Mary Elizabeth Townsend was the oldest child of William Townsend and his wife Maria (Lamson) Townsend. William Townsend was Sandusky’s first Recorder, and he had many business interests in Sandusky. He was the owner of the Townsend House, operated a line of steamers, and was president of the first bank in Sandusky in 1834. During the cholera epidemic of 1849, both of Mary’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Townsend, died of cholera, along with Mary’s sister and aunt.Pitt Cooke and Mary E. Townsend were married in 1844. (Pitt was the brother of Civil War financier Jay Cooke.) At the time of the cholera epidemic, Mr. and Mrs. Pitt Cooke were already the parents of two children, Townsend Pitt Cooke and Eleutheros Jay Cooke. In 1849 Pitt and Mary took in Mary’s orphaned siblings, and raised them along with their own growing family.
Pitt Cooke practiced law with Lucas Beecher, but had also worked for a time with Mary’s father, and later assisted his brother Jay Cooke in the banking business. The Pitt Cooke family lived in New York from 1866 to 1873, but kept their Sandusky residence at 515 West Washington Street as a summer home.
Helen Hansen wrote about the Townsend and Cooke families in Article 13 of At Home in Early Sandusky. In the article, Helen tells of the marriages of the children of both Mr. and Mrs. William Townsend and Mr. and Mrs. Pitt Cooke. The home at 515 West Washington Street, which was first occupied by the Townsend family and later the Cooke family, is now an apartment building.
This home is also described in Ellie Damm’s book Treasure by the Bay, available at the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library.