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Tales of “Witt” Cook

Everyone has stories to tell.  Here we recall some tales from the pen of Arthur Carr,  one of Ticonderoga’s better known contemporary recorders of history who was a good fellow and faithful member of the Ticonderoga Historical Society for many years.  We share some of his stories as he recorded them in 1962 concerning an unusual man that had been told by two generations of Ticonderoga folks whenever they have been engaged in discussing “The Good Old Times.”  Not impossible Paul Bunyan yarns but the recital of actual events and the participation therein by actual people —

Tales witt cook cover

Original Cover

Perhaps you are one of the countless number who have traveled Route 9N (North) when driving north into the eastern Adirondacks of upper New York State.  If so you have followed the western side of Lake George with occasional vistas of water beauty and continual loveliness of mountain and forest.

As one nears the northern end of this Queen of American Lakes one is sure to notice two similar houses of brick some five hundred feet apart and on opposite sides of the highway.  Between them runs the northern  boundary of Warren County which is thereby the southern line of Essex County and the township of Ticonderoga.

These spacious homes were built about one hundred and forty years ago, reputedly of brick made on the premises by two brothers who were the sons of one of Ticonderoga’s early settlers.  The larger of these homes is the one on the Warren County side of the boundary.  It is now in excellent condition having been restored by it’s present owners and occupants, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Stanley (Dr. James A. Mack).  It was built about 1822.  From near its date of construction until 1892 it was the home of William Cook Jr., who knew no other home as he was but three years of age when it was built by his father.  The property came to him and his good wife upon the death of his parents.

In 1847, when twenty eight years old, William married Caroline Moses the daughter of another pioneer family.  Their children were two, a son and a daughter. They had no grandchildren.

The second of the two brick homes built by the Cook brothers.  Hague -Ticonderoga road looking north, just as one passes the Warren – Essex County line.  Once known as “Ledgewood House.”  Today the home of Mr. & Mrs. Kenneth  Engler.

In common with eighty per cent of the population of 1850 William gained his living from the soil. The cleared land of Friend’s Point and his home place near the County line yielded pasture and crop land, the adjacent forest lumber and fuel.  The conduct of his business would not merit fame above his neighbors.  His memory is preserved because of personal traits and idiosyncrasies.  The tales of his ways and foibles are now folk tales in the country side about Ticonderoga and are the subject of this writing.

Physically, William was a somewhat ponderous person.  Of good height, heavy of body, not paunchy but great of girth.  There are those still among us who, now advanced in years, can remember him being a large man, round of face and somewhat stern of visage.  His voice was commanding, described by one who remembers him as “booming”.  Why he was universally referred to as “Witt” is not known.  Perhaps it was in part to differentiate between the Sr. and the Jr. Williams.  Perhaps it was, like many such cognomens, fastened on him in youth without reason and clung to him thru life.

tale calf cow

A man and his snuff