EDWARD COOK COMES TO IOWA
This is a story written by my Great Great Aunt Luella Cook. she was the daughter of Edward Cook and the family historian. I found it in a box that my sister has had in safekeeping for several years. (thank you, sister!) It appears as I found it without an ending. Perhaps I will find more as I go through the boxes of stories she left us…
Few tales of the trek to Iowa of the Emory Cook family were told as Sunday evening stories. Those were the days in 1869 when the family broke up their home in Parish and journeyed to Iowa. Those were the days when a man’s desires of ten years triumphed, and a woman’s grief at the loss of her mother, the dismantling of their home, and the separation from the sisters of her own age seemed more than she could bear. Mary Janes spirit was broken and perhaps there built up in her a feeling of resentment at being forcibly separated from the religious environment on which she had come to depend and on being forced into a move which she probably would never have made, had her wishes been consulted.
Ed Cook did tell his children of his memory of the trip in a railroad coach where there was a squat stove at one end of the coach. He recalled that the food they brought got stale. He recalled how long the trip took and how his mother tied to keep the children clean especially five-year-old Helen. He recalled that a cousin of his fathers, Will Cook, made the trip, but went on to settle at Hastings Iowa. His great-uncle Morgan had been in Hastings before. The Emory Cook family would have gone there, too, but Emory felt that Mary Jane would be happier in a locality where two of her sisters were already located. He forgot that these sisters were much, much older and had come to Iowa ever ten years ago and that they were almost strangers to Mary Jane.
These sisters were Susan, wife of Alfred Coates and that family had settled near Delaware, Iowa. They had two children, Ezra and Mary. Then there was Mercy, wife of Mr. Dennison who lived here and there and seemed a very uncertain character; he had at least two sons; one thing is certain, his wife was continually bemoaning some of his actions. (It is through that branch of the family that the Pogues in Dundee are distantly related. Milly Dennison, daughter of one of the Dennison boys and grandmother of Mercy, was working for Anna New. Jim Pogue was also working there. Boy met girl—they marry, and the Pogue in Dundee is their son.)
Mary Jane’s sister seemed glad to see her, but maybe three boys aged 10, 12, & 13 or thereabouts were a bit too much for the Coates family. The cousins were friendly, and in later life, Ezra and Ed became very good friends. One story Edward remembered to tell us; they brought in some corn to shell from the cob. They probably thought that by giving Helen the youngest, a red ear to shell, she would be pleased. But, No! She looked at it and looked at the yellow ears the others had. She walked to the door and threw the red ear into the yard. Ed said he was “so ashamed of her.” But he doted on her, none the less.
Emory knew he had to find a place for his family to live and a way to earn a living. He decided to farm, probably influenced by the fact that he had two sons almost grown who could help him. He had little money to rent a farm, so he had to take what he could get. Mary Jane had brought quite a bit of her furniture, and that had cost money. How he regretted that he could not have come ten years before! He rented a farm from a Mr. Bayley down on the Maquoketa River south of Manchester. The house was reached by going down a rutted lane. Few people traveled the road from which the road branched off. Fewer people found their way down to the Cook farm. Mary Jane found the lonely life depressing. She cried often. Her sons got out of hand. Troubled with migraine headaches, ill, overworked and with little money she found it hard to cope with a frontier way of life—the house was old—the work was endless. Then sometime in those two years, she became pregnant.
Thinking to give her a little pleasure, and to relieve her of some of her loneliness, Emory took her in the wagon to see her sister Susan. Instead of greeting Mary Jane with pleasure, Susan rebuked her self-righteously for “coming out in public when she was so far along.” Her spirit was broken. From that day on, she ceased to have the high standards of housekeeping that she had had in her old home.
After Ed Cook’s daughter was grown, he told her about those two years and how his formally attractive mother lost her interest in living. True, after the birth of her last child Susan Eulilla she partially recovered control of the situation but never had the best health again. When she felt well, she would work hard, overdo, and have to give up. Gradually Helen (Ella) came to view herself as chief assistant to her mother. Ed, fond as he was of Ella, became her assistant as well as protector. The new baby was not very well, took a lot of care, and was considered a nuisance by both Ed and Ella. They would have been very glad to escape having to help care for her period.
Mary Jane did insist that Ed and Ella go to school, but church attendance was impossible. After 2 years on the run-down river farm, Mr. Bailey must have been favorably impressed for he offered to rent Emory a large farm which he owned in Coffins Grove Township. (It is now owned by Jim Carradus unless it has changed hands in the last few years.) Emory borrowed what he needed and rented the large farm. His two young sons, Malcolm and Ranford, could do the work of men. They lived there for 10 years.
Because Emory’s family lived in the farthest point West in New York (Westfield) and his father was ill, Emory made a trip back to New York in one of those winters soon after he moved to the Bailey place. He was an only son. He had two sisters married and living in New London, Ohio, and was able to break his journey there. The boys could do the work. However, Mary Jane did not feel that she could leave Helen and Susan– they were too young to do the housework. Then, too, her home was farther East. So Emory went home; Mary Jane stayed in Iowa, worked hard, and tried to hide her nostalgic longing to visit her old home.
