Friday, August 12, 2011

Cassandra Cook, pioneer wife

The broken gravestone of Cassandra Cook (d. 1855) is held together by a custom-made metal brace. The brace is rusty but evidently a relatively recent addition: A 2009 photo on shows the gravestone in two pieces.

The rusty brace catches your eye immediately, but let’s not fail to admire a gravestone that was surely quite beautiful when it was unweathered and unbroken.

Wife of
Feb. 2, 1855.
79 Y’s 3 mo. 16 d.

Benajah and Cassandra Fanning Cook, with their children, were the first permanent white settlers in Harlem Township, Delaware County, Ohio. An anecdote published in History of Delaware County and Ohio (Perrin, 1880) tells the story of a shrewd Mr. Cook buying his Delaware County land at auction:

Among the New England families, who emigrated to Ohio in 1805-01, was Mr. Cook. In 1805, he, with family, moved to Granville, from the State of Connecticut, and while living there, he ascertained that this tract of land was to be sold to the highest bidder by the Sheriff. He immediately prepared himself with the necessary amount of funds, as he supposed, to make the purchase. The terms of sale were cash in hand. He was compelled to keep this money upon his person, to be ready to make the purchase, in case he became the lucky bidder; and then again, he was to go among strangers and he was liable to be robbed. He dressed himself, for his own protection, in old clothes covered with patches and rags, permitted his beard to grow long, and put on a dirtier shirt than usual; in short, he presented a picture of wretchedness and poverty. Beneath his rags and patches he concealed his treasure. No one suspected that he had any money or was any other than a beggar, and when he commenced to bid, the rival bidders ceased their competition. They supposed his bidding was a farce, and that he could not pay for the land if it were struck off to him. In this shrewd transaction, he illustrated the true Yankee character, to the amusement of those he had outwitted. He paid the Sheriff the purchase money and obtained his deed, and immediately, by way of Berkshire, moved on to his new purchase. ... He was the first settler in this township, and when he moved upon his claim, there was not even a cabin upon it, and his family, until one could be built, were compelled to occupy an Indian shanty.

The purchase price? 4,000 acres at 42 cents an acre.

Fancher Cemetery, Delaware County, Ohio

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