OVERVIEW HISTORY OF PHINEAS WOLCOTT COOK
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By Eva Covey Madsen
Phineas Wolcott Cook, my maternal grandfather, was born August 28, 1819 in Goshen, Litchfield County, Conn., the son of Phineas Cook and Irene Churchill. Be was the sixth of seven children. He was born on the same farm where his father was born on November 12, 1786 and where his parents still made their home. His grandfather, Daniel Cook, had bought this property after the Revolutionary War.
Grandfather's mother, Irene Churchill, was born February 14, 1786 at Woodbury, Litchfield County, Conn., the daughter of Jonathan Churchill and Sarah Burgess. The seven children of Phineas Cook and Irene Churchill follow in order of their births: Betsey, Daniel, Eliza, Darius Burgess, Mary Ann, Phineas Wolcott and Harriet Elizabeth.
Phineas Wolcott Cook was a Connecticut Yankee in the truest sense. His ancestors for six generations were born in New England. The earliest of whom I have record, was Henry Cook born in the early 1600's in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Phineas Wolcott's grandfather, Daniel Cook, enlisted with the Revolutionary forces at sixteen years of age and fought until the war was over, approximately seven years. After he returned from the war he was never well and he died at the early age of forty-nine years. His widow, Elizabeth Porter Cook later married a man named Peters and moved to Bloomfield, New York where she died in 1834.
Grandfather's education was very limited. When he was ten years old he did half a man's work in spring and summer and in fall and winter, when it wasn't too cold and snowy, he went to school. Many times it snowed two to three feet in one night and when this happened, there was no school. The families spent the day digging out. Grandfather continued in school only through the fourth grade. Few children in the area went further. However, he didn't stop learning, he continued to be self-taught. In a practical way, he learned many things from his father for he was taught to work. He learned how to farm the land, how to take care of animals, to get out timber
from the woods, to build houses and how to build gristmills, carding mills
and sawmills. He also learned a great deal about the machinery used in these
mills; how to install it and use it. When he was fifteen, he lived with August
Mory for a year where he learned the carpenter's trade.
In 1837 his family moved to Gull Prarie, Richland Township, Michigan which was ten miles north of Kalamazoo. Here his family made their new home. Grandfather worked part of the time for his father on the farm and part of the time he hired out to work at Gull Mills making furniture and learning cabinetmaking. He worked at fanning for a man by the name of Henry Howland, for three months; and while he worked there he became engaged to Mr. Howland's daughter, Ann Eliza. After a two year engagement, they were married on January 1, 1840.
Phineas Wolcott and Ann Eliza became the parents of a very large family, sixteen children in all, eight of whom died in infancy or while still young children. There were seven boys and nine girls, three of the children were born in Michigan, two were born at Winter Quarters and eleven were born after they came West with the Pioneers in Utah and Idaho.
Grandfather was always a student of the Bible and very much interested in religion. He had the reputation, among his friends, that he could argue anyone down when it came to a discussion on the Bible. While he was still a young man he had a very severe case of augue and very nearly died. He had, what he believed to be, a miraculous healing and at that time promised that he would serve God, if he could determine which was the right church. He had attended the Methodist Church hoping it was the right one, but he never felt "converted" even though he occupied the "anxious seat" more than once. Early in 1844 he heard that his older sister, Eliza, had joined the Mormons. His attitude toward the Mormons at this point was surely not favorable because he said she must have gone crazy.
In December of 1844 the family was invited to a Mormon meeting at the school house nearby, but grandfather refused to go because he was tired of sectarianism. When his mother and father and Ann Eliza came home from the meeting
they were very favorably impressed and. tried so hard to persuade him to go
to the meeting set for the next week, that in exasperation, he finally agreed to
go for argument's sake.
At the meeting he had a writing book, pencil and candle, so he could see to write, sat where he could "see the preacher fair in the face" determined to "put down eror". After speaking two and a half hours, the missionary, David Savage, gave his listeners opportunity to speak and everyone looked to grandfather, but he had nothing to say. He was satisfied for he knew what he said was true. However, he had not yet heard enough to be convinced that Joseph Smith was a prophet. He attended the next meeting, as before, with book, pencil and candle, but about half way through he dropped his pencil and sat in wrapped attention and from that time on never doubted the truth of the Prophet's mission.
