Tag: Martha Wheeler Paine

A Mother’s Grief

I can’t seem to get Martha Wheeler Paine Cook Johnston, and her children out of my mind.

I made the comment in my post, A Child Lostthat “I have not been able to find a newspaper article that states the details for [8 year old Henry Hosford Cook’s] funeral. It could have been large and public, or small and private. We may never know, but if I were to bet, I would bet it was small and private.” This past week I was able to find a funeral notice for him, and feelings of sadness rushed back in.

Martha and Hosford had been wintering in Miami, Florida, with Martha’s sister, Lucy, and her family. After the drowning death of her son, Martha, accompanied by her sister and the body of Hosford, began the journey by train up to Oshkosh, Winnebago Co., Wisconsin. The newspaper states that Edward W. Paine met his daughters and grandson in Chicago, and they traveled together on to Oshkosh. In Chicago they were joined by Edward’s sister, Mrs. Edward Wickwire, and her daughter, Martha. I can only imagine the moment when Martha, needing to stay calm, collected, and sane, saw her father at the train station. The relief of being able, in a sense, to hand it all over to him, and no longer have to be so strong, must have been great. She was 32 years old when her son passed away that February in 1927.

The train arrived in Oshkosh, Saturday, February 20, 1927, and a private funeral was held the next day at the Paine family home on Algoma Blvd. Henry Hosford Cook is buried in the Paine Mausoleum at Riverside Cemetery, Oshkosh, Wisconsin. [1

Martha married Drew Johnston in 1930, and on August 1, 1935, Martha gave birth to a little girl they named Ardra Paine Johnston. Ardra passed away on January 18, 1936 in Olmsted Co., Minnesota. As I stated in my post She Was Hopeful Till the End, Part 2, I had ordered her death certificate from Minnesota. It arrived Monday. Looking at the certificate, I realized that t,his beautiful little girl had been sick a long time. As a three  month old baby she had developed an “abscess of right forearm.” This then was added to by an “abscess of the brain.” Martha and Drew took her to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester just before Christmas, and she was first seen by her doctor on December 17, 1935. She most likely spent her first, and only, Christmas in St. Mary’s Hospital, her parents by her side. What should have been a joyous Christmas, was instead filled with fear for the life of their baby girl. Sadly, she passed away at 7:10 p.m., January 18, 1936. How hard it must have been for her father to give the needed information for the Certificate of Death. How awful for Martha, as she must have had moments of remembering a death nine years before. They made the decision to have the baby cremated, and the certificate states that she was “Removed to Minneapolis, Minn.” Another puzzle to work through. Was she buried there? Or was she sent home to be buried in the Johnston plot in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania? 

Included with the certificate of death was a statement from one of  her doctors. He states: “We do not know the cause of this abscess of the right forearm; possibly it was an ordinary skin infection. No particular trauma apparently was involved. The organism concerned was the streptococcus hemolyticus.” [2]

As a mother, my heart breaks for Martha. But her strength shines through again, as she moved forward with her life. She appears to have taken great delight in her step-children, and grandchildren, as there are records of many visits to Florida, and vacations to Europe. And I am sure that there was much delight in the news that a much awaited grandchild was a girl, and that her parents named her Ardra.


1.“To Be In Private,” The Daily Northwestern, 19 Feb 1927, p. 14, col. 1-2; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 7 Jul 2016).

2. Olmsted County, Minnesota, death certificate no. 10711, Registration book: 32 (1936), Ardra Paine Johnston; Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul.

She Was Hopeful Till the End, Part 2

To Continue:

After the divorce, life went on for both Harry H. Cook, and Martha Paine Cook. Martha immersed herself in doing good works in the Oshkosh community while living with her aging parents, and Harry continued, as he had been, traveling from New Jersey to Florida, hoping for a cure.

