September 16, 2013
September 16, 2013
Forrest F. Cooke
By Barbara Schock
Forrest F. Cooke was a well-known Civil War veteran and attorney in Galesburg. He was elected mayor of the city three times in the 1890s. The city became known for its brick streets during his tenure.
His parents, Milo D. And Betsie B. Evarts Cooke, had come to Galesburg in 1856. Both were born in Vermont. Mr. Cooke had graduated from Middlebury College and taught school for a number of years. When Galesburg received its municipal charter in 1857, the first election of city officials was held. Mr. Cooke was elected Police Magistrate and continued in that position until his death in 1889. He was licensed to practice law, but never engaged in it. Mrs. Cooke was the first music teacher in Galesburg.
Forrest Cooke was born February 4, 1848, and was about six years old when the family moved to Galesburg. He began his college education at Lombard College, but left school to enlist in the 139th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The unit was organized at Peoria June 1,1864, for 100-day service.. It performed garrison duty at Cairo, Illinois, as well as raiding farms of Confederate sympathizers in Kentucky.
Even though the enlistment period for the 139th had expired, President Abraham Lincoln asked the men to participate in the pursuit of General Sterling Price in Missouri.
The Battle of Westport is sometimes known as the "Gettysburg of the West." It took place on October 23, 1864, within the boundaries of today's Kansas City, Missouri. More than 30,000 men participated in the battle. It succeeded in forcing General Price to end his incursion west of the Mississippi River.
Two days later, the men of the 139th were mustered out of service. President Lincoln sent a letter of thanks to the regiment for their additional service. There were no battlefield casualties in the regiment, but 16 men died of disease.
Forrest Cooke returned to Galesburg and enrolled in Knox College. He completed his studies in 1870 and was licensed as an attorney in 1872. Among his future clients would be a man named August Sandburg. On March 17,1875, he was married to Sarah Louise Collins. They had three children: Florence A. Chauncey L. and Bessie. (The younger daughter attended school with Carl Sandburg.)
The Cooke family lived at 654 South Academy Street in a Greek Revival house built about 1860. The lot is now occupied by a 12-unit apartment building. In 1904 the Cookes moved to 679 North Kellogg Street. Having lost his first wife in 1908, Mr. Cooke married Ella Tully in 1911.
Mr. Cooke died on a train August 25, 1915, traveling between Chicago and Joliet. He and his wife had been on a vacation in Iowa City, Iowa, where he broke his leg. The recovery was slow, but the doctor finally gave permission for Cooke to return home using crutches.
Friends were at the railroad station in Galesburg to meet the Santa Fe Flyer, but were given the sad news that he had died.
The funeral was held in the Universalist Church on South Prairie Street and was conducted by Mrs. R.C. Rice of the Christian Science Church. Verses frorri the Bible as well as passages from the Christian Science Text by Mary Baker Eddy were read at the funeral and graveside.
The church was filled with friends as well as members of Post 45, Grand Army of the Republic, the Knox County Bar Association and the Elks Lodge. The three organizations formed an escort to Hope Cemetery.
Cooke School on South Henderson Street was named for Milo D. Cooke as he served on the school board for many years. He and his wife believed that music should be taught in/the public schools.
Next week: How Forrest F. Cooke was connected to August Sandburg.