Odebolt, Iowa - Cook Ranch

Brookmont Farm History

(Cook Ranch)

(Source: "As Time Goes By", Odebolt, Iowa 1877-1977, 
printed by The Odebolt Chronicle May, 1977, pp.107–110)



Mrs. C.W.Cook

Albert E. Cook

On April 15, 1873, Charles Willard Cook of Chicago, purchased 12 sections of land, 7680 acres, for $5.00 per acre. The total purchase price was $38,400.  Mr. Cook divided this farm into half-section farms on which he placed his tenants and hired help.

A complete set of buildings was built on each half-section. The McFarlands, John and Gil, had much to do with this construction.  Each farm was known by number, from 1 to 23.

Mr. C. W. Cook erected his own residence on the southeast corner of section 33, Cook Township. This home was destroyed by fire in the early nineties, and was replaced by a smaller house which still stands [in 1977], the present farm home of Mr. and Mrs. Neal Reik. It was equipped with hot water heat, gas lights, and all other modern improvements. This home, large as it is, is much smaller than the original home built by Mr. C. W. Cook.

In 1893, Mr. C. W. Cook’s son, Albert E. Cook, became manager and later owner of the ranch, having purchased the interest of the other two heirs.

About 1908, he began to sell the smaller tracts and soon began to sell the farms in earnest. Some of the early purchasers were Alfred  Youngren, Aug. H. W. Reuber, John A. Robbins, Jacob Anderson, Gust Salmonson, John Huldeen, John G. Wagner, John Pfeiffer, John Currie, Sr., Broder D. Christiansen, Cloid Smith, Carl Siebrecht, Sr., Donald McCorkindale, John Coon, Hans Godbersen, A. S. Teaquist, and others.

The last of the original farm was sold about 1918 to J. Alva Reik, who purchased the home place, and Charles Burnquist, who was the last purchaser.

The Cook family had some time previously moved to Kankakee, Illinois, where Mr. and Mrs. Cook passed away.

The A. E. Cook family consisted of Willard, Jessie, Charles (Bunny), and Alberta Mae, who drowned in a stock water tank on May 22, 1905.

Mr. C. W. Cook imported his first Hereford cattle from England in 1883. He imported 306 head, which was the foundation of the Brookmont Hereford herd. Many hundreds of cattle were raised and sold on this ranch as well as many thousands of bushels of corn, oats, barley and pop corn.

Mr. A. E. Cook held his purebred Hereford dispersion sale on April 16 and 17, 1914.

The Cook Ranch included all of sections 3-4-5-6 in Richland Twp. and all of sections 27-28-29-30-31-32-33-34 in Cook Twp. Three sections North and South, four sections East and West-all in one block.  Farm numbers were 


No. 1 E. Section 3 Richland Twp.
No. 2 W. Section 3 Richland Twp.
No. 3 E. Section 4 Richland Twp.
No. 4 S.

Section 5

Richland Twp.
No. 5 N. Section 5 Richland Twp.
No. 6 S. Section 6 Richland Twp.
No. 7 N. Section 6 Richland Twp.
No. 8 S. Section 31 Cook Twp.
No. 9 Pt. of Section 31-30 Cook Twp.
No. 10 Pt. of Section 31-30 Cook Twp.
No. 11 Pt. of Section 31 Cook Twp.
No. 12 Pt. of Section 31 Cook Twp.
No. 13 E. Section 32 Cook Twp.
No. 14 S. Section 33 Cook Twp.
No. 15 N. Section 33 Cook Twp.
No. 16 S. Section 34 Cook Twp.
No. 17 N. Section 34 Cook Twp.
No. 18  N. Section 27 Cook Twp.
No. 19 S. Section 28 Cook Twp.
No. 20 W. Section 28 Cook Twp.
No. 21 E. Section 29 Cook Twp.
No. 22 W. Section 29 Cook Twp.
No. 23 N. Section 30 Cook Twp.

Mr. Charles Geisel was manager of the Ranch from 1888 to 1906.

Mr. James S. Staton was employed March 1, 1897, and in 1904 became superintendent of the Ranch, and later became manager of Mr. Cook’s Monona County holdings, and later his Montana Ranch, and his Louisiana Plantation.

