Category: Cook

Auto Runs Into Swarm of Bees

On a warm Monday, July 14, 1924, shortly before noon, my great-grandfather, Postmaster Lewis H. Cook was “bowling along” Highway 10 near the town of Maine, heading towards Wausau, when he “ran into a swarm of bees which made a veritable cloud in the highway.”

Sorry to leave you at this exciting moment, but I have been stuck on this direct quote from the article: “he was returning to the city through the town of Maine. Near the Burg farm on state highway No. 10…” The Town (now Village) of Maine is north of Wausau, and state highway 10 is south of Wausau. I can find no Burg listed on the 1930 Plat Map for Maine. Where was Lewis when he ran into the bees? All I know is that he was on his way to Wausau.

1927 Official Highway Map of Wisconsin. : accessed 1 Jan 2022
ca. 1922. The Cook automobile in the driveway of 325 Sturgeon Eddy Road, Wausau, Marathon, Wisconsin. His mother, Amanda Blood Cook, and his daughter Anola, plus an Unknown on the back steps.

The story was published in the Wausau Daily Record-Herald the same day, and reads: “In an instant the auto was full of bees, several dozens were smashed against the windshield which was covered with honey from the crushed bodies.” The article goes on to report that “two of the insects crawled over his neck to his hair, but he hung grimly to the wheel” hoping by continuing to move forward he would “lose the unwelcome visitors.”

“One adventuresome bee started an investigation about his ankle and this one used its stinger when an attempt was made to dislodge it.”

When he arrived at the post office, “more than forty bees were stuck in the ventilator and others were in almost all parts of the car, while the windshield was so mussed up that an immediate cleaning was necessary.”

ca 1922. Lewis H. Cook in his garden at 125 Sturgeon Eddy Road, Wausau, Marathon, Wisconsin

When interviewed about the occurrence, Lewis calmly speculated as to what would have happened if he had “a car full of passengers instead of being alone.”1


  1. “Auto Runs into Swarm of Bees,” Wausau Daily Record-Herald, 14 July 1924, Monday, p. 1, col. 4; digital images, ( : accessed 7 January 2022). ↩︎

What is in the Spelling of a Name?

My great-great-grandfather had one of those names that could be spelled several different ways, depending on the time of day, the person putting his name down onto paper, or the weather. His name was Lewis Herman Cook or Louis Herman Cook. The name sounds the same when spoken, no matter how you spell it. 

The question is, how did my great-great-grandfather spell it? What was his preferred form? Below is a list of ways that his name is spelled, minus Wausau newspaper spellings which almost always used the form, Louis. 

  • His maternal grandfather’s name was Lewis Phelps Blood
  • 1880 United States Census – Lewis H. Cook
  • 6 Aug 1906 Letter written to him by his father, Alfred – Louis Cook
  • 1912 Wausau City Directory, p. 90 – Louis H. Cook
  • 12 Sep 1918 WWI Draft Registration Card – Lewis Herman Cook, signed as Lewis Herman Cook
  • 1918 Wausau City Directory, p. 137 – Louis H. Cook (125)
  • 15 Nov 1918 Marathon County Resolution – Louis H. Cook
  • 1919 Army Transport Service, Neal returning home – Louis H. Cook (125)
  • 1920 Wausau City Directory, p. 178 – Louis H. Cook (125)
  • 20 Dec 1920 Evangelical Lutheran Church marriage record for Neal Jasin Cook and Clarice Ovedia Weik – Louis Cook
  • 30 Jun 1923 Appointment of U.S. Postmasters – Lewis H. Cook
  • 1925 Wausau City Directory, p. 223 – Louis H. Cook (325)
  • 1928 Farmer’s Directory, p. 673 – L. H. Cook
  • 27 Apr 1928 – Margaret’s Marriage Announcement – Lewis H. Cook
  • 10 Jan 1928 Re-Appointment of U.S. Postmasters – Lewis H. Cook
  • 1929 Wausau City Directory, p. 141 – Lewis H. Cook (325)
  • 1931 Wausau City Directory, p. 127 – Lewis H. Cook (325)
  • 28 Jun 1932 – Anola’s Marriage Announcement – Lewis H. Cook
  • 1933 Wausau City Directory, p. 108 – Lewis H. Cook (125)
  • 1934 Gravestone – Lewis H. Cook

His maternal grandfather spelled the name Lewis, his WWI Draft Registration Card, his Postmaster appointments, Marriage announcements, and his Gravestone all using the form “Lewis” suggest to me that this is the spelling given to him at birth. The preferred spelling.

