Posted tagged ‘Mary Augusta Cook’

Picnic at the Polyandrium

July 8, 2010

Last week, my children asked to go on a picnic.  “Sounds like fun,” I replied.  So we packed up a picnic lunch and off we went.

“Where are we going for our picnic, Mom?  Are we going to the playground?” my son asked.  I couldn’t help but snicker.  Which child would be the first to guess our secret picnic location?  It turned out to be my oldest daughter.  As soon as we turned onto Golf Avenue she stated, rather timidly, “We’re going to the cemetery, aren’t we?”  I was surprised it took them so long to figure it out.

“You guessed it!  We’re going to Pittsford Cemetery for our picnic!  Won’t that be fun?”  The lack of an enthusiastic response hinted that perhaps a cemetery wasn’t their idea of a perfect picnic spot.  As we drove around the bend and parked on Maple Avenue beneath the shade of the large trees, their leaves swaying gently in the summer breeze, the kids perked up a little.  My original plan was to picnic by my Cook boys, Nathan and William, who died within weeks of each other in 1862.  However, their graves were in full sun so we settled in the shade just north of the boys, in front of the Knickerbocker plot.

As lunch and drinks were distributed, I told the kids about the time I met my Dad at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery on Lake Avenue and how we lunched at the grave of his Uncle George.  That is one of my favorite memories because Dad really opened up and talked about his family.  In the Victorian era, it was common for people to picnic at cemeteries.  They would stroll the lovely grounds and picnic by their loved ones who had passed on.   It was not considered at all odd or morbid as it seems to most people today.

After lunch was over, we cleaned up and then made the rounds to water the flowers I had planted for Memorial Day.  As the kids fed the flowers, they learned a little about Edwin J. Armstrong of the 33rd New York Infantry and his brother, James, who was a brakeman on the railroad.  The graves of Buckley and Frederica Bacon were next, followed by their son, Lieutenant Colonel Howard R. Bacon, a veteran of both World Wars, and his wife Elisabeth.  I told my children about William & Nathan Cook and their young siblings – Charles, Hannah, Mary Augusta and Ella. 

When we got in the van and started out of the cemetery, a smile lit my face as I heard my little one say, “Bye Nathan.  Bye William!”  These soldiers will be remembered, not only by me but by my children.  Mission accomplished.

Hero Highlight – Nathan Mulford Cook, 6th Co., 1st Battalion Sharpshooters

October 28, 2009
Charles, Hannah, Mary Augusta, Ella, Nathan & William Cook

Charles, Hannah, Mary Augusta, Ella, Nathan & William Cook

As evening fell, the last light of the day illuminated the yellow leaves covering the ground like a shroud.  It was particularly fitting, as I had stopped by Pittsford Cemetery to pay my respects to Nathan Mulford Cook on the 147th anniversary of his death.

Nathan was born in April of 1842.  He was the fourth child, and third boy, in the Cook family.  It seems his parents, Wiliam Henry and Phebe Rose Terbell Cook, came to Pittsford, New York from Suffolk County, New York sometime before 1840.  The 1840 census shows William working as a carpenter in Pittsford, but by 1850 he was a nurseryman. 

 The Cooks had lost four children between the years of 1845 and 1859.  How concerned William and Phebe must have been when two of their three surviving sons, William Jr. and Nathan, came to them with the news that they wished to join the Union forces.  William Jr. decided to enlist in the 4th New York Heavy Artillery.  Nathan would have been happy with that, until the Sharpshooter scouts came to call.  Nathan was one of only a handful of men who qualified for the Sharpshooters.  He had the skill to shoot ten consecutive shots into a ten inch circle from 200 hundred yards away.  Only two Pittsford men had that ability.  The other, George P. Walters, was mustered into the Sharpshooters on the same day as Nathan.  William and Nathan enlisted within days of each other in August, 1862.  Sadly, they would die within weeks of each other in October of the same year.

