Category: House History

The House That Cook Built – Part 2

The Cast of Characters

To begin where I ended the last post: As I began my research into the home, I came across many statements regarding this once-majestic dwelling place. Comments that it had been a brothel, [1] a gin house, bordello, and gambling joint. [2] The home that Harry H. Cook built for his bride, [3] the home that the “owner of the paper mill,” Edwin Yule built. Another article states that after Harry died the home was sold to Ed Yule his “nephew” and he renovated it for his bride. [4] So many stories surrounding the origin of this house. It is almost as if I am watching a stage play.

Here are the “Cast of Characters,” although not in order of appearance, but as a family group.

  • Samuel Andrew Cook, known as S.A. (1849 – 1918)….Owner of the property. Serial entrepreneur
    • Jennie Christie (1849 – 1895)….Deceased wife of S. A. Cook
  • Maud Christie Cook (1878 – 1949)….Daughter of S. A. and Jennie Cook
    • Charles Frank Lancaster (1867 – 1933)….Husband of Maud Christie Cook
  • Henry Harold Cook, known as H. H., or Harry (1881 – 1931)…Son of S. A. and Jennie Cook
    • Martha Wheeler Paine (1895 – 1993)…Wife of H. H. Cook
      • Henry Hosford Cook (1918 – 1927)…Son of H. H. and Martha Cook

Mary Jane Watson…Maternal 1st Cousin to S. A. Cook, daughter of Mary McGarvy and John Eves Watson.

Andrew Yule…Husband of Mary Jane Watson

They raised their children in Aurora, York, Ontario, Canada 

  • Watson A. Yule, ak Watt (1870 – 1935)…A resident of Neenah, Winnebago, Wisconsin in 1895 Resident of Alexandria, Madison, Indiana in 1900
    • Emly/Emily Ada Perryman (1872 – 1958)…Wife of Watson. Married 31 Dec 1907 in Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada
  • John Campbell Yule, aka Jack (1872 – 1943)…A resident of Alexandria in 1900
    • Dora Rynerson (1870 – 1899) …Wife of John. Married 15 Dec 1897 in Erath County, Texas
    • Grace Jane Crouse (1881 – 1952)…Wife of John. Married 15 May 1903 in Alexandria
  • Edwin Watson Yule, aka Ed (1874 – 1970)…A resident of Alexandria in 1901
    • Georgina Louise Lemon (1874 – 1959)…Wife of Edwin. Married 17 Jul 1901 in Aurora, York, Ontario, Canada
  • Edward Boyd Yule (1876 – 1972)…Did not emigrate to America
  • Walter Scott Yule (1879 – 1921)…Did not emigrate to America

To paraphrase: “The Cooks were a family, to begin with.” For decades this extended family had resided near each other in Canada, specifically communities in York, Ontario Province. S.A.’s parents, William and Jane McGarvy Cook were the first to leave. In 1856 they emigrated to Stockbridge, Calumet County, Wisconsin. I have written posts about their early years in Wisconsin and the sinking of the Lady Elgin, an event that changed the family forever. [5] What didn’t change for the family was their love, and the closeness that they felt to the family left behind in Canada. Before her death, Jane had been very close to her mother and sisters, Elizabeth McGarvy Watson, and Mary McGarvy Watson. The Cook children can be documented crossing back and forth visiting their grandmother, aunts, and cousins. 

Jane’s sister, Mary, and her husband, John Eves Watson had eight children. Their fourth child Mary Jane married Andrew Yule, and they in turn had six children. The firstborn was a girl they named Mary Jane who died in infancy. The next five were sons, born between 1870 and 1879, ages that matched closely to the family down in Wisconsin. As the boys grew older, they were ready to spread their wings and try life in the United States. The first to come south was 25-year-old Watson. He joined his uncle, S. A. in Neenah, sometime before June 20, 1895. [6]

The summer of 1895 was a pivotal year for the Cook family. S. A. had been elected to the House of Representatives and was planning to fulfill his duty to his country and state, leaving his family home in Neenah while he attended to government business in Washington DC. Going alone to Washington allowed 17-year-old Maud, and 14-year-old Harry to continue their schooling in Neenah uninterrupted. Jennie would not be alone, as her sisters Elizabeth, Emeline, and Margaret were residing with the family in their large home on Commercial Street. 

Then, unexpectedly, on July 27th, 49-year-old Elizabeth Christie passed away. She had “been an invalid for about a year and for two months past had been confined to her bed.” [7] S. A. purchased a family plot in Oak Hill Cemetery, and it was there that she was laid to rest.

