After much time researching– genealogically, looking in family histories, local records, reaching out to cemetery directors and the like– I finally found her. Yesterday, I visited her. She rests in a central location just over the crest of a small hill in Oak Grove Cemetery just outside the Hill McKnight section of Springfield. She lies in a family plot with her youngest daughter Mary, Mary’s husband Lincoln C. Haynes, and Mary’s two children Walter and Frances. It’s a quiet location– the urban blight that corrupts Hill McKnight appears to have swept around Oak Grove to date, and the center of the cemetery, more so. It is quiet and clean. To the right of the Haynes family headstone, a large stone angel stands sentinel, watching over the souls buried beneath. It is well that someone watch over “Una” — Harriet ‘Hattie’ Butterfield Cook– for she had to watch over herself for much of her life.
Harriet Butterfield was born in Westmoreland, New Hampshire on the 31st of July 1841; the daughter of Lucy Smith White and Charles Butterfield. The Butterfields were a prosperous and influential family in Westmoreland. One Butterfield scion, cousin Martin Butterfield, served in the United States Congress representing New York from 4 March 1859 until 3 March 1861. Hattie’s family was well off, and sent her to attend the Westmoreland Valley Seminary, from which she graduated in 1858. It was likely at the Seminary, or at a related function that she met Orrin Cook. Orrin was a young man from a family of modest means; but he was bright and literate– and clearly caught Hattie’s eye. When Orrin was drafted in 1863 into the Union Army, Hattie’s heart clearly went with him. She sent him via post the war diary he kept in 1864 through his grievous wounding at the Battle of the Wilderness, his captivity in Richmond, and finally his release to Federal troops in one of the last prisoner exchanges in late 1864.
Not much remains of Hattie’s writing that I’ve discovered to date, though she did leave secreted notes to Orrin in the diary, stating:
That you may life to fill this diary out and many more is the prayer of
Pray for us; for we trust that we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.
But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.
– Hebrews, Chap. XIII, Vs 18, 19.”
“Una” appears to be a pet name between herself and Orrin, he in turn being “Ishmael.” For this literate duo, it appears likely that ‘Una’ is a reference to Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, in which the character of ‘Una’ stands as a personification of truth, whereas Ishmael likely refers to the Biblical Abraham’s first-born son, the outsider who ” ..shall be a wild ass of a man: his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the face of all his brethren.”
Between Una Butterfield and Ishmael Cook, the naming of the pair appears to be a self-fulfilling prophesy.
When Orrin was wounded at the Wilderness, neither the doctors, nor Orrin himself, expected him to live– but live he did. In his diary, he writes of missing his ‘Una’ and how she will worry about him if no word reaches her of his fate. Doubtless, she did worry; and she waited for his return. When finally the war ended and Orrin mustered out, she joined him in Springfield, Massachusetts where he had been working as a clerk for a lumber company. The two were married on 20 February 1866.
After living in rented houses for a while, the two bought a lovely new home on Stearns Square in April of 1871 and moved in with two year old daughter Jennie Frances. A second daughter– Mary Burr– was born shortly thereafter.
As mentioned in a previous post about Orrin, family life was not pleasant for the Cooks. Orrin appears to have suffered from what would be termed PTSD today. He was prone to monstrous fits of temper, and while indications written after his death are that he was not physically abusive towards his wife and daughters, clearly he was psychologically so. Orrin was cruel and withholding of his love, and often deprived his family of niceties. Relating stories told her by her mother Mary, Frances Sturtevant– Hattie’s granddaughter– spoke of how Orrin would deny new blankets and candies to the family, but would spare no expense on his prized horses. The family made no small means, with Orrin’s book-keeping jobs supplemented by Hattie’s work as a master seamstress running her own dress and cloak-making businesses, so limited cash flow was no excuse.
No doubt after enduring too much of Orrin’s emotional tempestuousness, Hattie left him in 1887, taking her daughters with her. Forty-six year-old Hattie, eighteen year-old Jennie and sixteen year-old Mary lived in a rented home just a street away from their former Stearns Square abode, and the rage of Orrin. Hattie continued to support the three (with no assistance requested or given by Orrin) via her seamstress business for a number of years. Mary took as job as a schoolteacher in 1896 and married wealthy shoe store magnate Lincoln C. Haynes in 1899. In 1903, Jennie was wed to Royal Sturtevant of Sturtevant and Merrick grocers. Hattie joined Jennie and Royal in their large home near the center of Springfield. Both girls were very close to their mother, and she with them. She is proudly listed as the mother-of-the-bride in both girls’ wedding announcements– there is no mention of their father.
By 1910, Hattie’s health and ability to the delicate and intricate seamstress work was failing. She was 69 years old, estranged from her husband, and living in the home of her eldest daughter. In an effort to gain something in the way of marital support, she petitioned the Springfield courts for spousal support from Orrin. There is no record of this request being granted. Orrin renewed his petition for divorce from Hattie (he had petitioned in 1890 and withdrawn the request soon thereafter, for an unknown reason), and in 1911 it was finalized. Save for her daughters, Hattie was on her own.
In 1917, Hattie’s grandson Francis (through Mary Haynes) enlisted to go off to fight the Hun in the Great War. Perhaps remembering the stories told by her ex-husband, and not wanting to see her grandson endure a similar trauma, she did everything her 76-year old hands could muster. She led a Soldiers’ Relief movement in Springfield, sending countless care packages to the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in France and Belgium. Doubtless, Hattie was happy to see her grandson return to Springfield whole and hale in 1919.
Hattie lived on for another year before finally succumbing to bronchial pneumonia on 7 January 1920. She was the first of the family buried in the plot at Oak Grove Cemetery, opened in 1882.
After six months of searching, yesterday I stood at Hattie’s grave. Here, before my feet, lay a woman who was well-educated in a time when well-educated women were dangerous. She was strong and able to fend for herself and her daughters when cut off from support. She ran her own business at a time when women did not do such things. She was a loving and tender wife and mother. She endured the unendurable until she could take it no longer. ‘Una’ may have been a girl, but Hattie– Hattie was a strong, independent woman. My respect for her is deep, and as a result, standing in the shadow of her protective stone angel, I was moved.
I spoke to Hattie yesterday. I shared my thoughts with her. I shared my respect.
Clearly, I was not the first to do so. On her gravestone stood six stones, placed at the corners and in the center; in memoriam. Hattie Butterfield Cook may be lost to the mortal world, but her memory and her story live on.