In 2003 my mother, Emmie Lou Tapper Sternitzky, took on the monumental task of sorting, identifying, and cataloging the Cook photos that she and my father had been given to archive. She did an amazing job with these 297 images that she included in her photo book “The Cook Family Photo Album.” Through the years as my research has expanded, I have made notes confirming dates, correcting dates, identifying before unknown people in photos, and just enjoying the hard work that went into what I hold in my hands.
The other day I was again going through the book, as I knew she had included a map that I wanted to look at when I was stopped by a postcard that had been saved by my great-grandmother, Effie Josette DuCate Cook. She had received New Years’ greetings from J. C. Gillett, the photo postcard being postmarked in Unity, Marathon County, Wisconsin, January 2, 1908. Moving on to look at the 1901 map, I noticed a J. C. Gillett living on 120 acres in Section 5, Brighton Township, across the street from George and Lewis’ land in section 6. Who was this J. C. Gillett?
I started the easy way, the 1900 United States Federal Census entry for my great-grandparents. And there she was, listed as Jane C. Gillett, head of household, age 54, widowed, mother of 3 children with 2 living, born in England, immigrated in 1850, working as a school teacher, owning free of mortgage, a farm. Living with her was her son, Fay C. Gillett, age 23, occupation a farmer.
This sparked my interest to learn a bit more about this woman, why was she sending such sweet New Year greetings to her neighbor? Imagine my surprise when the pieces all fell into place. Jane, really Jennie Clara Chaney Gillett, was born in England in February 1846. She married Fayette Clark Gillett on March 24, 1875, in Forest, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and they had three children. Fay, who I have already mentioned born in 1876, Elizabeth Ann born July 28, 1878, and Jennie C. Gillett was born May 3, 1880, all in Forest. Sadly, they lost Jennie on January 12, 1881. Fayette passed away on August 21, 1889. He and Jennie were buried in Forest Cemetery, and this is where Jennie and Fay would return for burial.
So how does this tie the two women together? Remember Jennie’s older daughter, Elizabeth Ann? She married George Sewall Cook, the brother of Lewis!! A family postcard. I find it interesting looking at the back to note that the card was postmarked, but no indication that it had ever been stamped. I wonder if Jennie walked into the post office, handed her penny and the postcard to the postmaster. He took the penny, stamped the card, and tucked it into Effie’s cubby for her to pick up.
By 1920 Fay had retired from farming, and he moved with his mother into a house on West Front Street in the Village of Unity. Here they would spend the rest of their lives. (I have to admit that I have not checked to see if the address stayed the same. They may have moved households). Jennie passed away on April 13, 1924, and Fay would live until November 17, 1945.
The New Years’ greeting sent in 1908 is now part of my collection, and it is so much fun to know a bit more about this woman standing in her yard with her dog.
1. 1900 U.S. census, Marathon County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Brighton Township, enumeration district (ED) 72, sheet 1, p. 27A, dwelling 9, family 9, Lewis H. Cook household; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 25 Mar 2005); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, roll FHL microfilm: 1241798.
Each year as Lake Winnebago freezes, plans are made for that year’s road system, as local fishing clubs map out the intricate, and extensive, roadway that will get fisherman and their vehicles out onto the ice. In 2018, about 75 miles of roads were designed and kept plowed by the 20 fishing clubs that create the ice fishing community. 
2018 was a cold year and the 131,939-acre lake that stretches 30 miles long and about 10 miles wide, had ice in some spots that measured 30 inches thick. Discarded Christmas trees are used to line routes to make navigation easier, especially at night, or during years when there is little to no snow cover. Bridges are custom built to span the cracks that appear, and these need to be moved frequently as the ice conditions change, and club members report that the ice is constantly moving, especially on windy days when you can feel the waves as you cross the ice.
The ice fishing clubs are not the only ones using the lake as a roadway, as a road is also created and maintained as a quick way to travel from Quinney in Calumet County to Oshkosh, Winnebago County. This 10-mile road connects the two communities and cuts almost 30 miles and 45 minutes off of the trip taken on traditional roadways. 
