Chino, California

May 20, 1941

Gertrude and Bruce,

Dear Cousins:

Your letter reached my May 10 and I thought I should start to answer it the same day and here it is the 20th, but I have a little more to write which may be better.

First, I will tell you what I know about Uncle Erastus. First when he was at our house and we had custard pie he always insisted that he was entitled to two pieces of my motherís custard pie. Sometimes when Aunt Harriet, Uncle Holden, or others were there, they used to get to telling about early times. These always interested me and I will write what I remember as some of them are good enough to be passed on.

Once when he was rather small someone remarked in his hearing that a good deal of money was being made cutting coat. Soon after, the men were chopping and had laid their coast on logs. When discovered, Uncle Erastus had found an ax and was doing a good job of cutting coats. In those days most of the clothing was homespun. After the wool was spun, it may have been sent to Mount Upton or some other mill to be made into cloth or woven at home and sent away to be processed and then some traveling tailor go from house to house to make it up. The remark about cutting coats may have referred to those tailors. I have heard that when the Civil War broke out he raised a company and took it to war, he being its Colonel. Then he resigned and came home, something the men could not do. He studied law with Levi C. Chatfield, I think in Laurens. Chatfield died in New York City, I think in the 80ís when he was considered the greatest criminal lawyer in the state. It was said his father complained that he could set Erastus to work at something and the next he saw of him he found him somewhere in a book.

In those days it was common to carry cider to the field and sometimes this cider was older than it should have been. Once when Uncle Erastus was small he was out in the field and got too much of this hard cider. Aunt Emeline was sent to the house with him. On the way he said, "Emeline, the ground keeps coming right up to my face."

When May and I were east in 1920, we went to from Oneonta to New York August 12, and a day or two later, called on Uncle Erastusí son, Willie, at his law office and he took us to Faunceís Tavern for lunch. Faunceís Tavern is where Washington took leave of his officers after the Revolution. It is run in memory of this meeting. It is wrong to call it a hotel or anything but a tavern. The man who took our hats wore Continental livery. The lunch was not enough to hurt anyone but it cost him about $7 for the three of us Ė lobster, hard rolls and coffee.

I told him about the pictures as your mother asked me to. I could see that he was afraid that they would not have much value as art so I am very glad they have gone where they will be appreciated. I went across under the East River to call on a sister of Willieís, who had some kind of position in an orphan asylum, and had a good visit with her. I do not remember her name. Her hair was gray. She said it had been red and that she had taught art in St. Louis. She said while Uncle Erastus was alive they had a big house and it was full of servants but when he died everything stopped. Willie Cook said no man of our Cook family had lived to be 70. He was 68 and hope he would break the record. I have never learned whether he did or not. Elisha died January 28, 1920. He would have been 79 the next March. I did not explain this to Willie, as it would have left him without much to live for by destroying his main ambition. His younger brother, Charles, died in Kansas City the same day Elisha died. When we were there, Willieís son Howard Holden Cook was to be married in a few days to a teacher in Boulder, Colorado. (Howard Holden Cook was born August 11, 1890, and was married on August 31, 1920 to Florence Helen Kluss. He was an osteopathic physician.) His mother had already gone and Willie was getting his work in shape to leave. One of my neighbors had moved to Boulder. I wrote to him and he sent me the paper with the account of the wedding. This said they would take an automobile trip through New England and then settle at Dover, New Jersey, where he would be an osteopath. This was 21 years ago so he may not be there now. (William G. Cook also had a daughter, Katharine F. who was born May 19, 1884, and in 1909 was married Charles R. Perry.) (The sister in Brooklyn was Helen. She was born in 1862.)

