Posted tagged ‘Nathan Cook’

History Through the Eyes of a Five Year Old

April 4, 2011

“Do you like being a historian?” asked a five-year old at the local elementary school.  “It’s the best job ever!” I replied with a smile. 

After being asked to speak to the Kindergarten class at a local elementary school about my profession, I became nervous.  How does one explain the job of an historian in language that a young child could understand?  I couldn’t tell them about Charles Tillotson being wounded in the head during his first battle, Antietam, or how Charles lingered three days before succumbing to the inevitable conclusion of his life.  I didn’t want to frighten the children by telling them how sharpshooter Nathan Cook and his brother, William, died within weeks of each other, killed by disease.  When I told them I researched soldiers, would they ask difficult questions that I wouldn’t want to answer for fear of overwhelming them?

“Hello, boys and girls.  I’m here to tell you about my job.  I am an historian.  Can you say historian?  When you say historian, do you hear another word in there?  HISTORY-an.”  I told them my job was to research people and places and tell their stories so the history would be kept alive forever, and that I especially loved researching the history where we lived. 

We talked about James Chamberlin, who was a trooper with the 3rd New York Cavalry.  Did they know the cavalry was composed of the soldiers who got to ride horses?  The Chamberlin Rubber Co. was started after the war by James Chamberlin, who saw many soldiers become sick after being in the wet and cold.  What would the Chamberlin Rubber Co. have made to keep the soldiers dry?  Raincoats!

Kingsley Brownell was a trooper with the 21st New York Cavalry.  He rode a horse, too.  Kingsley was so strong he could lift a bucket full of water over his head.  They were quite impressed with Kingsley’s accomplishment.

“Who goes to Ben & Jerry’s for ice cream?  If you look down the street when you are at Ben & Jerry’s, you can see the Wiltsie Building.”  After showing them a postcard of the Wiltsie Building, I produced a photo of George B. Wiltsie and his comrades.

John Buckley Bacon was called Buckley by his family.  He came here after the Civil War and started a family.  His son, Howard, was a soldier in two wars – World War I and World War II!  “Someday I’m going to be a soldier, and I’ll be in World War I,” said a determined little boy.  Another boy, not to be outdone, stated “My Grandpa was in the Civil War!”

“Who puts gasoline in their cars?”  The children were very excited to see the Vacuum Oil Co. truck, and I told them about Matthew Ewing the inventor and how years later his Vacuum Oil Company became Exxon Mobil.  “My mom works at Shell Oil,” volunteered one little person.  “Hey, that truck is a bank!  I have a bank,” another child piped up.  Then I showed them my 1911 Rochester G.A.R. Encampment souvenir medal, and we talked about it being 100 years old.  “My mom was born in 1972 and she’s still alive.”  I couldn’t help but snicker at that, as did the teacher.

At the end, I held up a painting of the Erie Canal done by my friend, talented artist Rusty Likly.  The kids immediately recognized the landscape, and a discussion ensued about the other buildings they knew along the canal.  The questions came fast and furious.  “Do you use your computer a lot to learn about history?”  “Do you work with someone else?” 

Not once did a child ask if anyone got killed, or ask any other difficult questions.  They were simply excited to hear about our local history and hometown heroes.  My favorite question, however, was asked by a young boy who had been relatively quiet during the entire session.  “Do you like being a historian?”  “It’s the best job ever!” I replied with a smile.

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 – 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.

Pittsford Cemetery Civil War Tour

May 16, 2009
Sergeant John Buckley Bacon, 4th Wisconsin Cavalry

Sergeant John Buckley Bacon, 4th Wisconsin Cavalry

Thank you to everyone who attended our first Civil War Soldiers of Pittsford tour at Pittsford Cemetery this morning! It was an indescribable feeling for me to be able to illuminate the stories of these soldiers, many of which have never been told before.

We began the tour with LaFayette Congdon, then discussed Major Harvey E. Light and his brother-in-law  Theodore Shepard.  After moving down the hill, the Ambrose boys – Robert, Richard, Frederick and Edward – were next, the highlight being Richard’s stint in the Dry Tortugas.  Heading back up the incline, we stopped by the grave of Matthew P. Ewing, founder of the Vacuum Oil Company which many years later morphed into Exxon-Mobil.  James R. Chamberlin, owner of Chamberlin Rubber Company, was our next soldier, followed by John B. Bacon of the 4th Wisconsin Cavalry.  From JB Bacon, we headed east to Nathan and William Cook to discuss their heartbreaking stories.  George B. Wiltsie was mentioned after the Cook boys.  Charles Tillotson and his death at Antietam came next.  From there, we continued heading east, past the grave of Matthias L. Lord, assistant surgeon of the 140th NY, and on to Kingsley Brownell.  Our tour concluded with John H. Thurmon, the Confederate soldier from Missouri.  Sadly, we were not able to visit the graves of Frank D. Tibbitts or Jeffrey N. Birdsall, as planned, due to the rain.

I really appreciate the fact that so many of you stayed out in the rain to hear the stories of these men’s lives.  Your questions and comments made the experience fun for the entire group.  Your feedback is greatly appreciated!  Please feel free to leave a comment or email me directly at vprofitt@rochester.rr.com.

Check back here in the future for information about upcoming cemetery tours and presentations highlighting more of Pittsford’s hometown heroes!

During the tour we briefly discussed Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was sentenced to imprisonment at Fort Jefferson on the Dry Tortugas for his alleged part in the Lincoln conspiracy.  The name of the movie starring Dennis Weaver is The Ordeal of Dr. Mudd, which was a TV movie from 1980.  The DVD is not available through Blockbuster or through the Monroe County library system, but it is listed for sale on Amazon.com.


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