S. A. Cook, 1896

Two months later, on September 10th, Jennie, who had “been in delicate health the past few years” left with her sister, Margaret, for Aurora, Canada, in the “hopes that a change of climate might benefit her health.” Sadly, instead of improving, she took a turn for the worse, and S. A. was called to her bedside. Taking Harry with him, and accompanied by Watson, he rushed to Canada where she sadly passed away on September 19th. Jennie was just 46-years-old. Her remains were brought back to Neenah for burial near her sister in Oak Hill Cemetery. [8]

The passing of Jennie changed S.A.’s plans for Washington, DC. He decided to take the family with him. He rented a home in the city and made arrangements to leave earlier than originally planned so that he could settle Maud and Harry in school. His sisters-in-law, Emeline and Margaret would accompany the family, one to care for the household, the other to “act as his secretary under appointment according to the new law, giving representatives each a clerk paid for by the government.” [9] S.A. asked Watson to occupy his home in Neenah during his absence. [10] He would serve just one term in the House of Representatives, returning to Wisconsin in 1897 at the end of his term.

S.A. was a serial entrepreneur, always looking to expand, evolve and grow his empire. This is not to say he was a mean-spirited person, as there are dozens upon dozens of newspaper accounts of what a kind, wonderful man he truly was. He was just always “thinking.” And so it was on October 27, 1897, that he filed articles of incorporation in Menasha, Winnebago, Wisconsin, for the S. A. Cook Manufacturing Company, in partnership with Miner H. Ballou, 27-year-old Watson Yule, and his son, 16-year-old Harry.[11] Two years later, on June 29th, he would incorporate another company, the Alexandria Paper & Investment Co., with Miner H. Ballou and A. E. Bunker.

We may never know when Watson moved to Alexandria to begin work at the paper mill, but he was certainly there in June 1900 to be enumerated in the census.[12] He was living at 119 Church Street, residing as a boarder in the Ralph and Nellie Bertsche household, his occupation is listed as the “secretary of the paper co.”

Watson’s brother John was also living in Madison County in June of 1900. He was working at the paper mill as a sales manager [13] residing as a “boarder” on the farm of William Dean and his family. The farm must have been very close to the paper mill as John was one of 3 “boarders” the family had taken in, all of whom worked at the paper mill.[14] A 1914 published biography about John[15] states that he came to Alexandria in 1899. 

John had been living and working in Dallas, Dallas, Texas. The biography states that he like his brother Watson had first gone to Neenah to work, presumably with the help of S. A. He left for Dallas in 1895. John married Dora Rynerson in 1897, and they welcomed their firstborn son, Byron on January 28, 1899. Sadly Dora passed away soon after his birth on February 2nd. Shortly after Dora’s passing, John took his newborn son home to Canada to be cared for by his parents.[16] [17] On May 15th in 1903, 31-year-old John married Grace Crouse, and Byron was brought to live with them in Alexandria.[18]

Last but not least, we look for Edwin Yule. In his 1914 biography,[19] he states that he arrived in Alexandria at the time that the Alexandria Paper Company was founded, July 1900. He is not found in the 1900 census for Madison County, but when 27-year-old Edwin married Georgina Lemon on 17 Jul 1901, he listed Alexandria as his place of residence, and his occupation was that of “manufacturer.”[20]

Alexandria, Indiana, 1908

The last cast members to move to Alexandria are S. A.’s children, Harry and Maud. Harry is still living at home in Neenah at the time of the 1900 census. He is 19 years old, had finished his schooling at the University in Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin, and he lists his occupation as that of a “Paper Manufacturer.” [21] The first published record of his residence in Alexandria is in October 1901 when the newspaper reported that “The Alexandria Whist club, composed of men only, was organized Tuesday evening. The following gentlemen compose the charter members: W. H. Yule…John Yule…Harry Cook… The club’s permanent quarters will be in the Opera house block. Games will be played once a week, the playing season to end in April of next year. A score of each player will be kept and the winner will receive a handsome prize. The members are all experienced players.” [22] Notice, Edwin Yule is not listed as a charter member of the club.

Maud would not have a residence in Alexandria till many years later, but there is a record that she would come and visit her brother and cousins. For much of her young adulthood, she acted as a travel companion, and hostess for her father, as he entertained business associates and friends.

Phew. The players have now been introduced, the stage is set, and we will now begin to look at the first act of a very special home on Park Avenue, in Alexandria, Monroe Township, Madison, Indiana.


