Living in Limbo

I love house histories. I love to teach people how to research them, I love to tell my own family stories through the history of our homes. There is so much to learn when looking at a place that shelters and protects your ancestors. 

Today, we are sheltering in our homes due to the COVID19 virus. We are grateful that our home will assist us in protecting our family from this deadly virus, now turning into a pandemic as everything closes around us. Our lives changing and morphing into something new and unknown. 

Oddly, I was in this same place of limbo a year ago today as I left my home of 26 years for a new home, where I knew my life would change forever and would morph into something new and unknown. 

We closed on our home in Appleton, Outagamie, Wisconsin on 15 Mar 2019. We started the two-day drive to Rhode Island the next day, and a year ago today we arrived here, and settled in with our son for the night. We closed on our new home on the 18th, and quickly headed to the house to meet the moving van. 

The home we left behind was the fulfillment of a dream that started five years before the building process began. We designed every inch of the house, and we have a 20+ page list of design direction to prove it. Our son was nine months old when the weather finally allowed us to break ground. Our daughter had just celebrated her fourth birthday. I have not yet put to paper the story of this house, but I have the photographic journey well documented. The decision to downsize was a hard one to make, but there were many personal reasons more important than the love of a house to push us to make the move. We will always have our memories. 

Our Home as it was

As we drove through upstate New York, down into Massachusetts and finally into Rhode Island, the sense of being in limbo was weighing heavily on my heart. 

A year later, the sense of limbo is again weighing heavily on my heart, but like the move, I have confidence that our country, and our world will get through this, and we can again have Hope[1] and move Forward[2].

House Histories. The purpose of this post. When we purchased this house on a double corner lot in Rumford, Providence, Rhode Island, it had what the neighborhood called: The Wood Room. It seems it was a bit infamous, and it definitely was ugly. It certainly didn’t deter us from purchasing this home, but it did present a challenge. The couple from whom we purchased the home had lived here for 25 years, raising their three daughters, and by their own admission, not doing much to the home. The Wood Room was created by the previous owner, Dr. Frederic Ripley and his wife Miriam and their three children who purchased the home in about 1959. 

The night we moved in 18 Mar 2019

When the home was designed in 1935, the garage was built about 17 feet from the house. This space later hosted a patio, and also a screen porch (according to neighborhood information). Sometime in the late 1960s Dr. Ripley came up with the idea to create a true addition to the house, connecting the house to the garage. He had access to 200-year-old barn wood from an old barn in Massachusetts, and English hand-made brick, also 100s of years old. He would panel the walls with the barn wood, and build a fireplace using the brick. 

Because the home would be losing the service door into the garage, a window in the powder room, the kitchen window over the sink, and access to the outside from the kitchen, as the exterior doorway became an interior doorway, the Ripley’s installed a large, double sliding door on one end of the room, providing access to the back yard. An entryway with closet was designed for the opposite side of the room to provide access to the driveway, and garage.

The footings were laid, and clear pine was used as flooring material. The paneling was hung first, then the ceiling was boarded and plastered. The paneling was left rough, and much as it must have been when it was salvaged. The Ripley’s dream for a fireplace became a large, rounded, raised hearth fireplace. The room was heated with its own steam heat system, utilizing large, floor mounted radiators placed all around the room. 

The Ripley’s lived in the home until 1993. Miriam Ripley passing away in January, and Frederic in June. The house was sold the following May. Fast forward to 2018, and the current owners wish to move on. The room looked much as it did when the Ripley’s had a dream, albeit now a bit dusty and covered with cat hair. 

Today in 2020, the room has a new life. We, as the new owners also had a dream for the room. Twelve years spent as remodelers in Appleton as Distinctive Renovations helped us to hone our own vision, and work to make it a reality. 

The fireplace was rebuilt by a very talented mason who knew just what to do to transform it into a Rumford fireplace. Yes, I live in the community named for Count Rumford who was the inventor of this efficient fireplace design. The demolition produced 8 mice nests that needed to be removed, evidence that fire had been licking its way through cracks in the original mortar, and could possibly have created a house fire, along with a very strange way of building a fireplace. 

Fire

The brick was salvaged, and some of it was used to create a beautiful hearth. We next hired another talented man to custom build a wall of shelves and a mantel to grace our new soapstone surround fireplace. Work still needs to be done as we need to install the finish molding, but that will come in time. 

What about the barn board you may ask? Well, we demoed it ourselves, pulled all of the nails, stacked, measured, and then sold it. We did keep one piece that measures 16 ½ W X 60 ½ L X 1” thick. That was not the longest, nor the widest board, but it was one of the best looking. What we will do with it, time will tell. 