The official date of the 1930 Federal Census was April 1, 1930. On this date, Martha was enumerated as residing with her father in Oshkosh, her mother having passed away on December 23, 1929. She is stated as being 35 years of age, divorced, with no occupation. Living with them in the family home at 870 Algoma Blvd, is a cook, 52 year old Mary Warnke, and a maid, 20 year old Hildegard Frailing. [1]

Later that year, on December 3, 1930, Martha married Drew O. Johnston, a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a mechanical engineer by trade. [2]  I am assuming that they met sometime in 1927, or shortly thereafter. Drew had for decades split his time between Pittsburgh, and wintering in Palm Beach, Florida, where the Phil H. Sawyer family also spent their winters. The Philetus (Phil) Horace Sawyer family are part of the founding families of Oshkosh, and in the late 20s a prominent family in the Oshkosh community. It is certain that the Paine and Sawyer families would have known each other, at the very least on a social level. But how would Martha have met Drew Johnston? On November 19, 1927, Drew’s daughter Elizabeth Meyers Johnston, married Phil H. Sawyer, Jr., in a small private ceremony in Oshkosh, [3]  and it is in Oshkosh that this young couple made their home, and lived out their lives. 

The Johnston marriage appears to have been a happy marriage, filled with friends and family; travel between Pittsburgh and Palm Beach, along with frequent travels abroad. Drew’s daughter, Betty and her family, and his son Drew M. Johnston and his family, were frequent visitors to Palm Beach. It must have been with great excitement and anticipation that Drew and Martha learned that they were expecting in 1935. Their daughter, who they named Ardra Paine Johnston, was born August 1, 1935 in Pittsburgh. Sadly, she would pass away in Rochester, Olmstead Co., Minnesota on January 18, 1936. [4]  For me, Rochester means just one thing, the Mayo Clinic. I have ordered her death record, so time will tell, but it must have been devastating to lose their five month old daughter. Drew and Martha would celebrate 28 years of marriage before Drew passed away in Palm Beach, at the age of 81, December 12, 1958. [5]  He was buried in the family plot in Highwood Cemetery in Pittsburgh. [6]

The enumerator of the Atlantic City 1930 Federal Census, visited Harry on April 2, 1930. He was living in the Ambassador Bungalow in Atlantic City, Atlantic Co., New Jersey, listed as being 49 years of age, Divorced, and Retired. He was paying a monthly rent of $333.00, and enumerated with him was 38 year old, Jessie Carter Duncan, a widow, who was living with him in the role of Servant/Nurse, her occupation was enumerated as a Nurse. [7

News reached Edwin Yule in Alexandria, Indiana, on January 23, 1931, that Harry’s health “had taken a turn for the worse.” Edwin and his wife immediately left for New Jersey, [8] where Harry passed away two days later on January 25th. Unfortunately, Harry’s sister Maud, and her husband, Charles, were in Paris, so his funeral arrangements were delayed, but plans were made to bring his body immediately to Neenah by train, with a stop in Chicago to change trains for the trip north. Executives of the Alexandria Paper Company, and friends of the family met the train in Chicago, and traveled to Neenah together. [9] At some point during the trip, the decision to go ahead with the funeral and burial were made, and the funeral cortege went immediately from the train station that Wednesday afternoon, January 28th, to Oak Hill Cemetery where a brief funeral service was conducted at 2:15 p.m. at the cemetery chapel, by Rev. D. C. Jones the pastor of the Presbyterian church. [10] Harry is buried in the Cook Plot, just to the front of the Cook monument, and the only other full sized grave next to his parents.

Shortly after Harry’s death, on February 3, 1931, Edwin Yule was appointed administrator of the estate. [11] Details of his will were published in the newspaper August 11, 1931, when it was admitted for probate so as to arrange payment of a $50,000 insurance policy to the estate, the insurance was to be inherited by his sister, Maud. The article states that the original will bequeathed one-third of his property to his wife, Martha; one third to his sister, Maud, and one-third to be held in trust for his son, Hosford. “On May 14, 1927, following the death of his child and the filing of a suit for divorce by his wife, the late manufacturer wrote a codicil to the will bequeathing $15,000 to Jessie C. Duncan in addition to all pay due her for services, and the residue to go to his sister. [12] On this same date Edwin W. Yule and Maud Cook Lancaster, qualified as executors of his estate, and as stated above, filed the will for probate. [13]

Maud received as part of the balance of the estate all property, including stocks and real estate. The estate holdings were published in The Alexandria Daily Times=Tribune on February 25, 1933, and were said to include: “one-half interest in home property in Neenah, Wis., one-half interest in seven lots in Orono, [Hennepin Co.] Minn.; certain interests in lumber lands in Canada; 950 shares of common stock in the Alexandria Paper Company; 423 shares in the Phillips Company, of Chicago; 17 shares Anderson Banking Company stock; 13 shares in Manufacturers National Bank, Neenah, Wis., and 30 shares in the Great Northern Life Insurance Company.” [14] On March 17, 1933, the estate was finally settled, and closed. [15] What I find interesting about the above list, is that it does not include any of the physical property that was associated with the Alexandria Paper Company, just common stock shares. But that is a topic for another blog post.