  1. “Hotels–Indiana–Madison County,” Clipping Files, 1989-2002; OCLC Number/Unique Identifier: 880652327, WorldCat Database; Indiana Historical Society Library, Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana. Cit. Date: 14 May 2016.  
  2. Linda Ferris, “Elder House to open house on Sunday,” The Times=Tribune, 16 Jan 1991, Wednesday, p. 1 & p. 8, col. 1-4 & top; digital images, ( : accessed 20 Jun 2016). 
  3. “Lines from Linda,” The Times=Tribune, 10 Sep 1986, Wednesday, p. 2, col. 1-2; digital images, ( : accessed 6 Jul 2016). 
  4. Mary Graves, “Elder House comes to Colonnades,” The Times=Tribune, 4 Dec 1985, Wednesday, p. 1 & p.2, col. 1, 3-4; digital images, ( : accessed 27 May 2016). 
  5. A Face to a Name; September 6, 1860; The Lady Elgin Disaster, Part, 1; The Lady Elgin Disaster, Part 2; Maps. Another Layer to the Story
  6. 1895 State Census, Winnebago County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Neenah, 2nd Ward, line Last, Watson Eule; digital images, ( : accessed 30 Mar 2016).
  7. “Death of Miss Christie.,” The Appleton Weekly Post, 4 Jul 1895, Thursday, p. 3, col. 5; digital images, ( : accessed 11 Aug 2018). 
  8. “Widespread Sorrow. Caused by Death of Mrs. Cook.,” (Oshkosh) The Daily Northwestern, 20 Sep 1895, Friday, p. 3, col. 1. Cit. Date: 6 May 2004. 
  9. “A Busy Week,” (Oshkosh) The Daily Northwestern, 26 Oct 1895, Saturday, p. 5, col. 1. Cit. Date: 12 Aug 2004.
  10. “Leaves for Washington.,” The Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, 15 Nov 1895, Friday, p. 5, col. 2; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE ( : accessed 30 Mar 2016). 
  11. “A New Company.,” The Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, 27 Oct 1897, Wednesday, p. 2, col. 2; digital images, ( : accessed 7 Jul 2016). 
  12. 1900 U.S. census, Madison County, Indiana, population schedule, Monroe Township, Alexandria City, enumeration district (ED) 97, sheet 12 (penned), p. 52B (stamped), dwelling 223, family 253, Ralph Bertsche household; digital images, ( : accessed 26 Aug 2021); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, roll FHL microfilm: 1240386.
  13. 1900 U.S. census, Madison County, Indiana, population schedule, Monroe Township, Alexandria City, Ward 1, enumeration district (ED) 97, sheet 28-29, p. 68A-B, dwelling 548, family 611, William Dean household; digital images, ( : accessed 24 Aug 2016); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, roll 386. 
  14. John was enumerated in District 97, while the Ballou’s were enumerated in District 95. 
  15. John La Rue Forkner, History of Madison County, Indiana: A Narrative Account of Its Historical Progress, its People and Its Principal Interests, 2 volumes (Chicago and New York: Lewis Publishing Company, 1914), 2: 598. Cit. Date: 4 May 2016. 
  16. “Obituaries. Byron Andrew Yule,” The Post-Crescent, 6 Nov 1978, Monday, p. B-11, col. 2; digital images, ( : accessed 23 Aug 2021).
  17. 1901 census of Canada, Ontario, York, district 130 York North, S. District No: A, sub-district 3, Town of Aurora, p. 10, dwelling 111, family 111, Andrew Yule household; RG 31; digital images, ( : accessed 29 Apr 2016); citing citing Library and Archives Canada, microfil reels: T-6428 to T-6556.
  18. 1910 U.S. census, Madison County, Indiana, population schedule, Monroe Township, enumeration district (ED) 112, sheet 8, p. 210B, dwelling 186, family 188, John C. Yule household; digital images, ( : accessed 4 Jul 2016); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T624, roll 364.
  19. Forkner, History of Madison County, Indiana, 2: 598-599. Cit. Date: 4 May 2016.
  20. Ontario, Canada Ontario, Registrar General,  Marriage Register, (Archives of Ontario, Toronto), K, 1901: 499-500, image 327 & 328 of 430,  Yule-Lemon; FHL microfilm. Cit. Date: 24 Dec 2017. 
  21. 1900 U.S. census, Winnebago County, Wisconsin, population schedule, City of Neenah, 3rd Ward, enumeration district (ED) 127, sheet 1, p. 141A, dwelling 12, family 13, S. A. Cook household; digital images, ( : accessed 1 Apr 2001); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, roll 1824.
  22. “Alexandria,” The Muncie Morning Star, 27 Oct 1901, Sunday, p. 10, col. 3; digital images, ( : accessed 26 Dec 2017). 

The House That Cook Built – Part 1

The Beginning

The house that Cook built. Or did he?

