Thursday, October 13, 2016

Walking in the Footsteps of Mary Cooke

Though we do not have a photograph of Mary Elizabeth Cooke (1857-1951), her life has been well documented in resources available at the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center. She was the youngest daughter of Pitt Cooke and his wife, the former Mary Elizabeth Townsend.  She was the granddaughter of Sandusky’s first lawyer, Eleutheros Cooke, and a niece of Civil War financier Jay Cooke. Mary E. Cooke’s maternal grandparents, William and Mary Townsend, were pioneer residents of Sandusky. After the Townsends died in the cholera epidemic of 1849, Pitt and Mary (Townsend) Cooke took in the orphaned Townsend children and raised them with their own six children.

In the 1860s and 1870s, the Pitt Cooke family resided in New York, where Pitt worked with his brother Jay Cooke in the banking business. Helen Hansen wrote in At Home in Early Sandusky that the Pitt Cooke family kept the former Townsend home at 515 West Washington Street as a summer residence.

Mary E. Cooke was age 22 at the time of the 1880 U.S. Census and was living in the large family home on Washington Street, along with her mother, cousin, aunt, siblings and two servants. By this time, her father Pitt had died. From 1919 until her death in 1951, she lived at 904 Wayne Street. Locally, her home was known fondly as “the house of a hundred windows.”


On the occasion of her 93rd birthday, Sandusky Register Star News reporter, Harry Van Stack, recalled that Miss Cooke delighted telling others of how she once shook hands with President Grant. An article in the June 21, 1929 issue of the Sandusky Star Journal stated that Mary Cooke recalled seeing the Gibraltar Island home of her uncle Jay Cooke being built.

Miss Cooke was an active member of Grace Episcopal Church. In March of 1934, she held a Recital-Tea at her home during the Lenten season. Wesley Hartung was the accompanist for several sacred musical numbers that were presented at the program. 

On August 15, 1951, Mary E. Cooke passed away at the age of 93. Funeral services were held at Grace Episcopal Church, with her nephew, the Rev. Rush R. Sloane officiating. Burial was at Oakland Cemetery. An article in the October 12, 1951 Sandusky Register Star News which reported on her estate sale declared that Miss Cooke was “the last link between early Sandusky and present Sandusky.”  During the nine decades of her life, Miss Cooke saw the development of many technological advances and changes in her hometown.

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