A blast from the past
Yesterday we had an unexpected visitor. He
was the great great great grandson of the man
who built our home - Mr. George Washington
Cook. Post a tour of the place, said relative
couldn't believe that his great grandmother -
who he knew and loved - had grown up in
such a posh abode. Yet this ancestor was if
nothing else taken amazed by the beauty and
elegance that his fore bearer had created in
the rather forbidding setting of rural Montana
in the early twentieth century. Proving that
ordinary people can make history. His relative
created an outpost of civilization from nothing.
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, at least half
of whom lived there for the balance
of their lives. A leader, GW did all
possible to make Lewistown a viable
community. He was a beloved and yet
ultimately a completely forgotten man.
His eldest son was Chauncey.
"Chan" served as President of
the family business. He lived
up the street with his wife in a
home that his father built for
them. In 1938 GW also moved
in. Shortly thereafter, the title
for our home was transferred
to a Dona Mannock. Who was
she? What was the connection?
Why would anybody hand over a six
thousand square foot home to a lady
with a questionable past? Dona had
been in town for many years. Initially
living down by the creek in one of the
"cribs" where entertainment was for
hire. By 1938 Dona had gone legit
and quickly converted our home into
eight apartments. Over the years it
was home to upper class ladies who
"downsized." And while many knew
of Dona's sordid past, it apparently
had no impact on her new business.
Initially I wondered why Chan
handed our house over to Dona.
Further research provided the
answer. In 1946 Chan divorced
his wife to marry Orpha McKeen
yet another former professional.
Who also was Dona's sister. The
newlyweds soon moved into his
father's former manse. Where
they happily ever after until his
death in 1953. Hence one can
surmise that Dona's ownership
was in essence a family affair.
Post Dona's death in 1978 the house
fell out of favor. Becoming a nursing
home. Then the pipes froze. Next an
opportunist removed all it's treasures.
Seized for debt it was auctioned for a
pittance. A family then saved it from
destruction. Repairing it the best they
could. A few years later we bought it.
Since then we've poured much
love and cash into our old house.
While not quite as colorful as
prior residents, we're NOT the
norm. However our community
has embraced our differences.
Our hope is that our investment
in Lewistown will live on long
after we're gone and forgotten.
Another chapter in it's history.