Mrs. R. L. Lasater, the former Miss Jessie Cook, furnished the pictures of her father, A. E. Cook, and her grandfather, W. C. Cook. Mrs. Carl Paulson furnished the picture of Mrs. C. W. Cook.

By Charles A. Teaquist

(Transcribed by B. Ekse)

The Cook Ranch

Crawford, Ida and Sac Counties, Lewis Publishing Co., 1893,  Page 215 

The Inter-Ocean of Chicago, in its issue of April 16, 1873, has this concerning the opening up of the great Cook ranch in Sac County:  “A large sale of Iowa land was consummated yesterday by which a Chicago resident, Mr. C. W. Cook, became the sole owner of twelve sections of farming lands in Sac county, Iowa.  The purchase proposes to convert the entire property into a mammoth stock farm.  This tract embraces seven thousand six hundred and eighty acres and the amount paid was five dollars and acre, making a total of thirty-eight thousand four hundred dollars.  The sale was made by J. B. Calhoun, land commissioner of the Iowa Railway Land Company.”  This land, we believe, all lies in West Boyer township. [At the time of purchase the land lay in west Boyer township.  In 1876 Cook township (named after C.W. Cook) was split off Boyer Township.]

 “This makes two seven-thousand-acre farms in Sac county.  Better this size than none at all.  We welcome Mr. Cook, and hope he will make a good farmer and get rich.” – Sac Sun, 1873

Charles Willard Cook

Crawford, Ida and Sac Counties, Lewis Publishing Co., 1893, pp. 645-646 

Charles Willard Cook, of Cook township, Sac County, Iowa, post office, Odebolt, a well-known capitalist and the owner of a large tract of land in this county, was born in Haddam, Connecticut, July 13, 1832.  His parents, Willard and Abigail (Brainerd) Cook, were both descendants from old and prominent families of that State.  Both families, originally, from England, were among the first to settle in this country, and were with the colony that went among the Indians and settled on the banks of the Connecticut River, where the city of Hartford now stands.  The genealogy of the Brainerd family can be found in all large public libraries.  Mr. Cook lived in his native town until he was twelve years old, when his father, who was largely interested in the granite quarries of New England, wished to try his fortune in the great West, and removed with his family to a farm in Lake County, Illinois.  Here they remained about eight years, when, as Chicago had commenced to grow rapidly, the father removed with his family, in 1854, to that city, where he engaged in the stone business, owning and operating a quarry in Joliet, Illinois into which business he took his two sons, Ansel B. and Charles W.

Mr. Cook, of this sketch, was engaged with his father and brother until 1869.  He then became interested in the wholesale coal business, with his office and yard on the northwestern corner of Market and Adams streets, and at the same time commenced a money-brokerage business, his office being on East Washington street.  He owned a large tract of timber land in Michigan, with a railroad track running back into the timber and extending to the end of a large pier, where five vessels could load at a time with wood for Chicago.  He was also largely interested in real estate in Chicago, in connection with which he erected large blocks of buildings each year on his vacant property, and he built the first block of stone-front buildings in West Chicago.  He was at one time a director in three insurance companies, one of the founders and directors of two of the National Banks, and a director in a steam railroad and of the West Division Street Car Company.  All of these, and other interests, and without a partner, made serious inroads on his health, until , at the age of thirty-two, he was obliged to retire from business; and, after struggling with poor health for a year to get business closed, so he could leave it, went with his wife and three children to Europe for three years.  Returning to this country with health too poor to re-enter business, he commenced investing money in different ways. 

Among his investments was the purchase, in 1874, of between 7,000 and 8,000 acres of land in the western part of Sac County, Iowa.  This he commenced to improve by plowing strips of land on each side of all roads, and then planted two rows of trees on each strip, forming beautiful avenues all over this large tract of land.  He then divided this tract into farms of 320 acres each, and has put fine improvements on all, and surrounded each set of buildings with a nice grove of trees.  All of this makes it almost like a beautiful park, which has done much to improve and beautify the surrounding country.  All of these farms are occupied by a fine class of tenants, and with four schoolhouses on this tract, and a church situated at each end of it, it is a very desirable place for those who are not able to purchase a comfortable home for themselves.  Several of these first tenants have bought fine farms adjoining. 