I always picture Nathan as a good-natured, gangly boy who loved animals and the outdoors.  His military service record states that he stood 5′ 9″ tall, with a light complexion, dark hair and black eyes.  Unfortunately, the record gives little more information than that.  We know that Nathan died in Pittsford.  Did he even leave home before becoming ill?  Did William, who had shipped out with the 4th NY Heavy Artillery, know that Nathan was sick before he himself became ill with and died from typhoid fever on October 3, 1862?

Upon Nathan’s death on October 28, 1862, he was laid to rest in Pittsford Cemetery at his brother William’s side.  Their four young siblings – Mary Augusta (1844-1845), Charles Terbell (1849-1858), Hannah Terbell (1851-1852) and Ella Frances (1859-1859) – lie beside them.  An older sister, named Phebe Elizabeth but known to the family as “Libby”, married Julian Way Geare and bore him two children, William and Minnie.  Phebe died in 1872 at age 35, followed several months later by her infant daughter Minnie.  Her son, William, passed away just four years later.  Mary Star Cook, younger sister to Nathan and William, lived a long life.  She went on to marry Don Quincy Alvord of Perinton, NY.  They moved to Camden, NY where they raised four sons.  Mary passed away at age 85, living well into the 20th century.  She and her husband are buried at Pittsford Cemetery, as are Phebe and her children.

Brother Edward P. Cook is a mystery to me.  Born in 1840, he was two years older than Nathan, and two years younger than William.  The 1860 census lists Edward’s occupation as a teacher.  Subsequent census records do not give me enough information to undeniably confirm Edward’s identity.  I will continue to gather clues in the hopes that someday I will be able to track Edward.

The fates of Nathan and William Cook haunt me.  Two young men, who should have been enjoying the beginnings of their adult lives, were instead lying in the ground.  Illness took them before they could prove themselves on the battlefield.  The Cook family suffered more than their fair share of early deaths.

Hero Highlight – William H. Cook, Battery H, 4th NY Heavy Artillery

October 3, 2009
William H. Cook, Battery H, 4th NY Heavy Artillery

William H. Cook, Battery H, 4th NY Heavy Artillery

I stopped by his grave on this crisp, sunny October day.   Tears fell as I remembered him on the anniversary of his death, for it was on this day, 147 years ago, that William Cook died.

William Henry Cook, Jr., was the second child of William Henry and Phebe Rose Terbell Cook.  They must have been so proud the day he was born.  Already parents to a beautiful little girl, Phebe Elizabeth, William was another wonderful addition to their family.  Little did they know that nearly 24 years later William would be taken from them forever, a victim of typhoid fever contracted just a few months after his enlistment in the 4th New York Heavy Artillery.

After the birth of William in October 1838, another 7 children would be born to the Cook family within a 21 year span.  William was followed by brother Edward, then Nathan, Mary Augusta, Mary Star, Charles, Hannah and Ella.  Sadly, four of these children died in infancy.  Maps of the time show the Cook land south of today’s Monroe Avenue near the intersection of current-day Sutherland Street.  Father William worked as a nurseryman and by 1860, William and brother Nathan were working as farm laborers. 

The Civil War must have seemed exciting to two young men who had probably not traveled very far from Pittsford.  Did William discuss his decision to join the Union Army with anyone?  How long did it take him to enlist once his mind was set to go?  We will probably never know the answer to these questions.  What we do know is that William enlisted in Battery C of the 4th New York Heavy Artillery on August 14, 1862.  Brother Nathan, four years younger than William, was selected to join the 1st Battalion of Sharpshooters after his enlistment on August 21.  And with kisses and tears from their family, the boys set off on their journeys.

William is mentioned in George Wiltsie’s wartime diary.  William and George were both in Battery C, but were asked to transfer to Battery H just one month after enlistment.  This they did, but the transition was barely completed before both young men fell ill with typhoid fever soon after arriving at Fort Pennsylvania.  George B. Wiltsie recovered, but William Cook died of the disease at Fort Ethan Allen on October 3, 1862.  If he had lived just one more week, William would have celebrated his 24th birthday.

I stopped by his grave on this crisp, sunny October day.  A beautiful day to remember a soldier who is forever young.


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