His sister, Eliza, gratefully heard of his interest in Mormonism and sent him all the books and papers she had, and he began to read so steadily, at every free moment, that his parents became antagonistic and he finally could not read in their presence. After that he would wait for his parents to go to sleep and then he would light the candle in his bedroom and read from midnight to three o'clock in the morning. At this time he was harrowing a long field preparing it for planting wheat. The weather was hot and each time around it, he had to rest his oxen. Near the stopping place there was a hollow stump and in this stump he hid his book and while the oxen rested, he read the Book of Mormon and the Voice of Warning and no one knew of it.
In June of 1844 the missionaries were called home in consequence of the death of the Prophet Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and so grandfather heard no more sermons until September when a conference was called at a branch in Cornstock, Michigan, about ten miles away. He and. Ann Eliza attendee!, in the company of his sister, Eliza Cook Hall and her husband Salmon Hall, who were already members of the Church. They attended meetings on Saturday and on Sunday, September 8, 1845, both Phineas Wolcott and .Ann Eliza were baptised in the Kalamazoo River by Elder Edward M. Webb.
After their baptism, grandfather's parents made it very unconfortable for
them at home. His mother was especially vitriolic and made a point of bringing
up the fact that he had joined the Mormon Church, to everyone who came to their
hone, and tried to enlist their help to re-convert him. This led to many
arguments and much unpleasantness.
In December of 1845 Elder Edward Willard came to tell grandfather that it was time for the Saints to gather, for the Church was going to move somewhere way out West, maybe Vancouvers' Island, they didn't know yet where, but that they were being required to do as Abraham had done, go to a land that should yet be shown to them.
On May 4, 1846, grandfather took his little family and set out to join the Saints at Winter Quarters. His parents were so much against their going that they tried to prevent it by denying him part of his share of the flour and wheat which he had earned by working on their farm. They left in spite of this in a wagon he had built himself, with his two teams of oxen, scanty provisions and only $22.50 in money. After a long difficult journey they arrived at Winter Quarters where they saw President Brigham Young for the first time. Grandfather was assigned by President Young to build a gristmill and when he was not working on the mill he worked to build his family a little fourteen by fourteen foot log house. While he built it they lived in the covered wagon box in which they had traveled.
Grandfather was chosen a "Pioneer for the Mountains" to go with the first party in 1847, but because his wife and a child were very ill and he, himself weak and ill too, he was assigned instead to stay at Winter Quarters and help to farm and build security for the Saints who would come to winter there the next year. As soon as he was able, he went to "wooding ploughs and mending wagons" in preparation for the departure of the first company of pioneers.
On May 19, 1848, grandfather and his family left Winter Quarters with the first contingent of the second President Brigham Young Company. They made camp five miles from Winter Quarters and waited at this assembling point for a week before the complete company and President Young were ready to start the great journey to Zion. Fifteen
miles out they built rafts and crossed the Elkhorn River. At the camp on the
west bank of the Elkhorn they organized themselves into companies of tens,
fifties and hundreds. Alva Hanks was captain of grandfather's ten. John Harvey
was captain of his fifty and Allen Taylor was captain of his hundred. Here,
also, all the brethren were assigned their turns to guard the camp every fifth
or sixth night throughout the journey.
Grandfather, tells in his journal, of the difficulty with which they crossed rivers, wading them many times to get all the wagons and stock across. The men came out of the streams soaked and fatigued. He said that a band of sheep gave them more trouble than all the wagons.
Three or four days' drive east of Fort Laramie, one of grandfather's oxen died and another was too sick to keep up with the train. President Young loaned him a team of oxen to take their place from some of the "loose stock" accompanying the train.
When they came to the last crossing of the Sweet-water, they camped for two weeks waiting for help from the valley. While they were there many cattle died and grandfather lost another oxen. Porter Rockwell told him that he had a team of four mules and a driver to spare and it was decided that they would bring grandfather's family through to the Valley. They arrived in Salt Lake Valley in October 1848.