In early 2016 I received an email from a cousin who had just spent time in Alexandria, Madison County, Indiana, a community located 385 miles from Neenah, Winnebago County, Wisconsin. Included in the email was a photo of a large, white-columned house located at 1515 South Park Avenue. My cousin shared with me that she had been told that this was Samuel Andrew (S. A.) Cook’s home during the time he owned the Alexandria Paper Company. I remember thinking, why would he own such a large home in Alexandria when I knew he had retained his residence in Neenah? So into another rabbit hole, I dove. 

It is now 2021, and I have yet to write this post. I started, but new information kept slowing the process. But it is time to begin again. I cannot head to Alexandria, so I will begin as I most always do, with armchair research.

Why Alexandria? We cannot study the history of this home without first understanding the land that it stands upon. The first record found, is a land patent dated August 5, 1834. Morgan James of Rush County, Indiana purchased 82 acres and forty-hundredths of an acre in the W half of the NW Corner of Section 30, under the Land Act of 1820. This act ended the ability to purchase land on credit or an installment program. [1] The new law which came into effect on July 1, 1820, required full payment, and had the minimum price per acre reduced from $2.00 to $1.25 an acre, and the minimum tract being reduced from 160 acres to 80. Morgan James received certificate no. 1784 after having made full payment on the land. The certificate “given under my hand, at the City of Washington” by President Andrew Jackson. 

A Madison County history tells us that “previous to the year 1831, there was not a white man within the territory which comprises the township.” The first entry for land in Monroe township occurred that year in Section 19, near the present site of Alexandria. In 1832, Morgan James settled on “Little Pipe creek, south of where Alexandria is now situated.” And we know that two years later he purchased this land in full. And two years after that, in January 1836, Monroe Township was named for the fifth President of the United States, and became the largest township in the county, containing fifty-one square miles. [2] Who is Morgan James? I have not been able to locate him in the census. The Madison County Register of Deeds is only open for in-person research, and at this time records are not available online for this time period. Relying on plat maps, I have been able to move forward in time to 1880, and another owner, Joel Jones. 

Joel Jones was a very well-to-do farmer in Madison County. Born in North Carolina in 1816, he came to Monroe Township in 1838. [3] I find him in Monroe Township in 1860 with a value of real estate owned of $2,500, and a personal estate of $300. Residing with him at the time of the census was his wife Rhoda, age 34, sons John, age 10, Leroy, age 6, and Alpheus, age 3. Ten years later in 1870, he is still living in Monroe Township. His wealth has continued to grow, and he now owns real estate valued at $18,400, with a personal estate of $3,100. His sons, John, Leroy, and Alpheus are living at home, and have been joined by a sister, Sarah, age 10. Living with them was farm laborer, 25-year-old Wesley McKinley. Joel’s wife, Rhoda, passed away on 6 Mar 1871, at the age of 44. By 1880, the time of the map, Joel had re-married and was living in Monroe Township with his wife, Mary, age 44, [4] and his daughter enumerated as Ellen. Joel passed away on 8 Jun 1892.

The History of Madison County gives us a glimpse into the Jones life in Madison County through a biography written about Joel M. Jones, [5] grandson of Joel, son of John. At the time the history was written in 1914, Joel was living in Boone Township. His biography tells us that he was born 8 Mar 1872 in Monroe Township and that his father was also born in Monroe, “and the Jones family has been identified with this county since pioneer times.” “At the age of twenty-two, he had come into possession of a farm of his own, formerly owned by his grandfather, Joel Jones, who had come to Madison County from North Carolina.”

Were Joel and his family living in the house when the 1880 census was enumerated? According to the county records, the 2 1/2 story wood frame house was built in 1875, and currently has approximately 5,570 square feet of living space. This does not include the basement, which is said to be unfinished. The detached garage was built in 1899, a gazebo was added in 1980, and a utility shed in 1997. [6]

Looking again at the 1880 map of Section 30, there is no mark indicating a house, or as the key states, a “farmhouse” located on the Jone’s property. An example of a farmstead in Monroe Township was published in Forker’s Historical Sketches and Reminiscences of Madison County, Indiana, p. 116, is this of N. E. Tomlinson. He lived north of Alexandria, and this is his home, marked on the property as being residence.