I had to stop being thick-headed

This past week a photo was posted to the Appleton Historical Society’s Facebook page. I love old photographs, so I took a close look at this large group image. As I scanned the image a familiar face appeared, my great-grandfather, Lewis H. Cook. In my excitement, I read the verbiage associated with the post, then the comments below, and quickly responded that my great-grandfather was in the third row, first person from the right. 

June 22-23 1915 Wisconsin County Clerk’s Association Meeting. The Grand View Hotel, Waupaca, Wisconsin. Photo included with the permission of Julie Wolf.

The thread was all speculation as to the reason for the group photograph – they were all wearing medals of some sort – and where the photo was taken. I immediately jumped to the conclusion that it must have been a postmaster’s convention, as that would explain the number of ladies included. I will say it again, I immediately jumped to a conclusion. 

Why is it we sometimes do not use the basic rules and steps for sound genealogical research, but jump to conclusions with a passion? And stick to that conclusion no matter what?

I stuck to the idea that this was a postmaster’s convention even as others made sound research discoveries, such as identifying the building that stood in the background. The building is the Grand View Hotel in the Chain O’Lakes,  Waupaca, Waupaca, Wisconsin. Thank you to the Waupaca Historical Society for the great image that helped in the identification.  

Through my stubbornness, I kept searching through newspapers finding “proof.” See! Here is evidence! There was a postmaster’s convention in Waupaca, never mind there is no mention of the Grand View Hotel. 

Finally, I came to my senses. Looking back at the original post I read: “My great uncle in the middle row second from the right. He was county clerk, William Wolf…” Image of me smacking my head with the palm of my hand. I had to stop being thick-headed and behave as the genealogist that I am. LOOK at the clues before me. Once I did that, it took me just a few seconds to discover the answer. 

The 10th annual meeting of the Wisconsin County Clerks Association was held June 22-23, 1915 at the Grand View Hotel. The Appleton Evening Crescent reported that “County Clerk William Wolf will attend…”1 The Green Bay Press-Gazette reported “The state convention of county clerks closed on Wednesday at Chain-o-Lakes…There was a humorous talk on marriage laws and their administration by L. H. Cook, Wausau…”2 And finally, the Wausau Daily Record-Herald had this to report: “County Clerk Louis H. Cook3 arrived home this morning from Waupaca, where he attended the annual meeting of the Wisconsin County Clerks’ association. He was appointed a member of the executive committee and of the committee which will prepare the program for the next annual convention…”4

I foolhardily was barking of the wrong tree. The good news is that I came to my senses, and I now know the significance of the great photo, and another fabulous image to showcase the many Cook stories. 


  1. “County Clerks to Meet at Chain O’ Lakes Next Week,” Appleton Evening Crescent, 18 Jun 1915, p. 8, col. 4; digital images, ( : accessed 8 Jan 2022). ↩︎
  2. “County Clerks Will Meet Next Year at City of Superior,” The Green Bay Press-Gazette, 25 Jun 1915, p. 4, col. 2; digital images, ( : accessed 8 Jan 2022). ↩︎
  3. Lewis/Louis. Note to all – Never give your child a name that has variations. Just because you prefer one spelling does not mean that this is understood by all. ↩︎
  4. “On Committee,” Wausau Daily Record-Herald, 24 Jun 1915, p. 2, col. 2; digital images, ( : accessed 8 Jan 2022). ↩︎

The Cook Family Photo Album

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.1 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, ( : accessed 25 Mar 2005); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, roll FHL microfilm: 1241798. ↩︎

Ice Roads

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. [1]

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. [2]

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. [3] 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. [4]

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.” [5]

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.” [6]

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.


  1. 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 ( : accessed 31 Jan 2021).
  2. Ibid.
  3. “Sled Line to Run Over Winnebago,” Appleton Evening Crescent, 15 Dec 1910, Thursday, p. 2, col. 4; digital images, ( : accessed 31 Jan 2021). 
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.

Maps. Another Layer to the Story

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. [1]

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.” [2] 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.” [3] 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.” [4] 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. [5]

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. 


  1.  Nesbitt & Company, and Milwaukee And Superior Railroad Company. Map of the Milwaukee & Superior Rail Road and its connections. New York, 1857. Map.
  2.  “An Appleton Man’s Escape. His Mother and Sister Were Both Lost—The Former’s Body Never Recovered,” Milwaukee Sentinel, 4 Sep 1892.
  3.  “Graves of Lady Elgin Dead Desecrated,” The Chicago Sunday Tribune, 26 May 1899, Sunday, p. 1, part 4; Editorial Sheet; digital images, ( : accessed 4 Jul 2018).
  4. Ibid.
  5.  Watson Henry Cook (Fond du Lac, Wisconsin) to Loretta Elliott, Letter, 10 Mar 1861; privately held by CaroleAnne Prentice Chepurny. Also: