I will be speaking to the Northern Waters Genealogical Society on May 3rd, giving my talk “Putting Down Roots in the Land Records. A Beginning Look at Land Records.” Since it has been a couple of years since I last revised this presentation, I felt I needed to freshen it up a bit. I had no idea what I was in for when I began this process. We are amazingly lucky here in Outagamie County, that the early land records are browseable on FamilySearch, in the “Wisconsin, Outagamie County Records 1825-1980.”While these records are not yet indexed, the collection does include a limited number of county index books for both Grantees (buyers) and Grantors (sellers), but the whole online collection is available to browsing.
The rabbit hole that I fell down into will be the topic of the next few blog posts, but I wanted to start with this story. My ancestor Jacob H. Cook moved his pharmacy business from Unity, Marathon County, Wisconsin, to Appleton, Outagamie County, in 1883. The Unity fire of December 18, 1882 being the final straw in prompting a move, as his drug store was entirely destroyed by the fire.  He must not have had the energy to rebuild yet again, as in March 1879, the building that was both his home, and his place of business, burned to the ground. And now to have this new, “much handsomer store” entirely destroyed. The final straw, they were moving to the “city.”
The family lived in several houses in Appleton before purchasing their final home, which was located at 675 Drew Street. This home was located on the corner of Drew and Fisk, (now known as E. Franklin Street). Kitty-corner from City Park. This neighborhood must have been a beautiful one, as City Park was just across the street, Lawrence University just to the south, and the life of downtown just two blocks away.
Jacob purchased the home from James E and Ellen McKinny, who were residents of Lancaster, Grant County at the time of the sale. He purchased the house situated on Lots 4 and 5 of Section 35, for $2,100.00, on April 9, 1895. The frontage on Drew Street was 60 feet, and the lot extended 112 feet along Fisk Street. I love how many of these old land records include the sentence: “…according to John Stephens map of the City of Appleton, published in 1872…) This map is available for viewing online at the Outagamie County, Wisconsin website. Take a look. The family lived in this home till sometime in late 1909-early 1910 (the online grantor records at FamilySearch only go to 1901, a stop at the courthouse is in order), when they moved to New Orleans to be closer to their children.
“The house at 675 Drew Street is no longer standing – at least on Drew Street. In May 1923 the First Methodist congregation was looking for property to build a modern, Gothic style church, which was to be designed by Childs and Smith, noted Chicago architects. The congregation purchased five properties at the intersection of Drew Street and Franklin Street, Jacob’s former house at 675 Drew Street being the corner lot. ‘Possession of the property will be obtained on Aug 1 and removal of the buildings will be undertaken as soon thereafter as possible. The buildings will be sod and moved to other lots before the end of the summer.’ H. A. Schmalz lived in the house at this time, and the article states that the lot at 675 Drew measured 60 feet on Drew Street, and 112 feet on Franklin Street.  They broke ground Sunday, July 16, 1924, and the dedication service was held on Sunday, October 25, 1925. The First Methodist church was estimated to cost $250,000, but is reported to have actually cost $350,000.  ‘The new edifice is one of the largest and most beautiful in the country. With one exception, it as the largest pipe organ in the middle west. The organ cost between $30,000 and $35,000.” 
Jacob was a well respected citizen of Appleton, holding the position of Steward for the Northern Wisconsin Hospital for the Insane in Oshkosh, Winnebago County, he was the first Commander, and a charter member of George D. Eggleston G.A.R. Post 133, and for many years served as a Justice of the Peace, listing his pharmacy as his place of business. The pharmacy building still stands on the corner of Oneida street, and Market Street (now known as Soldiers Square). The Appleton Public library holds this linked image taken some time after Jacob sold his business to Montgomery, and I took the following images in 2006. Included in the gallery is a postcard of Oneida Street taken from College Avenue. Jacob’s building is located on the opposite side of the street, across from the library building just visible down Oneida Street.