Finally, 10 years after the family had left New York, Emory told Mary Jane he was taking her with him to New York for 6 weeks. Ella was 15 and could do the housework, and her brothers could give her assistance in feeding poultry, gathering eggs etc.era. Mary Jane would have preferred to take Susie, but Emory said no. The trip seemed to Emory his way of “making up” to Mary Jane for all the homesickness and hardships. He told Luella once that he was so disappointed in Mary Janes feeling about the trip.
Before leaving Emory lay down some rules of conduct for his sons while he was away. One was that the three boys were never to all stay away from home at the same time, so the girls would not be alone. Ella was told to write to her parents twice a week and report to her parents of events at home. Ella took her duty seriously. One thing she wrote about was the horse racing her brothers were indulging in on their way to school. She reported that they went to town too often. Because someone had to haul Susie to school in the winter, Ed usually hitched his team to the bobsled and took the girls to school and then went on to town twice a week for the mail. The girls and Ed attended the brick school near the Masonville Grange Hall.
Ed had a letter from Ella to mail. However, he was anxious to read his parent’s first letter, so he opened it in the post office so that if they asked any questions, he could add the answers to Ella’s letter. On reading Emory’s letter of reprimand for horse racing, Ed decided Ella was telling more than she should, so he undertook to read her letter. Now Ed and Ella prided themselves on their handwriting. They had learned from the same copybooks, and it was difficult to tell one from the other. Ed erased Ella’s writing, told how good her brothers were to her and painted a very unusual picture of their good points of behavior. He really overdid it, for though Emory swallowed the story, Mary Jane did not. She wrote Ella for an explanation, but poor Ella, unaware of Ed’s assistance, was at a total loss to explain Emory’s words of praise for his son’s good behavior.
Mary Jane stayed the six weeks allotted to the visit but was unhappy from the second day. Her family was scattered. She was somewhat uncomfortable with Emory’s maiden sister, Delia. She seems to have enjoyed best the visit with Aunt Martha and Uncle Leroy Thompson in New London, Ohio. They had no children. (That’s where Howard got the LeRoy in his name.) Mary Jane gladly returned to Iowa though Emory continued to go every two years to see his parents. May Jane could never be persuaded to try it again.
Edward Cook was full of stories in those years. He often told those on Sunday nights as we grew older. He continued to haul his sisters to school because Susie was “poorly.” She seemed to lack “spunk.” (Her brothers always compared her with Ella, and the comparison was never in favor of Susie. No doubt she was born with a weak heart, for she simply dropped over dead when she did die…) He usually picked up all the children in all the families along the way. As he had to spend the day in school, he often took some school work. Sometimes he even went a part of the spring term for Susie bawled if she had to stay home; it was too wet and too far for her to walk–and Susie ruled the roost. When their mother was well enough, Ella went also.
Ed had his own team of horses. Ed always called them “The Little Blacks” –their names were Peg and Pink–how he loved those horses. They were trained to break into a run if he laid the lines across their backs. He never needed a whip; his voice was enough. He prided himself on the fact that his team could outrun any other on the road. He could leave the Brick School at 12 and be back at 1 PM and drive to the Manchester Post Office during the noon hour if he could come into town on the run, and the “Blacks” loved to show off. He was careful not to tell his family of his fast trips, but once Emory was in town when he came sailing in. The words of warning were stern and checked running the horses within the city limits.
Although Ed went to the “Brick” school, his friends were partially from the “Grove school.” Evans boys, Tom, Dick, and Jenk made up a part of every skating party on the Coffins Grove Creek Creek. Tom Lee was also a close friend. Then in the “Brick School,” there was his close friend Guy McGee and also Harry Smith. Of course, there were the younger McGee’s– Austin and Irve– and the younger Smith boy, Jay. (They lived where Herb
For some reason, a young woman taught the school one winter. The snow was good for coasting on the Collard Hill, a mile from the school straight South. Ed drove his team up during recess, and all the boys with sleds enjoyed the coasting so much that they did not return until 1 PM. Ed decided not to return at all that day. He just turned up to take his sister’s home. The teacher took their recesses away from the culprits for a week. Ed wrote himself an excuse the next day explaining that he was not in school because he was “needed to haul.” He did not add that it was a batch of sleds up the hill. For a wonder, Ella did not give him away. He said he felt cheap all that week when the boys had to stay in, and he was free to come and go as he wished.
The school directors decided to hire a man to teach winter terms. Ed met a young pre-law college student, Ed Seeds, later a judge. Earning money to attend the University was one of the reasons Mr. Seeds taught school. He also must have liked to teach. He did it several winters and all the young men went to school during the winter term. Mr. Seeds was brilliant and tried to get the young men to carry courses such as high schools offered at the time. Among these were grammar and algebra.
Ed undertook the spelling, the business arithmetic, the handwriting, and history, and reading gladly, but said “no grammar.” He often regretted that later–that he did not follow Mr. Seeds advice to try to study the algebra and grammar. (as for reading he read everything he could get his hands on. One of Luella’s earliest memories of her father was that he read, and read– and her mother read, too, and that her grandpa Cook read, also and we would all set up to finish a story.) Ed was always proud that his copybook was one which the teacher always called for to show the County Superintendent when he visited the school.