In 1873, when Willie was 21, he spent most of the summer at our house with his sister May, 15, who was threatened with consumption. He was do green about country life that he furnished some rich entertainment for all. One morning Willie and Daphnea started on a trip, I think to Cyrus Huntís and they had a horse and buggy that belonged to Daphneaís grandfather Andrews. As he was trying to get under way, Uncle Holden called after them and told them when they got to West Oneonta, Ĺ mile, they had better put the horse in the livery barn and walk back and stay the first night.

I see your account says Uncle Erastusí wife was a descendant of someone on the Mayflower, seeming to leave Uncle Erastus out. I have always understood that we are descended from the Francis Cook who was on the Mayflower. When Uncle Erastus died, his obituary said he was a lineal descendant of this Cook. I talked with Willie about this. He said he visited in homes where a certificate hung on the wall showing that that family was descended from the Mayflower. He said he could get the same but it cost $5 and he had never thought it worth it.

In 1885, when Elisha was at our house in Nebraska, he went to Kearney one day. A stranger, I think from Wisconsin, came to him and asked him his name. He said, "Cook", and then he wanted to know what race of Cooks. Elisha told him he had always understood he was descended from one of three brothers who came to this country about 200 years ago. (Of course it would be 320 years ago now.) The other man said he was descended from one of the same three brothers and could pick one out anytime. I knew a lawyer in Nebraska, H. L. Cook, who told me he was descended from one of the same three brothers named James, who came to America in 1636. He was a Quaker and talked it. He told me that he married a Nebraska girl who was a Presbyterian. After they were married she told him that now they were married she planned to join his church and attend services with him. As there was no Quaker church within 500 miles, he said all he could do was to return the compliment so he became a Presbyterian.

Uncle Erastus was a Republican. In 1872, when Grant and Greeley were presidential candidates, some of the New York Republicans, Uncle Erastus among them had a falling out with their party and supported Greeley. They wore what were called Greeley hats; very light colored stovepipe hats with a broad black band. Uncle Erastus wore one when he came to our house that year.

Cities were more corrupt than small towns and the country. The older a political party is the more corrupt it is, being the strongest in the cities. The Republican Party being relatively young in 1880, the Democratic Party was much stronger in New York and Brooklyn. This year, A. B. Cornell, a Republican, was governor of New York. The Legislature passed a law increasing the number of judges of the Supreme Court in Brooklyn. I suppose this was not the State Supreme Court but a city court. Passing this law caused one or more vacancies which the Governor filled by appointment. He appointed Uncle Erastus to fill this vacancy (if there was only one.) No matter how long the term was, an appointed officer could hold only till the next election which may have been only one year. When election time came he was nominated and ran far ahead of his ticket but failed to overcome the big Democratic majority. This, if nothing else, entitles him to be known as Justice Cook. The salary was $10,000 a year.

Now a few things about Grandfather Holden Cook. I have always heard that he practiced law some, but was never admitted to the bar. I supposed he only helped a neighbor at times, but when I was there in 1920, Luman Brownson told me that the last years of his life he went to Oneonta every day to practice.

In 1877, I worked in haying for Bill Baldwin for $14 a month and could have stayed till I was 21 for a suit of clothes and a horse. I was 14 then which would have meant about 5 Ĺ yearsí work. I did not accept but was teaching school before I was 18 and before I was 21 had earned over $800 besides a lot of work done at home. Norman Ellis was just finishing such a term. Bill Baldwin told me of attending a lawsuit where Grandfather was one of the lawyers. He said Grandfather was barefooted and I suppose wore homespun. The other lawyer named Bentley was quite a dandy, wore store clothes with boots as black and shiny as they could be made. They worked along till noon and adjournment, when grandfather walked up to Bentley and said; "Now we lawyers will go to dinner."

In those days people were imprisoned for debt as well as for other things and at times Grandfather served as constable so made some of those arrests. When an officer went to a manís house to arrest him, if he found the door open or someone opened it for him he could go in and get his man, but he could not open it himself.