Jacob lived a full and active life here in Appleton. There is more to tell about his story.
“State News,” Oshkosh Northwestern, (Oshkosh, WI), December 22, 1882: p.1.
“Methodists to Build Church Opposite Park, Five Properties On Drew and Franklin-sts Purchased For Building Site,” Appleton Post-Crescent, (Appleton, WI), May 10, 1923: front page.
Susan C. Fassbender, A Snapshot: Jacob Harrison Cook, (Appleton: self published, 2006): 16-17.
“Dedicate $350,000 M. E. Church Here Tomorrow,” Appleton Post-Crescent, (Appleton, WI), October 24, 1925: 11.
As I continue to document my ancestors lives, I am amazed at how many were ready and willing to get involved in politics, and how many were appointed Postmasters.
This short post is about the Cooks, as they are the most recent discovery. Samuel Andrew Cook, or S. A. as he was known, was the first of the Cook family to move to Unity, Wisconsin, choosing to live in Brighton Township, Marathon County. From all accounts, it appears as though he moved some time in 1873. Settled in Unity, he set up shop as a Merchant of general goods and merchandise. A newspaper description of Unity published in June 1874 states: “Mr. S. A. Cook, formerly of Fond du Lac, has a large Grocery & Dry Good Store, and gets a good trade from settlers who are flocking here very fast…” 
At the time that S. A. moved to Unity, the post office was located on the Clark County side of the village of Unity. Amazingly this small village of 633 acres, is located in both Clark County and Marathon County. The decision to move the office to the Marathon County side (where it remains to this day) was made sometime in 1874, and the move coincided with twenty-five-year-old S. A. being appointed Postmaster, on April 20, 1874. S. A. was Postmaster until September 27, 1881, when his brother Jacob took over the position, and S. A. moved with his family to Neenah, Winnebago Co., Wisconsin. Jacob was forty-years-old when he was appointed postmaster, and he remained in the position until May 21, 1883, when he moved his family to Appleton, Outagamie Co., Wisconsin. Jacob was not the last Cook to be Postmaster for this small community, as his younger brother, Alfred, who was then thirty-eight, was appointed April 22, 1889, and held the post until September 12, 1892. 
My great-grandfather, Lewis Herman/Louis Herman Cook, the son of Alfred, was very involved in village politics, serving as County Supervisor. and he was editor and publisher of the village newspaper the Marathon County Register, but he was never appointed Postmaster for Unity. In 1910, Lewis moved his family to Wausau, Marathon County, Wisconsin, where he was the Supervisor of Assessments, Marathon County Clerk, a real estate agent, and finally appointed as Postmaster of Wausau. He served Wausau as postmaster from June 30, 1923, until his death on September 4, 1934.
Four men of the Cook family were appointed by presidents, approved by the senate, and served their communities as postmaster. Pretty incredible.
“‘Up the Line:’ A Few Brief Sketches from Our Reporter’s Note Book,” The Stevens Point Journal, 27 Jun 1874, col. 3; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 30 Jul 2006).
“U.S., Appointments of U.S. Postmasters, 1832-1971,” database and images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 Dec 2015); Marathon County, Wis., Unity, vol 57, p. 778-779; NARA microfilm publication, M841, Records of the Post Office Department Record Group Number 28. Washington, D.C.: National Archives.
This weekend, Thanksgiving weekend, we find ourselves giving thanks for family and friends. Thinking of being thankful brought this story to mind.
In the spring of 1906, Samuel Andrew Cook starting planning a reunion. A reunion to bring his brothers and sisters together for the first time in 50 years. There had been trips made by many members up to Canada over the years, but they had not all been together in one place, and especially not at the old homestead in Stockbridge. This excerpt is taken from A Snapshot: Jacob Harrison Cook: 
“He [S.A. Cook] set the weekend of August 2-4th as the date weekend for the festivities. Coming from all over the North American continent, the whole family gathered at his home in Neenah.
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.
