Edward William Cook



Edward Cook loved to fish and use a boat. He and his friends used to take a boat and go to the river (Mississippi) and fish all night. Sometimes they went to the Maquoketa River.  They talked of setting lines and using bait. To the writer’s mind, all these expressions were never clear. All I understood was that he liked to fish—that he was in and out of the boat—wore his wet clothes all night and would go home and work the next day without sleep.

Skating was also a favorite sport with him. In the winter he joined his friends–the Evan’s boys and the Lees for skating on the creek after it was frozen. He was very adept at figure cutting and often raced with other boys to a goal arranged beforehand. The skaters used to build a fire on the bank for warmth and often would arrange to take a young lady companion along.  However, there was one thing that Ed did that other boys did not do–he often took his sister Ella with him–not because she could not have dates of her own but because she was being courted by two young men and did not want to hurt either one of them as they were good friends of Ed’s.

In the summer he frequently went to a roller-skating rink. He enjoyed skating alone and was considered very speedy on skates. He evidently took Mary one time, but that was a story he was never allowed to finish. Strange to say, he never seemed to care for dancing, unless it be an occasional square dance. He enjoyed checkers and card games and was very good at both; he enjoyed a game of pool in town. He especially enjoyed games where running was a factor in winning the game for, he would usually outrun all the boys of his age. He also loved dogs, and I have mentioned his love for and understanding of horses.

Western novels and detective stories intrigued him. Due to his training from Mr. Seeds, he liked to read aloud, and he did it very well. As children, we were always sitting on his lap, or on a footstool beside him while he read to us. He read farm papers, political speeches, and government brochures. Even when we were the poorest, we always seemed to have some kind of reading matter in the house. He liked to discuss politics just as much as he liked to discuss new machinery. Early in life, he formed the habit of going to the state fair. He would buy an excursion ticket, sleep under some of the machinery at the fairgrounds and come home tired out, greatly to my mother’s disgust.

Although he lived at home until he was 28, he often carried out money-making projects independently of the rest of the family. He rented land nearby and shared the crop with the landlord. He purchased 40 acres of land for himself.  It lay across Coffins Creek south of his Father’s farm. He really worked hard to pay off the mortgage. He and his Father raised Chester White hogs. I have cards which they printed in the 1800s dealing with the breeding of these hogs.

As was mentioned in a former story, Frank Sullivan introduced Edward to Mary. Now Frank was a nephew to Samuel Sullivan who had married Eliza Walton, Mary’s Aunt. Frank was also the youngest of the Sullivan family. This family was one of the earliest settlers in Coffins Grove. They settled in the house on the farm now owned (I think) by the Walston’s. To locate this house just go past Henry Duffey’s and up on the hill. Do not turn off the road toward Hons just keep on to the west. This house is on the right-hand side of the road as you drive west.  Walston’s built a large barn quite a distance from the house.

Frank Sullivan’s older sister married a man named John Latimer who had settled in Masonville with his brother Alex Latimer to operate a general store. John Latimer’s wife Jane, usually changed to Jennie, was quite a bit younger than he. She was very talented with her needle and very clever at trimming hats, cutting patterns, etc. At first, Jennie helped her husband in the store, but with the coming of her sons, James, Lawrence, and …, her time was taken at home. Then, after a few years their one daughter, Fern, was born. Mrs. Latimer gave up working outside her home. It was then that Eliza Walton Sullivan began to talk to Mary Ellis’ Father to convince him that he should help Mary to learn a trade so she could support herself.

So, Mary came to live with the Latimers when she was 17, and after the trade was mastered, she stayed on to sew with Mrs. Latimer, to help with the care of the children and of the house. In other words, she became in everything except the eyes of the law “a daughter.” Living near Mary’s aunt in the country was a young girl called Ella Harrington, who soon became Mary’s best friend. Frank Sullivan was anxious to date Ella, but her Father considered him “very wild.” The only way he could date Ella was to cart Mary along. Frank who had just begun to work in his brother’s general store wanted someone for Mary. So, he introduced Ed to her saying he knew she had to have someone she couldn’t tell what to do.

One of the stories told of Frank’s earliest days in the general store was when a woman who had just come from the East came into the store and tried to buy a pair of hose. Frank didn’t feel that they had garden hose so decided it was a garden implement she needed and as she used the plural, he brought in two. She thought he was being “fresh” and started to curry him when Mr. Latimer explained that his green brother-in-law was not supposed to wait on ladies–and Mr. Latimer brought out hose, such as ladies wore. Now Frank’s sisters usually knitted their stockings and when he saw what the lady wanted Frank blurted out “Why didn’t she say stockings? That is what my sisters wear”. Mr. Latimer told him to go out in the back room and unload egg creates. When he told Ed this story, Ed was so amused at Frank’s mistake that he never got over it.  Often remarked to him “Are you still selling hoes, Frank?” So, Ed met Mary, and at first, it was just an occasional date with Ella and Frank along. Then Ella and Frank got serious, and Mary and Ed sometimes went with them, or with one another, or with someone else.

