Friday, March 25, 2016

Annie Cook’s Poor House

Annie and Frank in 1935.

Greed spawns some horrific stories and this is one of the worst.

Annie Cook was born in 1875 to Russian parents who immigrated to Denver, Colorado. 

The family was poor, and Annie worked alongside the rest of her siblings. She didn’t mind the hard work, but she resented the fact girls didn’t get paid.

In 1893, a young farmer, Frank Cook traveled from his 80-acre farm in Hershey, Nebraska to Denver for supplies. Annie saw this as an opportunity and married Frank and moved to Nebraska.

It wasn’t long before she wanted more out of life. Preferably, money, and status. While visiting a doctor in Omaha, Annie met a Madam that ran a house of ill repute. She discovered this was a fast way to make money.

She began to leave Frank and their young daughter, Clara, who was born in 1896, on the farm in Hershey, and spent long periods in Omaha for various illnesses.

What Annie was doing was running a house of prostitution. After several years she earned enough money to double the size of Frank’s farm in Hershey. But this was not enough for her.

After the turn of the 20th century, North Platte, Nebraska became a center for crime. It was during Prohibition-- and bootlegging, gambling, and prostitution were lucrative professions--especially since the officials in North Platte turned a blind eye if paid hush money.

When Annie’s daughter Clara was 13 years old, she moved her to North Platte under the guise of obtaining a better education for Clara. Annie ran a boarding house for girls. Money was placed in the right palms, so this pretense was effective.

The home was actually used for prostitution. Clara played the piano for the girls and their male paying customers. 

Many local officials frequented the house—this gave Annie the dirt she needed. She used this information as a means of extortion for years to come.

Clara standing and Annie
Clara eventually dropped out of school and became the house’s star attraction—her mother forced her into prostitution when men began to notice Clara. 

Annie used the money she made from this house to buy additional land adjacent to Frank’s farm in Hershey in 1923.

With bribes and threats, she gained the Lincoln County contract for its Poor Farm. 

She took this contract away from a caring widow who had treated the many destitute male workers that came to labor on her farm, in exchange for a roof over their heads, with kindness.

Annie placed her Poor Farm on her newly acquired land adjacent to Frank’s farm—the family moved back to Hershey—but she kept the house of prostitution in North Platte running. 

She unlike the widow treated her male indigent workers with extreme abuse. 

Cook Poor House
She worked many of them to death. Because of this, several men ran off. Others who tried were often found dead floating in irrigation ditches. The local officials, with hush money, deemed these deaths accidental.

Annie carried a buggy whip with her at all times to control the poor souls who remained as slaves to her whims. She also used foul language to intimidate.

Her husband Frank did not like Annie’s treatment of these men. He would entertain them with songs and funny stories, but he was too mild-mannered to confront Annie.

He became fed up when Annie falsely accused him of sexually assaulting Clara. He moved into the Farm’s barn and remained there until his death in 1936.

As the years passed, Annie became more greedy and impatient. She lashed out at anyone who dared to defy her. 

This included her feeble-minded sister and Clara, who lived and worked on the farm. If either woman resisted the work, Annie beat them.

One day Annie returned to find Clara enjoying a moment with a young boy who worked on the farm. Clara had given him a couple of pairs of new overalls. The two were enjoying the gift as Annie arrived. 

Annie became enraged at their happiness. She grabbed the overalls and burned them in the cookstove.

This young boy was one of the few to survive Annie’s abuse. He grew up to fight in the Second World War and then became a train engineer.

In 1934, Clare now 38 years old got in an argument with her mother. 

Annie took a heavy lid lifter from the stove and chased Clara into the apple orchard. She hit her daughter with this lifter on the right side of her head. Clara dropped dead.

Another one of Annie’s bought and paid for public officials-- the Lincoln County Attorney-- declared no official investigation was necessary. 

Clara’s death was deemed an accident. The official report stated she swallowed poison by mistake and choked to death.

Annie Cook age 70,
Annie because of bribes, extortion and undeserved influence never was convicted of any of her crimes, including murder.

Many who passed the house in North Platte would cross the street as they referred to Annie as "that witch." 

At the time of her death in 1952, many North Platte and Hershey residents still feared her.

To this day, the residents of the now modernized farm where the Cook farm and Poor House stood state the place is haunted. Strange noises are heard, items are moved without explanation and apparitions are seen.

These ghosts are believed to be Annie Cook and several of the workers that she abused and murdered.

Nellie Snyder Yost wrote a book about Annie Cook’s life entitled, Evil Obsession.

1 comment:

The Trauma Lady said...

The most incredible part of this story is that none of this has yet been re-investigated to this day, along with other mislabeled rural murders. This is just revolting.