Still working on details

This house, a colonial revival built in 1935 is getting a fresh look on life. Our fixer-upper is starting to come back to life. Just as the spring crocus outside my window, it is looking forward to the hope of a new spring…and not being stuck in limbo any longer. Just as I wish and pray for a new spring for our country, that the virus will soon be contained, and we will all be out enjoying the freshness of a new life. 


[1] The motto of Rhode Island.

[2] The motto of Wisconsin. 

Sanborn Maps and the S.A. Cook Home

Through an email conversation with a distant cousin, the question arose as to whether or not there would have been a barn on Samuel A. Cook’s property on Commercial Street, Neenah, Winnebago, Wisconsin. Knowing that he lived in the city of Neenah, I said that I did not think that would be likely. Hmmm, let me see what I can find.

Photograph courtesy of the Neenah Public Library. WI.np100161.bib; accessed 10 May 2020

This past weekend I spent some time with the Neenah Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps from the Library of Congress webpage, and made a really fun discovery. I have used and referenced these maps many times over the years, but till now, had not come across an ancestor’s home that was relevant enough to be included. 

We have photographic images of the home before/or about the time it was sold to the YWCA in 1934, and before it was demolished in 1965. Three neighboring homes were also demolished to make room for the new YMCA building. Funny side note. According the Neenah-Menasha Y page, https://neenahmenashay.weebly.com/previous-homes.html “His [S.A’s] wife at the time, Jennie Christie is to be know [sic] for donating the home to the program, but little is know [sic] as who she is.” Jennie passed away in 1895 and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.[1] Samuel died in 1918 and is buried next to his wife.[2] It would have been their daughter, Maud Christie Cook Lancaster who donated the home to the YWCA. 

The Neenah Public Library has another image of the house in their collection, looking at the home from the north along what is now known as North Water Street. 

Photograph courtesy of the Neenah Public Library. WI.np100382.bib; accessed 10 Mar 2020

We also have an image of the house when a reunion photo was taken in August 1906. The one I am using here I put it through the new MyHeritage colorization function, which is so much fun to use, give it a try. You need to create a login to use the feature, but as of today, you don’t need a paid subscription to colorize a few images. Find it here: https://www.myheritage.com/incolor?s=423434371

Cook Family Reunion, August 1906

Back to the question that started this process. Would there have been a barn on this property? To answer that, I turned to the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps to see if by chance, this house was included. I was so excited to discover that yes, S.A.’s home was included in a number of the years available on the Library of Congress website. Find them here: https://www.loc.gov/collections/sanborn-maps/?fa=location:wisconsin%7Clocation:winnebago+county%7Clocation:neenah

The oldest maps, August 1884 and September 1887, do not include the block that the home which was reportedly built in 1875,[3] was built upon, but I find it in 1891, 1895, 1900, 1906, and 1913. The Key[4] tells me that it is a Dwelling, Frame construction, two stories, with a shingle roof. There is a “stable”[5] on the property, although it is not very large in relation to the house. The 1906 and 1913 map tell us that the stable is approximately 30’ from the Fox River. Residing with S. A. and his family in the 1900 Federal Census[6] is John Pahlman, a servant, age 26, occupation: care of yard and barn. By the 1905 Wisconsin State Census[7], Enoy Chenett, age 24, had taken John’s place as the “coachman.”  In 1910[8] Enoy had moved on, and John Demandt, age 22, occupation: servant, industry: private home, was residing with the family. So we now know there was a “stable” on the property. S.A. was an early adopter of the automobile, owning one by the August 1906 family reunion, as it was reported by his nephew, L. H. Cook, editor of the Marathon County Register that “Saturday morning S.A. Cook with his touring car and three other like machines that he had chartered left Neenah with the party for a trip around Lake Winnebago.”[9]

What I find most interesting is the porches, how much they change. Is this the fault of the artist drawing the map, or did S.A. actually change the façade so often? And what is that little nubbin that appears on the south side of the house in 1891 and 1900, on what might have been the fireplace wall? 

Taking a look at the change between the 1900 map and the 1906 map, you can see where they closed in part of the original open porch. Moving to the second image of the home from the Neenah Public Library, I have marked in red this part of the home that was enclosed sometime between 1900 and 1906. 

The enclosed porch addition

I am very curious as to what the plain small (as shown in the photograph) one story building (as indicated by the number 1 on the maps) at the back of the much more ornate 2 story section, was actually used for – could this have been the kitchen?

Oh to actually see interior images of this home, plus more detailed exterior shots. For now we have the Sanborn maps combined with the few images we have. I guess I should count myself lucky.


