Category: Samuel Andrew Cook

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). 

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.

Sanborn Maps and the S.A. Cook Home

Through an email conversation with a distant cousin, the question arose as to whether or not there would have been a barn on Samuel A. Cook’s property on Commercial Street, Neenah, Winnebago, Wisconsin. Knowing that he lived in the city of Neenah, I said that I did not think that would be likely. Hmmm, let me see what I can find.

Photograph courtesy of the Neenah Public Library. WI.np100161.bib; accessed 10 Mar 2020

This past weekend I spent some time with the Neenah Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps from the Library of Congress webpage, and made a really fun discovery. I have used and referenced these maps many times over the years, but till now, had not come across an ancestor’s home that was relevant enough to be included. 

We have photographic images of the home before/or about the time it was sold to the YWCA in 1934, and before it was demolished in 1965. Three neighboring homes were also demolished to make room for the new YMCA building.

Funny side note. According the Neenah-Menasha Y page, “His [S.A’s] wife at the time, Jennie Christie is to be know [sic] for donating the home to the program, but little is know [sic] as who she is.” Jennie passed away in 1895 and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery. [1] Samuel died in 1918 and is buried next to his wife. [2] It would have been their daughter, Maud Christie Cook Lancaster who donated the home to the YWCA. 

The Neenah Public Library has another image of the house in their collection, looking at the home from the north along what is now known as North Water Street. 

Photograph courtesy of the Neenah Public Library. WI.np100382.bib; accessed 10 Mar 2020

Back to the question that started this process. Would there have been a barn on this property? To answer that, I turned to the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps to see if by chance, this house was included. I was so excited to discover that yes, S.A.’s home was included in a number of the years available on the Library of Congress website. Find them here:

The oldest maps, August 1884 and September 1887, do not include the block that the home which was reportedly built in 1875, [3] was built upon, but I find it in 1891, 1895, 1900, 1906, and 1913. The Key [4] tells me that it is a Dwelling, Frame construction, two stories, with a shingle roof. There is a “stable”[5] on the property, although it is not very large in relation to the house. The 1906 and 1913 map tell us that the stable is approximately 30’ from the Fox River. Residing with S. A. and his family in the 1900 Federal Census [6] is John Pahlman, a servant, age 26, occupation: care of yard and barn. By the 1905 Wisconsin State Census [7], Enoy Chenett, age 24, had taken John’s place as the “coachman.”  In 1910 [8] Enoy had moved on, and John Demandt, age 22, occupation: servant, industry: private home, was residing with the family. So we now know there was a “stable” on the property. S.A. was an early adopter of the automobile, owning one by the August 1906 family reunion, as it was reported by his nephew, L. H. Cook, editor of the Marathon County Register that “Saturday morning 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.” [9]

What I find most interesting is the porches, how much they change. Is this the fault of the artist drawing the map, or did S.A. actually change the façade so often? And what is that little nubbin that appears on the south side of the house in 1891 and 1900, on what might have been the fireplace wall? 

Taking a look at the change between the 1900 map and the 1906 map, you can see where they closed in part of the original open porch. Moving to the second image of the home from the Neenah Public Library, I have marked in red this part of the home that was enclosed sometime between 1900 and 1906. 

The enclosed porch addition

I am very curious as to what the plain small (as shown in the photograph) one story building (as indicated by the number 1 on the maps) at the back of the much more ornate 2 story section, was actually used for – could this have been the kitchen?

Oh to actually see interior images of this home, plus more detailed exterior shots. For now we have the Sanborn maps combined with the few images we have. I guess I should count myself lucky.


  1. Find A Grave memorial link:
  2. Find A Grave memorial link:
  3. Neenah Citizen, News Item, Neenah Citizen (Neenah, Wisconsin), 1998 Calendar produced by the Neenah Citizen, “Lost Neenah ~ Neenah’s architectural heritage, lost but not forgotten.”  Cit. Date: 10 Nov 2005.  
  4. Description of the terms used in the Key:
  5. The Key for the map labels it as such.
  6. 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.
  7. 1905 State Census, Winnebago County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Neenah, 3rd Ward, p. 10, family 1, line 1-6, S. A. Cook household; digital images, ( : accessed 20 Feb 2007). 
  8. 1910 U.S. census, Winnebago County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Town of Neenah, City of Neenah, Third Ward, enumeration district (ED) 126, sheet 5, p. 279A, dwelling 52, family 53, Samuel A Cook household; digital images, ( : accessed 31 Aug 2004); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T624, roll 1744.  
  9. “From The Chilton Times,” (Unity) Marathon County Register, 17 Aug 1906, Friday, p. 2, col. 3. Cit. Date: 18 Nov 2003.  

