Letters of a Ticonderoga Farmer
Selections from the Correspondence of William H. Cook and His Wife with Their Son, Joseph Cook, 1851–1885
Edited by Frederick G. Bascom
William H. Cook, of the village of Ticonderoga, exemplified the strong, high-minded farmer of the nineteenth century. Devoted to his only son, Joseph, William's one consuming desire was to see that this boy should have an education with the best. Although it meant years of financial sacrifices for the old farmer, Joseph was sent to the finest schools: Phillips Andover, Yale, Harvard, and universities in Germany.
After twenty years of education, Joseph became famous as the "Boston Monday Lecturer," whose talks on subjects ranging from theology and science to current events and world history attracted thousands of listeners every week and were reprinted in newspapers around the world. His lecture tours took him around the world and his books became bestsellers in their day. After leaving home at the age of thirteen, Joseph only returned to Ticonderoga infrequently. But father and son kept in close touch by letter over a thirty-year period.
In Letters of a Ticonderoga Farmer (first published by Cornell in 1946), Frederick G. Bascom has made selections from their correspondence between 1851 and 1885, which together present a delightful running narrative of both William's day-to-day life in nineteenth-century upstate New York, revealing a shrewd yet generous nature and a homely genius, and Joseph's experiences in higher education and as a celebrity. Letters from Joseph's mother to her son, though fewer in number, round out the portrait of both farm and family life in this period.
Introduced and lightly annotated by Bascom, these letters continue to offer useful and charming insights into the social history of upstate New York, from economic and industrial developments to local politics and religious controversies, as well as offering much human interest and considerable local color.