Ed’s sister, Ella, had friend, Nelle McGee, that Ed dated now and then when his sister Ella dated Guy McGee. When Ed Started to call on Mary at the Latimers, he knew that he would have to let Mrs. Latimer call the shots. She wanted Mary in at a certain hour, wanted her to go to church on Sunday, and to do her visiting at home, not driving around the country after midnight. On the other hand, she was anxious that Mary have refreshments ready when her callers came.

When Guy McGee met Mary, he thought he would like to see her now and then, but as Ed was his friend, he refused to cut in on him and started to date a friend of Mary’s called Lillian Hixon, once of the “Hixon twins.” The four young people often walked to church, then came back to the place where the buggy was left, took a ride and then went back to Latimer’s or to Ms. Hixon’s for an evening of fun. On one occasion one of Guy McGee’s brothers, Irve and another neighborhood boy, decided to come to Masonville with Guy and Ed. Thinking they could ditch them on their arrival, Guy and Ed brought them to Masonville letting them off away from the church. When the four young people came back to the buggy, here were these young men rather the worse for drinking. Ed said once that it was one of the most embarrassing moments of his life when these two young men, uninvited, crowded into the Latimer’s house when Guy and Ed brought the girls there. Miss Hixon was to spend the night so Guy could hardly leave. The drunken young men laughed, mocked the baby’s crying, sang rowdy songs. Guy and Ed begged them to leave. They refused so Ed and Guy left, thinking the idea of walking home would get the sinners outside. Lillian Hixon got one of the young men to go out to get some air, tripped him and he rolled down the step to the walk below. The other one was asleep, so Ed and Guy loaded them in the buggy and took them home. The Latimers were very upset, and Mrs. Latimer talked seriously to Mary about going out with a young man who had such friends.

The next night Ed was back on the doorstep; he told Mary at once that he had not come to see her, but to see Mr. and Mrs. Latimer. He apologized, explaining that as his buggy had been in use that night by his sister, he had used Guy’s and that as Irve was Guy’s brother, he could hardly tell him he couldn’t ride. He had had a date with Mary to go to church and didn’t want to keep her waiting. (Though there were telephones then the only one in Masonville that Mary remembered was in the Latimer store and had a line to the house.) Ed told the Latimers that from then on, he would come alone, and he kept his word. Mrs. Latimer was very impressed and felt that Ed had “done the right thing” and stoutly defended him ever afterward. I recall as a child that Father was as welcome at the Latimer home in Manchester as Mother was.

When Edward began coming alone, he often wrote to tell Mary that he would be up on a Sunday night or to invite her to some party or other. Then he had to be careful to go to Manchester to get the mail himself for if his sister Susie got the letter, she had no scruples about opening it.

Meanwhile, Mary had other callers–a young man, Seymore Reed, asked her to marry him. She had one date with a sophisticated young man from the East, a college man. He walked with a crutch but could dance as well as anyone using the crutch. Mary was very flattered with his attention but thought he would take a considerable amount of education and background before he asked a girl to marry him. Meanwhile, Ed had made up his mind; but would Mary? He often was discouraged during the five years, but finally, when Mary was 23, she said “yes.” He decided he wanted a house rebuilt for her to live in; he wanted to pay for his 40 acres–they decided to wait. Finally, they set a date. Mary could not afford a wedding; Ed had attended so many of his friends’ weddings that he felt that he could not possibly invite all of them. Mary and Ed decided to ask the minister to marry them in the Wesleyan Methodist Church at Masonville, after the church service on a Sunday evening. Ed did not have a new suit. He wanted one, but he wanted to pay for the remodeling of the house. He explained to Mary that he could borrow his Father’s suit for the occasion. Mary had made a very lovely brown grosgrain silk dress for herself, and she was disappointed in Ed’s appearance. They went back to the Latimers and served to the bridal party by Mrs. Latimer.

Because Ed’s house was not finished, he had to take Mary to his parent’s house for six weeks. Ella Cook and Mary were already firm friends and always remained so. It was the teenaged Susie that was the pest. Ed and Mary decided to go down to Coates’s at Delaware to visit Ezra Coates and his wife. Though older than Ed, Ezra and Ed were close friends. Susie bawled and bawled to go. Her parents finally gave in, but Ed wouldn’t; he said he would not have her along to “tell everything she knew.” It was on this occasion that Ezra gave Mary and Ed the little Seth Thomas clock that is still in the family. Mary and Ed wound it year after year.