The idea of this ice highway is not a new one. Oshkosh retailers were thrilled in December 1910 to learn of a sled line that would run across Lake Winnebago from Stockbridge, Calumet County on the east shore to the city of Oshkosh.  On December 10th a group of four Stockbridge men started to map out the 10 3/4 mile route between the two communities. It took them just shy of four days, Saturday, Sunday, arriving in Oshkosh at noon on Monday. “They came across with one team and a bob-sled and every twenty or twenty-five rods along the way they set up in the ice a small evergreen tree or bush which would act as a guide for the wayfarers to come after them.” “Holes were cut in the ice and the trunks of the trees firmly placed in the holes so that evergreens would remain upright throughout the winter, no matter what winds or snow storms may try to topple them from their support. 
The 1910 road builders measured the ice as they made their way towards Oshkosh, and discovered that the thickest ice was at the east shore, while the thinnest ice was near Oshkosh. They speculated that the reason for this is the water is deepest near Stockbridge and much more shallow on the Oshkosh side. They stated that they would “easily see the bottom all the way to shore from a point two miles out.” 
That year other roads were planned, as the Cook & Brown Lime company was constructing a road from the brickyard near High Cliff to Appleton, Outagamie County, and another road was planned from Calumet Harbor to Oshkosh.
Oshkosh was very excited for the opportunity that the ice road offered them as “it will be possible for east shore people to do much Christmas trading here.” In the summer the residents travel to Oshkosh by steamboat, and now in winter, they can make the trek across the ice. “It requires about two and one-half hours time to cross the ice with a team hauling a loaded sleigh at a pair pace.” 
Two and a half hours one way by sleigh in 1910. Looking at a Google map, the route from Stockbridge to Oshkosh via WI-55N is a distance of 39.9 miles and would take 47 minutes by car. Hard to believe that the author of the 2018 article had his facts fully researched as he stated that the ice road cuts almost 30 miles off of the trip. He further stated that traveling 25 MPH while on the ice reduces the length of the trip by 45 minutes. Either way, using the lake roads as a way to get to Oshkosh from Calumet County certainly saves time.
James B. Nelson, “Lake Winnebago’s winter roads offer access to fishing shacks, speedy commuter routes,” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 14 Feb 2018; digital images, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/local/wisconsin/2018/02/14/lake-winnebagos-winter-roads-offer-access-fishing-shacks-speedy-commuter-routes/1079051001/ : accessed 31 Jan 2021).
“Sled Line to Run Over Winnebago,” Appleton Evening Crescent, 15 Dec 1910, Thursday, p. 2, col. 4; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 31 Jan 2021).
Yesterday I presented virtually at the 13th Annual Minnesota Northstar Genealogy Conference. What a difference it is to present to an audience you cannot see, but know are there because the number of attendees is listed on the Go To Meeting dashboard.It was a great conference, and I am glad that I have my first virtual presentation under my belt. I look forward to doing it again, and I am hopeful that we will soon be meeting in person.
While tweaking my Maps presentation for this conference, I found a map that I feel adds, well, “another layer to the story” of the Lady Elgin. This 1857 Map of the Milwaukee & Superior Rail Road and its Connections. 
Trying to imagine what happened that day when the news of the disaster reached the Cook household, my mind goes in two directions. William might have been waiting at home on the farm in Stockbridge, Calumet County, with Sarah, James, Samuel, Alfred, Albert, and Henrietta. Or just as likely the family had traveled to Fond du Lac, Fond du Lac County, where both Mary Catherine and Watson were living. Kate had married Conner W. Healy in Fond du Lac on 14 Dec 1858, and Watson married Judith Louisa Drake in Stockbridge on 12 Oct 1859.
If I were planning this return welcome, I would choose the latter, as Jane, Elizabeth Ann, and Jacob would have been exhausted from their long journey home. First boarding the propeller The Sun in Collingwood, Ontario, Canada, traveling through the Great Lakes to Milwaukee. Once arriving in Milwaukee they would have caught the Milwaukee and Superior Railroad line to Cedarburg. In Cedarburg, they would have transferred to the Fond Du Lac Air Line to Fond du Lac. If you look at Calumet County lined in pink, you can see that the Manitowoc & Mississippi Rail Road was already entering the county, but was still a considerable distance from their home in Stockbridge. Arriving in Fond du Lac they would have been met with the whole family and been able to celebrate their return while taking a much-needed rest from their travels.
What prompts me to write this post is not this anticipated happy welcome home, but the trip that William, Watson, and Jacob would make. The route they would have taken both going to Chicago, and the sad return trip home.
