Historical Details

Cook, Charles M. and Family

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 11/12/2020


by Fred A. Cook

Charles M. Deo Cook was born in Germany March 6, 1855.   He left Germany, coming to the United States as a small boy with his parents. The family settled on a farm in Wisconsin.  Here he finished his public-school education.  Following that he spent a few years in Iowa, where he was employed at various odd jobs.  As a young man, some­ time prior to 1880, Charles came to the Black Hills area, where he worked on ranches including the old S&G, where he rode fence line and did other jobs in what is now western Custer County, S.D. and eastern Wyoming.    This was one of the largest cattle outfits in Wyoming Territory. For a time, he was a guard (shotgun messenger) on the Deadwood-Cheyenne Stage Lines. The octagonal barreled rifle used on that job was kept in the family until it disappeared about 1945.  Later he worked for a freight outfit, driving oxen and horses at different times, hauling lumber and other supplies in the Black Hills area.  He then returned to Iowa, resided there awhile and was married to Inez Fereby Walden. The spirit of the West was in their blood, so Mr. Cook return­ed to the Black Hills with his family in 1883.  They traveled in two covered wagons, Charles and Inez each driving one. They first settled in Dakota Territory, south of the Cheyenne River, 25 miles southeast of the present site of Edgemont, which was then away out on the frontier. Mrs. Amelia (Kurth) Dunham, former rancher's wife west of Newcastle, said she knew the Cooks there when she was a child. She said, "The Cooks had a beautiful home near Oelrichs,. were known as wealthy people, raised horses and cattle, sold horses to the Government, had chickens, turkeys, milk cows, currants,  plums, watermelons, a good garden, plenty of water, everything very nice. Mrs. Cook was a wonderful housekeeper, cooked chicken, jellies, jam, dairy products."

The Charles Cook family stayed on the ranch south of the Cheyenne River until 1890, when they moved to a new location on the west side of Elk Mountain, three miles north of S&G (later renamed Dewey), in western Custer County. There were several nice springs at this location, with sub-­ irrigated meadows, and plenty of open range. They built a log home, log barn and corrals, a spring house, built up a nice garden, rhubarb patch, watercress and a wild fruit grove. Horses and cattle were grazed on Elk Mountain and into Wyoming.  Mr. Cook started freighting again. Anna Adams, later Mrs. Charles Petro of Ardmore, helped Mrs.  Cook the summer of 1894.  She said they also had a sheep camp approximately 10 miles west in Wyoming.  The Cooks and Adams were old friends earlier in the Cheyenne River area.

Inez Cook was quite an industrious housekeeper, often changing bedrooms - moving furniture around.  One night Charles came home real late from a freighting trip, started undressing for bed in the dark, only to have Mrs. Cook exclaim from the next room, that he was in Anna's room.  Small groups of Indians often passed by their ranch on visits between reservations in Montana and South Dakota.  One time, while Mr. Cook was absent, a good size group of Sioux Indians came through with their horses and wagons. They were short of provisions and wanted to be fed. With some misgivings, with their help, Mrs. Cook made biscuits in a dutch oven from a barrel of flour, and from a side of beef, fried steaks on an out­ door grill. She was happy to relate later, that the Indians were very polite and considerate of her and the children.  Years later when making their annual visits back and forth, some of the older Indians made friendly inquiries about Mr. and Mrs. Cook. Before the white man came, this area must have been very popular with the Indians, as many old camps, teepee rings, etc. are evident in the vicinity.

The first school in the S&G (later Dewey) area was a small log building, about one mile south of the Cook ranch buildings and about two miles north of the present site of Dewey.  It was called the "Cook School". The teacher, Miss Zilpha Campbell, boarded with the Cooks.  In November, 1897 she married Walt Soper, a former S&G ranch cowboy, who had started his own ranch east near Hells Canyon.

Charles Cook sold the place three miles north of S&G to John Sullivan in 1897. The Cooks then moved to the old S&G head­ quarters ranch, one-half mile east of the S&G railroad station and stockyards. About the time this move was made, Mr. Cook be­came interested in the Wild West Show business, so in 1898, with the three oldest boys, Andy, Arthur and Amos, a bunch of wagons, bucking horses, native wild animals and curiosities from Wyoming and the Bad­ lands, he headed for Iowa and Missouri.

