Category: Cook

Time. And Photo Identification

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.”[1]

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.

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.

[1] “Family Reunion,” Marathon County Register, (Unity, WI), August 3, 1906, p. 1.

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”[1is 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, [2] (Kells is about 40 miles north of Dublin) was married in Fond du Lac, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin by an Episcopal priest,[3] and buried by a Methodist minister.[4] 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[5] 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,[6] 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.[7]

The 1860 Federal Census[8] enumerates the couple, now with a son, Henry, living in the city of Fond du Lac in the 5th Ward.[9] 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.[10] 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[11] 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,[12] and Conner appeared before the circuit court to petition for naturalization 5 Nov 1860.[13] 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.[14] 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.[15] 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.


  1. 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. 
  2. “Connor Healy,” (Colby) Colby Phonograph, 9 Sep 1909, p. Cit. Date: 16 Oct 2018.
  3. 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.  
  4. “Connor Healy,” (Colby) Colby Phonograph, 9 Sep 1909.  
  5. Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36; National Archives, Washington, D.C., “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” database, ( : 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.  
  6. 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, ( : accessed 6 Sep 2003); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 997. Cit. Date: 5 Apr 2016.  
  7. 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.  
  8. 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, ( : accessed 6 Sep 2002); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll 1408. 
  9. 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, ( : accessed 6 Sep 2002); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll 1408.   
  10. 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, ( : accessed 15 Feb 2020).  
  11. Find A Grave,, Find A Grave (<> 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.  
  12. University of Oshkosh Archives and Area Research Center, “Naturalization Records,” database, ( : accessed 29 Feb 2020), Henry Power, 1855; citing: Naturalization Records. University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Archives and Area Research Center. accessed 28 December 2015.
  13. University of Oshkosh Archives and Area Research Center, “Naturalization Records,” database, ( : 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.
  14. “Lived in Oshkosh,” The Daily Northwestern, 22 Mar 1898, Tuesday, p. 6, col. 1; digital images, ( : accessed 13 Feb 2020). 

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]] [] 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. [] 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], [] 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, : 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.”

September 8, 1860

The sinking of the Lady Elgin changed the Cook family forever.  Both family-wise with the loss of Jane and her daughter, Elizabeth Ann, and financially. The long awaited money from the sale of property in Canada was lost. There are many versions to be found both in print and online of what happened that night. So for this post I am going to let Jacob tell the story in his own words. As the anniversary approached in 1892, the Milwaukee Sentinel interviewed some of the remaining survivors, and sent an artist to capture their likeness to be published along with their memories. The article was published 4 Sep 1892.

Jacob was 51 years old the day he was interviewed on September 2nd, his story titled “An Appleton Man’s Escape. His Mother and Sister Were Both Lost–The Former’s Body Never Recovered.” reads:

“During the summer of 1860, while returning from an Eastern trip, my mother, my sister Libbie and I, together with twelve others, took passage on a propeller from Collingwood, Ont., to Milwaukee. We arrived near Milwaukee in the night, and it was so cloudy and dark that the captain thought it would not be safe to attempt to land so we continued on to Chicago, where we transferred to the first boat leaving for Milwaukee. That was the fated Lady Elgin, just about to return with more than 400 Milwaukee excursionists. Of the fifteen transferred only two reached Milwaukee. There was music and dancing on the boat, and it was about 1 o’clock in the morning when our party exchanged ‘good night’ and prepared to retire. Before I reached my room, the schooner and steamer collided with such force as to throw me off my feet. The schooner was bound for Chicago with a heavy cargo of lumber from further north, and it is the cause for much wonder among those acquainted with the circumstance, why it did not try to save the passengers of the Lady Elgin by at least throwing over some of the lumber. As it was, however, as soon as they could clear away from the wreck, they pushed on, with all possible speed, to Chicago, thinking, as the captain said they themselves had sustained serious injury. Be that as it may, my first impression, when the crash came, and we could see the bright lights and heavy jib-boom of the schooner looming up over us, was that the boat must have been struck by lightening.

We soon heard calls to throw down bedding and mattresses to stop the leak but it was found that they could do no good. The boat filled with water and settled rapidly. Heavy waves stuck us with terrific force, smashing the lamps, leaving us in total darkness. Calls for life-preservers were heard on all sides, and the few wooden ones that were thrown in were seized by many frantic hands. Mother and sister were each provided with one. Furniture tumbled about, people fell over and trampled upon each other, some prayed, some cried; some crazed with agony, called for their friends on shore to help them, while others, in despair, moaned that we were all lost. The creaking and grating of broken timers, the solemn sound of the bell calling for help, the sound of distress from the whistle, which continued as long as there was enough steam to make a noise; all added to the horror of the situation. Above this noise and confusion, was heard the voice of Capt. Wilson, telling us to get the women up on the hurricane deck. The deck was soon crowded. A few moments later a monster wave struck the boat, breaking the iron rods that sustained one of the heavy smoke stacks. A flash of lightning followed, lighting the scene for an instant, and we saw the smoke stack fall across the deck, crushing, and burying several women beneath it.