This was the first time that they would all be together since the early years when the family first settled in Stockbridge, and the last time. Loretta had not been back to Wisconsin for over fifty years, and as Louis Cook, son of Alfred, remarks in his paper the Marathon County Register, the Calumet County of 1906, ‘will present a striking contrast to the wilderness to which they removed from Canada over fifty years ago.’ 
Saturday, August 4th, ‘S. A. Cook with his touring car and three other like machines that he had chartered left Neenah with the party for a trip around Lake Winnebago, arriving at their old home in the town of Stockbridge during the afternoon where they received warm welcome from many old neighbors and friends. Dinner was served at the Stockbridge Hotel, and the party was regaled [sic] with good things furnished by Mr. and Mrs. P. F. Gillespie. The trip was enjoyed by all and they were greatly impressed with the wonderful transformation in the old home they loved so well during their younger days. — Chilton Times.’  It must have been quite a sight to see these three cars, each carrying five people, heading around Lake Winnebago and into Stockbridge.
Such a large group could not all stay with S. A. at his home on Commercial Street, although some of them may have stayed with him.
Alfred and Amanda stayed at the Kasson Hotel in Downtown Neenah, and a letter written to Louis Cook by his father, gives a wonderful first-hand view of the boisterous time that they were having.
Alfred writes from the Kasson Hotel:
Neenah, Wis. Aug 6th, 1906 Louis Cook Unity Wis
My Dear Son will Drop you a few lines this is Monday morning and we are all a live and that is saying a good Deal after them acting as they have. We have all had a good time
We will Be home to morrow noon, the most of them will not go to Unity for a nother week. Tell Mabel and the Rest of them that their Mother has acted offel and if she Continues to Eat as much after getting home it is going to cost us a good dealt to keep her and they must be shure to have some Potatoes Corn-Meal and sawdust on the table when we get home. Your Father A. Cook. 
From other newspaper accounts, we know that the family extended their time together beyond this fun weekend in Neenah and Stockbridge. They traveled first to visit the Drakes’s in Stanley, and then back to Unity to visit with the rest of the family before returning to their homes. A good time was had by all!
Susan C. Fassbender, A Snapshot: Jacob Harrison Cook, (Appleton: Self Published, 2006): 14-15.
‘Family Reunion,’ Marathon County Register, (Unity, WI), August 3, 1906, front page.
‘From the Chilton Times,’ Marathon County Register, (Unity, WI), August 17, 1906.
Alfred Cook to Louis Cook, August 6, 1906, Neenah, Wisconsin. Original letter, transcribed as written. Robert D. Sternitzky Family Archives.
Family lore states that when the Cooks left Stockbridge, Calumet, Wisconsin in the late 1870s they took clippings of the peonies that were growing on the property. We know that they did like peonies, as they can be seen in later Cook photos taken in Unity, Marathon, Wisconsin.
As far back as my memory goes, my paternal grandmother lived in one side of a duplex that she owned in Neenah, Winnebago, Wisconsin. As with most homes where the driveway marches closely to the house leading to a detached garage, there was a strip garden next to the house. Included in this small garden was an enormous red peony plant. Again, family lore tells the tale that this was an actual clipping of the peony that grew on the Cook property in Stockbridge. While I cannot speak to that, as we would have to analyze what variety of peony grew in Wisconsin during that time period, and was this that variety of peony, I can state that when my mother and I left the duplex for the last time that May day in 1986 following my grandmother’s death, we made the decision to dig up the peony, the Cook Peony.
I may never know if this peony can be dated back to the 1800s, but I can attest to the fact that this peony, which was included in every garden during my grandparents years in Wausau, Marathon, Wisconsin during the 1930s, moved with them to Nicolet Blvd. in Menasha, Winnebago, Wisconsin, and then on to my grandmother’s 1960s duplex, has now lived in a garden at my parents home since 1986. And in addition, a transplant has been happily multiplying here in my own garden since the late 1990s. That is still an old peony.