Tag: Alfred Cook

Collision on a Grade

The Cook Family, circa 1894. Missing is their eldest son, Herbert

On this day 127 years ago, my great-great-grandfather, 43-year-old Alfred Cook, arrived in Marshfield in time to catch the 6:15 train bound for Wausau. September 26, 1893, was a Tuesday, and Alfred, chairman of the Town of Brighton, he was on his way to attend the meeting of the county board of Marathon county. Living in Unity, Marathon County, he would have been up extraordinarily early to travel the approximately 15 miles to Marshfield. Did he travel by train on the Wisconsin Central, [1] or did he travel by horse and buggy?

On this day the way freight on the Milwaukee Lake Shore railway to Wausau was made up of eighteen freight cars. Alfred, along with the Rev. James Brown, Christ Vogt, and Conductor Dunn, settled in for the trip riding in the caboose. 

“Just before reaching McMillan there is a steep grade. When the last section of the train was nearly to the top a coupler broke, leaving a portion of the train to follow. None of the train men were aware of the break and when the forward section reached McMillan about three quarters of a mile distant, it pulled up at the station. Without warning, the last section came tearing down upon them gaining speed at every revolution of the wheels.” “The two sections came together with a crash, throwing one car from the track and the passengers across the caboose, badly bruising them all.” The sentence goes on to say, “and probably fatally injuring Mr. Cook, who struck the water cooler with his head, causing concussion of the brain.” [2]

“The wounded men were brought back to this city [Marshfield] and medical aid summoned. With the exception of Mr. Cook, the injuries to the others are slight beyond a bad shaking up and more or less bruised. Mr. Cook was first taken to the hospital, but as that institution is full of patients, he was taken to the Tremont house where he now lies” and was seen by Dr. Budge, and the railroad’s chief surgeon, Dr. J. F. Pritchard. “Mr. Cook’s wife, relatives and friends came down from Unity on the first train and are doing all they can for him. [3] Alfred’s sister Kate and his brother-in-law Conner Healy accompanied Amanda and their eldest son, Herbert, to Marshfield. I can only imagine what they were thinking as they rode the 15 miles from Unity to the Tremont House in Marshfield. [4]

“Between Life and Death. Alfred Cook, of Unity, Lies in a Precarious Condition at the Tremont.” reads the headline of The Marshfield News the next day. The newspaper reported that he had not yet regained consciousness, and was delirious. [5] His condition did not improve over the next few days as newspapers around the state reported that “should he recover, he will be disabled for life and total blind.” [6]

The Cook family brought Alfred home to Unity on Friday, September 29th. At that time he was still in “an unconscious condition, but on Saturday he regained consciousness. He knew all who spoke to him but could not see them.” [7]

S. A. Cook left Neenah, Winnebago County for Unity on Wednesday, October 4th to visit his brother. The Neenah Daily Times reported that “Mr. Cook is recovering slowly but has not regained his sight. He is occasionally delirious, from the blow on his head, the only external mark of which is a bruise about the size of a quarter. He imagines that he is still under the car and continually pleads that his companion (who was but slightly hurt) [he is most likely referring to Chris Vogt who was also on his way to the county board meeting] be taken out quickly. ‘He is worse hurt than I am and I can wait,’ is the constant cry which shows the nature of the man. He thinks they have been under the car three weeks, and protests against the delay and darkness, which he attributes to bad management on the part of the railroad company. He does not realize that he is blind and frequently asks why lanterns are not procured.” [8] He was also imagining that the “car was settling down upon him and struggles to hold it up until he sinks back exhausted. At such times he has to be held in bed.” [9]

Friday, October 6th he was again seen by Dr. Budge and Dr. Pritchard, joined by Prof. John E. Owen, chief surgeon of the Chicago Northwestern Railway, Dr. Tilly a “celebrated eye surgeon of Chicago,” and B. A. Little, traveling claim agent. These men examined and consulted on Alfred’s case, deciding to wait two weeks longer, “after which if he does not regain his sanity and sight an operation will be performed.” [10] Upon examining him, Dr. Tilly decided that “there is no injury to the globe of the eye, the optic nerve or the optic track, to cause his blindness, and hence it must be in the visual center, located in the occipital lobe of the brain and that there is pressure on the brain, either from fracture of the skull or from blood clots lying underneath the skull. He advised an exploratory incision through the scalp to ascertain if the skull was fractured, but as Mr. Cook has improved generally so rapidly, although he is totally blind, his friends would not consent to an immediate operation.” [11]

By the time the Appleton Weekly Post went to press on October 12th, Alfred was improving slowly, being conscious part of the time, but “still has fits of delirium and violence, and is still totally blind.” [12] His condition was still critical a month after the accident, and “Drs. Owen and Pritchard of the Northwestern road, Dr. Badger, of Marshfield, Dr. Barnett of Neenah and Dr. Reeve” of Appleton arrived to again examine him and consult as to whether or not an operation should be performed. [13] The Marshfield Times reported the next day, October 27th that an operation would be performed.