As I see it in my mind’s eye, the news reached Fond du Lac, and it was from there that William and Watson boarded the Fond du Lac Air Line, riding the line to Cedarburg where they transferred to the Milwaukee & Superior line. Reaching Milwaukee, they boarded the Milwaukee and Chicago Railroad and headed south to meet Watson. Was he waiting for them in Racine, Racine County which is where he had been rescued? Or had he traveled to Milwaukee to wait. I would guess that after so many hours in the water being battered and thrown around by the waves, he was waiting for them in Racine. One can just imagine the hugs, the tears, and the joy of seeing Jacob. But also the tears and fears of what still was ahead of them when they reached Chicago.
This brings to mind another question. In his own words, Jacob states: “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.”  Did the family stay at home till they heard from Jacob, or did they immediately prepare to leave for Chicago?
I would guess that plans were made for the younger children to remain with Kate and Judith. Watson and Judith had a newborn son. Arthur Watson Cook was born 11 Jul 1860, and Kate and Conner’s little boy, Henry George Healy, would be celebrating his first birthday on October 4th. Two little nephews to keep entertained would help pass the time.
The Lady Elgin was struck around 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning near Waukegan, Lake County, Illinois, then drifted south towards Waukegan, Lake County, Illinois where “it began to go to pieces.”  The high winds and waves sent Jacob north towards Racine, while other passengers went south towards Chicago.
Just look at how the railway line hugs the shore of Lake Michigan! Joining Jacob in Racine, most likely on Sunday, September 9th, the three men traveled the rails to Chicago. I can just imagine Jacob looking out the window of the train noting landmarks that he could just see above the waves as he clung to “a piece of plank about eighteen inches wides by six feet in length.”  All three looking desperately for any sign of Jane and Elizabeth out on the water. Would Jacob have recognized the spot where the Lady Elgin was hit by the Augusta? Or was it too dark for him to recognize an exact location?
Elizabeth Ann’s body was recovered on Tuesday, September 11th and brought with the 14 other bodies recovered that day to the Chicago Courthouse, to be laid out for identification. As Watson described it in a letter to his sister, they did not recognize her the first day, but upon returning the next morning after she had been “washed” and put in a coffin, they found her. 
We do not know how long William and his sons stayed in Chicago, watching, waiting, praying that they would see the face of Jane. But at some point, they would have arranged for Elizabeth Ann’s coffin to travel north to Stockbridge. Most likely she was sent home as soon as she was recognized – you couldn’t just take a coffin back to the boarding house, and park it.
And then the long, sad trip home. Riding the Milwaukee and Chicago Railroad north, past the spot at Winnetka where the Lady Elgin broke into pieces, past the spot near Waukegan where the Lady Elgin was struck, and following the bobbing path of Jacob to Racine as he clung on for dear life, hoping to be rescued.
Nesbitt & Company, and Milwaukee And Superior Railroad Company. Map of the Milwaukee & Superior Rail Road and its connections. New York, 1857. Map. https://www.loc.gov/item/98688717/.
“An Appleton Man’s Escape. His Mother and Sister Were Both Lost—The Former’s Body Never Recovered,” Milwaukee Sentinel, 4 Sep 1892.
“Graves of Lady Elgin Dead Desecrated,” The Chicago Sunday Tribune, 26 May 1899, Sunday, p. 1, part 4; Editorial Sheet; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 4 Jul 2018).
On this day 127 years ago, my great-great-grandfather, 43-year-old Alfred Cook, arrived in Marshfield in time to catch the 6:15 train bound for Wausau. September 26, 1893, was a Tuesday, and Alfred, chairman of the Town of Brighton, he was on his way to attend the meeting of the county board of Marathon county. Living in Unity, Marathon County, he would have been up extraordinarily early to travel the approximately 15 miles to Marshfield. Did he travel by train on the Wisconsin Central,  or did he travel by horse and buggy?
On this day the way freight on the Milwaukee Lake Shore railway to Wausau was made up of eighteen freight cars. Alfred, along with the Rev. James Brown, Christ Vogt, and Conductor Dunn, settled in for the trip riding in the caboose.
“Just before reaching McMillan there is a steep grade. When the last section of the train was nearly to the top a coupler broke, leaving a portion of the train to follow. None of the train men were aware of the break and when the forward section reached McMillan about three quarters of a mile distant, it pulled up at the station. Without warning, the last section came tearing down upon them gaining speed at every revolution of the wheels.” “The two sections came together with a crash, throwing one car from the track and the passengers across the caboose, badly bruising them all.” The sentence goes on to say, “and probably fatally injuring Mr. Cook, who struck the water cooler with his head, causing concussion of the brain.” 