Once a shoemaker who had a shop in his house was to be arrested. Grandfather went early and hid as near as he could get to the door. Soon the manís wife came out leaving the door open and went to the wood yard and began scraping up chips to start the fire. When Grandfather thought the right time had come he made a run for the door. The woman saw him and did some running herself. She got there first and slammed the door but his foot was in the door so he got in. The shoemaker was upstairs where he had his outfit. He called down that anyone who tried to come up those stairs would think it was the last rain from Heaven. Grandfather went up the stairs and nothing happened except to the shoemaker.

At another time he took someone with him, I suppose one of his boys with a horse and something to ride in, these being left out of sight with instructions to keep watch and if he saw Grandfather take his hat off and seem to be looking in it for papers, to drive to where he was talking to the man. About the only value this story has is to show that he was in the habit of carrying legal papers in his hat, as I do not remember anymore of it.

Then there was a young hoodlum named Jerry who was due to be arrested and who made many threats and was considered a dangerous outlaw. Several officers were given the job but were careful not to locate Jerry. Finally the papers were turned over to Grandfather. Soon after came General Training Day when all the men were there, including grandfather and Jerry. Along one side of the field was a stone wall with a plank lying on it. Jerry, carrying a big club, got up on the plank and paraded back and forth. Grandfather got up on the plank and walked till he met Jerry, when he said, "Jerry, I suppose I shall have to arrest you. Jerry raised his club over his head, let it drop behind his back and this is where the story always ended.

A week ago Sunday, we went to Pasadena where we found Mr. and Mrs. Muzzy at home and had a very good visit with them. He holds some kind of an inspection job with the city. She had two children and one brother. This brother, whose name is Stickle of course, has five children. He was a Colonel in the army, but resigned and retired. When things began to go wrong he was recalled and stationed in Boston where he was [in] charge of the first defense area which includes all New England with especial attention to its coastline. You may see something about him and will know that he is related.

The Cooks went from Plymouth Rock to Rhode Island, possibly following Roger Williams as they seem to be mostly Baptists and from there came to Otsego County. I think the first one was Robert Cook. There have (SIC) been many of that name since. There were Robert, Uncle Robert, Old Uncle Robert, and I donít know how many more. There seemed to be a way of saying Uncle Robert that to the initiated told just which Uncle Robert was meant.

I never learned this. One, perhaps the first one, lived one-half mile north of West Oneonta where my father died. This story is told about him. He and an Indian went hunting together. The Indian came back first. Aunt, I donít remember her name, [Dinah Greene], was sitting in a rocking chair. The Indian drew his butcher knife across her throat telling her he was going to kill her. He kept this up till a wagon coming along the road scared him away. Sometime later, Uncle Robert got home and hung his gun up. When he learned what had happened, he took his gun down and walked out. Two or three days later he returned, hung his gun up and went on with his work as though nothing had happened. He never mentioned the Indian again and the Indian was never seen again. We are entitled to the suspicion that there was no Indian to talk about.

Uncle Samuel and Uncle Erastus wrote it Cooke. When people wanted to know about the change I have explained that whenever a branch of the family becomes aristocratic the "e" is added. I hope none of my family ever develops in this direction.

There were three families of Cooks: Robert S., Holden, my grandfather, and Rice. I think they came in this order, and that the wife died first but am not certain. This makes the story read this way: A man named Cook [was married] {These few words are garbled and unreadable}. One of the children was Robert S. The wife died and the man married again. Holden was one of this family. Then the man died and the [second] wife married another man named Cook, and Rice was their child. It is clear that if the above is right, Holden was a half-brother to both Robert S. and Rice, which I think is correct, while Robert S. and Rice may or may not be related. I am inclined to think my order of the three families is correct as Rice Cook was very odd, which does not seem to apply to the other two families. It was said that when Rice made a Sunday visit to one of his neighbors, he took his cattle along and turned them out in the neighborís pasture where he could see they did not break out. Of course he would not think of the free feed. He used to work oxen. Once he was going up hill picking up pumpkins in a wagon when the hind end board went out and the pumpkins went down the hill lodging along the way. He turned around and started down the hill picking up the pumpkins. Before he got to the bottom, the front-end board went out and the load was lost again.