Near the center of this tract, and on the line of Cook and Richland townships, Mr. Cook has erected a large and beautiful residence for his family.  This is heated by hot water and lighted by gas and has all other modern improvements.  Here he passes his summers, while his winters are spent at the Hotel del Coronado, situated on the banks of the Pacific Ocean in southern California.

Mr. Cook has been twice married.  First, in 1857, to Miss Sarah A. Coonley, of Albany, New York, who died in 1872, leaving three children:  Charles Ira, a wholesale merchant of Menominee, Michigan; Albert Eugene, manager of the Sac county estate; and Emma, wife of Fredric Ives Carpenter, of Chicago. 

On June 18, 1874, Mr. Cook married Mrs. Jennie W. Sterges, of Washington, District of Columbia, and a daughter of Captain John Wade, who was lost as sea with the steamer, Cuba, September 3, 1842.

Mr. Cook’s life has been a busy one, and as a citizen his actions have always been characterized by honor, integrity and affability, and he justly enjoys the universal esteem of his fellow man. 

Charles Willard Cook Biography

From on-line googlebooks
Chicago: Its History and Its Builders, a Century of Marvelous Growth‎ - Page 526
Published by Clarke publishing company, 1912
Item notes: v. 4
Original from the University of Virginia
Digitized Jan 12, 2008

Charles Willard, the third child of Willard Cook, was born in Haddam, Connecticut, on the 13th of July, 1832. He was associated with his father and brother in the stone business in Chicago until 1869 and built the first row of stone dwellings on the west side, at Washington boulevard and Willard place, the latter street still bearing his name. He was an extensive holder of real estate and was interested in a number of insurance companies as well as in the banking business. Failing health compelled him to abandon active business and for three years he traveled with his family in Europe. Later he made extensive purchases of land in Sac county, Iowa, there owning over seven thousand acres, which he improved and cultivated. There he made his summer home and passed away on the 11th of August, 1900. He was three times married, his first union being with Sarah A. Coonley, of Albany, New York, who died leaving three children: Charles Ira, of Menominee, Michigan; Albert E., of Odebolt, Iowa; and Emma, the wife of Professor Frederick I. Carpenter of the University of Chicago. For his second wife Mr. Cook married, in 1874, Miss Jennie Wade Sturgis of Washington, D. C., who died in 1893. In July, 1896, he wedded Mary E. Fairchild, of Hartford, Connecticut, who survives him and lives in West Medway, Massachusetts. In all his domestic relations he was faithful and loving, as a citizen his actions were always characterized by honor and integrity, and he justly enjoyed the universal esteem of his fellowmen.

Chronicle, Vol. 11, No. 43, March 3, 1898, Page 1, Column 2 

A social event which will long be agreeably remembered was the masquerade party given at Brookmont last Friday evening by Mrs. and Mrs. A. E. Cook.  Sixty guests, arrayed in every conceivable disguise, roamed through the spacious mansion and danced to the music of the orchestra.  The charming hostess and hospitable host spared no pains to contribute to the entertainment and enjoyment of the throng, and the maskers entered into the spirit of the occasion and made merry.  By a vote of the guests the prizes for the best costumed gentleman and lady were awarded to Mr. and Mrs. C. W. Burnside.  The former impersonated the Yellow Kid and his wife an Indian maiden.  Mr. and Mrs. Cook are to be congratulated on the success of their party.

Excerpts about the Cook Family or Brookmont Farm (Cook Ranch near Odebolt)

From on-line googlebooks
A History of the Northern Peninsula of Michigan and Its People:
   Its Mining, Lumber and Agricultural Industries-page 633

Published by The Lewis Publishing Company, 1911
Original from the University of Michigan

CHARLES I. COOK.—(Excerpts)
Charles I. Cook finds no small need of satisfaction in reverting to the great western metropolis of Chicago as the place of his nativity. There he was born on the 21st of August, 1862, and he is a son of Charles W. and Sarah A. (Coonley) Cook. Charles Willard Cook was born at Haddam, Connecticut, in 1834, and was a scion of the sterling family founded in New England in the Colonial epoch of our national history. He passed the closing years of his life at Odebolt, Sac county, Iowa, dying in 1902, at which time he was sixty-eight years of age. The cherished and devoted wife was born in Albany, New York, in which city their marriage was solemnized, and she was thirty-three years of age at the time of her demise. Of the five children of this union, three are now living, of whom the eldest is Charles I., the immediate subject of this review; Albert E. is engaged in the real-estate business at Odebolt, Iowa, and there conducts an extensive enterprise in the handling of farm lands, besides which he has the distinction of owning and operating the largest farm in that state; Emma E. is the wife of F. I. Carpenter, who resides in the city of Chicago.

