud and Harry in school. His sisters-in-law, Emeline and Margaret would accompany the family, one to care for the household, the other to “act as his secretary under appointment according to the new law, giving representatives each a clerk paid for by the government.” [9] S.A. asked Watson to occupy his home in Neenah during his absence. [10] He would serve just one term in the House of Representatives, returning to Wisconsin in 1897 at the end of his term.

S.A. was a serial entrepreneur, always looking to expand, evolve and grow his empire. This is not to say he was a mean-spirited person, as there are dozens upon dozens of newspaper accounts of what a kind, wonderful man he truly was. He was just always “thinking.” And so it was on October 27, 1897, that he filed articles of incorporation in Menasha, Winnebago, Wisconsin, for the S. A. Cook Manufacturing Company, in partnership with Miner H. Ballou, 27-year-old Watson Yule, and his son, 16-year-old Harry.[11] Two years later, on June 29th, he would incorporate another company, the Alexandria Paper & Investment Co., with Miner H. Ballou and A. E. Bunker.

We may never know when Watson moved to Alexandria to begin work at the paper mill, but he was certainly there in June 1900 to be enumerated in the census.[12] He was living at 119 Church Street, residing as a boarder in the Ralph and Nellie Bertsche household, his occupation is listed as the “secretary of the paper co.”

Watson’s brother John was also living in Madison County in June of 1900. He was working at the paper mill as a sales manager [13] residing as a “boarder” on the farm of William Dean and his family. The farm must have been very close to the paper mill as John was one of 3 “boarders” the family had taken in, all of whom worked at the paper mill.[14] A 1914 published biography about John[15] states that he came to Alexandria in 1899. 

John had been living and working in Dallas, Dallas, Texas. The biography states that he like his brother Watson had first gone to Neenah to work, presumably with the help of S. A. He left for Dallas in 1895. John married Dora Rynerson in 1897, and they welcomed their firstborn son, Byron on January 28, 1899. Sadly Dora passed away soon after his birth on February 2nd. Shortly after Dora’s passing, John took his newborn son home to Canada to be cared for by his parents.[16] [17] On May 15th in 1903, 31-year-old John married Grace Crouse, and Byron was brought to live with them in Alexandria.[18]

Last but not least, we look for Edwin Yule. In his 1914 biography,[19] he states that he arrived in Alexandria at the time that the Alexandria Paper Company was founded, July 1900. He is not found in the 1900 census for Madison County, but when 27-year-old Edwin married Georgina Lemon on 17 Jul 1901, he listed Alexandria as his place of residence, and his occupation was that of “manufacturer.”[20]

Alexandria, Indiana, 1908

The last cast members to move to Alexandria are S. A.’s children, Harry and Maud. Harry is still living at home in Neenah at the time of the 1900 census. He is 19 years old, had finished his schooling at the University in Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin, and he lists his occupation as that of a “Paper Manufacturer.” [21] The first published record of his residence in Alexandria is in October 1901 when the newspaper reported that “The Alexandria Whist club, composed of men only, was organized Tuesday evening. The following gentlemen compose the charter members: W. H. Yule…John Yule…Harry Cook… The club’s permanent quarters will be in the Opera house block. Games will be played once a week, the playing season to end in April of next year. A score of each player will be kept and the winner will receive a handsome prize. The members are all experienced players.” [22] Notice, Edwin Yule is not listed as a charter member of the club.

Maud would not have a residence in Alexandria till many years later, but there is a record that she would come and visit her brother and cousins. For much of her young adulthood, she acted as a travel companion, and hostess for her father, as he entertained business associates and friends.

Phew. The players have now been introduced, the stage is set, and we will now begin to look at the first act of a very special home on Park Avenue, in Alexandria, Monroe Township, Madison, Indiana.