Friday, October 13th, S.A. again traveled to Unity to be by his brother’s side. [14] The next day word was received in Appleton that Alfred “was sinking.” “The physicians have decided that an operation must be performed to remove a sliver of bone which they think is resting on the brain.” [15] Alfred was now totally paralyzed on the left side. I am sure that Jacob caught the next train to Unity to join S.A. at Alfred’s side, and to be a support to their sister-in-law, Amanda. I have been unable to find news of the operation taking place, so I am doubtful that they went forward with the plan to operate. 

Two months after the accident on November 30th, The Marshfield Times reported that he is finally regaining some of his eyesight, and is feeling much better. [16] Alfred was definitely feeling better, as, accompanied by his son Herbert, he “visited friends in Marshfield on December 15th, and plans were being made that he, accompanied by Herbert, would go south for the “months of January and February.” [17]

Christmas night Alfred, accompanied by Herbert, left for Hot Springs, Arkansas, “where he hopes to regain his sight and also his mental equilibrium.” He was still having “occasional flighty spells, and his sight is totally lacking.” [18]

The Appleton Weekly Post reported the first news of the fact that Alfred sued the railroad (I am hoping to scope out details). The paper reported that “about December 11th” [19] he had “made a settlement with the railroad company on terms perfectly satisfactory to his family and friends, but in deference to the wishes of all concerned, the amount is not made public.” [20]

Alfred and Herbert returned to Wisconsin earlier than originally reported, as the news was published that they had made a stop in Appleton the last week of January to visit with his brother, Jacob, and his family. The time away did much to improve his health, but he had not yet “recovered his sight.” [21]

The last news we have of Alfred’s condition was published in the Marshfield Times on April 20, 1894. The article reports the news that Alfred’s character and honesty had come into question, as it states “After his return [from his trip to Hot Springs] it was rumored that Mr. Cook had regained his eyesight suddenly and was nearly as well as ever, casting reflections on him that he had been playing possum with the railway company, that as soon as he received the money his eyesight returned very rapidly.” The article starts with a quick recap of the events. “It will be remembered that Mr. Cook from the effects of the injury was totally blind in both eyes, with a loss of sensation in the whole right half of the body and an impairment of motion in the same. After several weeks his physicians discovered he could detect a little light in the right half of both eyes, but the other half of both eyes were totally blind.” It continues “Now the facts are that to-day the one-half of each eye that he detected light soon after the injury, has so far improved that he is able to see to go around but the other half of each eye is totally blind the same as after the injury and it is believed will remain so the remainder of his life.” The railroad company was “very thankful that he can see sufficiently so he is able to go around without a guide and they believe there is no man that would be willing to be placed in Mr. Cook’s condition for the amount of money received.” [22]

While this story is remarkable just as it is told, what has struck me is that this story was not passed down from generation to generation. Scanning a newspaper website in November 2006 I came across an article titled “Railway Wreck Near Marshfield” that contained the search term “Alfred Cook, of Unity,” [23] I questioned whether or not this was “my” Alfred Cook, of Unity, as I had not heard of the accident, or that he was partially blind. It took finding the papers that also included the names of his brothers, that I knew that is was “my” ancestor. 


Alfred was still very ill one week later when on October 4th he celebrated his 44th birthday. He was still a young man, a man who had a very young family at home, as he had recently become a father for the tenth. His wife, Amanda Melinda Blood Cook, age 40, had given birth to Raymond Donald on May 1st. At the time of the accident, this little boy was almost 5 months old. The rest of the children ranged in age from 19 to 2 years old. 

Their eldest child, Herbert Alfred, was 19 years old. George Sewell had turned 17 just 11 days before the accident, and my great-grandfather, Lewis Herman was 16. The rest of the children were: Henrietta – 15, Mabel – 12, Emelyn was seven, as she had celebrated her birthday on September 3rd, Walter – 4, Edith – 3, and Ella, who turned 2 years old two days after the accident on September 28th. While only a handful of these people lived into my lifetime, seven of them saw my father grow into adulthood. The longest living was Raymond, whose son Rod was instrumental in keeping the Cook traditions and stories alive. Except for this one. 