“The wounded men were brought back to this city [Marshfield] and medical aid summoned. With the exception of Mr. Cook, the injuries to the others are slight beyond a bad shaking up and more or less bruised. Mr. Cook was first taken to the hospital, but as that institution is full of patients, he was taken to the Tremont house where he now lies” and was seen by Dr. Budge, and the railroad’s chief surgeon, Dr. J. F. Pritchard. “Mr. Cook’s wife, relatives and friends came down from Unity on the first train and are doing all they can for him.  Alfred’s sister Kate and his brother-in-law Conner Healy accompanied Amanda and their eldest son, Herbert, to Marshfield. I can only imagine what they were thinking as they rode the 15 miles from Unity to the Tremont House in Marshfield. 
“Between Life and Death. Alfred Cook, of Unity, Lies in a Precarious Condition at the Tremont.” reads the headline of The Marshfield News the next day. The newspaper reported that he had not yet regained consciousness, and was delirious.  His condition did not improve over the next few days as newspapers around the state reported that “should he recover, he will be disabled for life and total blind.” 
The Cook family brought Alfred home to Unity on Friday, September 29th. At that time he was still in “an unconscious condition, but on Saturday he regained consciousness. He knew all who spoke to him but could not see them.” 
S. A. Cook left Neenah, Winnebago County for Unity on Wednesday, October 4th to visit his brother. The Neenah Daily Times reported that “Mr. Cook is recovering slowly but has not regained his sight. He is occasionally delirious, from the blow on his head, the only external mark of which is a bruise about the size of a quarter. He imagines that he is still under the car and continually pleads that his companion (who was but slightly hurt) [he is most likely referring to Chris Vogt who was also on his way to the county board meeting] be taken out quickly. ‘He is worse hurt than I am and I can wait,’ is the constant cry which shows the nature of the man. He thinks they have been under the car three weeks, and protests against the delay and darkness, which he attributes to bad management on the part of the railroad company. He does not realize that he is blind and frequently asks why lanterns are not procured.”  He was also imagining that the “car was settling down upon him and struggles to hold it up until he sinks back exhausted. At such times he has to be held in bed.” 
Friday, October 6th he was again seen by Dr. Budge and Dr. Pritchard, joined by Prof. John E. Owen, chief surgeon of the Chicago Northwestern Railway, Dr. Tilly a “celebrated eye surgeon of Chicago,” and B. A. Little, traveling claim agent. These men examined and consulted on Alfred’s case, deciding to wait two weeks longer, “after which if he does not regain his sanity and sight an operation will be performed.”  Upon examining him, Dr. Tilly decided that “there is no injury to the globe of the eye, the optic nerve or the optic track, to cause his blindness, and hence it must be in the visual center, located in the occipital lobe of the brain and that there is pressure on the brain, either from fracture of the skull or from blood clots lying underneath the skull. He advised an exploratory incision through the scalp to ascertain if the skull was fractured, but as Mr. Cook has improved generally so rapidly, although he is totally blind, his friends would not consent to an immediate operation.” 
By the time the Appleton Weekly Post went to press on October 12th, Alfred was improving slowly, being conscious part of the time, but “still has fits of delirium and violence, and is still totally blind.”  His condition was still critical a month after the accident, and “Drs. Owen and Pritchard of the Northwestern road, Dr. Badger, of Marshfield, Dr. Barnett of Neenah and Dr. Reeve” of Appleton arrived to again examine him and consult as to whether or not an operation should be performed.  The Marshfield Times reported the next day, October 27th that an operation would be performed.
Friday, October 13th, S.A. again traveled to Unity to be by his brother’s side.  The next day word was received in Appleton that Alfred “was sinking.” “The physicians have decided that an operation must be performed to remove a sliver of bone which they think is resting on the brain.”  Alfred was now totally paralyzed on the left side. I am sure that Jacob caught the next train to Unity to join S.A. at Alfred’s side, and to be a support to their sister-in-law, Amanda. I have been unable to find news of the operation taking place, so I am doubtful that they went forward with the plan to operate.
Two months after the accident on November 30th, The Marshfield Times reported that he is finally regaining some of his eyesight, and is feeling much better.  Alfred was definitely feeling better, as, accompanied by his son Herbert, he “visited friends in Marshfield on December 15th, and plans were being made that he, accompanied by Herbert, would go south for the “months of January and February.” 