Grandfather rented a house in the "Fort" in Salt Lake City anu his family shared it with a Sister Twiss during that first long hard winter. There was little he could do to earn money during the winter, but he went around the fort repairing clocks and doing any odd jobs he could find. With his pay he was able to buy a little flour or meal sometimes. Once he bought three pecks of corn which helped for awhile, and once he was able to buy a little meat from Vincent Shurtleff for twelve to twenty cents a pound, which seemed an awful price to him. In March of 1849 grandfather got work building a sawmill for Isaac Chase, but in spite of that they saw very hard times from then to harvest.
He was entitled to have five acres of ground to work for his own as many of
the other Saints had, but counsel from the authorities was that mechanics,
carpenters, builders etc. should not try to farm but follow their trade for the
good of the community, this he did because he believed devotedly in following
counsel, but he always felt he was worse off financially because of it.
In August of 1850 a gristmill was needed in Manti so President Young sent grandfather there to help Father Morley build it. His family started for Manti, San Pete County on his thirtieth birthday and it took them ten days to get there. When they arrived they found more than three hundred Indians under Chief Walker, in Manti after a fray which came very near to exciting an Indian War. There was so much unrest among the Indians the whole time they were there and grandfather had to carry a gun when he went to work on the mill. While he was in Manti he served as Alderman of the City Council in 1851.
As a result of the counsel of "Uncle John Young" and with the approval of President Brigham Young, grandfather left the mill in Father Morley's hands in May of 1853 and brought his family back to Salt Lake City, to serve as Salt Lake's first Water Master.
The first charter for the Waterworks in Salt Lake City was secured from the legislature in the names of Brigham Young, Jesse C. Little and Phineas W. Cook. Grandfather found that being Watermaster was not the easiest job in the world. It was his duty to enforce the rules that irrigation water was not to be used longer than was due each brother. In his journal he relates some very humorous and some very trying experiences in relation to this responsibility. Many times he was put in the unenviable position of having to correct men in high places for letting the water run into their fields longer than they were entitled to have it, and when one authority complained about another and insisted that grandfather "do his duty" his problems were difficult and numerous. During this time grandfather also helped to build the Beehive House, the Lion House and the Tithing Office, under the direction of Miles Romney.
About this time grandfather was encouraged by President
Brigham Young to take plural wives and so in 1853 he married Catherine
McCleve, a convert from Ireland and Polly Amanda Savage, daughter of the first
Mormon Elder he ever heard preach the Gospel. Catherine McCleve had only one
son. Amanda Savage had two boys and twin girls.
Grandfather moved his family to Payson and built a mill there as he had done in so many other places. He also had some land to work there and some cattle. One day as he and two other men rode horseback over the hills looking for stock that had strayed during the night, they came upon a beautiful valley and being impressed with it, sought permission from President Brigham Young to settle it. This permission was granted and they established the town of Goshen, Utah, named after grandfather's home town of Goshen, Connecticut, and he became First Presiding Elder of the branch of the Church at Goshen, Utah. He lived here about five years and the next record I find of him is in Paris, Idaho in March 1864, in Cedar Fort in November 1865 and Swan Creek (now Lakota), Rich County, Utah on Bear Lake in May 1866. He was an early settler in this area and had a fine piece of land at Swan Creek with a clear swift-running stream cascading down from the mountains. As well as developing a good farm and fine herd of cattle he owned a gristmill and carding mill which he built himself, and which all the people in the settlement used. He was more prosperous here than at any other time during his life.
It was the policy of the Church to help as many converts from Europe as possible, to come to Zion and in harmony with this policy grandfather arranged through missionaries in Sweden to send money so a Swedish convert could come to Utah. Her name was Johanna Christina Poulson. She was a widow with two little girls and she had been praying for many months for a way to come to Zion. She sailed from Liverpool on the Ship Nevada on June 29, 1878 coming with a large group of new converts from Sweden and England. She became the fourth wife of Phineas Wolcott Cook and my mother's mother.
Johanna Christina Poulson was born August 8, 1845 in Malmo, Malmohus, Sweden, daughter of Pol Jonson and Johanna Ulrika Lundgren. She had only one sister, Mary, who was two or three years younger than she and died while she was still very young. Her father Pol Jonson was born July 19, 1820 in Hyby, Malmohus, Sweden, the son of Jons Jeppasson and Hanna Jonsson. Her mother was bom March 13, 1807 in Copenhagen, Denmark, daughter of Ole (Olaus) Lundgren and Benthe Catherina Malmquist.