Finally, Ed was attracted to one of the teachers– a pretty girl about his age. It was the fall term, so he was not in school, but he drove Susie and the neighbor girl to school in the morning and the neighbor picked the girls up at night. Ed finally got up the nerve to ask the lady to go out with him. She agreed. She boarded at Squire Henry Bakers’ who was who owned the brick house. The Squire loved to play checkers. Ed had beaten him on several occasions. He went to pick the teacher up, she was not quite ready. The Squire suggested a game. Ed won. The Squire called for revenge. Time is passing. Mr. Baker was watching every move. The teacher was ready. Ed knew that the only way to get free was to lose. He hated to do it but allowed the Squire to win. Mr. Baker boasted of his win to everyone. The date with the teacher was a bore. He felt that he had a double loss and all to no purpose.
Ed used to laugh when he described how some of the younger boys at school tried to learn how to smoke in the woodshed at recess. Mr. seeds smelled the tobacco and issued a warning not to smoke in the woodshed because of the danger of fire. Ed and Guy McGee decided to cure Irve. They got tobacco, doctored it up with pulverized horse droppings, and gave it to Irve in his corncob pipe. After Irve had smoked it, they told him what it was. He was very ill, so ill that Mr. seeds was dubious of the story they told him about the cause of Irve’s illness. For a long time, Irv hated tobacco. At least that is the way I recall the story.
At home, their mother still regarded playing cards as an invention of the devil. The boys were around 15, 17, and 18 when they learned to play. They bought a deck and took it to the field. They were cultivating corn. They ran their horses down each long row to the other end of the field then tied the horses up to cool off, and they played cards. The corn suffered. They were supposed to watch the rows leading from the house, but one day, deep in the game, Emory came. He collected the cards, said “Get to work; Don’t run the horses anymore” and then walked away.
The 3 young men rather doubted what their reception would be at the house that evening. In fact, they spent the afternoon worrying. After supper, Emory said, “Mary Jane, I think I prefer that these boys play at home, especially now.” Then he sat down with their cards, bade them begin. He “skimmed them” completely. With the mild observation that “you had better learn to play before you play in a game in town,” he deflated the young men who seemed not to know that he could play until his time. They continued to play at home and to ask their friends into play.
Ed followed that rule in his own home, but our mother never allowed us to play for money– we could watch others, but we played for matches if we had to play for something except a score on paper.
When they went to live on the “Cook place” as it was called Edward still stayed with his father and lived at home. He rented other land. He operated a sawmill and a steam thresher. But his father never made any secret of the fact that Ed was his favorite son, just as Ella was his favorite daughter.
At some time during the 10 years on the Bailey place Ranford “went for himself.” He had a pair of horses in a wagon. He came to Winthrop and bought land North of town. He worked very hard. Malcolm and Ed were still at home when Emory said he planned to buy a farm. He bought the place just South of the Brick School on the road where there is only one house (now owned by O’Leary) — unless it has been sold. Then he bought across the road what was known as the “old Jones place.” Ranford and Ed had never been back to their childhood home so decided to go that winter. Malcolm had been “keeping company” with a young woman whose parents lived in the brick house across the road East of Pridegs. Her name was “Ada” … Malcolm was very good looking, was a smart dresser, and as grandmother said: “he wanted his shirts ironed to a gloss and not a spot on them.” It had been putting off the decision. Malcolm decided to bring matters to a head. He called on her and told her it was “now or never.” She hated to be pushed so said: “then it is never.” Malcolm was very hurt. He turned on heel and left. He went East and brought home a bride. She was only 18. Her name was Maria Potter. He had known her as a child who was much younger than he was. When he returned home, he brought her to Winthrop to keep house for him and Ranford. He would not stay near home because of Ada. Maria was a pretty girl, but very untrained. She had lived in a family of ministers, college professors, etc. She soon became pregnant.
Meanwhile, Ed had met Frank Sullivan and through him many young people in Masonville. For a while, he had dated a sister of Guy McGee, and Guy had dated Ella Cook. Then Ed and Frank went to a party and Ed at twenty met seventeen-year-old Mary Ellis. She was lively but could feel free to join “kissing games” because she was strong and agile and could elude the kisses of young men. They played a game on which a ring was passed over a string, and it was passed from hand to hand– the young man in the middle tried to locate the ring under the hand of a girl; if successful, he was entitled to a kiss. Mary had the ring; Ed located it. She tried the usual elusive tactics, but as Ed said: “I made up my mind I wanted to kiss her; so I did.” Mary Cook always refused to acknowledge the fact, but Frank Sullivan once said, “I made up my mind Ed ought to meet that girl; she was getting away with too much.” So began a friendship—later a courtship and then a marriage– but it took almost eight years.
Ed was bound he would pay for his home first; Mary wanted her skill as a seamstress to develop so that she could support herself if necessary. He was very much in love, but he failed to understand her just as Emory had misunderstood Mary Jane.
End of story (?)
Transcribed by Eric L. Cook Dec 2018