A Forgotten Family


Last month I had the pleasure to connect with a Cook cousin. She had recently returned from a road trip that included a stop in Alexandria, Madison Co., Indiana, and a search for information about Samuel A. Cook, and the Alexandria Paper Company. She discovered that the information they had on file about the company, had been submitted by my mother. Not encouraging. As Alexandria is approximately a seven hour drive from my home, I set out to see what I could learn in my favorite way, in my chair. As this search will be chair driven, and not visit driven information, it is not a complete history, but an overview, and an enticement for more information. And another rabbit hole. The Cook family may not be top of mind for the city of Alexandria today in 2016, but in those early decades of the 20th Century they played a vital role in the development of this community, and had a lasting impact on their lives.

I have decided that I would like to tell this story in a series of vignettes, and as we are now just nine days from celebrating Flag Day here in the United States, I would like to share this story.

The United States officially entered World War I on April 6, 1917, and communities across the country held flag raising ceremonies to “show their patriotism and allegiance to the stars and stripes.” [1] A flag raising was held at the Children’s Home in Alexandria on April 16, 1917, and is documented here, along with an image of the event. 

S. A. Cook, 1915 ca. Sternitzky Family Archives

Samuel A. Cook, owner and president of the Alexandria Paper Company, Civil War veteran, 1915 State Commander of the G. A. R. for Wisconsin, ex-congressman; was born in 1849 in Ontario, Canada, and became a citizen of his chosen country January 10, 1891. His love of county was great, and in the wake of the unrest surrounding the United States entry into World War I, he decided to hold a Flag Raising ceremony at the factory. The date was set for April 17th at 3:00 p.m. The program was carefully planned, and the Alexandria Business Men’s Association requested that all downtown businesses close from 2:30 till 4:00 p.m., so that as many as possible would be able to attend the ceremony. The program prepared for the event would include and address by S. A. Cook. [2]  

The next day dawned “a faultless Indiana spring day, with a sun that shed his refulgent beams unstintingly and graciously over the land and a balmy breeze blowing.” Over 3000 people gathered to join in a “jubilee of patriotism” for “one country, one government, one president, ONE FLAG.” All of Alexandria’s schools had been dismissed for the afternoon so that the students could attend, and the mood was patriotic and cheerful, a local band set the tone as the crowds gathered. 

S. A. Cook, 49th Annual G. A. R. Encampment, Wausau, Marathon Co., Wisconsin. June 14-16, 1915. Sternitzky Family Archives

To start the ceremony, an eloquent invocation was given by Rev. Dunn, a man whose “stentorian voice penetrated the most remote edges of the assemblage so that all could hear.” The invocation was followed by the crowd joining in singing “America” which “helped stir the emotions” and set the stage for S. A., who is reported to have been “in an amiable frame of mind,” entering “heartily into the spirit of the occasion.” His voice was “strong enough to be heard by all and he received the closest attention, even the young boys and girls…were still while the speaker appealed to them in the name of our great country to remember its traditions.” 

“Mr. Cook’s address was not a set speech, but every word of it was the silver and gold of pure patriotism.” S. A. was a great orator, a great lover of words, and who had an eloquent command of the english language. His goal this day was to inspire the community to stand united with the United States, reminding them that “we cannot be citizens of two countries at one and the same time. We cannot serve two national masters. You must say, ‘this is my country, my flag, and none other will I recognize.’ Divided allegiance would bring ruin to the strongest government on earth and no country could long exist as an independent nation whose people were not united under one flag.”

At the conclusion of his address, which included “humorous allusions,” and “witty remarks,” the crowd accompanied by the band, joined in singing the “Star Spangled Banner.” As the crowd sang, the flag was “hoisted” by the chief engineer of the plant, and as it was raised, a thirteen gun salute was fired. The closing benediction was delivered by Rev. Roadarmel, in a “clear resonant voice.” The mayor then led the crowd in three cheers for the flag now waving proudly over the paper mill, and the ceremony was over. [3]  

To commemorate the event, a “moving picture ‘shootist’ snapped every detail of the patriotic meeting. Mr. Cook is shown in the picture delivering a patriotic address at the mill.” The movie was then shared with the people of Alexandria at the New Gossard theatre, on April 24, 1917. Sam Oh to find this piece of film. That would be amazing.

The April 18, 1917 Times-Tribune article begins with what they state is the “climax and peroration: of S. A.’s address, a tribute to our flag, and it is with this tribute, I will end my post.

