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Ancestral Sonnets by Richard Cook

Ancestral Sonnets

by Richard Baldwin Cook

JONAH BALDWIN, 1777-1864/5 / Art by Leah Fanning Mebane,

Jonah Baldwin

Young Jonah came alone but well prepared,
To prairie Springfield, Oh, ‘bout eighteen-four.
An Anglican, drover and surveyor,
He opened up a tavern and held court.

Ere long, pert Sarah Scott had caught his eye.
They wed when she was not above fifteen.
Childbirth most likely caused this child to die.
Leaving small ones to Jonah’s harsh regime.

He took another wife and raised them all.
Food, shelter, clothing, books, them to be read.
He’d met the great Tecumseh, watched him fall.
A people unprepared, a nation’s dread.

The skills that such as Jonah Baldwin brings,
The gifts that made White prairie men be kings.

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SARAH SCOTT BALDWIN 1791-1817 / Art by

Sarah Scott Baldwin
1791 – 1817

A sample, bit of cloth, to mark her years.
Precise: “In Memory of S Baldwin
1817” doubtless prompted tears,
From the small seamstress daughter, who called in,

Her father, to approve her careful work.
But nine, Jane thus evoked her absent mum,
In simple fabric and her handiwork.
Framed rag, calls both to mind, centuries come.

Dear Sarah, ancient, ever young mother.
Barred from her little ones, world without end.
Longs not for own missed life but another,
Child weeping, cloth and needle in her hand.

You, Sarah, we recall while we have breath.
Pray for us now and in the hour of death.

‡      ‡      ‡      ‡      ‡

LEVI WILLIAMS 1794-1860 / Photo posted at

Levi Williams
1794 – 1860

Levi Williams, honored – also hated.
Vet’ren, War Number two against the Brits,
And the Black Hawk War. But then belated
Insults hurled. On this sideline, no one sits.

In young Illinois, this Baptist preacher
Was deemed a valued leader of home guards.
Reviled an ignorant and brutish creature,
Levi, dead now, when answer would be hard.

In Mormon history Levi Williams, hissed.
These sources emit limitless fury.
On trial was he, for killing Joseph Smith.
Acquitted quick by a hand picked jury.

His-story, writ, they say, by those who win.
But also take their shot, the next of kin

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Archibald Gaines

His only enemy, the river wide.
So, when Marg’ret grabbed up her kids and risked
Ohio ice flows, into freedom stride,
Both old and young alike, Archie was pissed.

He trap’em up in Cinci, went to court,
With lots of help from young bloods on horseback.
Admitted that the kids were his, of course,
Slaves, runaways, all property in fact.

Killed Margaret, her babe. Closed those eyes so blue.
Knew daughter’d not be free upon this earth.
Mother not tried for murder. Judge, well new,
Archie would tend to her, for all she’s worth.

He raped her as he pleased. That was the way
To handle feisty gals, back in the day.

‡      ‡      ‡      ‡      ‡

LUCINDA HALEY DORLAND 1818-1893 / Art by Leah Fanning Mebane,

Lucinda Haley Dorland
1818 – 1893

Our Lucinda Dorland, death befriended.
Her father Richard died at thirty-eight.
At six, then, her plans and dreams upended.
God did not spare a father for her sake.

Wed Ezekiel; dead at thirty-four.
She then placed two young children in the grave.
Their James alone would live near to four score.
By bargaining with Fate, did James, Lu save?

She’d nothing God might want, God couldn’t take.
James went to war and killed, returned a man.
Obtained an education for her sake.
Then James supported her as hoped, not planned.

The US frontier closed the year she died.
But private, inner paths remain untried.

‡      ‡      ‡      ‡      ‡

ARABELLE AMERICA IRELAND DORLAND 1850-1895 / Art by Leah Fanning Mebane,

Arabelle America Ireland Dorland
1850 – 1895

They met when Arabelle was bare nineteen.
Her dad would have approved of James’ desire.
Matured in Sherman’s Blue, much death he’d seen.
Old Abe at war, her father did admire.

They wed in Indiana, then moved east.
First couple in their lines did not jump west.
Raised daughters two in Lou’ville, ‘fore the beast
of cold and final darkness stilled her breast.

Oh, Arabelle, you died and could not see
James in his rigid mansion’s emptiness
or daughters wed, at least one happily,
or chubby grand babes lean to your caress.

You died too young, no solace could you give,
when son-in-law elected not to live.

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