[1] Find A Grave memorial link: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/23764453/jennie-cook

[2] Find A Grave memorial link: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/7181675

[3] Neenah Citizen, News Item, Neenah Citizen (Neenah, Wisconsin), 1998 Calendar produced by the Neenah Citizen, “Lost Neenah ~ Neenah’s architectural heritage, lost but not forgotten.”  Cit. Date: 10 Nov 2005.  

[4] Description of the terms used in the Key: https://www.loc.gov/collections/sanborn-maps/about-this-collection/

[5] The Key for the map labels it as such.

[6] 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, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 Apr 2001); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, roll 1824.

[7] 1905 State Census, Winnebago County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Neenah, 3rd Ward, p. 10, family 1, line 1-6, S. A. Cook household; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 Feb 2007). 

[8] 1910 U.S. census, Winnebago County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Town of Neenah, City of Neenah, Third Ward, enumeration district (ED) 126, sheet 5, p. 279A, dwelling 52, family 53, Samuel A Cook household; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 31 Aug 2004); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T624, roll 1744.  

[9] “From The Chilton Times,” (Unity) Marathon County Register, 17 Aug 1906, Friday, p. 2, col. 3. Cit. Date: 18 Nov 2003.  

A Modicum of Truth

There is a modicum of truth in every family story. I am not saying that family stories are meant to mislead, but just like the telephone game we played as children, time has a way of losing some of the fine points of the tale. 

Conner Healy, August 1906

Included in the “Cook Book”[i] is the story of Conner Healy’s emigration from Ireland to the United States. According to the story, Conner and a friend, who were about 12 years of age, took an orange flower to the priest, and the result was that they were threatened with excommunication. Fearing for his life, Conner’s parents made arrangements for him to leave the country with distant relatives who were about to depart for America. The story goes on to state that it is believed that the relatives name was Robinson. 

Conner, born in Kells, County Meath, Ireland,[ii] (Kells is about 40 miles north of Dublin) was married in Fond du Lac, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin by an Episcopal priest[iii], and buried by a Methodist minister[iv]. If he had given an orange flower to a priest, while it would not have been a good gesture, I am not sure how he could have been threatened with excommunication. But I will leave that for another story. I do know that in 1848 the country was still reeling from the effects of the potato famine, and that the Young Ireland movement unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow the British rule in July of that year. 

Whatever the reason for his leaving, Conner boarded Caleb Grimshaw[v] in the company of Henry Power, age 40, George Power, age 42, and Maria Power, age 38. He is listed on the passenger list as: Conner Heloe, age 13. The ship landed in New York Harbor on 11 Sep 1848, and it is assumed that the Powers, along with Conner, immediately departed for Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin. 

By the 1850 Federal Census[vi], Conner was living with the three Power (sometimes spelled Powers) siblings on a farm in the Town of Friendship, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin. George is listed as the Head of Household, with a Value of Real Estate Owned of $800. Conner is enumerated as Conard W. Haley, age 30. Put on your best thick Irish brogue and say Conner Healy, age 13, and you can almost hear what the enumerator wrote in the entry. (Did Conner pronounce his last name as hay-lee, not he-lee as we now think of it?) In this 1850 census, the Powers were living on the farm next door to Andrew Cook, so this would have been his first introduction to the Cook Family, as Andrew is the younger brother of my ancestor William Palmer Cook. 

Five years later, on 14 Dec 1858, Conner and Mary Catherine (Kate) Cook, daughter of William Palmer and Jane McGarvy Cook, were married at St. Paul’s Cathedral (Episcopal) in city of Fond du Lac by the Rev. George B. Eastman, Rector of the church.[vii]

The 1860 Federal Census[viii] enumerates the couple, now with a son, Henry, living in the city of Fond du Lac in the 5th Ward.[ix] They were enumerated two dwellings after Ebenezer Austin, his wife Anne, and their family. Anne is the sister of William Palmer Cook. Residing with Conner and Kate was Maria Power, now listing her age as 75. Unfortunately, her brothers have not yet been located in this census, but Henry is found enumerated in the 1870 Federal Census residing in the city of Fond du lac with J. C. Robertson, Female, age 70. Henry is listed as being a farmer, with a Real Estate value of $5,500.00.

The story comes together upon the death of Henry Power in 1873, when his last will and testament was presented to the probate court 23 May 1873. 