In those days young people did not discuss sex as they do now. However, Ed and Mary had both come from families of some size. Ed told Mary he did not want children until he could give them the education he had never had and the advantages he had coveted. He recalled how he had taken a “stand” at 16 on the grain binder and had done a man’s work. (As the sheaves of grain came up, he had to tie them.) Neither did he want his wife to be ill the way his mother had been in poor health since the birth of her last child.

So, Mary and Ed began their married life together. They were quite happy during the spring and early summer when Ed stayed at home. Fall came, and the threshing began. Ed had sold his threshing outfit which was operated by horsepower before he was married so that Mary would not be alone. Then his brother Ranford living at Winthrop offered him a job. He couldn’t resist. Ranford had a steam outfit. Driving home after work on Saturday nights and coming back early Monday was no joke. Mary and Ponto, the dog, were left alone in the farmhouse. Mary had never had to stay alone. To be sure Ella had offered to come and stay, or she offered to Mary a chance to stay at her home–but there was Susie. Mary felt she had to milk the cows, tend the chickens, etc. But she resented being left behind, and she missed the Latimers. Once or twice she walked to Masonville. Then Ed began to leave one of the horses for her to drive–but she still hated to be alone.

Once she told the writer of this account, that she was close to “leaving him” before that fall was over. Now and then her sister Rose, who was married living in Manchester would come out to see her. Mary, above all, missed having a sewing machine. How to get one became an ever-present problem to her. She would not tell Ed for he would have told her to go “over to my Mother’s and use hers.”

In the course of that first year, Mary met Ada Carpenter who was the girl who had jilted Malcolm. Mrs. Carpenter happened to mention that she was going to get a new sewing machine and planned to turn in her old one. Mary knew that the old one would do “plain sewing”. She asked Mrs. Carpenter if she could buy the machine. It cost Mary seven dollars. She decided to earn it herself. She let it be known that she would take in sewing. Mrs. Carpenter agreed to let her have the machine and Mary agreed to pay for it as soon as possible. She said that she never missed Ed so after she had her sewing to do.

Mary had two half-sisters, one of whom was still at home. Knowing that her Father hated to give these daughters a penny to spend on their clothes, Mary began to buy their shoes and to make their clothes, buying the material at the Latimer store. Mary said she appreciated the fact that Ed never objected to her spending her money on her sisters. The sisters were grateful, especially the older one who came to regard Ed as an older brother.

As the years passed Ed and Mary rented the place (formerly) owned by Knip and Mary helped Ed husk the corn. They also at one time rented land now owned by Dean Walston that lies between the two roads. Malcolm’s oldest child, four-year-old Anna–came to visit. Mary made her a whole set of clothes to wear to school. Ed told her stories. She adored him and loved Mary. She cried when she had to leave. She loved them both as long as she lived.

One day Ed and his Father decided to sell some pigs (this was before Ed’s marriage). As usual, Susie fussed and bawled to go with Ed to town. To shut her up he said “Yes,” be ready on time or he would go without her. He had the team in the alleyway to the hog house when a hen flew in front of the horses. Susie was ready and was sitting in the high seat in all her finery. The horses started to run. Afraid he could not hold the horses under control and knowing that high seat would make Susie lose her balance, he grabbed her and threw her out. She went through a door and into a hog wallow the ground. Oh, how mad she was–she insisted he did it on purpose so she would have to stay home. Luckily the mud was soft, and she was not hurt, but her dignity was–and for some weeks Ed was left in peace–no requests to accompany him. It was often said in our family in after years “We ought to throw Susie into the pig yard again” when she insisted on undertaking to find out where the family was going.

Frequently Ed talked of his cousins Bing and Rose Barber. They lived in Grand Rapids Michigan and had two or three children–no I think it was four. Mary, Peter, Eulillia, and… I know that they were related to the Collins family who settled at Winthrop and were cousins of Emory Cook’s. So, they were second cousins of Emory’s children. About this time Peter Barber came to visit at Emory’s. He fell deeply in love with Ella who had shouldered the household tasks as Mary Jane became less and less able to carry them. Ella had quit going out as she felt that she could never marry. Then Peter came. She loved him as he did her. Her parents did not oppose to them. They thought that Susie would be old enough now at 20 or thereabouts to take care of the household. Ella asked Peter to wait until she could get her things ready and he agreed. Meanwhile, something was developing out of which came an event which was to change many lives. Next week I will tell you that story.

Meanwhile, Mary’s next older sister, Cora, the pretty curly haired redhead had married a man named John Klinefelter who was very poor. They had three children; they came too close together. Cora, struggling against tuberculosis which had developed early in her life from extreme exposure and lack of care, died when the youngest child was three days old. This sister had been only thirteen months older than Mary and had been her special friend in the family. When she was about seventeen, she had gone to stay with her Aunt Emma Walton Joslin at Anamosa. That is where she met Mr. Klinefelter, who was deeply religious. After Cora married, Mary went to stay at her aunt’s in Anamosa for almost a year to decide if she wanted Ed. While there she dated a nephew of Mr. Joslin and made herself unpopular by making too frank remarks about hypocrites who went to church but were not above gossiping.