  1. “Hotels–Indiana–Madison County,” Clipping Files, 1989-2002; OCLC Number/Unique Identifier: 880652327, WorldCat Database; Indiana Historical Society Library, Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana. Cit. Date: 14 May 2016.  
  2. Linda Ferris, “Elder House to open house on Sunday,” The Times=Tribune, 16 Jan 1991, Wednesday, p. 1 & p. 8, col. 1-4 & top; digital images, ( : accessed 20 Jun 2016). 
  3. “Lines from Linda,” The Times=Tribune, 10 Sep 1986, Wednesday, p. 2, col. 1-2; digital images, ( : accessed 6 Jul 2016). 
  4. Mary Graves, “Elder House comes to Colonnades,” The Times=Tribune, 4 Dec 1985, Wednesday, p. 1 & p.2, col. 1, 3-4; digital images, ( : accessed 27 May 2016). 
  5. A Face to a Name; September 6, 1860; The Lady Elgin Disaster, Part, 1; The Lady Elgin Disaster, Part 2; Maps. Another Layer to the Story
  6. 1895 State Census, Winnebago County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Neenah, 2nd Ward, line Last, Watson Eule; digital images, ( : accessed 30 Mar 2016).
  7. “Death of Miss Christie.,” The Appleton Weekly Post, 4 Jul 1895, Thursday, p. 3, col. 5; digital images, ( : accessed 11 Aug 2018). 
  8. “Widespread Sorrow. Caused by Death of Mrs. Cook.,” (Oshkosh) The Daily Northwestern, 20 Sep 1895, Friday, p. 3, col. 1. Cit. Date: 6 May 2004. 
  9. “A Busy Week,” (Oshkosh) The Daily Northwestern, 26 Oct 1895, Saturday, p. 5, col. 1. Cit. Date: 12 Aug 2004.
  10. “Leaves for Washington.,” The Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, 15 Nov 1895, Friday, p. 5, col. 2; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE ( : accessed 30 Mar 2016). 
  11. “A New Company.,” The Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, 27 Oct 1897, Wednesday, p. 2, col. 2; digital images, ( : accessed 7 Jul 2016). 
  12. 1900 U.S. census, Madison County, Indiana, population schedule, Monroe Township, Alexandria City, enumeration district (ED) 97, sheet 12 (penned), p. 52B (stamped), dwelling 223, family 253, Ralph Bertsche household; digital images, ( : accessed 26 Aug 2021); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, roll FHL microfilm: 1240386.
  13. 1900 U.S. census, Madison County, Indiana, population schedule, Monroe Township, Alexandria City, Ward 1, enumeration district (ED) 97, sheet 28-29, p. 68A-B, dwelling 548, family 611, William Dean household; digital images, ( : accessed 24 Aug 2016); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, roll 386. 
  14. John was enumerated in District 97, while the Ballou’s were enumerated in District 95. 
  15. John La Rue Forkner, History of Madison County, Indiana: A Narrative Account of Its Historical Progress, its People and Its Principal Interests, 2 volumes (Chicago and New York: Lewis Publishing Company, 1914), 2: 598. Cit. Date: 4 May 2016. 
  16. “Obituaries. Byron Andrew Yule,” The Post-Crescent, 6 Nov 1978, Monday, p. B-11, col. 2; digital images, ( : accessed 23 Aug 2021).
  17. 1901 census of Canada, Ontario, York, district 130 York North, S. District No: A, sub-district 3, Town of Aurora, p. 10, dwelling 111, family 111, Andrew Yule household; RG 31; digital images, ( : accessed 29 Apr 2016); citing citing Library and Archives Canada, microfil reels: T-6428 to T-6556.
  18. 1910 U.S. census, Madison County, Indiana, population schedule, Monroe Township, enumeration district (ED) 112, sheet 8, p. 210B, dwelling 186, family 188, John C. Yule household; digital images, ( : accessed 4 Jul 2016); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T624, roll 364.
  19. Forkner, History of Madison County, Indiana, 2: 598-599. Cit. Date: 4 May 2016.
  20. Ontario, Canada Ontario, Registrar General,  Marriage Register, (Archives of Ontario, Toronto), K, 1901: 499-500, image 327 & 328 of 430,  Yule-Lemon; FHL microfilm. Cit. Date: 24 Dec 2017. 
  21. 1900 U.S. census, Winnebago County, Wisconsin, population schedule, City of Neenah, 3rd Ward, enumeration district (ED) 127, sheet 1, p. 141A, dwelling 12, family 13, S. A. Cook household; digital images, ( : accessed 1 Apr 2001); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, roll 1824.
  22. “Alexandria,” The Muncie Morning Star, 27 Oct 1901, Sunday, p. 10, col. 3; digital images, ( : accessed 26 Dec 2017). 
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