After Drew’s passing, Martha continued to winter in the home that they had shared in Palm Beach. She kept her ties to Oshkosh, spending her summers residing with her niece, and serving as an “Art Center trustee” of what is now known as the Paine Art Center and Gardens, a house museum built and founded by her Uncle Nathan Paine, and his wife, Jessie Kimberly Paine. [16] Martha passed away January 16, 1993, in Palm Beach, Florida. She was 97 years old. She was “laid to rest in the Paine Family Mausoleum at Riverside Cemetery, Oshkosh, Wisconsin on Friday, January 22, 1993.” [17]

I have to admit that I am left deeply saddened by this story. The details are still not fully developed, as court records would need to be reviewed, land deeds looked at, and the total melded together to get a better picture. Over the next few blog posts I will attempt to tell the story of the company that Samuel Andrew Cook built with such pride, hope, and vision. 


  1. 1930 U.S. census, Winnebago County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Oshkosh City, Twelfth Ward, enumeration district (ED) 70-38, sheet 28, p. 58A, dwelling 612, family 623, Edward W. Paine household; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 25 Mar 2003); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T626, roll 2620.
  2. Johnston-Cook Wedding is Solemnized,” (Oshkosh) The Daily Northwestern, 3 Dec 1930, p. 8, col. 5. Cit. Date: 11 Aug 2004.
  3. “Sawyer-Johnston Wedding Is One of Quiet Charm,” The Daily Northwestern, 21 Nov 1927, p. 16, col. 1; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 10 Jun 2016).
  4. “Baby Passes Away,” The Oshkosh Northwestern, 20 Jan 1936, p. 4, col 2; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 29 Jun 2016).
  5. Pittsburgh Rites Are Scheduled For Mr. Johnston,” The Palm Beach Post-Times, 14 Dec 1958, p. 10, col. 1; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 10 Jun 2016).
  6. “Deaths and Funerals. Drew Johnston,” The Palm Beach News, 17 Dec 1938, p. 24, col. 3; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 10 Jun 2016).
  7. 1930 U. S. census, Atlantic County, New Jersey, population schedule, Atlantic City, 4th Ward, enumeration district (ED) 1-31, sheet 1, p. 81B, dwelling 29, family 23, Henry H. Cook household; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 25 Mar 2003); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T626.
  8. Harry Cook Critically Ill at Atlantic City,” The Alexandria Daily Times=Tribune, 23 Jan 1931, front page, col. 3; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 27 May 2016).
  9. “Harry H. Cook Died Suddenly Atlantic City,” The Alexandria Daily Times=Tribune, 26 Jan 1931, front page, col. 7; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 May 2016).
  10. “Harry H. Cook, Former Neenah Resident, Dies,” (Oshkosh) Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, 27 an 1931, p. 9, col. 3. Cit. Date: 26 Mar 2003.
  11. “Legal. Notice of Appointment,” The Alexandria Daily Times=Tribune, 4 Feb 1931, front page, col. 1; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 4 Jun 2016).
  12. Cook’s Sister Gets Large Part of His Estate,” The Alexandria Daily Times=Tribune, 11 Aug 1931, front page, col. 5; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 19 May 2016).
  13. “LEGAL. Notice of Appointment,” The Alexandria Daily Times=Tribune, 25 Aug 1931, p. 2, col. 4; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 4 Jun 2016).
  14. “Final Report Filed In Harry Cook Estate,” The Alexandria Daily Times=Tribune, 25 Feb 1933, p. 3, col. 5; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 4 Jun 2016).
  15. “LEGAL,” The Alexandria Daily Times=Tribune, 13 Mar 1933, p. 4, col. 1; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 4 Jun 2016).
  16. “Paine Center Founder Donates Silver Piece,” The Appleton Post-Crescent, 27 Sep 1964, p. A12. Cit. Date: 11 Aug 2004.
  17. Funeral Notices. Martha Paine Johnston,” The Palm Beach Post, 20 Jan 1993, p. 3B, col. 2; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 10 Jun 2016).