Christmas night Alfred, accompanied by Herbert, left for Hot Springs, Arkansas, “where he hopes to regain his sight and also his mental equilibrium.” He was still having “occasional flighty spells, and his sight is totally lacking.” 
The Appleton Weekly Post reported the first news of the fact that Alfred sued the railroad (I am hoping to scope out details). The paper reported that “about December 11th”  he had “made a settlement with the railroad company on terms perfectly satisfactory to his family and friends, but in deference to the wishes of all concerned, the amount is not made public.” 
Alfred and Herbert returned to Wisconsin earlier than originally reported, as the news was published that they had made a stop in Appleton the last week of January to visit with his brother, Jacob, and his family. The time away did much to improve his health, but he had not yet “recovered his sight.” 
The last news we have of Alfred’s condition was published in the Marshfield Times on April 20, 1894. The article reports the news that Alfred’s character and honesty had come into question, as it states “After his return [from his trip to Hot Springs] it was rumored that Mr. Cook had regained his eyesight suddenly and was nearly as well as ever, casting reflections on him that he had been playing possum with the railway company, that as soon as he received the money his eyesight returned very rapidly.” The article starts with a quick recap of the events. “It will be remembered that Mr. Cook from the effects of the injury was totally blind in both eyes, with a loss of sensation in the whole right half of the body and an impairment of motion in the same. After several weeks his physicians discovered he could detect a little light in the right half of both eyes, but the other half of both eyes were totally blind.” It continues “Now the facts are that to-day the one-half of each eye that he detected light soon after the injury, has so far improved that he is able to see to go around but the other half of each eye is totally blind the same as after the injury and it is believed will remain so the remainder of his life.” The railroad company was “very thankful that he can see sufficiently so he is able to go around without a guide and they believe there is no man that would be willing to be placed in Mr. Cook’s condition for the amount of money received.” 
While this story is remarkable just as it is told, what has struck me is that this story was not passed down from generation to generation. Scanning a newspaper website in November 2006 I came across an article titled “Railway Wreck Near Marshfield” that contained the search term “Alfred Cook, of Unity,”  I questioned whether or not this was “my” Alfred Cook, of Unity, as I had not heard of the accident, or that he was partially blind. It took finding the papers that also included the names of his brothers, that I knew that is was “my” ancestor.
Alfred was still very ill one week later when on October 4th he celebrated his 44th birthday. He was still a young man, a man who had a very young family at home, as he had recently become a father for the tenth. His wife, Amanda Melinda Blood Cook, age 40, had given birth to Raymond Donald on May 1st. At the time of the accident, this little boy was almost 5 months old. The rest of the children ranged in age from 19 to 2 years old.
Their eldest child, Herbert Alfred, was 19 years old. George Sewell had turned 17 just 11 days before the accident, and my great-grandfather, Lewis Herman was 16. The rest of the children were: Henrietta – 15, Mabel – 12, Emelyn was seven, as she had celebrated her birthday on September 3rd, Walter – 4, Edith – 3, and Ella, who turned 2 years old two days after the accident on September 28th. While only a handful of these people lived into my lifetime, seven of them saw my father grow into adulthood. The longest living was Raymond, whose son Rod was instrumental in keeping the Cook traditions and stories alive. Except for this one.
Alfred died on January 30, 1921, he was 70 years old. After the accident, he continued to live a full and active life.
How this story was lost, we may never know.
Railroad Commission Of Wisconsin, and Graham L Rice. Official railroad map of Wisconsin. [Madison, Wis.: Railroad Commissioner, 1900] Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/item/2006629781/; accessed 17 Jul 2020.
“A Broken Coupler,” The Marshfield Times, 29 Sep 1893, Friday, p. 1, col. 1; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE.com (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 12 Dec 2007).
“Unity Items.,” The Marshfield News, 5 Oct 1893, Thursday, p. 8, col. 2; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 27 Mar 2017).
“Between Life and Death,” The Marshfield News, 28 Sep 1893, Thursday, p. 1, col. 6; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Mar 2017).
The Neenah Daily Times, 2 Oct 1893, Monday Evening, p. 4, col. 2; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Mar 2017).
“Unity Items,” The Marshfield News, 5 Oct 1893, Thursday, p. 8, col. 2; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 27 Mar 2017).
“A Terrible Sufferer,” The Neenah Daily Times, 4 Oct 1893, Wednesday Evening, p. 1, col. 5; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Mar 2017).