He used a long tongue and on the end of this tongue he stuck a pumpkin just out of reach of the oxen to give them something to work for.

Uncle Isaac Northrup used to tell of a Phineas Cook who used to work a bull and jackass yoked together. I do not know whether he was related to us or not but he should have been a brother to Rice. Uncle Riceís wife, Aunt Lucretia, was said to be Irish. In those days anyone not pure Yankee was considered a curiosity. I remember her as rather small and very wrinkled. She lived with Bill Rice Cook just north of the Cook burying ground. I think she died at her daughter, Ardele Tobeyís, somewhere Morris way. After she died it was said Bill Rice took her in the cutter with him and drove home saying, "Mother and I are raking our last ride together."

Bill Rice used to come to our house to see my father about something but never to visit. Ardele married Zach Tobey. I never saw him. She visited at our house a few times. She was large, wore curls and had an accordion, which she played while she sang. It never occurred to me that the performance could be classed as music. When Elisha was home once, he told of meeting her in a crowd, I think at a fair. She said, "Elisha, I hope to meet you in Heaven!" He replied, "I hope you do." and kept going. Once she wanted to go to the fair, probably at Cooperstown. Zach was opposed. They finally settled it to go she to pay her own expense. On the way, they stopped at a roadside trough to water the horse. Ardele got out to uncheck the horse. Sometime later, too late to go back, she discovered that her pocketbook was missing. On the way home, at the water trough, Ardele got out and looked around a little and found her pocketbook. The brain that studied this out must be related to the brain that took the cows visiting.

There was a Seth Cook who I think was a brother to Bill Rice and Ardele. I saw an item in the paper once that said he lived in eastern Pennsylvania was nearly a hundred years old and was quite active.

About 1877 or a little later, Harve Keyes, a lawyer, I think, of Oneonta wrote a little pamphlet that was said to have netted him $2,000. It was called Mayall, the wild hunter of Adaca. Mayall was the first settler in that territory and was located north of Laurens on what at the time I read the book was known as the Powell place. I have wanted my children to read this but have failed to locate it. I read it at Uncle Isaac Northrupís. It is full of good Indian stories and should be a valuable addition to that collection in Cooperstown. If any are found I should like five. It should pay for reprinting. Almost anyone who went to see the exhibit would buy one.

We had a large kitchen in 1873 and Uncle Holdenís bed was in the kitchen. Think of sending a girl threatened with consumption to a place like this with two men sick in it. It is clear that the world is making some progress.

Now what I know about Uncle Holden. His first wife was a Hilsinger. He thought his second wife tried to poison him. He had one son named Holden whom we called Jack. I do not know whether he had any more children. They were both in the Civil War. After the war, Holden, Jr. stayed in the Army till he had served seven years. Later he became blind and I heard drew a pension of $72 a month, which seemed like a fortune to me. At this time, Uncle Samuel, Uncle Holden, and Jack lived at Anamosa, Iowa. The next time I heard, Jack lived in Kansas and had two boys who served as pages in the Kansas Legislature. Then they were in southern California, I thought in Pasadena, but Mrs. Muzzy says there were three boys and they were in Los Angeles. She used to visit them. The best one, William, died. One of the women was a drug addict. Then one of the boys got the habit so she lost interest in them and does not know where they are.

My fatherís twin sister, Nancy, married Rufus Mulkins and lived in Steuben County. I remember her visiting us once. She was tall and slimmer than her sisters. I think she had three girls. One of them with her husband visited us once. He worked in a shoe factory. It had never occurred to him that there is anything in the world that he did not know.