She Was Hopeful Till the End, Part 1

To continue the sad story of Harry and Martha Paine Cook, we have to focus, and to place the blame on Harry coming down with “sleeping sickness” while on a business trip to New York City.

When Harry Cook was first diagnosed with “sleeping sickness” in late January 1920, I am sure that there was a sense of panic in the Cook household. For those first days he was confined to a hospital in New York, slowly improving. By the end of February he had improved enough that he could be moved to Florida, where they hoped that the warm weather and sunshine would make all the difference.

They remained in Florida all of the winter, sending home small notices stating that he was “improving.” But the illness was still taking its toll, and he was not really making any steady improvement, just small glimmers, and hope. On April 20, 1920, The Alexandria Daily Times=Tribune reported that Harry had “recovered sufficiently to be able to leave Miami” and that the couple were “now northbound and it is expected that they will arrive in Alexandria about June 1.” [1] But I am not certain that they did return. My “chair research” into the newspaper, does not share the joyous news of their return, and the month of June is well covered.

Martha Paine Cook sent the next report, which was received August 24, 1920, from her parents home in Oshkosh, Winnebago, Wisconsin. She reported that Harry was presently in the mountains of Vermont, where he was “getting along nicely.” [2] In September, Harry moved to New Jersey, where his cousin Edwin W. Yule paid him a visit in September. Edwin reported that “Mr. Cook is very thin from his long illness, but that he is now on the road to recovery although his improvement is going very slowly. Mr. Cook was very glad to see Mr. Yule and expressed himself as very eager to come home.” [3] As winter approached he made his way to Florida to spend the winter with his sister, Maud, and her husband Charles F. Lancaster. Thus starting a pattern that would go on for the next eleven years, wintering in Florida, and spending the summer living at a resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

We may never know exactly what happened, and most certainly not know the full details from my “chair research,” but I have done my best to piece together the story.

“Sleeping sickness” can not only affect the physical body, but can have adverse effect on a patient’s mental health. The months in Florida must have been trying for Martha as she worked to keep her husband’s spirits high, and help him recover physically. She also was the mother of a 1 1/2 year old, as Hosford would celebrate his second birthday on July 13th. I am sure that there was help in the home; nurses, housekeepers, possibly even a nanny for Hosford, but I would like to think that Martha was personally engaged and involved in the care of both of her “men.” In May, instead of being “northbound” to Alexandria, Martha took little Hosford, and traveled to Oshkosh, while Harry began to wander the country, looking for that elusive place that would cure him, moving from Vermont to New Jersey, to Florida.

As the months passed, Harry became more and more dependent on his sister, Maud, her husband, Charles F. Lancaster and his cousin, Edwin W. Yule for support and guidance in running the Alexandria Paper Co., of which he was president. In October 1922, Harry was well enough to return to Alexandria, accompanied by Edwin Yule, [4]  A short month later, in November, Martha filed a petition in the Madison County Circuit Court for a guardian to be appointed for her husband. She stated that “certain persons ha[d] exerted influence on her husband and have caused him to become indifferent toward her.” She went on to state that “she has been unable to communicate with him,” and wished to know why “certain persons” have worked to turn Harry against her. [5] An article published in The Indianapolis Star, states the same situation a bit more bluntly: “The application charges that Cook is under the control of certain parties, whose names are not revealed, and that being of alleged unsound mind he is influenced by them so that he refuses to have anything to do with his wife.” The article goes on to say that she had “spent several months trying to nurse her husband, and that when her health broke down she went to the home of her parents in Oshkosh, Wis. It is alleged that her husband developed a violent aversion to her in the meantime, and that she has repeatedly been denied the privilege of seeing him.”  In a later court document, Martha claimed that he “deserted them” on July 12, 1920, just days before their son’s second birthday. [6]