On 24 Jun 1871, Henry Power made his last will and testament which was witnessed and signed in the city of Fond du Lac.[x] In this document he states: “I give to my Sister, Cherry or Charity Jane Robinson, my house and lot on Division Street Fond du Lac, where she now resides…” “I give to my Brother George Power my house and lot on third street, Fond du Lac…” “I give to my adopted son Conner Healy now residing in Fond du Lac, twenty acres of the land which I own in the Town of Friendship, being adjoined to the land now owned by him…” “The remaining ninety [acres] or there abouts of the land which I own in the Town of Friendship, being the south part of the [sadly a piece of tape covers this word] I give jointly to my Brother George Power and my sister Cherry or Charity Jane Robinson, both of Fond du Lac, and to my Nephew William H. H. Robinson, now residing in Oshkosh; wish [sic] whenever dividing [blocked by tape] they will make an equitable decision…” He named George and Conner as joint executors. Maria was not named in the will, as she had passed away in 1864[xi] at the age of 52.

The story is now starting to come together. Conner Healy emigrated with the Power siblings, and sometime after their arrival, Henry “adopted” Conner, whether formally, or informally. If I were to guess? I would guess informally, as Henry was naturalized 15 May 1855,[xii] and Conner appeared before the circuit court to petition for naturalization 5 Nov 1860[xiii]. If he had been formally adopted shortly after arrival, wouldn’t he, at age 19, gone with Henry when he petitioned for naturalization in 1855?

It was not C. J. Robertson who was living with Henry in the 1870 census, but his sister, Charity Jane Robinson. Charity Jane lived to be 101 years old, and because of this we get a glimpse into the history of the Power family. 

On the occasion of her 100th birthday, the story of her life was printed in the newspaper.[xiv] She was born at Kells, County Meath, Ireland, and the article states that her birth was recorded in the “little Episcopal church.” She was very well educated as she “could write and speak fluently seven different languages, and besides was an accomplished short hand writer.” The story goes on to say that her grandfather was Richard Power, a captain in the British Navy, and that he had died at age 56 on 2 Sep 1770 at Kells. Her father was a captain of a British war vessel and had sailed to all parts of the world, three times being shipwrecked. Charity Jane was married to Alexander P. Robinson, and together they had five sons, and one daughter, all who emigrated to Fond du Lac County. In 1865, the Robinsons set out to follow their children to the United States. It is reported that shortly before they were to land, Alexander passed away, and was buried at sea, leaving Charity Jane to continue on to Wisconsin, where “for a time resided with her brother, who had a handsome little cottage here.” By 1885, four of her children had passed away, only her son William Henry Harvey was still living. William H. H. was a well-known photographer living and working in Oshkosh, Winnebago County, Wisconsin between 1870-1893.[xv] He passed away 11 Mar 1893 in Oshkosh.

Following her son’s death, Charity Jane, known as Grandma Robinson, resided at the Home for the Friendless, aka The Home, on Arndt Street in the city of Fond du Lac. She passed away 6 Nov 1900 in Fond du lac, at the age of 101. 

We may never know why Conner was placed in the care of the Power siblings and sent to America, but it is evident that they were committed to caring for each other. The Powers, especially Henry, while Conner was still a young boy, and later Conner taking in, and caring for Maria at the end of her life.

The George, Henry and Maria Power, Charity Jane Robinson, Conner Healy. Distant relatives? Maybe. But most certainly family in Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, USA/


[i] 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: 990. 

[ii] “Connor Healy,” (Colby) Colby Phonograph, 9 Sep 1909, p. http://www.wiclarkcountyhistory.org/1data/23/23084.htm. Cit. Date: 16 Oct 2018.  

[iii] Civil War: NARA – Civil War Pension Records, Civil War Pension Records (National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC), Pension Application for Conner Healy, dated 2 May 1881.  Cit. Date: 29 Dec 2003.  Cit. ID: Robert D. Sternitzky Family Archives.  

[iv] “Connor Healy,” (Colby) Colby Phonograph, 9 Sep 1909.  

[v] Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36; National Archives, Washington, D.C., “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” database, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 Oct 2018), entry for Connor Heloe; citing: Year: 1848; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 075; Line: 1; List Number: 1027; Page Number: 9.  

[vi] 1850 U.S. census, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, population schedule, Town of Friendship, Dist. No 9, p. 556, 557 [penned], 278-279 [stamped], dwelling 544, family 560, George Powers household; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Sep 2003); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 997. Cit. Date: 5 Apr 2016.  

[vii] Civil War: NARA – Civil War Pension Records, Civil War Pension Records (National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC), Pension Application for Conner Healy, dated 2 May 1881.  Cit. Date: 29 Dec 2003.  Cit. ID: Robert D. Sternitzky Family Archives.               