Alfred died on January 30, 1921, he was 70 years old. After the accident, he continued to live a full and active life. 

How this story was lost, we may never know. 


  1. Railroad Commission Of Wisconsin, and Graham L Rice. Official railroad map of Wisconsin. [Madison, Wis.: Railroad Commissioner, 1900] Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/item/2006629781/; accessed 17 Jul 2020.
  2. “A Broken Coupler,” The Marshfield Times, 29 Sep 1893, Friday, p. 1, col. 1; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE.com (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 12 Dec 2007). 
  3. Ibid.
  4. “Unity Items.,” The Marshfield News, 5 Oct 1893, Thursday, p. 8, col. 2; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 27 Mar 2017). 
  5. “Between Life and Death,” The Marshfield News, 28 Sep 1893, Thursday, p. 1, col. 6; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Mar 2017). 
  6. The Neenah Daily Times, 2 Oct 1893, Monday Evening, p. 4, col. 2; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Mar 2017).
  7. “Unity Items,” The Marshfield News, 5 Oct 1893, Thursday, p. 8, col. 2; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 27 Mar 2017).  
  8. “A Terrible Sufferer,” The Neenah Daily Times, 4 Oct 1893, Wednesday Evening, p. 1, col. 5; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Mar 2017).
  9. “Curious Effects of a Slight Hurt,” Wisconsin State Journal, 17 Oct 1893, Tuesday, p. 2, col. 5; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Mar 2017).
  10. “Alfred Cook’s Condition,” Appleton Weekly Post, 12 Oct 1893, Thursday, p. 5, col. 5; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Mar 2017).
  11. The Marshfield News, 12 Oct 1893, Thursday, p. 4, col. 2; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Mar 2017).
  12. “Improving Slowly,” Appleton Weekly Post, 12 Oct 1893, Thursday, p. 6, col. 5; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Mar 2017).
  13. “Condition of Alfred Cook,” 26 Oct 1893, Thursday Evening, p. 4, col. 3; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Mar 2017).
  14. The Neenah Daily Times, 13 Oct 1893, Friday Evening, p. 4, col. 3; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Mar 2017).
  15. “Growing Worse,” Appleton Crescent, 14 Oct 1893, p. 5, col. 1; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Mar 2017).
  16. The Marshfield News, 30 Nov 1893, Thursday, p. 8, col. 2; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 Mar 2017).
  17. “Unity,” The Marshfield News, 21 Dec 1893, Thursday, p. 8, col. 3; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 27 Mar 2017).  
  18. “Gone to Hot Springs,” Appleton Weekly Post, 28 Dec 1893, Thursday, p. 1, col. 3; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 27 Mar 2017). 
  19. “Mr. Cook’s Condition. The Unity Man who was Injured in the McMillan Railroad Accident.,” The Marshfield Times, 20 Apr 1894, Friday, p. 1, col. 4; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 12 Dec 2007).
  20. Ibid.
  21. Appleton Weekly Post, 1 Feb 1894, Thursday, p. 5, col. 3; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 27 Mar 2017). 
  22. “Mr. Cook’s Condition. The Unity Man who was Injured in the McMillan Railroad Accident.” 
  23. “Railway Wreck Near Marshfield,” The Marshfield Times, September 30, 1893, p. 3, col. 3; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 20 Nov 2006). 

All in the Family

August 1906, Neenah, Wisconsin
Samuel A. Cook                            

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…” [1]

Jacob H. Cook August 1906, Neenah, Wisconsin
Jacob H. Cook

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. [2]

Alfred Cook, August 1906, Neenah, Wisconsin
Alfred Cook
Lewis H. Cook

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.


  1. “‘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).
  2. “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.

Feeling Thankful

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: [1]

“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.’ [2]

Stockbridge, Wisconsin, 1908

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.’ [3] 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.

The Kasson Hotel, Neenah, Wis, 1906

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. [4]

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!

On the steps of the S. A. Cook home, Commercial Street, Neenah, WI ((Sharon Cook Family Archives))


  1. Susan C. Fassbender, A Snapshot: Jacob Harrison Cook, (Appleton: Self Published, 2006): 14-15.
  2. ‘Family Reunion,’ Marathon County Register, (Unity, WI), August 3, 1906, front page.
  3. ‘From the Chilton Times,’ Marathon County Register, (Unity, WI), August 17, 1906.
  4. Alfred Cook to Louis Cook, August 6, 1906, Neenah, Wisconsin. Original letter, transcribed as written. Robert D. Sternitzky Family Archives.