By February of 1893 Alexandria was in the “Center of the Largest Natural Gas Belt.” This vast amount of available cheap energy caught the ear of S.A. Cook, and by 1895 the Oshkosh, Winnebago newspaper, The Daily Northwestern, was reporting that he was “transacting business” in Alexandria.[7] Alexandria was actively advertising and promoting this inexpensive energy, stating that the average daily flowage of 9,000,000 feet of gas had a pressure of 320 pounds to the square inch. Because of the industries locating in Alexandria, the population had grown from 715 in 1891, to over 4,500 by December 1892. It was projected that the population would rise to 10,000 in 1893. The city had “moderately priced lots” in the city, and acreage a mile to a mile and a half outside the city was being “platted for business, residence and factory purposes.” [8]

Six years later in 1899, S.A. Cook as the “chief owner of the Rolling Mill Land Company”[9] was working to entice manufacturing companies to locate on property in Alexandria owned by the Rolling Mill Company. In June he took his own advice, and the Alexandria Paper and Investment Company was incorporated with a capitol stock of $300,000. Director S. A. Cook entered into a partnership with M. H. Ballou, a Neenah man, who would become the company’s vice president and general manager, and secretary-treasurer A. E. Bunker from Chicago. G. W. Young of Neenah was also part of the management team, working as superintendent. For the location of the new factory, S. A. purchased a 30-acre site south of the city, located on Little Pipe Creek. Shortly after incorporation work began on the 3-story, 340 x 100 main building, the 2-story, 250 x 60-foot pulp mill, plus the engine and boiler rooms, each to measure 100 x 100 feet. The paper mill would be in operation by November 1, 1899. [1]

In September, 40-year-old Miner Hart Ballou moved his family to Alexandria. [11] His family consisted of his wife, Flora, 38 years old, son Harry, age 16, and daughter, Belle, age 12. It was this year that the garage was added to the property.

In October it was reported that the mill was nearly complete, and the city had grown by 1,000 people due to the influx of workmen for the paper mill. The company had “sold nearly 500 lots that are fast being covered with tenement houses.” [12] The houses are “sold on the monthly plan, and in about three years the mechanic owns his own home. [13] In December the company name was changed from the Alexandria Paper and Investment Company to the Alexandria Paper Company. [14]

By the spring of 1900, M. H. Ballou had a falling out with S. A. Cook, and they dissolved their partnership. In June of 1900, he and his family returned to Wisconsin to reside in Appleton, Outagamie County. [15]

Did they live in the house? Maybe? They were enumerated in the 1900 United States Federal Census on June 23rd, residing in a rented home in Monroe Township. Enumerated around them were families renting, owning, living on a farm, living in a house, day laborers, a teamster, and even an undertaker. At this point, I am not sure. The official date of the 1900 census was June 1st, so I believe that by the 23rd they were no longer residing in Alexandria, as the information is either incomplete or just a bit “off.” The instructions for the census are to include the  “Name of each person whose place of abode on June 1, 1900, was in this family,” so someone on the property was found to give their details, and they did the best that they could. The Ballous are also found in the 1900 census for Appleton. Enumerated on the 13th of June, complete details were given, including the birth month of each family member. I believe they were home to speak to the enumerator when he came to the door of their home on College Avenue.

As I began my research into the home, I came across many statements regarding this once-majestic dwelling place. Comments that it had been a brothel, [16] a gin house, bordello, and gambling joint. [17] The home that Harry H. Cook built for his bride, [18] the home that the “owner of the paper mill,” Edwin Yule built. Another article states that after Harry died the home was sold to Ed Yule his “nephew” and he renovated it for his bride. [19] So many stories surrounding the origin of this house, yet no one seems to have taken the time to do the logical thing, and look at the actual land records. So what IS the story behind this once stately home on Route 9, just south of Alexandria?