[viii]1860 U.S. census, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, population schedule, City of Fond du Lac, 5th Ward, Post Office: Fond du Lac, p. 140 (penned) p. 634 (handwritten), dwelling 1071, family 1020, Conner Healy household; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Sep 2002); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll 1408.

[ix] 1860 U.S. census, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, population schedule, City of Fond du Lac, 5th Ward, Post Office: Fond du Lac, p. 140 (penned) p. 634 (handwritten), dwelling 1071, family 1020, Conner Healy household; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Sep 2002); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll 1408.  

[x] Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Wisconsin County, District and Probate Courts, Probate Case Files, No 3189-3218, O´Brien, Patrick, Cont – Reed Warren, 1848-1900. Henry Power; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 15 Feb 2020).

[xi] Find A Grave, www.findagrave.com, Find A Grave (<findagrave.com> contributed gravestone photos, cemetery and biographical information), Marie T. Powers Memorial, created by Steve Seim, 7 Jul 2011, Memorial no: 72987052.  Cit. Date: 12 Feb 2020.  

[xii] University of Oshkosh Archives and Area Research Center, “Naturalization Records,” database, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 29 Feb 2020), Henry Power, 1855; citing: Naturalization Records. University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Archives and Area Research Center. http://polk.uwosh.edu/archives/courtrecords: accessed 28 December 2015.

[xiii] University of Oshkosh Archives and Area Research Center, “Naturalization Records,” database, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 Oct 2018), Conner Healy; citing: Healy – Naturalizations – Declaration, item ID: 83343, Call no: Fond du Lac Series 36, volume 6, p. 219, no: 3464.

[xiv]“Lived in Oshkosh,” The Daily Northwestern, 22 Mar 1898, Tuesday, p. 6, col. 1; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 13 Feb 2020). 

[xv] https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/pdfs/WHI-Wisconsin-Photographers-Index-1840-1976.pdf

Moving Across the Country

A year ago at this time we were reviewing and accepting an offer on our home of 25 years. A home that we dreamt about for five years, designed, and built in 1993. It was time to downsize. It was also the time that we made the decision to move from Wisconsin to Rhode Island to be closer to our children. 

With the move no longer at some point in the distance, but with a definite date of 15 March 2019, on January 27th Gary and our daughter Kate left for Rhode Island to start the search for a home. I stayed in Wisconsin and started the long goodbye of sorting and packing for a home that would most likely be 1/2 the size of our current one. 

They left me at the coldest point of the month. I have a screen shot of my weather app for January 30th at 6:33 a.m. At that time of the day, it was -24 degrees, feeling like -59. The high that day was expected to be -9, the low -22. I kept packing, my puppy at my side. 

I packed for almost two months, seven days a week, from morning to evening. Kate stopped counting after ten trips to St. Vincent De Paul, Goodwill and the ReStore. While I had been fairly diligent about keeping on top of weeding out things we no longer needed over the years, there were many places in our home for small things to hide. Too many places. Too much stuff.

After we closed on our new home in Rhode Island, Gary and I headed back to Wisconsin to finish up some loose ends. Finishing a kitchen remodel project for him, and for me, the planning committee for the Wisconsin State Genealogical Societies Gene-A-Rama. Amy Johnson Crow was our main speaker, and I was also slated to speak. Then back to Appleton to start working through things at my mother’s home as she was going to join us in Rhode Island. While her home was smaller than ours had been, she had lived there for 39 years, and she had a basement full of memories. 

Fast forward to a couple of months ago which found me sobbing in my basement, surrounded by boxes of “stuff” that I had brought with me. Looking for “stuff” that I seemed to have gotten rid of. 

Ironically I was also catching up on Amy Johnson Crow’s podcast dated 17 Oct 2019: “3 Unexpected Things I Learned in Downsizing.” https://www.amyjohnsoncrow.com/3-unexpected-things-i-learned-in-downsizing/.  In the podcast, and on the transcript she states: “It was mentally exhausting. Decision fatigue is a real thing. There comes a point where you simply cannot make any more coherent decisions. For my mom, my sisters, and I, that point usually came around the two-hour mark.” 

I call this two-hour mark the “F#(*U@K it” mark. It was the point for me where I could no longer care if an item gave me “joy” ala Marie Kondo, I could only think that I could not fathom adding it to a box that I would have to then unpack miles from where I was at that moment. It was the point where I thought, “I don’t need this, I won’t miss this. YEAH! I don’t have to pack it.” Let’s just say that I made lots of mistakes. I DO miss some of the things I donated. I just did not have the luxury of time to take a break, and come back to the problem. You may ask why I did not start packing sooner. Well, it is hard to sell a home full of boxes. And I wanted my home to be viewed in its best light. 

