Archived Story

A home of a different kind

Published 10:04am Sunday, March 23, 2014

In researching last week’s column about the Carriage House, I uncovered some interesting information that I was not aware of before.

The site where the Hormel Historic Home now proudly stands was once the site of a different home.

The Hi Chapin house stood on the property until 1871 when John F. Cook, Sr. built what stands now. Thanks to, I found that Hi (Hiram) Chapin and his wife, Florence, were Austin residents and must have built or lived in the original structure on this site prior to 1865.  I don’t know any more about them but when a house is known by your residence there, you must have made an influence on someone.

The Chapin House became the Cook House when Mr. Cook and his wife, Addie E. Carpenter Cook, moved in following their wedding on July 26, 1865. They lived in the Chapin structure before removing it and erecting the Italianate architecture you see today in 1871.

The Cook family involvement in Austin goes back to the middle 1800s. The Rev. Stephen Cook and his wife, Jennette, came to Austin to serve as minister at Austin’s First Congregational Church. The year of their arrival in Austin is unclear but they and three of their children are listed in the State Census of 1857.

The couple had four children including one daughter, Julia, who was born in 1826. She married Dr. J.N. Wheat who was one of Austin’s first doctors. This couple lived at 304 Water Street (right across from the Hormel Historic Home.)

They had three sons. William, born in 1820, is described as “long Austin’s Chorister and Superintendent of Sunday Schools.” James was born in 1821 and studied for the ministry at Oberlin.  His eyesight failed before he could graduate, but he became a deacon and served the Congregational Church for 30 years. John F. was born in 1823 and served in many capacities in Austin.

It is recorded that John arrived in Austin in 1856.  He left for a while and worked in the railroad industry in Iowa. He returned to Austin in 1865 and became active in real estate. He owned several farms and was involved with the hardware firm of Cook and Davidson. He was the Mayor of Austin in 1870.

John F. Cook died on Dec. 2, 1892, at the age of 69.  His obituary headline, dated Dec. 3, 1892, read “John F. Cook, one of Mower County’s Pioneer Residents, is Dead.” Funeral services were held in his home — one of many notable funerals held here. John left his mark on Austin and on this corner of Fourth Avenue and Second Street NW.

 Social Concerns Presented by Spruce Up Austin

Tuesday, April 15, 10 to 11 a.m., free.

Gretchen Ramlo, organization President, will share the accomplishments Spruce Up has had in the last 25 years and what they have planned for the future. Please call to let us know you are coming.

 Stepping Out for Autism Walk

Saturday, April 26, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Bandshell Community Park

Teams are forming now for the annual fundraising walk to support the Summer Camps offered by the HHH for area youth affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder. Visit to print your registration form. Lunch (free will offering accepted) will be offered at 11 a.m. and Koo Koo Kanga Roo will perform at 11:30 a.m.

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