“Old Glory is the emblem of peace and purity, protecting all our citizens in their religious beliefs, political affiliations and legitimate industries. Men and women, guard it in the fulness of meaning. It is not a painted rug, it is the constitution, it is the government. Forget not what it means and be true to our country’s Flag. Let us twine each thread of our country about our heart strings and catch the spirit that breathes upon us from the battlements of our fathers. Let us resolve, come weal or woe, that we will in life, now and forever, stand by the Stars and Stripes. They have been unfurled from the snows of Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, in the halls of Congress and in the solitude of every sea as the symbol of resistless power. It has led the wave to victory and glory. It has floated over our cradles. Let it be our prayer and our struggle that it may float over our graves. May God bless you all and your every earnest effort.”


  1. “Old Glory Will Float Tomorrow,” The Times=Tribune, 19 May 1917, p. front page, col. 7; digital images, ( : accessed 18 May 2016).
  2. “Flag Raising at the Paper Mill,” The Times=Tribune, 16 Apr 1917, p. front page, col. 2; digital images, ( : accessed 18 May 2016).
  3. “Raising of Flag is a Success,” The Times=Tribune, 18 Apr 1917, p. front page, col. 1-2; digital images, ( : accessed 5 Jun 2016).
  4. “Head of Paper Co. Seen in the Movies,” The Times=Tribune, 24 Apr 1917, p. frontage, col. 6; digital images, ( : accessed 19 May 2016).

Memorials – Cook Park

We have attended two funerals this month, both for men gone too soon. Reading through the obituary at the end is the usual statement: “A memorial has been established in his name.” We all want our loved ones to be remembered. As a genealogist, remembering is what I do, and I am working to write about the lives of these family members gone, but not forgotten.

When my father, Robert (Bob) Sternitzky, passed away in 2005, my mother wanted to do something in his memory. “A memorial has been established in his name.” The memorial. I realized that as part of my Library of Artifacts page, I should include these memorials. I will start with my dad.

As I have stated before, Samuel Andrew Cook was the Cook that fascinated my father. He spent years researching him, and documenting his story. One of my father’s “pet” projects was to support Cook Park, a park on Doty Island, located near where S. A.’s home once stood. William E. Dunwiddle wrote about how Cook Park came to be a park, in his book: The Parks of Neenah: An Historical Interpretation.

In 1997 it was determined that Cook Park needed to update its playground equipment. The park became one of four parks participating in the “Buy a Brick. Build a Dream” program sponsored by the Kimberly-Clark Community Playground Project. Each brick cost $30.00, and was engraved with your name, or the name of someone you wanted to honor. My father took on, as his mission, the task of filling Cook Park with the names of Cook relatives. He brought the program to the Cook Reunion that year, and worked to spread the word. At the end of the campaign, Cook Park had new playground equipment, and 161 engraved bricks were set in place. 61 of these bricks honored Cook family members. Dad commemorated this accomplishment by photographing the bricks while standing on a ladder overlooking the bricks; and the park, from the open window of a friend’s Cessna 172, flying at 1300 feet and 75 mph. 

In 1996, the year before the brick project, a planter had been created in Cook Park, and the front of the box facing the street was formed by the giant “S. A. Cook” concrete piece that once graced the top peak of the S. A. Cook Armory. The armory had been torn down in the late 1980s, and thankfully this piece had been saved, and is now preserved in the park named for him.

DCF 1.0
Cook Park, 23 Jul 2007

When my dad passed away in 2005, mom wanted to create a memorial that would be placed in Cook Park to honor both my dad and his great granduncle, Samuel Andrew Cook. She worked closely with the Neenah Parks and Recreation department to decide how best to do this, one idea was to place a bench in the park with a plaque bearing dad’s name. One thing that was missing from this park, was information telling the visitor WHO S. A. Cook was, and why would a park be named for him. And in that question came the answer.

A large rock was placed in the garden bed, and attached to this rock is a brass plaque telling the story of S. A., and a smaller plaque honoring my father. My mother wrote the history with input by me, and edited by my brother.

cook park plaque page
DCF 1.0
The plaques in place
DCF 1.0

This story is fully commemorated in my dad’s “Report” created for the Cook family members who supported the brick project. It was privately published in December 2005 as “The Bricks of Cook Park. A Modern History.” The introduction written by my father reads:

“This is not the story of S. A. Cook who was a U. S. postmaster, a mayor, a state assemblyman, a U. S. congressman, a successful businessman. This is the story of the park named for him and the combined efforts of family and friends to fund a patio of bricks engraved with the names of his grandfather, his parents, his siblings, his two wives, his three children and his grandson–plus people I call mother, uncle, aunt, child, grandchild and cousin–many cousins!”

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