The reality is that I got rid of a lot of things I now regret, and I brought with me a lot of things I will now be donating. 

Time is the enemy here. Once a house is sold the clock starts ticking. Every second brings you nearer to that moment when you will shut the door for the last time. While you may have gotten rid of too many physical things, you will always have the memories of time spent with family and friends in the house that you are leaving. You need to look forward to the opportunity of making new memories, and let’s face it, the fun of adding a few new tchotchkes purchased specifically for your new home. 

Still Troubles Him

I am a compulsive searcher when it comes to newspapers, I just love them. The fact that new pages are continually added, and best of all, pages are re-scanned which sometimes will produce a better image, I can’t get enough. A recent search for “Jacob Cook” in the Appleton, Outagamie County, Wisconsin newspapers told, in his own words, how he was injured during the Civil War while fighting in the Battle of Cold Harbor. For this post, I am including the story of his Civil War years that I published in my book A Snapshot: Jacob Harrison Cook,[1] along with links to actual images from the battlefield, and then adding another layer to the story by including his words published 28 Sep 1899, in the Appleton Weekly Post.[2]

“…Just seven months after the Lady Elgin disaster, April 12, 1861, Civil War broke out between the states. On April 27, 1861, Jacob headed to Taycheedah, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin to enlist for a term of three years into Company I, 5th Wisconsin Infantry. He was mustered in as a Sergeant July 12, 1861, at Camp Randall, in Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin.[3]

Jacob may have mustered in as a Sergeant, but he did not remain a sergeant for long. In November 1861 he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant, and then on December 24, 1861, while in the field of Virginia, he was commissioned to 1st Lieutenant…”[4]

“…Jacob continued to prove himself a brave and capable soldier as on May 12, 1863, he was commissioned Captain of Co. I, 5th Wisconsin Infantry, mustering out as Captain J. H. Cook on September 26, 1864, from Annapolis Maryland.”

“His biography included in the Soldiers’ and Citizens’ Album of Biographical Record, tells the tale best in the flowery voice of 1888: ‘Mr. Cook’s first engagement was at Williamsburg and he was one of the detail that made the famous bayonet charge on Fort Magruder, the first in the war. The capture of the battle flag of the 5th North Carolina by the 5th Wisconsin in that action, was one of the first instance in the war when a regimental flag was taken.’ ‘Mr. Cook was in all actions known to history as the Seven Days Battles, being constantly on duty throughout, with the exception of a few hours on Friday, June 27th. He continued unhurt until the last terrific action. At White Oak Swamp, June 30, he was severely injured in his back and sustained a rupture on the left side. [In the act of changing the regiments position ‘on Double quick,’ Jacob ‘sliped on the Root of a Tree and Fell a cross a hedge Hurting his Back and Left Groin.’[5]] [https://civilwarphotos.net/files/images/779.jpg] He was under treatment at Washington Naval Hospital two months and through the winter following he served on court martial duty; he rejoined his regiment near Alexandria in time to participate in the movements at Fredericksburg, where the Wisconsin 5th was deployed to act as reserve. Early in 1863, the ‘Light Division’ was formed, and the regiment incorporated therein, having a well established reputation for reliability in action and emergencies, and the regiments composing that body were, from that day placed where danger was most certain. May 3rd [1863], Mr. Cook participated in the charge on Marye’s Heights, regarded as a hopeless attempt, but which the spirit of the soldiers made successful, and he was again in reserve at Gettysburg. [https://civilwarphotos.net/files/images/381.jpg] In July the regiment was sent to New York to aid in the enforcement of the draft and was stationed on Governor’s Island several months, where the command had artillery drill which served them well in their subsequent experience in action. At Rappahanock Station [Virginia, November 7, 1863] the 5th led the advance and suffered terrific loss. The fight at Spottsylvania [sic] was commenced May 10, 1864, and, on that day Mr. Cook received a blow in the right eye from some unknown missile, which caused great suffering at the time and has resulted in the almost total loss of vision in that eye. He did not leave his post of duty and, two days after, with four others, during the daring movement made by General Hancock re-took and operated a gun which the squad had discovered to be abandoned. They sighted the gun and, afterwards learned that their first fire swept away 42 men in the line of battle. They fired their first six-pounder until all shot in the caisson were exhausted, and three of their number had joined the ‘great majority,’ Captain Cook and Adelbert Norton only remained to relate the incident. In the battle of Cold Harbor in June [1st, 1864], [https://civilwarphotos.net/files/images/329.jpg] Captain Cook was severely wounded, a bullet passing through his right thigh, which still ‘holds fort.’ He passed three days in an army wagon before arriving at White House Landing, and three days after at Alexandria, VA., he first received medical care, six days after being shot. He was in hospital two months, and went home to furlough, returning to Annapolis to be discharged [September 27, 1864].’[6]

