Well-known local artery named for founding family, town historian believes

Well-known local artery named for founding family, town historian believes


WALLINGFORD — The 3.6 mile long Cook Hill Road is far smaller than the property the Cook family once owned during the 1670s to 1800s. The family owned an area of town once known as “Cook’s Hill,” leading Town Historian Bob Beaumont to believe the road was named after the family.

The Cook name is familiar in the town. Clarence F. Hale wrote in his book, “Tales of Old Wallingford,” that the name “has been prominent in the affairs of the town for three hundred years and is carried on such landmarks as Cook Hill and the Cook Farm on Northford Road.”

The first Cook to settle in Wallingford was Samuel Cook, one of the 38 founding fathers of the town. Known as the covenant, the 38 men mostly traveled from New Haven and settled in, what they named, Wallingford in 1670. Samuel Cook was the son of Henry Cook, of Plymouth, Mass. He also had three brothers: Isaac, John and Henry, according to Charles Stanley Davis’ book, “Early Families of Wallingford.”

According to Davis, Samuel Cook came to New Haven in 1665 and married Hope Parker on May 2, 1667. The two went to Wallingford in April 1670, with the first planters. As one of the founding fathers, Samuel Cook, as well as the other 37 members of the covenant, received land.

According to a March 29, 1951 Wallingford Post article, “when the Cook family left New Haven for the back country on the Quinnipiac River, they had in their saddlebags a land grant for 500 acres on what is now Cook Hill and five acres on what is now Center Street.”

The 500 acre property “extended in what became known as the parish of Cheshire, but was early considered a part of Wallingford,” according to Elaine Rice Gibb Kinzey’s book, “The Paper Plates of Rice.” A 500 acre property is clearly large, but Beaumont said it’s possible Samuel Cook owned that amount of land.

The family owned the hilltop, which explains why it was referred to as Cook Hill, Beaumont said.

A number of historians, including Davis and Hale, considered Samuel Cook as one of the first shoemakers and leather tanners in the area. Called “Tan Vat Springs,” Samuel Cook used wells on his property for his tanning business. In addition, Davis said he was heavily involved within the community. He died in March 1702.

“He was regarded as a very good man by his friends and neighbors,” writes Davis, “and was frequently called to fill offices of responsibility and trust in the village, and in the church of which he was a member.”

Another famous Cook was Col. Thaddeus Cook, the grandson of Samuel Cook. Thaddeus Cook fought in the Battle of Saratoga in the Revolutionary War under General Horatio Gates. He died in 1800. Thaddeus Cook also had a house on the Cook property. His mansion still stands today at 1640 Tuttle Ave.

During the Revolutionary War, Thaddeus Cook allowed five to seven regiments to stay on his property, according to John Bartis, who was the caretaker of the Thaddeus Cook mansion for 30 years.

Adella Buswell grew up in Thaddeus Cook’s house. Buswell, who was born in 1924, said the farm was only 70 acres, but at one time was larger. Interested in the family’s history, Buswell said she and her brother, Harmon Leonard, researched Samuel Cook and even found one of the wells he used for his tanning business.

Buswell’s son, Dick Buswell, continued the work his mother and grandmother did and is now considered the family genealogist.

“I just inherited what my mom and grandma had done in tracing the family,” he said. “... It was interesting to see the way they lived because obviously they were wealthy land owners.”

Over time, the Cook property got smaller. The property Thaddeus Cook’s house sits on today is now known as “High Mowing,” Bartis said. Dick Buswell said his family donated a part of the land to Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden.

“I do know (the Cooks) had the woodlot at Sleeping Giant because my mom and uncle donated it to the state,” Dick Buswell said. “It was the woodlot from the Cook Hill property, where they harvested their firewood.”

According to Beaumont, a number of Cooks have lived on the property and in town throughout time. In his research, Dick Buswell acknowledged that “the family was huge.” Samuel Cook, who married twice — he married Mary Roberts on July 14, 1690 after his first wife, Hope, died, according to Davis — ended up having 15 children total.

With one of the town founders and a military colonel in their family history, Beaumont said Cook Hill Road is most likely named after the Cook family.

“It was certainly named for the Cook family, that’s my gut feeling,” Beaumont said. “That property was Cook property for many, many years.”

evo@record-journal.com (203) 317-2235 Twitter: @EricVoRJ

Support Quality Local Journalism

Latest Videos