  1. 1. Certificate 1784, 5 Aug 1834, Morgan James; Federal Land Patents, State Volumes; General Land Office Records; digital images, “Madison County, Indiana,” ( : accessed 4 Sep 2016).
  2. 2. John La Rue Forker, and Byron H. Dyson, Historical Sketches and Reminiscences of Madison County, Indiana.A Detailed History of the Early Events of the Pioneer Settlement of the County, and Many of the Happenings of Recent Years, as Well as a Complete History of Each Township, to which is Added Numerous Incidents of a Pleasant Nature, in the Way of Reminiscences, and Laughable Occurrences   (Anderson, Indiana: n.p., 1897),  832.
  3. 3. History of Madison County, Indiana, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers  (Chicago: Kingman Brothers, 1880),  127. Cit. Date: 4 Sep 2016.
  4. 4. Find A Grave, digital images ( : accessed 20 Aug 2021), Rhody Jones Memorial, created by starbuck, 9 Aug 2010, memorial number 56837068. 
  5. 5. John La Rue Forkner, History of Madison County, Indiana: A Narrative Account of Its Historical Progress, its People and Its Principal Interests, 2 volumes (Chicago and New York: Lewis Publishing Company, 1914), 2: 577. 
  6. 6., accessed 6 May 2016.
  7. 7. “Neenah Council,” The Daily Northwestern, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, 3 Jan 1895, Thursday, p. 1, col. 7; digital images, ( : accessed 6 Jan 2018). 
  8. 8. The Alexandria Company, Alexandria, Indiana (Louisville, Kentucky: Courier-Journal Lithograph, 1893); digital image, Indiana State Library Map Collection ( : accessed 21 Aug 2021).
  9. 9. The Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, 15 Jun 1899, Thursday, p. 2, col. 2; digital images, ( : accessed 18 May 2016). 
  10. 10. “The Alexandria Mill,” The Paper Mill and Wood Pulp News. The Newspaper of the Pulp and Paper Industry, volume 22, June 1899, 22; digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 26 May 2016).
  11. 11. The Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, 20 Sep 1899, Friday, p. 22, col. 3; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE ( : accessed 10 May 2016). 
  12. 12. “Nearly Completed,” Neenah Daily Times, 24 Oct 1899. Cit. Date: 10 May 2016. 
  13. 13. “Neenah Capital In Indiana,” The Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, 25 Jan 1900, Thursday, p. 6, col. 2; digital images, ( : accessed 26 May 2016).
  14. 14. “Incorporated.,” The Indianapolis Sun, 23 Dec 1899, Saturday, p. 3, col. 6; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE ( : accessed 10 May 2016). 
  15. 15. ”Big Purchase,” The Daily Northwestern, 11 Jun 1900, Monday, p. 1, col. 4; digital images, ( : accessed 26 May 2016).
  16. 16. “Hotels–Indiana–Madison County,” Clipping Files, 1989-2002; OCLC Number/Unique Identifier: 880652327, WorldCat Database; Indiana Historical Society Library, Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana. Cit. Date: 14 May 2016.
  17. 17. Linda Ferris, “Elder House to open house on Sunday,” The Times=Tribune, 16 Jan 1991, Wednesday, p. 1 & p. 8, col. 1-4 & top; digital images, ( : accessed 20 Jun 2016).  
  18. 18. “Lines from Linda,” The Times=Tribune, 10 Sep 1986, Wednesday, p. 2, col. 1-2; digital images, ( : accessed 6 Jul 2016). 
  19. 19. Mary Graves, “Elder House comes to Colonnades,” The Times=Tribune, 4 Dec 1985, Wednesday, p. 1 & p.2, col. 1, 3-4; digital images, ( : accessed 27 May 2016). 


I was first introduced to Behlsmühle in 1999 while visiting with Arthur Ellenbecker, the grandson of the Fassbender patriarch and immigrating ancestor, Peter Joseph Hubert Fassbender. As we sat talking with Arthur in his home – the very home that his grandparents purchased when they “retired” to Appleton, Outagamie, Wisconsin, he stood up to take a picture off of his wall. We immediately offered to assist him, but he brushed off the help stating that it wasn’t heavy, as he had dropped it a while back and the glass had broken. 

“Peter Fassbender Received This Picture From his Cousin. 1904 From Germany”

Handing the framed image to us, he continued with the story. We had been talking about his great-grandparents, Johann Faßbender and Salome Barbara Bel. The image he handed us was a chalk drawing of the property in Oedekoven, Germany, owned by his maternal great-great-grandfather, Joseph Bel. Arthur told us that before his marriage, his great-grandfather, Johann, had lived in an apartment behind the “third upper window from the right.”

The property was known as Tempelhof Manor and the Tempel-Mühle (Temple Mill). Today, in 2021, the building is called Behlsmühle, for Joseph Bel. The manor, first mentioned in print in 1362, originally belonged to the Hospital of St. John and St. Cordula in Cologne run by the monks of the Johannites. The monks were descendants of the Tempel-Knights who operated many hospitals along the roads leading to the Holy Land and the Temple of Jerusalem.

The French conquered the Rhineland during the French Revolution. It was at this time they also confiscated the property of the churches and monasteries of the region. Over the next 20 years, they sold the property back to the German people to fund the war. It was at this time that Joseph Bel had the opportunity to purchase the property. The property included an oil mill, a 4-wing structure, a chapel, and a two-story manor house. 

In 1812 Joseph Bel became Mayor of the 14 villages that comprised the Borough of Oedekoven. He held this position for two years. Joseph died at the age of 66 on September 12, 1837, [1] having spent his later years as a Gutsbesitzer, or “Gentleman Farmer.” [2]

Behlsmühle still stands. In 1984 the manor house was given Monument status. The plaque on the house reads: “Anna 1818 Joseph Bel.” [3] While the house and the mill’s wheel still stand, the rest of the property has been converted into a multi-family housing complex.

