THE JAY COOKE FAMILY AT COOKE
CASTLE ON GIBRALTAR ISLAND, LAKE ERIE
Jay Cooke, the son of Ohio Congressman Eleutheros
Cooke, was born in Sandusky, Ohio, in 1821. A banker and investment broker,
Cooke founded Jay Cooke & Co. in Philadelphia in 1861 and floated a $3
million Civil War loan for the state of Pennsylvania. Shortly after First Bull
Run, the United States realized it required large sums of money to finance the
war. Cooke's brother Henry was well acquainted with Salmon P. Chase, Abraham
Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury. Henry arranged for Jay to accompany Chase
to New York City. Cooke introduced Chase to the nation's banking elite, who
privately underwrote the first $50 million for the Union war effort. Chase
appointed Cooke the Union's bond agent. Cooke devised a system through which
citizens redeemed U.S. bonds in gold at 6 percent interest after not less than
five years or more than twenty. He advertised the "five-twenties" in newspapers
across the country, offering bonds in denominations as small as $50. More than
three million small investors bought bonds. By 1864, Cooke was raising money -
nearly two million dollars a day - faster than the War Department could spend
it. By war's end, Cooke had sold more than one billion dollars in bonds.
and Elizabeth Barney wait for Laura
Cooke Barney to
prepare their picnic
lunch during a visit to nearby Green
|When Cooke family
members arrived at Gibraltar in July 1896, they discovered that a storm had torn
the American flag that flew over the island. Caroline Moorhead, Clara Moorhead
Cooke, and Laura Cooke Barney gathered on the Castle porch to make repairs.
brother Pitt of Sandusky, Ohio, oversaw the construction of Cooke Castle on
Gibraltar Island in 1864. This image was
taken in 1906 for a biographical
Jay Cooke. Today, the exterior of the Castle
appears much as it
did during Jay Cooke's lifetime.
|Croquet was a
popular 19th-century pastime. Rev. Jay Cooke and his wife Molly posed for this
photograph before a game with Henry and Esther Cooke during their August 1894
members enjoyed bicycling
on Put-in-Bay during their summer visits.
Esther Cooke posed for this photograph
before setting out on a cycling
South Bass Island in July 1896. Caroline
and Henry Cooke, Jr.,
look on .
daughter Sarah Cooke Butler, her husband John Butler, Sr., and their children
John Jr., Elizabeth, Laurance, Clarissa, and Allen posed by the porch of Cooke
Castle upon their arrival in August 1890. The Rev. Henry Cooke wrote in the
Gibraltar Record that he had "found the island literally invaded by the Butlers"
on his return from a visit to Sandusky.
In 1925, the Cooke family sold
Gibraltar to Franz Theodore Stone, who donated the island retreat to The Ohio
State University for use as a marine biology laboratory. The first four volumes
of the Gibraltar Record (1864 to 1888) are housed at The Ohio State University
archives in Columbus, Ohio. The other three volumes (covering the years 1889 to
1920) are the centerpiece of a much larger collection of Cooke manuscripts
donated to the Hayes Presidential Center in 1996 by Mr. and Mrs. James H.
Harding of New York City. Mr. Harding is the great- great-grandson of Jay Cooke.
Collection, GA-71) For more about Jay Cooke and Gibraltar Island, see "The
Lake Erie Resort Era" and "A Half-Century of History: Photo Essay" by Brenda
Ransom in the Summer/Fall issue of the Northwest Ohio Quarterly. Ms.
Ransom used the Jay Cooke manuscripts and the Gibraltar Record extensively as
part of her thesis research. She earned a Master of Arts degree in American
Culture Studies from Bowling Green State University in 2001.
In 1864, Cooke returned to Sandusky and purchased
Gibraltar, a seven-acre island nestled in the bay near South Bass Island. An
avid fisherman and hunter, Cooke occupied the 15-room Cooke Castle at least
twice each summer for nearly sixty years. Many prominent Gilded Age figures
enjoyed Gibraltar: President Rutherford B. and Lucy Webb Hayes, General William
T. Sherman, Salmon P. Chase, Senator John Sherman, J. Haseltine Carstairs, and
William Howard Taft. Cooke's extended family spent weeks each summer enjoying
Lake Erie's cool breezes, sandy beaches, and fine sailing. Cooke, and later his
children and grandchildren, recorded the summer's events in The Gibraltar
Record, a series of leather-bound volumes. The record also contains poetry,
sketches, anecdotes, and more than 2,000 photographs, most taken by Jay Cooke's
son, the Reverend Henry E. Cooke.