It would be two years before she was finally able to have a trust company named as guardian, as Harry kept sending it back to the court on appeal. It was announced in The [Oshkosh] Daily Northwestern on March 24, 1924, that she had prevailed, and secured their wealth of nearly a million dollars in assets, mostly stock in the Alexandria Paper Company. Harry had been traveling most of the year accompanied by nurses and attendants. At the time of the final court decision, he was in Florida for the winter. [7

It appears as though Martha was correct in her concerns, and her wish to have a guardian named for Harry, as less than a year later, on January 29, 1925, he was back in court, his guardian, the Citizen’s State Bank of Newcastle, filing in Federal Court, a “suit charging fraud and duress in connection with the transfer of $250,000, in the Alexandria Papar [sic] Company” against “Mrs. Maud Lancaster, her husband Charles P. [sic] Lancaster both of New York, and the Alexandria Paper Company.” “The complaint alleged that the defendants…had fraudulently induced Cook to transfer to them the 500 shares of stock. The complaint also alleges that the defendants and expended between $75,000 and $100,000 of Cook’s money each year since his illness in chartering houseboats, employing and discharging physicians, hiring servants, nurses, leasing houses and apartments and for other  expenses.” They were also “voting the shares, and receiving large amounts of money in dividends.” The article goes on to put it in perspective: “Cook is said to have received from his father 1, 750 shares of stock in the Alexandria Paper Company, a controlling interest. Cook’s sister is said to have become the owner of 950 shares of stock in the company at the death of her father” in April 1918. It goes on to state that the defendants “took charge of Cook during his illness and concealed his whereabouts from his wife and child.” [8]

Sadly, my “chair research” has not revealed any indication of how this suit was settled. More work to be done here!

In February 1927, the couple buried their son, and only child, Henry Hosford Cook. His story was told in the blog post titled: A Child Lost. I believe it is at this point that Martha gives up. She must realize that her husband is not going to get well enough to return home, and they will never again have a normal, loving married life. On April 4, 1927, she filed for divorce on the grounds of abandonment. She was asking for alimony. [9] Coming to an agreement would not be an easy task, nor a quick one. In December their attorneys met in superior court in Indianapolis, hopeful that an agreement could finally be reached, they “conferred” till 3:00 on that Friday afternoon of December 16, 1927. At that time, agreement was reached on a proposal which was to be sent to Harry in Atlantic City, for his “consideration” and “specifies that a divorce shall be granted and deals with property rights and the question of alimony.” The judge “continued the case until February 20, 1928, to give attorneys time to consult Cook. Witnesses subpoenaed for the trial and who were held in superior court all day, were instructed to return on that date.” [10

On February 17, 1928, the long wait was over. Harry had agreed to terms for the divorce, which were that Martha would be granted her request for a divorce, and receive $100,000 in alimony, a “$25,000 insurance policy on the life of Mr. Cook, subject to the unpaid premium.” And “a portion of the furnishings of the Cook home just south of the city.”  “A total of 18 attorneys were connected with the case, ten representing Mrs. Cook and eight representing the defense. The alimony award was the largest award in the Madison county courts.” [11] The terms were agreed to out of court, Martha was in the courtroom, but Harry did not return to Indiana for the hearing. [12]

To be continued…


  1. “Harry Cook Is Better,” The Alexandria Daily Times=Tribune, 24 Apr 1920, front page, col 1; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 27 May 2016).
  2. “Harry Cook In Vermont,” The Alexandria Daily Times=Tribune, 24 Aug 1920, front page, col 3; digital image Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 27 May 2016).
  3. “Sees Harry Cook,” The Alexandria Daily Times=Tribune, 14 Sep 1920, front page, col 4; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 27 May 2016).
  4. “Harry Cook Arrives In City This Morning,” The Alexandria Times=Tribune, 12 Oct 1922, front page, col 2; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 27 May 2016).
  5. “Seeks Appointment of Guardian for Husband,” The Indianapolis News, 13 Nov 1922, p. 17, col 1; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 27 May 2016).
  6. “Mrs. Cook Asks Court For Divorce Decree,” The Alexandria Daily Times=Tribune, 5 Apr 1927, front page, col 3; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 10 Jun 2016).
  7. “Indiana Supreme Court Sustains Ruling In The Cook Guardianship Case,” The Daily Northwestern, 24 Mar 1924, front page, col 3; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : 10 May 2016).
  8. “Sick Man Made Victim of Fraud,” The Elwood Cal Leader, 31 Jan 1925, p 8, col 5; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 23 May 2016).
  9. Mrs. Cook Asks Court For Divorce Decree,” The Alexandria Times=Tribune, 5 Apr 1927, front page, col 3; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 10 Jun 2016).
  10. “Cook Divorce Case May End By Agreement,” The Alexandria Daily Times=Tribune, 17 Dec 1927, front page, col 6; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 27 May 2016).
  11. “Life Insurance Policy $25,000 to Mrs. Cook,” The Alexandria Daily Times=Tribune, 21 Feb 1928, front page, col 2; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 24 May 2016).
  12. “Mrs. Cook Divorced; Gets $100,000 Alimony,” The Alexandria Daily Times=Tribune, 20 Feb 1928, p. 4, col. 1; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 27 May 2016).

