Mort Cook’s father, L.J. Cook, first came to Eagle River in the spring of 1883. He and his partner, George Dickinson, were looking for a new location for their general merchandise store. They knew that the railroad was coming to town and the logging business was booming. After spending a few days exploring they returned to their home in Norrie, WI. His father returned to Eagle River in the spring of 1884 with merchandise and a tent. His partner Dickinson followed shortly thereafter, and they sold clothing, some food, and some drugs. Because the people who came to the store were often in need of basic medical care and Mr. Cook soon found himself pulling teeth and stitching wounds. He was often called the town’s “first” doctor.
A son, Paul, was born in the fall of 1884 and was the first male Caucasian child born in Eagle River. A second child, Mort, was born in 1889. Except for the two years spent in the Army during WWI, Mort Cook lived his entire life in Eagle River, a life of 97 years. In the latter part of his high school education, Mort’s brother, Grant, told him about a teaching job opening at the new Juve School in St Germain. He encouraged Mort to take the State Exam and tutored him all summer. Mort passed and got the job. After two years another position opened at the Manheim School in Conover. Mort taught there for 2 years and during this period met his future wife Jenny Lillrose. They wed in 1917 and had two daughters, Iris and Lois.
In 1913, Mort went to work for Strong and Manley who had a hardware store on Wall Street. They had just obtained a Ford Motorcar franchise. The job at that time was an express clerk working with rail shipments. In 1918 Mort was drafted into the Army and served two years in Texas working as a mechanic on the Army bi-planes known a “Jennies” (just like his wife).He liked the experience as a mechanic so much that when he returned to Eagle River, he took a job in the auto department of Strong and Manley. Ford would put the cars together on the assembly line in Detroit and break them down into components, create the components and then ship them to the dealers. It was the job of the auto department to reassemble the cars in preparation for delivery to the customer. At that time, Strong and Manley used the second floor of their hardware store on Wall Street to assemble the cars. Following reassembly, the cars were driven down to get them on the ground for delivery. Mort soon became head of the auto department and was involved in planning of the new building for the auto division which was built on the corner of Main and Division streets. After the auto division moved to the new location, he became shop foreman. That red brick building still exists and is currently being used as a tire dealership.
Mort worked in the auto department for 27 years before retirement. Following that, took a job with the Eagle River school system as a maintenance man and custodian. He worked for the system until he was in his 70’s before retiring again. Mort never lost my interest in mechanics however and was always working in his basement shop. His grandsons recalled that Mort helped them build homemade go carts and motor scooters in the 1950s. They would drive them around on the side streets of town, much to the dismay of the police.
Mort Cook died on March 25, 1986. However, he lives on through his memoirs which have shed light on what early Eagle River was truly like.