While mother and sister were sitting on the edge of the hurricane deck, strapped in their wooden preservers and waiting for the end, mother said that probably the boat was so near shore that it might not sink below the surface. Those were the last words I ever heard her speak for at that instant the boat went down, taking me with it. When I came up my hands touched something, which proved to be apiece of plank about eighteen inches wide by six feet in length. 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. The sixth day after the Lady Elgin went down we found, but could not identify by a scar only, the body of my sister, but my mother we never saw again.”

A Face to a Name

I grew up hearing about the Cook Tragedy. The day  that the Lady Elgin sank, and my 3rd times great-grandmother Jane McGarvy/McGarvey Cook, drowned in Lake Michigan with $12,000 in gold pieces sewn into the hem of her dress. Her daughter perished with her, but her son miraculously survived. 

This tragedy almost ruined the Cook family, as Jane was returning to Wisconsin from Canada with the money that they had planned to use to pay for the six farms that they had secured. 

For most of my life, this is all that I knew about Jane. Other than what was included in a 1910 newspaper article by Lieut. Col. J. A. Watrous, which states: “…The father was utterly crushed. The great heart, strong intellect, the master mind, the loving, successful planner and leader, the pilot of the interesting family was no more; her going meant final disaster to the father, irreparable loss to nine surviving boys and girls…” [1] 

That is until this summer when I happened upon an image of Jane on In contacting the owner of the tree, I was put in touch with a cousin in Canada, the owner of the image. The image is also on at this link: 

Finally I was able to put a face to the name Jane McGarvy/McGarvey Cook. Jane was born 15 Dec 1810 [2] [3] in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She married William Palmer Cook on 28 Mar 1832 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. [4]They would have twelve children, including two sets of twins. I can only imagine!

This image of Jane is in the family archives of her 2nd great-granddaughter, through Jane’s daughter Loretta. Loretta and her twin, Watson Henry, were the 4th born to William and Jane. Well, to be truthful, the 4th and 5th born. It is believed that at the time that the family moved to Wisconsin in 1856, Loretta was stayed in Canada with her aunt, Jane’s sister, Elizabeth, and her husband, John Elliott. 

In conversation with Loretta’s grand-daughter, we believe that this image of Jane was taken in 1860, during her last visit home. Jane and Elizabeth’s mother, Elizabeth Eaken McGarvy was still alive, and I can sympathize with her as a mother of children living miles away, how important it would be to have an image of her daughter. In fact there is also an image of Jane and Elizabeth that appears to have been taken at the same time. 

There are many stories published in print, and on the web, about the Lady Elgin disaster, and also the Cook story. In another post I will add my view of what happened to the mix. But it all starts with looking Jane in the face. This woman who is said to have had a great heart, a strong intellect, was the master mind, the loving, successful planner and leader, and the pilot of the Cook family.


  1. “Historical Sketch of the Cook Family,” The Marshfield News, 14 Apr 1910, Thursday, p. 1, col. 6; digital images, ( : accessed 12 Jan 2018).
  2. 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: 958. NOTE: This source lists her birth year as being 1809. See Footnote #3 for further information.
  3. 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: 958. NOTE: This source lists her birth year as being 1809. See Footnote #3 for further information.
  4. Ontario Archives of Ontario, Toronto, marriage certificate reel 2, vol 10, page 67 (1832), William Cook-Jane Mc Garvey; digital image,  “District Marriage Registers, 1801-1858,” ( : accessed 26 Oct 2010).

The Secret Garden

I have always loved Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book The Secret Garden. I love the book, I loved the broadway play, (and was lucky enough to have seen the original broadway cast), and I also love the movie that was released in 1993. There is a dream scene in the movie, where a young child is walking through huge fronds of greenery. I have to admit this is not a favorite part of the movie for me, I can just feel the sadness that this child feels as it searches for its mother. 

My great-grandfather was a major gardener, the gardens on his property in Wausau, Marathon, Wisconsin were massive. I just wish that there had been color photos back in the early 1900s, so that I could really seen them in all of their splendor. As a side note, he also raised prize winning chickens, had sheep and other animals on his little “farm” in the city. But that is for another post. 

As I was adding a few photos to my Legacy Family Tree database this morning, I came across this image of my grandmother, Anola Josephine Cook, age 15 months. She was photographed in September 1911 walking through massive fronds of greenery in her father’s garden. I couldn’t help but be taken to the scene in The Secret Garden. I can be pretty confident though that she was walking straight towards her father who was holding camera. Knowing he would be right there to pick her up if she fell down.