A Child Lost

Samuel A. Cook, who up to this point we have been calling S. A., as that is how he most often appears in print, plus over the armory, and most places we look, it is S. A. But I would have to bet that his wife, his siblings, his mother and father, didn’t call him that, they called him Samuel. Or Sam. As I continue to study him, and get to know him, I think I will call him Samuel.

Samuel’s son Harry (Henry Harold), married Martha Wheeler Paine, in a small private ceremony which took place in her family home in Oshkosh, Winnebago Co., Wisconsin, on June 30, 1917. Martha is the daughter of Edward Wheeler Paine, and Elizabeth Bonney Hosford Paine. The Paines were a prominent lumber family in Oshkosh, Edward, along with his brother, Nathan, owned and operated the Paine Lumber Company. (It is Nathan Paine and his wife, Jessie Kimberly, who built, and then donated, what we now know as the Paine Art Center and Gardens). 

After an extended honeymoon, the couple settled in Alexandria, Madison Co., Indiana, where Harry had been living and working for the past 16 years or so. He was vice president, and general manager of his father’s paper mill, the Alexandria Paper Co. Life was good for the newlyweds, and soon they were excited to let their family know that they would be expecting a baby in July 1918. Sadly, Samuel would not live to meet his grandchild, as he suffered a “stroke of paralysis” in December 1917, and never fully recovered. He passed away at his home in Neenah, Winnebago Co., Wisconsin, on April 4, 1918. 

It was with joyous hearts that Harry and Martha welcomed their son, Henry Hosford Cook, into the world at 12:50 a.m. the morning of July 13, 1918. Martha had made the decision to give birth in Chicago, Cook Co., Illinois, checking into Presbyterian Hospital. [1] Later that day, Harry traveled back to Alexandria to attend to some pressing business matters, and to take a moment to share the joy with the paper mill employees. He and Martha had printed a small card announcing the birth of their son, and to which they had attached a $10 bill. The card reads: 


An employee at the time, Robert W. Gaither, when interviewed in 1970, had this to say about that day: “‘I remember so well,’ he said, ‘when Harry sat on the steps of the old office building and gave everyone who came through a ten-dollar bill.'” [2] In 1918 there were approximately 160 employees in the company, so Harry handed out $1600.00, or $25,352.16 in 2016 money! Each employee receiving approximately $158.45. [3

Over the next few years, Harry spent many days and weeks traveling on business for the mill. During his extended time away, Martha would pack up baby Hosford, and head to Oshkosh to spend time with her parents, and when Harry was scheduled to return, the couple would meet up in Chicago, and travel back to Alexandria together. 

Tragically, in late January 1920, while visiting New York on business, Harry came down with flu-like symptoms, and then was hospitalized. Doctors later diagnosed his condition as “sleeping sickness,” a form of lethargic encephalitis. An article published in The Cambridge Sentinel states that the symptoms begin with fever, which can last two to five days, followed by a period of subnormal temperature, sore throat and chest cold. “In marked cases the lethargy was accompanied by heaviness of the eyelids, pain in the eyes and blurred vision. Headache was a common symptom, and rigidness was characteristic of the early symptoms.” This is just the first stage. What follows is the patient is often “unable to make any voluntary movement on account of great muscular weakness; the face is quite expressionless and mask like, and there may be double facial paralysis. The patient is in a condition of stupor, although true sleep is often not obtained.” There was no defined treatment, and the patient was “given to understand that his convalescence will last at least six months after the beginning of the illness.” [4]  Cases of sleeping sickness were found in both New York, and Chicago in 1919, so it is only speculation where he could contracted this contagious disease. 