The wound that Jacob received in the battle of Cold Harbor took a long time to heal. His hospital record dated July 7, 1864[7] states that there is still much inflammation in the limb, and he was still experiencing fever; he was given a leave of absence of 30 days. As stated above, he ‘went home to furlough.’ On August 2, 1864, his physician in Fond du Lac, Dr. Edmund Delany wrote a letter certifying that Capt. J. H. Cook had been under his ‘care and attendance since July 12, 1864 – that he is still entirely unable for duty; and that he is not yet able to travel without serious inconvenience, and probable injury.’ Dr. Delany did not think it was ‘proper’ for him to travel for at least another 30 days.[8] On August 30, 1864, he was in Madison at Camp Randall for a checkup with Dr. C. B. Pierson, surgeon for the 28th Regiment Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. Dr. Pierson found that he was ‘still entirely unfit for duty, and also, in my judgement, he is at present unable to travel without serious inconvenience, and probable injury,’[9] he recommended that his leave to be extended an additional 20 days. As previously noted, Jacob never did return to active duty, but traveled to Annapolis to the army hospital to be examined, and on September 27th he was discharged from duty.

During the two months that Jacob was in Wisconsin on furlough, he rekindled his friendship and romance with Anna Eliza Halsted, and on August 26, 1864, they were wed by Justice of the Peace, W. C. Kellogg, in the Town of Friendship, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin. They were wed in the home, and in the presence of Conner and Kate Healy, brother-in-law and sister of Jacob.

Notice the bandage on his right leg, all the way down to his foot.

Following his discharge from Co. I, 5th Wisconsin Infantry, Jacob returned to Wisconsin settling in Stockbridge, Calumet County, Wisconsin. Shortly after returning home he filed for an invalid pension, filling out the Declaration for an Invalid Pension form on November 12, 1864, he was just 23 years old. His sisters, Kate Healy and Sarah J. Drake witnessed the document, attesting to the fact that his sole occupation since returning home had been ‘taking care of his leg…”[10][11]

Many years later in September 1899, now 58 years old, Jacob was an elected justice of the peace in Appleton, Outagamie County, Wisconsin, and the Appleton Weekly Post wrote a piece about him, and the bullet that was never removed from his leg, which now “occasionally confines him to the house for several days at a time” due to rheumatism. 

Jacob H. Cook August 1906, Neenah, Wisconsin

“…In response to questions as to how he was wounded, the Captain said that his company, which was supporting a battery, was ordered down a slope about forty rods in front of the guns, who were in hiding in the words. The men were in a kneeling position and had been in that position only a few minutes when the Captain fell forwards on his face. Upon regaining his balance he looked at the men on either side and they in turn looked at him, all realizing that some one had been hit, as they had heard the ‘spat’ of a bullet. It was not until the Captain endeavored to regain his feet that he realized he had been wounded. He felt no pain at the time, and did not for several minutes. The bullet struck his limb about half way between the knee and thigh, and passed at an angle from one side nearly through to the other. He was placed in an army wagon with three others, and on account of being surrounded by rebels was three days in reaching Whitehouse Landing where he was placed on a boat that required three days to reach Alexandria. Here he was placed in a hospital where he received his first medical attention. During the six days his limb had swollen to such an extent that the physicians found it very difficult to remove his clothing. An effort was made to remove the bullet but did not prove successful.”

“Ever since he was wounded he has been compelled to carry a cane, and expects to as long as he lives.”[12]


[1] Fassbender, Susan C., A Snapshot: Jacob Harrison Cook (Appleton, Wisconsin, Self-published, 2006), 4-6.

[2] “Still Troubles Him,” The Appleton Weekly Post, 28 Sep 1899, Thursday, p. 1, col. 4; digital images, Newspapers.com(www.newspapers.com : accessed 11 Oct 2019).

[3] Company Muster-in Roll Card, Jacob H. Cook, Book mark: 9334-D-86. Veteran Record of Jacob H. Cook, National Archives and Records Administration, Veteran Records, Washington DC.

[4] Fassbender, A Snapshot: Jacob Harrison Cook, 4.

[5] General Affidavit for Any Purpose, State of Wisconsin. Jacob H. Cook, Invalid Pension, Sworn testimony of William Billings, Wild Rose, Waushara County, Wisconsin, 9 Mar 1886.