They had some success until sickness along with loss of animals, made continuation of the show impossible. The show went from bad to worse, so they started back to the S&G.  They arrived in O'Neill, Nebr. the fall of 1899.   Though they had no show, they had a bunch of horses and wagons.  Mr. Cook rented a house for the family and a place for the horses in O'Neill, got the younger children in school, took the three oldest boys, four wagons and 16 horses, went out to the sandhills south of O'Neill, came back with four wagon loads of buffalo and cattle bones, got a car from the North­ Western Railroad Company, loaded it and shipped the bones to the Omaha Glue Factory.  He then put Arthur and Amos in school, and with his oldest son Andy, gathered iron, bought copper, rubber and zinc and shipped car after car, they were in business again. In later years, Arthur used to sing the song, "Have you any rags, any bones, any bottles today, for the ragman when he comes around this way."  Evidently this was a reminder of the old days in O'Neill. They liked the O'Neill area, but mainly due to the avail­ability of schools, they stayed over a year, putting in a crop on leased land, eight miles east of O'Neill in 1900.  They left O'Neill for the S&G in April 1901.

The Cooks were real happy to get back to their home on the S&G Ranch. At that time there was wonderful springs with sub­-irrigated meadows along the west foothills of Elk Mountain.   One of the best was on the S&G Ranch. Years later, oil drilling resulted in artesian wells further west which dried up most of the foothill springs, including those on the S&G Ranch. The   family built up the meadow land, had a good garden, started patches of wild currants,and plums and milked cows. They also graz­ed a band of sheep as far out as 20 miles into eastern Wyoming. They lived on the S&G Ranch several years, then moved to a homestead immediately north of the S&G.   At this location, with the help of Vance Coe, they built a large hewed log house, large barn with hay mow, sheds and corrals. As they had done at other locations, they again built up a nice garden, started wild cur­rant patches and a wild plum grove, milked cows and continued to raise beef cattle, though on a much smaller scale, as open range was largely past history.  They had a comfortable home and it was usually full, as they had a large family and many friends.

Many people were moving through the country in covered wagons looking for homes at that time. Mrs. Cook brought travelers into her home many, many times to allow them to rest up before continuing their journey.  On one occasion, a family was moving through the country in a covered wagon, when their baby daughter became sick. The Cooks took the family in, helped care for the baby, but she died.  The little girl was buried near the top of what is called "Wyoming Hill" on the state line 1 1/2 miles north of Dewey.

Mr. Cook's father, Henry Cook, lived with his son and family on the S&G Ranch from 1897 until his death in 1903. He was 88 years old at the time of his death

Mrs. Cook's maiden name was Inez  Walden. She was born near Sioux City, Iowa on July 14, 1863 in a family of eight girls. Her father, Henry Walden, and family settled about 15 miles south of Edgemont, S.D. The Waldens along with Inez's sister, Ella O'Keefe, and family from the Edgemont and Hot Springs areas were frequent visitors in the Charles Cook home.  Inez's uncle, Dick Walden, lived west of Crawford, Nebr.    Her father died June 16, 1908 and is buried at the Edgemont cemetery.

Mr. and Mrs. Cook were the parents of 12 children; Walter A., Arthur L., Amos H., Laura Belle, Cora Mae, Carrie Delila, Angela Cleo, Harold E., deceased as an infant, Inez Viola deceased at age of 8, Charles Deo, Cecil C., and Anna Loranie.

Mr. and Mrs. Cook sold their posses­sions including livestock and land near Dewey in March 1918.  They moved to Yakima Valley, Washington in April of the same year.            Mrs. Cook died in Yakima April 12, 1920 and is buried there.  Mr. Cook died at the home of his son, Arthur at Dewey on Jan. 11, 1921 while making the rounds, as he said, to visit each of his children and their families once more before he passed on.    Arthur took his body to Yakima, so that he might be buried at the side of his wife.

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