Isaac Cook (Chicago Tribune)

“Demise of Isaac Cook,” Chicago (IL) Tribune, June 25, 1886, p. 1: 7.



He Expired at Eureka Springs, Ark. - At the Time He Was President of the American Wine Company of St. Louis - A Sketch of His Active, Busy Career In This City - Appointed Postmaster by President Pierce - Experience In Journalism - A Strong Douglas Supporter.

St. Louis, Mo., June 21 -- |Special.| -- Isaac Cook, President of the American Wine Company of this city, died last night at Eureka Springs, Ark. Mr. Cook was 73 years old at the time of his death and had been under medical treatment for more than a year. Kidney trouble was the cause of his demise. He went to Eureka Springs about three weeks ago,, accompanied by his wife and son.

Issac Cook was born at Long Branch, N.J., July 4, 1813, and spent his early years in New York City, where he received his education. He arrived in Chicago from New York in 1834. He had some means, and went into business for himself. Chicago was just recovering from the effects of the Indian massacre of '31 or '32, and there were already between 2,000 and 2,5000 people in the place. The town was built upon that fraction of See Township that was not lying under the lake and belonged to what was known as the Illinois & Michigan Canal lands. The territory extended from Michigan avenue across the river, about two blocks west of the river bend : extended for blocks on the west side of the river and about eight blocks south. The houses were scattered over this now comparatively small space and broad prairies rolled over the section of the city upon which magnificent architecture now claims attention and admiration. Not a brick or stone entered into the composition of these pioneer structures and Fort Dearborn, which stood near the north end of Michigan avenue, was the only substantial-looking and awe-inspiring establishment within the precincts of the corporation. There was no railroad nor the promise of one, and supplies came either by wagon from Detroit or on the slow wings of schooners and brigs from Buffalo. There was no harbor: the sailing fleet anchored out in the lake and their Chicago assignments were carried up the Chicago River to shipping ports by small freight boats. Dearborn street was the principal thoroughfare, and it was a scene of life and bustle then, as State, Madison, Clark, and the other streets are now. The forerunners of the present pushing, active, and enterprising Chicago merchants jostled each other as regularly on old Dearborn as do those of today, and in the intense earnestness and unbending energy of the pioneers were written the success of their efforts and the glory they were to leave to their followers. "Ike" Cook, as he was familiarly known, after he had put his carpeting away and changed his linen after the long and disagreeable trip from New York, took a spin around the little town and fastened his eyes upon a spot on Dearborn street not more than 100 rods distant from the old fort, and here he soon had a house built and "The Rinito" open. The Rinito was a sort of a refuge for the weak and hungry. In the Chicago of the present day it would be called a boarding-house with saloon attachment, but Mr. Cook, after he had outgrown his pioneer associations, looked back upon it only as "a restaurant with rooms up-stairs and down for lodgers." It was no doubt a very fine establishment for a very small town, and Mr. Cook made money in it. in 1834 he was assistant foreman of the "Metumora" Fire Engine Company, and in 1835 he sold the first depot ground purchased in the palace to the Chicago & Galena Railroad, which did not flourish to any alarming extend. This depot was located at the northwest corner of Canal and Water streets. For several years he continued to be the delightful Boniface of the Rinito, and then he turned his talents to another and more congenful business: he became the agent for the canal land. This led him into public life, and in a few years more he was heard of as a Democratic politician. He was elected Sheriff in 1846 and served through two terms to 1850. March 22, 1853, he was appointed Postmaster by President Pierce, his assistant being Charles L. Dole. At that time the post-office was at Nos. 84-85 Dearborn street. He was reappointed under Buchanan March 7, 1858, holding the office till 1860. In the meantime his wealth was increasing, and he did not forget to make some permanent investment in the then present and future of the town. He built the first stone building Chicagoans looked upon on what is now the site of the Illinois Central Depot in 1838. Here he resided in fine style until fashion and wealth moved to other localities, when himself and his family followed. In 1853 he built the Young American Hotel, the first five-story brick building in Chicago, at the corner of Dearborn and Randolph where it stood until swept down by the whirlwind of flame in the great fire of 1871.

He took an active part in raising troops during the Mexican War. In 1854, in conjunction with James W. Sheahan and Daniel Cameron, he founded the Chicago Times. During the progress of the great fire his residence, one of a fine block of eleven on Terrace row, between Van Buren and Congress streets, was burned to the ground. Mr. Cook was appointed Assistant Treasurer of the Rock Island Railroad in December, 1851.

As long as he lived in Illinois Mr. Cook was an active and zealous politician. He was a warm admirer of Judge Douglas at the time of the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and he was the author of the memorable quotation about truth being "squashed" to earth. A mass-meeting was held at the old North Mark Hall, where the Criminal Court Building now stands, at which Senator Douglas attempted to defend his course. He was repeatedly interrupted and shouted down, until finally Mr. Cook got up and, in expressing his indignation at what he considered the unmannerly conduct of these Chicagoans, said: "I tell you, gentlemen, truth squashed to earth will rise again; you can't stop her." He was Postmaster at the time of the breaking out of hostilities between the President and the Senator, and, in order to keep his place, sided with the former. The Chicago Post-Office was the headquarters of Buchanan Democracy, and Cook worked as hard as he could for the Breckinridge Electoral ticket, which took away quite a number of votes from the one pledged to the support of Senator Douglas. With the incoming of the new Republican Administration he, of course, lost his post-office, which went to Mr. Seripps, and he dropped out of Illinois politics. He went to St. Louis in 1862, and became interested in the manufacture of wines. It was through his energy that the American Wine Company, of which he was President, met with such great success. He seems to have permanently withdrawn from politics when he left Chicago, though he was a Democrat all his life. He leaves a wife and two sons and a daughter.

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