[6] Grand Army Publishing Company, Soldiers’ And Citizens’ Album of Biographical Record, (Chicago, Illinois. Grand Army Publishing Company, 1888), 288-289.

[7] Hospital Patient Record Number 6493, 7 Jul 1864. Veteran Record of Jacob H. Cook, National Archives and Records Administration, Veteran Records, Washington DC.

[8] Edmund Delany, Physician & Surgeon to Whom it may concern, 2 Aug 1864. Veteran Record of Jacob H. Cook, National Archives and Records Administration, Veteran Records, Washington DC.

[9] C. B. Pierson, Surgeon, 38th Regiment Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, 30 Aug 1864. Veteran Record of Jacob H. Cook, National Archives and Records Administration, Veteran Records, Washington DC.

[10] Fassbender, A Snapshot: Jacob Harrison Cook, 5-6.

[11] Declaration for Invalid Pension, Adjutant General’s Office, Washington DC, 12 Nov 1864. Invalid Pension Record for Jacob H. Cook, National Archives and Records Administration, Invalid Pension Records, Washington DC, Application no. 55279, certificate no: 37916, 19 Nov 1864.

[12] “Still Troubles Him.”

Swallow-Tail Coat and A Plug Hat

June 16, 1927 was the date that twenty-six-year old Gretje Sophia Tapper, daughter of Anton and Louise Tapper, and forty-two-year old Albert Juiius Warber, DDS chose as their wedding date. 

Trinity Lutheran church in Hammond, Lake Co, Indiana was filled with 250 guests as she was escorted down the aisle by her father to Lohengrin’s Wedding March. Her brother’s Anton Jr., and Roland served as ushers, and her sister, Alice, served as her maid of honor. 

The Lake County Times account of the wedding was filled with the usual language of the time as it described the wedding. The “attractive bridesmaids in yellow taffeta frocks made with bouffant skirts and trimmed with dainty rosebuds of taffeta.” They each wore a “large picture hat of horsehair braid, trimmed with yellow and orchid velvet ribbons and carried a vari-colored bouquet of spring flowers.” Fourteen-year-old Alice serving as maid of honor, wore “a bouffant frock of orchid taffeta with rosebud trimmings. Her becoming hat was trimmed with lovely flowers. Miss Tapper also carried a pretty maid of honor bouquet.”

The report continues: “The bride was lovely as she entered the church on the arm of her father in a wedding gown of white satin trimmed with brides lace and prettily beaded. Her cap-shaped headdress fell in soft folds of tulle to the hem of her gown and was touched with delicate flowers about her face. To complete her costume Miss Tapper carried a lovely bridal bouquet of lilies and roses en shower.” 

Immediately following the 4:30 ceremony an enjoyable dinner was served at the Hammond Woman’s Club.[1]

The above article filled with vivid descriptions of what the bride and her bridesmaids wore was typical of the time. Every wedding was beautifully appointed and filled with “pretty” bridesmaids, and “lovely” brides. But it was a small item printed on the front page of The Lake County Times under the headline: “Did You Hear That” that really brought to life for me how big and “fancy” this Tapper wedding was. 

The item reads: “This is a big afternoon for Tony Tapper. Aside from the marriage of his daughter, it’s his first appearance in a swallow-tail coat and a plug hat.”

A swallow-tail coat and a plug hat? Not knowing I turned to Google to see what I could learn. A tailcoat, for special occasions – think white tie, the coat has silk lapels and covered buttons with a single vent, with or without pleating at the back. The center vent rises up to the waistline and divide’s the coat’s skirt into two “tails,” thus inspiring the nickname swallow-tail coat, or claw-hammer tailcoat. These “tails” extend down to the bend of the knee in a straight line, with a curve the bottom. 

As for the hat. Merriam-Webster defines a plug hat as a stiff hat, such as a top hat. 

The out of copyright image to the left shows a man in a top hat at tails. AAHH I always think of Fred Astaire when I think of top hats and tails…

I wish that we had pictures of this wedding, but I do believe that this was not the first time that Anton appeared in formal evening dress. He was very well dressed at his own wedding twenty-seven years before his daughters. 

But what I really love about these two articles is that together they provide a true look at how very formal this wedding was. The fact that it was a white tie affair is not reflected in the charming description of the bride and her bridesmaids. 

Now if we only had a glimpse into what they served for the enjoyable dinner…


Anton & Louisa Normann Tapper, 15 Jul 1900

[1] “Miss Tapper and Dr. Warber Wed,” The Lake County Times, 16 Jun 1927, Thursday, p. 10, col. 2; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 16 Oct 2017).