Charles Willard Cook, father of the subject of this sketch, was a son of "Willard and Abigail Cook, and was thirteen years of age at the time of the family removal from Connecticut to the west, in 1847. They first located at Libertyville, Illinois, and about three years later removed to Chicago, where Willard Cook erected the first brick house on what is now the West side of the great metropolis. He became a citizen of much prominence and influence and was one of the representative pioneer business men of Chicago. His son, Charles Willard Cook, received his educational training in the schools of Chicago and as a young man identified himself closely with business interests in that city. He was the first to establish there a real-estate loan business and also conducted large operations in the handling of city and farm property, becoming one of the most important factors in connection with these lines of enterprise, through which he gained a substantial fortune. He retired from active business in the early seventies and thereafter gave his attention principally to the supervision of his extensive capitalistic interests. He identified himself with the Republican party at the time of its organization but was never an aspirant for a public office of any order. Both he and his wife are devoted members of the Congregational church.

Charles I. Cook is indebted to the public schools of Chicago for his early educational discipline, which included a course in the high school, and at the age of seventeen years he went to Iowa, where his father had secured large tracts of land, and turned his attention to agricultural pursuits, finding due measure of satisfaction in the radical change from metropolitan to rural life. Later he became an extensive dealer in farm lands, and in this connection handled properties in all sections of the state of Iowa, meanwhile maintaining his home in Odebolt, Sac county, where occurred the death of his father, as already noted in this context. While a resident of the Hawkeye state Mr. Cook gained the same worthy precedence now enjoyed by his brother in that he owned and conducted the largest farm in the state, devoting same to diversified agriculture and the breeding of high grade stock. There he continued to be actively and successfully identified with these lines of enterprise until 1891, when he removed to Menominee, Michigan …

Photo of a hog shipment from Brookmont in 1912  From on-line googlebooks
"Fifty Years of Progress"; The Odebolt Chronicle, Vol. 51, Number 31, Thursday, August 25, 1938

C. W. Cook of Brookmont farm once had what was said to have been the largest herd of purebred Hereford cattle in the world. In order to get the best cattle available, Mr. Cook went to Hereford, England, in 1883.  Employing one of the most competent cattle judges in the country, he set out to buy what he wanted and purchased 306 head, including 290 heifers.  The herd cost him about $200,000.

Mr. Cook chartered a special train of 30 cars and a passenger coach to transport the cattle to Liverpool, and then chartered the ocean steamer Quebec of the Dominion line to bring them to this continent.  They were shipped to Canada, where they remained for several months, and were brought to Odebolt in October of that year.

Doubled Herd
By the fall of 1885 Mr. Cook had built his heard up to 640 head, an increase of more than double.

The cattle barn on the Cook ranch at that time was 200 feet square and about 50 feet high, with stalls for 700 head of cattle.  It cost approximately $25,000 and was said to have been the largest farm barn in the world.  From the cupola on top one could look down over the 7,200 acres in the ranch, and could see the towns of Odebolt, Early, Schaller and Holstein.

The Cook ranch at that time was employing about 50 men, in addition to the renters who occupied the 30 or more tenant houses.

The Chronicle. Vol. XXVII. NO. 47. March 19, 1914.

One of the famous properties in this section of the state is soon to lose its identity. A. E. Cook has reached a decision to sell all of his holdings in this county and the big ranch will be split up among small owners. Mr. Cook is now actively engaged in business in Kankakee, Ill., and cannot give the ranch his personal attention so he has finally decided to let the property go. From time to time several parcels of land have been sold from the original buildings, and there remains at this time but 1,820 acres in all to be sold. This is inclusive of the home tract and buildings which are also to go. The tracts now on the market are all of section 33, 640 acres; the NW 1/4 of section 3, 160 acres; the N 1/2 of section 4, 320 acres; the S 1/2 of section 28, 320 acres, and 380 acres in section 34. An effort will be made to dispose of it at once as the owner is desirous of closing up the proposition. The land to be sold is among the best in this county, and there are few country homes in the state that will compare with the home place. The mansion was occupied by the Cook family for years and is one of the show places of this section of the country. From the standpoint of sentiment the passing of the place will be noted with regret, but no one questions but what the town will benefit from having the tract cut up into small farms and tilled by the owners. We understand that the minimum price for any of the land now for sale is $200 an acre.