Phineas Wolcott Cook and Johanna Christina Poulson were married in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City in September 13, 1878. She bore him six sons and a daughter as follows: Carl born 25 September 1879, Moses born 20 November 1880, Kib Phineas born 4 July 1882, twin boys, Emer and Omer born 18 August 1884, Parley born 23 March 1886 and Idalia Johanna born 4 September 1889. Idalia, my mother, is the youngest of all Phineas Wolcott Cook's children. There were twenty-eight altogether.
Early in 1883 grandfather moved my grandmother's family to Logan, Utah where they lived for five years on the flat land just below the college which was a building at that time. Grandfather helped to build the Logan Temple and when it was completed both grandfather and grandmother did a great deal of Temple work there. They were both very strong in their faith in the Gospel and very devoted workers in the Church.
When my mother was a little more than a month old, grandfather moved the family to Afton, Wyoming which is located in beautiful Star Valley. I doubt that there is a more beautiful valley anywhere, in summer, but in winter it is very cold and there is lots of snow. As they came into the valley the wind was blowing and it was snowing and it was bitter cold. My Uncle Carl, then age ten, and Uncle Mose, then age eight, both tell me how cold it was as they helped drive the cows into the valley. The family suffered many hardships that winter, and nearly all of their cattle died from exposure and lack of feed. That winter, was remembered later on, as the terrible winter of '89.
The loss of his cattle left grandfather in financial straights from which he never really recovered. He was getting old, he was twenty-six years older than my grandmother, and he was not well enough to stand up to the hard ships of pioneer life as he always had done before. He tried, once more, to build and operate a sawmill, but it didn't work out so well, he could not find a good location. He did some carpentry, but it finally became necessary for grandmother to support the family.
She took in washing and ironing which was such hard work then. She carried water from the creek, heated it on the wood stove over which she also boiled the clothes in the old copper boiler to get them clean, after scrubbing them by hand on the wash-board. Her hands would ache from the cold when she gathered in the washing frozen stiff with the cold in the winter. To iron them she had black flat-irons which had to be heated on the stove. For all this work she would receive a dollar and a quarter's worth of credit at the store. Her heart ached many times and so did her feet! But in spite of all this she made a happy home for her family and she made the best of every situation. She had a happy heart and a great love for others.
Grandma Cook was always very active in the Church and had a very strong testimony of the Gospel. She served as a Counselor in the Stake Relief Society in Star Valley for years. Many times she took my mother with her as she went on errands of mercy. No place in the Valley was too far to go to nurse a sick mother and take care of her family, or care for and dress in Temple clothing she had made herself, someone's departed loved one. The good she did cannot be counted, but it was reflected in the love the people of the Valley gave her. Everyone called her Grandma Cook.
She was the only grandparent I ever knew, but she was so wonderful that she made up for all the others I didn't know. She had such a wonderful warm personality, filled to the brim with love and fun. She lived with us part of the time as I was growing up and she was the light of my life. We loved each other very much. She was devoted to the Church, from the time she was converted her faith never waivered.
I didn't know my grandfather in person. He died when my mother was only ten years old, but I feel like I know him since I have read his Journal and have had a chance to study it. I am so grateful that he wrote it and even though he stopped writing in 1857, I am grateful for his story of the years before.
He was always known to be a devout and humble man, always ready to import to anyone who needed help. He worked hard all his life and was true and faithful to the Gospel to the end.
In his Journal, he admonishes his descendants, "Be faithful to God and your covenants, and He will not hide from you the rich treasures of Heaven. Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you." Note: Many have asked, "Where do you fit in?"
PHINEAS WOLCOTT COOK married ANN ELIZA ROWLAND COOK on January 1, 1840.
Their twelfth, child was:
HENHY HOWLAND COOK. He married GENETT CALDER on June 3, 1880.
Their seventh child was:
PHOEBE IRENE COOK. She married NEWEL D. JVCMILLAN on June 20, 1917.
Their first child was:
NEWEL COOK r.TMTT.TAN. I married NELMA. STEWART on July 25, 1943.
We have four children, Newel Dee, Scott Irvin, Stacey Ann, and Teresa Gay. We have Eleven Grandchildren,