Aunt Sally Weaver, I think, was the oldest child. She died about the time I was born so I do not remember her. Grandmother Cook died at about the same time and each was said to have died because she went to care for the other when sick, which is probably correct.

There was another girl who was younger and small. The house had a passageway or hall that was dark. Aunt Sally was carrying a kettle of hot water through this dark hall when the little girl ran under the kettle tipping it over on herself, scalding her to death. Her name was Dimmis.

You ask if I know Frank Rous. I did and went to school with him. When we lived above the tollgate he was at our house. Daphnea asked him how old he was. He replied, "Twelve going on eleven." About this time, among our milk cows we had an old gentle cow. We boys each had a wooden milk pail that held a quart or less. At milking time we all three gathered around her with our pails and milked and drank. Frank was there once while this was going on. He told me it would kill me to drink milk that way and it scared me so that by the time I learned better; I did not like milk as a drink. I have always used plenty of milk but I donít think I have ever drinked (SIC) any clear milk. Mr. Rous had a sawmill up the road from his house on the same side of the road and another house near the mill. Your parents lived in this house when they were first married. Across on the West Side of the road was a small blacksmith shop. One day Mr. Rous was working in the shop and Frank and I were (SIC) there. Mr. Rous cut a piece of red-hot iron off and it fell on the dirt floor. I had not seen anything like this before so I said, "See what your pa cut off!" and ran for it. They both tried to stop me but I got it. I must have been five or six years old when these things happened. When working I am apt to have my hands pretty well skinned but I did not need another lesson on hot iron.

When I was there in 1920, May and I took Frank Potterís horse and buggy and drove up that way. Hattie Rous Green lived on the home place then. We drove in. She was upstairs sick. She came to the window and visited a little. Was it Mary Day Cookís boy, Robert who bought Frank Potterís farm? Do you know what he paid? Did he sell your old place? Some time in the early days, Uncle Samuel Cook was Surrogate of Otsego County. He was never admitted to the bar but it was said that many people went to him for legal advice saying they considered his advice better than that of the lawyers.

Your granddaughter or yourself, if you are in Cooperstown, should have no trouble in seeing some of the records he made by calling at the office. It would be his own work as in those days the officer did the work instead of having two or three rooms full of helpers and each of them several machines to work with. Samuel Cook had a girl who married Gould P. Dietz and lived in Oneonta till they moved to Anamosa, Iowa and later to Omaha, Nebraska, where Aunt Harriet Cook lived with them. There were three Dietz boys, Charles N., Frank and Gould. C. N. became a millionaire dealing in lumber and coal. Frank used to run a lumberyard for C. N. but did not seem to run to money. I donít know whether Gould had any interests besides with C. N. but he seems to have plenty of money, goes around the world, etc. He has been married twice. Frank had several girls. C. N. and Gould have no children. For a good many years, Gould was a delegate to the Republican National Convention. When Charles G. Dawes was nominated for Vice President I think in 1924, Gould and Frank Woods, a delegate from Lincoln, Nebraska, were credited with securing his nomination. May and I called at C. N.ís in Omaha and saw C. N. and his wife, Frank and their mother. I have not seen Gould since he and his mother visited at our house in 1873. He was five years old then. There was at least one Dietz girl, Leonora. She married a man named Stickney and lived in St. Paul or Minneapolis.

It seems to me that the Historical Society should cooperate with the Descendants of the Mayflower and the Daughters of the Revolution and if they are organized in Otsego County perhaps all should office in the same building. The society should be able to collect many pioneer stories. Those with the one I have written and the Keyes book should make a valuable and very profitable book if printed and kept on sale at the office. My five children are interested on how they stand on the Mayflower and the Revolution questions. If the book idea has not occurred to the society, it should be worth enough to them so they will furnish the children with the necessary certificates without cost.

Yours truly,

C. Allen Cook

Genealogical Data for Clothier Allen Cook may be found at:

Compiled by Gary O. Green
As of: 19 February 2004