Biography of Edward L. Cooke
Connecticut Biographies





EDWARD LUDLOW COOKE, HARTFORD: Manufacturer of Burial Caskets, Handles, and Undertakers' Supplies.

E. Ludlow Cooke was born in North Haven, April 5, 1840, and was the youngest of six children. When he was but six months old the family moved to New Haven, where they resided many years.

Mr. Cooke's ancestors, who were Puritans, came from Kent, England, to Plymouth, Mass., sometime before 1640. One of them was a celebrated admiral in the English navy, whose remains are entombed in Westminster Abbey. Samuel Cooke was one of the first settlers of Wallingford, Conn., and among his descendants were Commodore Foote and the wife of Ex President Hayes. Stephen Cooke, the father of Ludlow, was a man of sterling qualities. He was one of the original members of the Free Congregational church of New Haven, and its building on Church street was erected under his supervision. Its pastor at this time was the Rev. Mr. Ludlow, and after him Edward Ludlow Cooke was named. Stephen Cooke was the publisher of the Christian Spectator and the Religions Intelligencer. Beside being interested in the growth of Congregationalism he worked earnestly in the anti slavery movement, but died before his hopes in that direction were realized, and when his youngest child was but six months old, leaving his widow dependent on her own exertions for the support of her family. She, however, was a woman of the true New England type, and her strong Christian character, unfailing courage, and indomitable will, enabled her to overcome obstacles that a weaker nature would have deemed insurmountable. She supported and educated her children, and lived to see them settled in homes of their own.

Ludlow inherited his father's strong anti slavery principles, and very early in life his sympathies were aroused for the colored people fleeing from slavery. His home was near that of Amos Townsend, who for many years was the agent of the Underground Railroad," and being so well known in that capacity, feared to shelter the runaways himself, and used to send them to the home of Mrs. Cooke, who would keep them for days at a time when they were sick and foot sore and unable to continue their journey; and her youngest son, though a lad of not more than twelve years, was often called up at three o'clock in the morning to act as guide to slaves who were fleeing to Canada. Very often there were slaveholders in the city offering rewards of five hundred, eight hundred, and a thousand dollars for the capture of the fugitives, and they' would have the streets near Mr. Townsend's house patrolled to prevent their escape. Mr. Cooke was present at the famous meeting held in the North Church of New Haven one Sunday evening in 1857, to bid farewell to a company of men who were being sent to help make Kansas a free state. Rev. S. W. S. Dutton presided and called for donations of the necessary equipments for the company. Few meetings have equaled that since the days of the Revolution. The excitement was intense as man after man arose offering rifles, Bibles, blankets, and money, but the climax was reached when Miss Mary Dutton stood up and contributed a rifle, and the applause was so great as to fairly shake the building. The next day the New Haven Register, a democratic paper, in its account of the meeting printed a doggerel, beginning:

"Shoulder arms, Miss Mary Dutton,
Your knapsack buckle tight,
Put on your soldier breeches
And show them how to fight.
Quick ! march upon the foe,
And now your rifle, cock it
And send a slaveholder to H-
With every whistling bullet."

Mr. Cooke was a great admirer of Wendell Phillips and never failed to hear him when he delivered his lectures in New Haven. In 186o, soon after the execution of John Brown, Mr. Cooke and a young friend invited Mr. Phillips to deliver his celebrated lecture on that subject. One of the Yale professors promised to introduce the speaker to his audience, but at the last moment withdrew, saying that he feared the act would injure his political prospects. The result was that Mr. Cooke, though a very young man, was obliged himself to present the lecturer. At this time there were many southern students in Yale, and they were persistent in their attempts to prevent Mr. Phillips from speaking, and at one time during the lecture the orator stood twenty minutes before he could make himself heard.

Mr. Cooke attended the public schools of New Haven until his fourteeenth year, when he entered a dry goods store, where he remained eight years. At this time, his health being impaired, he spent a winter on the island of Porto Rico. At this period the oil excitement was running very high, and Mr. Cooke, after his return from the West Indies, went as agent for a company to West Virginia, where he sunk two wells, one eight hundred and the other twelve hundred feet deep, but found no oil. Another winter was spent in prospecting when he traveled over six hundred miles on mule back in Alabama.

In 1864 Mr. Cooke married Ella E., the youngest daughter of Oliver Parish of Hartford. In 1865 he associated himself with Mr. Berman Glafeke in the manufacture of burial caskets. Three years later the firm was changed to Cooke & Whitmore, and is, perhaps, the oldest partnership in Hartford, it having remained unchanged for twenty three years. For twenty years Mr. Cooke was the traveling man of the business and probably journeyed more miles than any other person in the city at that time. This being the pioneer concern in this line of goods, the territory covered was a large one, extending from Bangor to St. Louis. In 1872 Mr. Cooke built his fine residence on Woodland street, where he still resides. The summer of 1888 he spent in Europe, traveling through Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, France, England, and Scotland.

All strong characters have their weak points and Mr. Cooke's appears to be a passion for antiquities. He has the largest collection of ancient clocks in Hartford and also possesses many other unique and valuable pieces of antiques furniture. Mr. Cooke has been a prominent member of the Fourth Congregational church for twenty years, and for thirteen years was superintendent of the Sabbath school.

From:
Illustrated Popular Biography
Of Connecticut
Compiled and Published by J. A. Spalding
Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainard Co.
Hartford, Conn. 1891


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