OH THE THINGS YOU HEAR ALONG MAIN STREET!
Every time I return to my little Montana burg,
I'm amazed at how active our gossip machine
is. In a way it makes sense given there's really
not much else to do in town except talk about
each other. But honestly... after a few days it
gets to be a tad too much. This actually isn't a
new phenomena. Sinclair Lewis wrote about
small town morals and mentality back in the
twenties. Little has changed since then except
the people, players, and activities recounted.
A small town is a small town no matter where
it's located geographically. There seems to be
no better way to get an energy boost than a
juicy piece of gossip! Many people apparently
thrive on the stuff and sadly others are more
than apt at supplying loquacious fodder to fuel
the beastly buzz. Since the beginning of time
people have spent too much, drank too much,
and slept with somebody else's spouse. So
why does it continue to be such a big deal?!
Slowly you realize that there's
always been something to talk
about. When we first bought
our new home, we knew little
about it's many owners. Any
gossip about their doings had
long ago died with them. Bit
by bit I learned who was who
and who did what and to whom!
And let me tell you it's juicy...
George Washington Cook built our
home at the ripe old age of 65. After
settling in Montana in 1890 GW went
on to become a teacher, rancher,
mayor, U.S. Land Agent, Railroad
Land Agent, and real estate magnate.
He and his wife Emma raised nine
children in Lewistown, the majority
of whom lived there for the balance
of their lives. Truly a leader, GW did
all he could to make Lewistown a
viable and vital community. He was
beloved and respected by all.
His eldest son was Chauncey. "Chan" served as President of his Dad's company and on many boards here in town. He lived with his wife in a home that his father had given him. In 1938 an elderly GW moved in with them. Shortly thereafter, the title for his home was transferred to a Mrs. Dona Mannock. Who was she?
Why would anybody simply hand over a seven thousand square foot home to a stranger? Probably only because the recipient was their lover... and... a former lady of questionable character. You see, Dona had been in town for many years. Prior to moving into our home, she had lived down by the creek in one of the many "cribs" where sex could be purchased for cash or favors. By 1938 the cops had cleaned up town and Chan must have decided to help Dona go "legit".
Dona quickly converted our
home into eight apartments.
Over the years she managed
it quite nicely and many of
our better class ladies would
"downsize" there with age.
While I assume all in town
were aware of Dona's sordid
past, it seemed to have no
impact on her new business.
Ultimately Chan died and the
house stayed in her hands
until her death in 1978.
Post Dona's ownership, the house slowly fell into disrepair. Opportunists ripped out treasures like the Tiffany stained glass window and Rookwood tile mantel. Finally the pipes froze and the ruins were seized for debt. A family saved it from destruction and then sold it to us. Now... isn't that juicy?
I often wonder what people really say about us. We're certainly colorful and definitely NOT the norm. That said, we care about our community and all who live within it. My hope is that rather than be forgotten, our support and contributions will be remembered as helping to make Lewistown a better place to live!
Please note: With the exception of the first photograph of Main Street Lewistown in the twenties, and the GW Cook Fiftieth Anniversary Invitation, all other images are representations for the purpose of entertainment. Any resemblance to the persons described within the blog are purely coincidental.