“Curious Effects of a Slight Hurt,” Wisconsin State Journal, 17 Oct 1893, Tuesday, p. 2, col. 5; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Mar 2017).
“Alfred Cook’s Condition,” Appleton Weekly Post, 12 Oct 1893, Thursday, p. 5, col. 5; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Mar 2017).
The Marshfield News, 12 Oct 1893, Thursday, p. 4, col. 2; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Mar 2017).
“Improving Slowly,” Appleton Weekly Post, 12 Oct 1893, Thursday, p. 6, col. 5; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Mar 2017).
“Condition of Alfred Cook,” 26 Oct 1893, Thursday Evening, p. 4, col. 3; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Mar 2017).
The Neenah Daily Times, 13 Oct 1893, Friday Evening, p. 4, col. 3; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Mar 2017).
“Growing Worse,” Appleton Crescent, 14 Oct 1893, p. 5, col. 1; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Mar 2017).
The Marshfield News, 30 Nov 1893, Thursday, p. 8, col. 2; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Mar 2017).
“Unity,” The Marshfield News, 21 Dec 1893, Thursday, p. 8, col. 3; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 27 Mar 2017).
“Gone to Hot Springs,” Appleton Weekly Post, 28 Dec 1893, Thursday, p. 1, col. 3; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 27 Mar 2017).
“Mr. Cook’s Condition. The Unity Man who was Injured in the McMillan Railroad Accident.,” The Marshfield Times, 20 Apr 1894, Friday, p. 1, col. 4; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 12 Dec 2007).
Appleton Weekly Post, 1 Feb 1894, Thursday, p. 5, col. 3; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 27 Mar 2017).
“Mr. Cook’s Condition. The Unity Man who was Injured in the McMillan Railroad Accident.”
“Railway Wreck Near Marshfield,” The Marshfield Times, September 30, 1893, p. 3, col. 3; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 20 Nov 2006).
I would bet that every family has one, a group photo that family members keep poking at, working to positively identify every single person. We have such a photo in our Cook family collection. It is a photo that was taken in August 1906 on the steps of S.A. Cook’s home in Neenah, Winnebago, Wisconsin, during the famous family reunion. I have written about it before in my blogpost Feeling Thankful.
Many family members have worked to identify this photo, the most recent documentation I have is from 2015, and I am pleased with my 2015 self for taking the time to write a research report stating why I was identifying each person as I was. Wrongly identifying, but I did take the time document my “why.” Well, and even my “when” as this photo has also been attributed to a reunion held in 1911.
Who is in the photo? The newspapers of the day tell us: “Present in birth order were: Kate Healy, and her husband, Conner Healy, Unity, Wisconsin; Watson H. Cook, Washington, DC; Loretta Elliott, Toronto, Canada; Jacob H. Cook, and his wife, Anna Cook, Appleton, Wisconsin; Sarah Drake and her husband, Isaac P. Drake, Stanley, Barron County, Wisconsin; James M. Cook and his wife, Helen Cook, Baker City, Baker County, Oregon; S. A. Cook, Host, Neenah, Wisconsin; Alfred Cook and his wife, Amanda Cook, Unity Wisconsin; and Albert Cook, Lewiston, Nez Perce County, Idaho.”
Why am I taking yet another look at this photo, another stab at it, what was wrong with the first few attempts? FamilySearch. The ease of uploading images to the family tree located on FamilySearch has prompted Cook descendants to do just that, and oh my gosh, what a game changer this has become. Also since 2015, I have met descendants who have weighed in on the identification, and so I present my 2020 view of this image, with no commentary on past identification.
No. 15: Samuel A. Cook
No. 12 & 13: Alfred and Amanda Blood Cook
No. 6 & 7: Jacob and Anna Eliza Halsted Cook
No. 5 & 10: James and Helen Augusta Bennett Cook
No. 11 & 1: Isaac Palmer and Sarah Cook Drake
No. 2 & 8: Conner and Mary Catherine “Kate” Cook Healy
No. 3: Loretta Cook Elliott
No. 4: Watson Henry Cook
No. 14: Albert Cook
So, there you have it, the 2020 view – hmmm pun intended? – of this family photo taken on a very special day in August 1906. Comments, corrections, questions? Please feel free to contact me.
 “Family Reunion,” Marathon County Register, (Unity, WI), August 3, 1906, p. 1.
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.
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.
[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).