A Tombstone, A Dam and the Brothers Cook
By Lloyd T. Shanley Jr.

The Cook Brothers of Harwinton did the unusual: they hand carved a tall burial shaft of family tombstone of native split rock to eventually mark their own graves. This they accomplished years in advance of their demise in the 1890's.

In 1904 the town’s people saw to it that the stone monument was given its finishing touches and transported from the Cook's old home to their family plot in Harwinton's East Cemetery. There it was erected over the grave of its creators upon the stone base the brothers had prepared long before.

The bachelors, Wakeman G. and Stephen B. Cook, were forth generation Harwintonians. Born in 1808 and 1816, respectively, they were the youngest and last survivors of their branch of the Cook family. The brothers lived in the old family home they had inherited from their father, Allen Cook. The house stood on a 20 acre parcel of land along the north side of the Farmington-Litchfield Turnpike (the Burlington Road), nearly opposite today's Brick Kiln Road. Cook's Dam eventually occupied a portion of this same property.

Waken and Stephen were stone masons who built many of the house foundations and cellars in and around Harwinton. It was they, who in 1840, for a contract price of $600, built the foundation and first story of the building in Harwinton's center that served for 75 years as the Town Hall at it's lower level, and an Episcopal Church on the upper level. Their stone work survived the disastrous fire in 1915 that destroyed the building of combined use. It was very soon put back in service as the foundation and first story of the Harwinton Community Hall. Now, some 80 years later, the Cook brothers masonry work appears at be "as good as new"!

Other examples of the masonry work of the Cook brothers are the occasionally disturbed split stone retaining walls of the ancient Center Cemetery and those that run along South Road to the Community Hall in front of the Parsonage.

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