Cook Stories 12
When Edward W. Cook and Mary J. Ellis were married in the Methodist Church in Masonville, January 13, 1886, after church service one Sunday evening, they had no invited guests. Mary was 25, Ed was 28. Mary had run away from her home in Greeley when she was 16. She had been very unhappy because she had no trade and very poor education. Her Aunt Eliza Walton Sullivan persuaded Mary to let her talk to Mary’s father to see if he would help. He said he would pay for Mary’s tools and training, but she would have to work for her board. Then aunt Eliza persuaded her sister-in-law, Jane Sullivan Latimer, to make Mary an apprentice to learn to be a seamstress. Jane’s husband kept a general store in Masonville. Jane was also practical nurse-midwife, so was often out on baby cases. As she had four children, she told Mary she could work for her board and room. Mary finished her year of training. The Latimer’s liked her so well that they asked her to stay on “as a daughter.” She lived with them for seven years and became a part of the life of fun and social events, Masonville. Ed Cook had come to Iowa with his parents from New York in 1869 just before he was 11. He had two brothers and two sisters.
The reason Ed and Mary had the kind of wedding they had was because Mary’s family could not have been very interested. Ed’s family stayed away because Ed had to borrow his father’s good suit to get married in. The material for Mary’s dress came from the Latimer store, and she made it herself.
Ed and Mary had been engaged for two years, will and Ed had bought 40 acres of land and remodeled the house before he would take Mary there to live.
Ed and Mary had agreed not to have children until they could give them good educations and a good home life. When they decided to have a family in 1892, Ed sold the farm, rented a large place, and had two years of crop failure and poor prices. Because of Mary’s age, the delivery of her first child was accomplished only because of quick action on the part of their very modern Chicago trained doctor. Ed decided that even if he wanted a son that he would not ask Mary to risk her life again.
About three years later, Mary found out she was pregnant again. By this time, Ed had moved his family to a farm owned by Irving McGee (Mike McKee’s father). It was located east of Masonville Grange Hall on the north side of the road. The McGee’s and Ed’s parents Emory and Mary Jane Benson Cook were their closest neighbors.
When it was about time for the new baby to be born, Ed was operating a steam thresher outfit south of Manchester. He had a hired man James Nelson who had been with family since 1893. Mary’s sister Belle and her daughter came to visit. Mary’s sister Ella Ellis came to help, and so Ed told Jim to ride like hell for Dr. Dittmer as soon Mrs. Latimer, Mary’s foster mother, told him to and to try to get word to him (Ed, I mean).
There was no time to get word to Ed. The new baby, a boy, arrived with speed October 21, 1895, and began to assert his charm from birth. When Ed was on the street in Manchester, he heard he had a son, and so he came home as soon as he could. The newspaper said there was a “new son in the Edward Cook home.”
Ed was delighted and decided to give his son the things he had had to do without.
Howard’s picture taken at three months shows him as a blonde with a charming, mischievous smile. He was never quiet. He soon wore out his long dresses— just kicked his way through them. He began walking at nine months and was never quiet after that. Mary said, “he didn’t walk, he ran,” and how he could run.
Ed and Mary’s brother Peter Ellis thought the kid needed men’s clothes. So, when he was six months, they bought him the smallest pair of overalls and shirt they could find. They sneaked in and put them on him. They had to roll up the pants and sleeves but were happy to have made a boy out of him.
To name him was a problem. Ed and Mary disliked nicknames so wanted a name that could not be shortened. Lots of names were suggested. Finally, Ed’s sister Susan (she later became Walter Hillier’s wife) suggested Howard. It was the family name of the man who had married Ed’s, Aunt Margaret. Then Susie added Leroy for an uncle of Ed’s. His name was Leroy Thompson and he married Ed’s Aunt Martha. The GAR, our chapter in New London, Ohio, was named for him. So, Howard LeRoy Cook never had his name shortened.
At 18 months old, Howard scared Mary half to death by climbing the 30-foot wooden tower of the windmill. Mary was afraid to climb, but when she heard his voice above her, saying, “Iz up here.” She never hesitated. She went up, put him under one arm and came down. On reaching the ground, her first act was to knock off the first two steps leading up the ladder. Then she sat down and shook all over. Howard just grinned. He told me years later, it was his first memory.
That same summer, he decided to go exploring. Taking a large wooden pail, he started across lots to his Cook grandparents. They lived in the only house on the North/South Road between the Brick School and Coffins Creek. Mary missed him. So, she took after him. She took a switch, and he had to come home, but it did not matter to him. He watched his chance and took off toward the Brick School.
At about four or five months, he broke his collarbone. No one knew how. I often wondered when it pained him later if it grew right—it was set, but he would not be quiet.
His sister talked at nine months, but Howard could not be bothered. He got what he wanted anyhow. He was four before people could understand what he said though he had begun to talk at about one- and one-half years.
He was a great favorite of Aunt Sue’s—the one who named him. She often babysat with him. She was a schoolteacher and could tell lots of stories. She took lots of pictures. We have one of Howard at three feeding her ducks. Howard liked those ducks. Mary was proud of her son and made him suits with knee pants and sailor collars. Aunt Sue named her son for him.
As Howard grew older, his resemblance to his grandmother Cook became very evident. He had her high for head, blue eyes – blonde hair, and was tall. He had a Cousin Ralph Cook looked very much like him. I have pictures of them taken at 10 years of age. You can hardly tell the difference.
Howard had a cousin, Helen Cook, who was his age. She was Uncle Ranford’s daughter. Her parents left her and her brother Blaine, Luella’s age, with us. Helen and Howard were bound to have Blaine and Luella’s toys, so they took a wagon, loaded the toys, and went deep into the cornfield to hide and play. Helen and Howard couldn’t see us, so` they tried to follow, got lost, and Helen cried. Howard just kept looking. Luckily the parents of Blaine and Helen came before Howard got lost.
After his sister started to school in the spring of 1898, Howard followed men everywhere. They fished him out of the pig wallows, pens of old sows in the calf pens. It did not bother him. He just got up, and unless they carried him to the house to be cleaned up, his mother could only get him at mealtime.
Written by Luella Ellis Cook
Transcribed by Eric L. Cook