When Harry was well enough to leave the hospital, and New York City, the family headed together to Florida to give him time to rest and to recover. Unfortunately, as is often the case, he never was able to fully recover, and the effect the disease had on him both physically, but most importantly, mentally, caused him to never be the same person again, and thus he is said to have abandoned his family on July 22, 1920. [5]  This story deserves its own blog post, so let us move forward a few years in time. 


Hoping that her husband would recover, but knowing at this point they could not live together and that she needed to take care of her small son, Martha took Hosford, and moved permanently to Oshkosh to live with her parents. The years passed, and a routine was set between mother and son, and part of the routine was to spend a portion of the winter in Florida. In February 1927, they were enjoying the warm weather of Naples, Florida, with friends and relatives. It was a Wednesday, spent at the beach off the Gulf of Mexico, and Hosford was wading and swimming with friends, when he went out a bit too far, and was pulled into the undertow. Despite all efforts to save him, he drowned. I can only imagine the grief in which Martha sent off the telegram to her parents. And the unbelief that Edward and Elizabeth felt upon opening the door to receive the telegram telling them of their grandsons death, and when to expect the train carrying their grandson’s body, accompanied by their daughter. [6

I have not been able to find a newspaper article that states the details for his funeral. It could have been large and public, or small and private. We may never know, but if I were to bet, I would bet it was small and private. He was buried in the family plot in Riverside Cemetery, Oshkosh, Wisconsin. 

As winter faded into spring, then summer, and children started to flock to the neighboring beaches to play and to swim. Hosford’s grandfather, Edward W. Paine, still wracked with grief, donated “three sets of life-saving apparatus” to the city of Oshkosh, and dedicated to his grandson. The three sets were installed at three city beaches, south side beach, Menominee Park, and Mary Jewel Park. “Each piece of apparatus consists of a large preserver to which is attached an iron ring to fasten around the arm. To the preserver is attached 400 feet of line, which winds on a large cylinder. In [case] of danger anyone may seize the preserver and carry or throw it out in the water. The stand is erected with a reel and handle, so that the preserver may be pulled in.” Edward Paine also sent a set to Sarasota, Fla. “On each of the racks is placed a bronze plate with the inscription, ‘In Memory of Henry Hosford Cook, Died Feb. 16, 1927.'” [7 ]

Hosford lived just a short 8 1/2 years, and this small, much loved little boy started his life with a gift to honor his birth, and he ended his life with a gift to remember his having lived. Both gifts were given in the hope that the gift would enrich the lives of the receiver. Make the world a better place. 

Rest in peace, Henry Hosford Cook.


  1. FamilySearch, “Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1922,” database and images, FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org : accessed 4 Jul 2012); Henry Hosford Cook; Reference ID: 25709, GS Film Number: 1308838, Digital Folder Number: 004403113, Image Number: 01020.
  2. Sue Martson, “Old Paper Mill Will Again Have A Heart Beat,” The Alexandria Times-Tribune, 15 Apr 1970, Wednesday, p. 8; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 19 May 2016).
  3. www.usinflationcalculator.com : accessed 8 Jun 2016.
  4. “Call New Malady Epidemic Stupor,” The Cambridge  Sentinel, 3 May 1919, p. 3, col. 1-3 : digital image, Cambridge Public Library (http://cambridge.dlconsulting.com : accessed 8 Jun 2016).
  5. “Mrs. cook Asks Court For Divorce Decree,” The Times=Business, 5 Apr 1927, front page, col. 3; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 10 Jun 2016).
  6. “Boy Meets Death By Drowning At Florida Resort,” (Oshkosh) Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, 17 Feb 1927, p. 4, col. 3. Cit. Date: 26 Mar 2003.
  7. “Makes Gift to City,” (Oshkosh) The Daily Northwestern, 2 Jul 1927, p. 2, col. 7. Cit. Date: 22 Jul 2003.