Google Map image, 23 Jul 2021

NOTE: I have turned off Comments for this post as I am being hit with spam. If you would like to comment, please do so through my Contact Me page, I would love to hear from you.


  1. Administrative District Cologne, Community Oedekoven, Germany, death certificate no. 68 (1837), Joseph Bel; Schloß Augustusburg, Brühl. Cit. Date: 27 May 2002.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Rheinisches Amt für Denkmalpflege, Central Monuments Archive, 23, Rhein-Sieg-Kreis, Alfter, KZ.

Piano space

The listing read: “Located on a quiet cul de sac is where you will find this Federal Style Home. Exceptional finishing both inside and out. Impressive all brick exterior. Side loading garage. Private yard w/beautiful garden. Stunning entrance w/turned staircase. Formal & informal spaces. Prized kitchen w/commercial appliances. Fabulous 3 Seasons Rm w/1 of 6 fireplaces thru out. Cozy hearth Rm, Piano space, 1st Fl. Office, Grand Master Suite w/private patio. Finished LL for family fun. Garage can accommodate 3 cars.”

Piano space. Our homes have always had “piano space.” When I met Gary he owned a spinet, and there was space for it in his living room. This was the piano that we brought with us to Pinewild Court and the piano that both of our children used as they started piano lessons. As they grew both in size and competency, we decided that it was time to upgrade, and we purchased a Yamaha Studio Upright. This larger piano also found space in our home.

As the house was going up, I remember standing in the family room with Gary and our contractor discussing the progress. By this time we were wondering if the family room was too small, and so asked the question about the possibility of someday building out by blowing out the wall and adding the screen porch to the interior living space. Yes, was the answer. Followed by the statement that it would be about $150 now, or $1,000+ later. We decided to go ahead and add the additional header right away.

Ten years later it was time. We loved our screen porch but dreamt of a larger space. One that had a fireplace, a four-track window system to block out inclement weather and extend our use of the space, and room to spread out. Our children continued to play the piano, and we dreamt of upgrading our piano once again to a Yamaha C2 Grand. We discussed the design of the porch, and how we would transition the porch into an interior living space – a Music Room.

What I can relay in just a few sentences was actually the result of months of study, planning, visits to an architect, and talks with our contractor, now the son of our original builder. 

We started our time in the house with the original screen porch nestled in the L of our family room and breakfast room and was roughly 10 x 15’, its sister porch, accessed from the master bedroom, was directly above. We accessed the lower porch through french doors through the breakfast room. These french doors would be re-purposed, matched with a second set, and used to access the new screen porch. The original window in the family room looking into the porch would be moved to the outside wall of the music room. The room would be entered from both sides through arched openings designed after the arch found at Carter’s Grove Plantation in Virginia. 

Work began in October 2003, and it was a super cold day in January when they finally opened the house to the outside. I was stripping wallpaper in the kitchen wearing a heavy Irish fisherman sweater with the fireplace in the family room roaring. Working quickly, they soon had the window moved into place, and the doors set in their frame.

A few weeks later and the wall was ready for Gary and me to free-hand the arch opening. We were also busy removing carpet as we planned for hardwood to flow from the existing kitchen and breakfast room into the family room and music room. 

This new space was a beautiful addition to our home. The music room was a cozy place to sit with a cup of coffee or evening snacks with a glass of wine. Listening to our daughter play the piano was an added bonus. For us, it was more than a piano space, it was our music room. 

The Rooms are Silent

This is an archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” first published 13 Aug 2013.

As we clean and prepare the house for sale, the rooms are slowly emptying as family members remove the items that they treasure. These rooms that for over 50 years rang with conversations, with laughter, and with tears, and prayer. While looking for a photo of the large maple that was damaged in the storm last week, I sorted through a stack of photos that were taken by my children. In amongst the usual “up the nose” shots was a candid photo of Butch and Marie in their respective wing chairs in the living room. I believe that children are able to capture the most natural “real” shots. These little people are able to stand there armed with a camera almost unnoticed. While the images may be a bit blurry, they capture honest moments in time. So there they were, captured just as I remember them, relaxing on a Sunday afternoon in that sweet spot between lunch and preparing dinner. Marie sharing a moment of conversation with her niece Kady.

The memories of Butch and Marie in these chairs span the decades. From the many family gatherings to Christmas Eve naps before Midnight Mass. Marie quietly “poofing” the minutes away, and when the timer goes off stating she “hadn’t slept a wink!”