Mary was notified of Cora’s impending death. With her sister Kittie, she drove a horse to Anamosa in one day. The money for car fare was hard to come by, and the connections were not good. They got her in time by driving. Mary offered to bring three-day-old Cora home with her, but the offer was declined. Mary had now lost one sister–

About this time, the youngest of Mary’s own sisters, Rose, had moved to Fonda, Iowa, with her two children Robert and Rosebud. They contracted an illness. Rose needed help, but she did what she had always done; she turned to her sisters. Kittie; her half-sister was back at home in Greeley. She had lived with Rose when she was in Manchester. Simultaneously two telegrams were sent, one to Kittie at Greeley, one to Mary at Manchester. “Rose and children seriously ill; come at once; signed Robt. Beswick.” There was no time to write letters back and forth. Mary concluded that if Rob had asked Kittie to help that he would not have telegraphed her; Kittie reasoned similarly. Both took the Illinois Central West, but 12 hours apart. When Mary got there, she heard someone say that Rosebud’s casket was being taken off the train when her baggage was. Nobody seemed to know what was wrong. Rose was ill; so was Robert Junior (he is Dorothy’s Father). The hired girl was the only one who was not sick in bed. Mary stayed to help, but when she started to get ill, she felt that she must get away from that town. She had no idea what was wrong. She said that the people died so fast that the coffins could not be shipped in fast enough to care for them.

So, Mary, ill and disheartened, but knowing that Rose was on the mend took off for Manchester. The trip was one long drawn out agony. When Ed met her he decided she needed a doctor. Manchester’s newest physician was H.A. Dittmer, a graduate of Hahnemann Medical College in Chicago. He was very modern in his diagnosis. He came out to the farm, diagnosed Mary’s disease as Diphtheria and explained that it was contagious. Ed, knowing that Mary’s sisters were not available, undertook to care for Mary himself. Doctor came twice a day. In two weeks, Mary was on the mend, but she had paid a price for the fever she had had. Never again could she have total recall. Her hair came out in handfuls. She was now able to get out of bed.

Then the Doctor decided to fumigate the house. He brought out a canister, liberated the contents, and began to faint. He was wearing a heavy fur coat. The bottle’s contents had been sprayed on the coat and the fumes were overcoming him. Mary ran to him and began to drag at his coat and to push him to the out of doors. He got out of the coat and began to recover. He always said Mary saved his life.

Meanwhile, Ella had been baking and sending the cooking over to Ed’s by her Father when he came to do the chores. By placing the food outside the door and talking through a crack in the door, Doctor said that the disease could not be passed on. Now Ed got ill. Mary was sure she could care for him if his Father could do the chores. But Ed was Emory’s favorite son; he loved him as much as he loved Ella. Ella loved her fiancé very much, but she loved her brother Ed too. Dr. Dittmer looked up one morning, and Ella was in the house standing there. Dr. Dittmer bade her get out as quickly as possible. She said, “I’m staying; if I don’t come in my father will.” When he could not convince her to leave, he put her to work. Ed was very ill, but long before he should have been out of bed, he was helping Mary to care for Ella who contracted the disease all too soon. It was soon apparent that Dr. Dittmer could not save her, and he gave generously of time, medicine and effort.

Ella realized she could never recover and gave Mary her engagement ring to return to Peter and messages for Mary to pass on to him. Her family came to see her through the window, and Mary Jane just could not believe it. So, Ella died.

In those days people with a contagious disease were buried at night without any service. Although Emory was warned, he insisted on going to the cemetery; so did Ed who had barely recovered. So, in darkness, with their great grief almost too great to be expressed, they left her in the cemetery. Mary said in years afterwards she never knew Ed to shed tears but twice–and once was when he came home from the burial of Ella. Mother had loved Ella too. And now Susie began to say that it was all Mary’s fault that she should never have come home with that disease. Never once did Ed blame Mary–if he did so in his heart, he never did it in words– but he could not stand his home, he said to Mary that he could never forget what had happened there–so they decided to sell their home. Then Susie contracted diphtheria from some of her pupils, and Mary Jane took it also. Mary, feeling that she had to take Ella’s place went over to take care of them. She and Emory with the Doctor fought the disease with all they had–Doctor said: “I lost one of their daughters; I can’t lose another.” Emory luckily did not take the disease.

When this was over Ed sold the place and rented a farm near Masonville so that he might broaden out his farming for he had decided he wanted a child. He had Mary question Mrs. Latimer to find out if she was too old to have a first child; so, they prepared for the new arrival.

Written by Luella Ellis Cook

2-Apr 1974

Transcribed by Eric L. Cook

May 2019

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