This week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks theme is “So Far Away,” and I’ve decided to write about the adventures and travels of my Uncle Bud, my Aunt Iva and my Aunt Blanche–also known as “The Scamps.” “This will be a feeble attempt to write a partial life history of Milton Cook and Mollie Bond and their descendants as I know it.” Milton Marion Cook was born on July 28, 1877 in Mason City, Iowa to Reverend James Milton and Emily Cornelia (Damon) Cook. The Cook family moved to a small town outside of Orleans, Nebraska, and Milton attended Orleans Free Methodist College. While at school, Milton met Mollie Sally Bond (a fellow classmate), and the pair were married on December 14, 1898 in Alma, Nebraska. Mollie was born in a dugout on March 12, 1882 in Bloomington, Nebraska to Thomas and Florence Helen (Bower) Bond, and she was the oldest of seven children.
According to Aunt Blanche’s memoir, “After getting married, Father [Milton] had to soon give up his schooling to support his family. Henceforth he was a self-educated person.” Milton and Mollie traveled throughout the country to find work and support their family; shortly after their oldest son, Floyd Allen Cook, was born in Orleans on January 8, 1901, the family picked up and moved to Kearney, Nebraska to work on a dairy farm. In early 1904, Milton and Mollie made their way to Wessington Springs, South Dakota to continue farming for four or five years; Otis “Bud” DeSalvo Cook was born there on March 10, 1904, and Esther Pearl (Cook) Voelker was born there on April 2, 1906.
“The folks [Milton and Mollie] then moved to the Homestead ten miles north of Murdo, South Dakota where they lived for five years, the time required to prove a claim. More than once in later years, I heard Mother [Mollie] say that she wished they had never left the Homestead, in spite of all it’s hardships.” The Homestead’s land was divided in half: the west half in corn and grain and the east half in gardenstuff. Milton and Mollie built three houses, as well: the first two houses were made of sod, while the third house was a tar paper covered room with a ladder leading to a loft where Floyd, Otis and Esther slept. Iva Roxey (Cook) Hitchcock was born in this third house at the family homestead on September 13, 1908.
In the fall of 1910, Milton and Mollie sold the Homestead and journeyed by train to Kalispell, Montana. Milton had become an ordained pastor while living in South Dakota, and the family moved to a small home beside a parsonage in Kalispell with Milton’s uncle, George Kline. George was the pastor of the local church, and Milton would shadow him and help conduct services on the weekends. Milton and Mollie’s sixth child, Blanche Elizabeth (Cook) Munson, was born at their home in Kalispell on April 1, 1911. “How badly the folks were fooled, for they wanted another boy. Oh well–it was April Fool’s Day. Guess I was always pretty much of a “tomboy” anyway. I worked outside most of the time on the farm.”
“The Scamps”–Bud, Iva and Blanche–were inseparable from the start: “Many times I [Blanche] climbed to the top of the windmill or the peak of the big barn or anything climbable (as I said before, I was a tomboy and a little daredevil). Mother [Mollie] would get frightened but Father [Milton] would just laugh. Father once fastened a rope from the peak of the barn to the windmill. To this he attached a pulley with a little swing seat. Yes, I was the one sent down first to test it out before the rest tried it. I’m sure I was followed by Bud since he and I were the ‘daredevils’ of the family.” Milton became a kind of “circuit rider” (traveling on horseback from church-to-church to hold monthly meetings), and the Cook family moved during this period from Kalispell, Montana to Chewelah, Washington and later to Cloverland, Washington. Milton decided to pursue wheat and fruit farming and moved the family to Hermon, California, but in 1920, he returned to dairy farming in Olean, New York.
As the family moved from place-to-place, Blanche detailed “The Scamps” adventures, their work on the farm and the mischief they made: “Another time–Bud was carrying Iva on his back once when the old rooster flew up and pecked her cheek–the scar she still carries…still another time–I guess I wasn’t big enough to handle a fork but I could get in the way. Iva swung with the manure fork and one of the tines went through the side of my nose.” The trio adored their “darling little sister,” Fern Irene (Cook) Miller (my great-grandmother, born in Olean on January 29, 1923), and included her and their other siblings in their exploits: “I remember–Floyd sneaking us to our first movie; Bud bobbing our hair when Dad was gone, but he didn’t say too much; We scamps learning to do the Charleston on the icy milk house floor…”
This was a feeble attempt to write a partial life history of Milton Cook and Mollie Bond and their descendants as I know it. The Cook family traveled “so far away” throughout the country, and, many years later, “The Scamps” reunited to retrace their parents’ steps and to compile their family history. Maybe my sisters and I will get the chance to do the same one day, too.