My daughter recently shared this memory through a Faith Journey biography she had to write as part of a retreat. “I was about 5 years old or so, and spending the weekend at my grandparents. One night, I could not sleep, so I went downstairs to find my grandparents saying the rosary in the living room, as they did every night. Grandpa sat me on his lap, and they taught me the Our Father. After some time passed I went back upstairs and went to sleep.” Prayer was a large part of who Butch and Marie were. And the quiet of the living room was the perfect place for them to either pray alone, or most often together.

On May 19, 2012 we gathered as a family for a final farewell to the house, and to share memories. While pictures of Christmas trees, numerous attempts to get the perfect Christmas card photo, gatherings of friends and family could, and will, fill volumes, it was ending the evening in this room that just felt right. 

Gary and Dan sitting in their parents wing chairs, the rest of us spread out throughout the rest of the room quietly remembering. Sharing the memory of a lifetime.

I have moved the wings into the bay window, giving the room a new look as the house is prepared for the estate sale. The sale of these treasured items that the family does not have room for in their homes. After the estate sale, the house will be ready for its new life, a new family to love and take care of it.

St. Mary’s Hilbert Cookbook, 1970s – v. good!

1st Fl. Office

Today I will continue to explore the listing for our previous home at 15 Pinewild Court: “Located on a quiet cul de sac is where you will find this Federal Style Home. Exceptional finishing both inside and out. Impressive all brick exterior. Side loading garage. Private yard w/beautiful garden. Stunning entrance w/turned staircase. Formal & informal spaces. Prized kitchen w/commercial appliances. Fabulous 3 Seasons Rm w/1 of 6 fireplaces thru out. Cozy hearth Rm, Piano space, 1st Fl. Office, Grand Master Suite w/private patio. Finished LL for family fun. Garage can accommodate 3 cars.”

One family’s “1st Fl. Office” is another family’s Library.

As we designed the home in 1993, we took a close look at what we loved about our current 1938 character home. This home had a small office in the front of the house that also doubled as a den. This knotty-pine paneled room had one full wall that held a built-in desk with storage and shelves. We loved the coziness of this room with its large wing chairs and the desk space for bills and other paperwork. As we also ran a small business from the house, we had a computer, and when we had finished the basement we created a corner workspace to hold the monster computer monitors of the day, and a drawer that housed the large dot matrix printer and it’s huge box of paper. Those were certainly the days! And as for the business? The main office in my in-law’s home held the “main” computer, and I remember the early days when my brother-in-law would have a question about what he was working on. He would call me on the second line, he would tell my mother-in-law that we would be using the house line, and I would dial in using PCAnywhere to take a look at his question. HA! We thought we were so high-tech, little did we know the changes that would happen in just a few short years.

We also had books, well, I had books, boxes of books. Knowing that we would need a designated computer space, a desk for Gary, and a place to hold what was then seven-ish boxes of books, we knew we wanted a library. Floor to ceiling storage for books and office files, and a corner desk to accommodate the huge monitors of the day, and a spot to hide the dot matrix printer with its box of paper. As we thought about the room, we knew we also wanted a fireplace. 

The fireplace took a bit of figuring as the wall for the fireplace was the wall common with the family room, and that wall already was designated for the family room fireplace. Do we do side-by-side fireboxes? That placed one or the other in an awkward, not centered, sort of way. We settled on a two-sided extra large fireplace to accommodate both rooms.

The design complete, we knew we wanted this to be a cozy room for our family to gather. The living room sofa had been purchased for perfect scale in our current home, and was also the perfect size to fit in the living room, it just needed to be reupholstered. And we chose a deep dark green for the walls and carpet to give it the warm feeling we were going for. 

This room so lived up to our expectations! We spent hours and hours in the winter in the library with snacks or hors d’oeuvre dinners in front of the fire. The corner desk turned into a sleeper great design choice as the kids started to use the computer, then the internet for school projects. I could be cooking in the kitchen and see the monitor from there to answer questions, or just to make sure they were making safe choices. The biggest change we made in the room was to move Gary’s large desk that sat nestled in the bay window upstairs to our bedroom and place his grandparent’s library table in its place. Other than that, it was just making adjustments to our growing book collection. 

When we moved it was a huge task to sort through what books were going with us, and what books needed to be donated, or sold to Half Price Books. Now that we are here in Rhode Island we are designing our next library. The maid’s quarters on the 3rd floor offer us the opportunity to create a wall of bookshelves in the eaves of one of the rooms. This transition is on the list for this winter, as the summer is the time for outside projects such as restoring windows and getting the house painted. I do so miss the ability to just walk into the room for a book that I know we own and I know has the answer to a question that is being asked. Hopefully, we will soon be able to unpack the many boxes that fill the closet in that room. For now, I have many memories of having once owned a home that housed a library.