The Chronicle. Vol. XXVII. NO. 51. April 16, 1914.

Today and Friday the sale of the Cook herd of Herefords will be in full swing. Breeders from far and near are expected to be present, and unless something unforeseen happens, the sale will be one of the most notable in the United States this year. There are around two hundred head of pure bred Herefords in the offering, many of them famous the country over for their excellent breeding. It is expected that the bidding will be spirited and that some record prices will be paid for some of the classiest stuff. T. F. B. Sotham is the sales manager. He is recognized as the best posted man on Herefords in the world. He has been on the ground for two or three weeks past getting everything in readiness and will have affairs in ship shape when the bell taps for the call of the sale. Ten cars have been engaged at a local garage to haul breeders from a distance from town to the sale and return It is estimated that close to four hundred breeders from a distance will be present. Col. Fred Reppert, the noted auctioneer, will be in charge of the block, but he will have the assistance of such noted criers as Col. H. L. Iglehart, Col. N. J. Kraschel and Col. A. S. Teaquist. The sale is attracting local farmers and breeders as well as those from a distance and the crowd will doubtless be enormous.

Brookmont Farm (Cook Ranch) Hereford History (1914)

From on-line googlebooks
The Story of the Herefords: An Account of the Origin and Development of the Breed in Herefordshire, a Sketch of Its Early Introduction Into the United States and Canada, and Subsequent Rise to Popularity in the Western Cattle Trade, with Sundry Notes on the Management of Breeding Herds p. 515
By Alvin Howard Sanders
Published by The Breeder's Gazette, 1914
Original from the University of California
Digitized Jan 25, 2007
1087 pages

Cook of Odebolt.—Mr. C. W. Cook, a large operator in real estate in Chicago and owner of the great 7,000-acre farm of Brookmont near Odebolt, Ia., imported more Herefords into the United States during the boom period of the '80's than any of his contemporaries. He is credited with bringing over 330 head. He did not undertake as a rule, however, the purchase of show cattle or those in special demand by reason of fashionable breeding. In fact, in some cases his importations included cattle which, while doubtless of well established Hereford breeding, did not measure up to the strict American rules governing pedigree registration of English-bred Herefords. These were comparatively few in number, however.

In 1885 the herd numbered 500 head and was claimed to be the largest collection of purebred Herefords in the world at that date. While these importations did not figure conspicuously in the American sale and showyard records of the period under review, they enjoyed a wide distribution among farmers and ranchmen. Mr. Cook, Sr., was succeeded in the ownership of this great Iowa property by his son, Mr. A. E. Cook, and the herd was not finally closed out until 1914.

Photocopy of a clipping from the Odebolt Chronicle, date unknown

707 South Lyn Street
Champaign, IL 61820

Dear Sirs:
     I am enclosing my check for $12.50 for the renewal for The Chronicle.  My parents moved from Odebolt to Kankakee, IL, March 3, 1919.  My father, James S. Staton, was superintendent of the Cook Ranch- Brookmont – for many years.  My parents were married November 29, 1899, and they made their first home on the Cook Ranch.  It was sad to see the pictures of the buildings at the Central Plant being destroyed.
     I am still interested in the paper and recognize many family names – families who were prominent when we lived there.
     I was a junior in high school when we moved from there.  My class gave me a souvenir spoon with an engraving of the Presbyterian Church in the bowl.  The church burned since that time.  I cherish that spoon with others from that area.

Sincerely yours,
Mrs. W. A. Majors
(Mabelle Staton)

(transcribed by B. Horak; newspaper articles transcribed by B. Ekse) 


Photos of Brookmont Farm

BROOKMONT, A Souvenir of "The Finest Farm in the World"

The Saturday Evening Post - May 14, 1910
"The Business of Farming", by Forrest Crissey (1.3MB .pdf)
Long article about Brookmont Farm

June 2014 historic presentation by Don and Dan Etler on the
history of Brookmont Farm and the Cook Corn Trophy.  Video on YouTube

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