Cheryl Mullenbach

It’s a pretty sure thing that saloon keepers in Davenport in the summer of 1872 wouldn’t be selling any more liquor to George Cook after they heard about an episode that took place at a saloon on Main Street just east of the Lindsay & Phelps mill.

Both George and his wife were known to be hard working people. And they usually were able to put food on the table for their five kids. The family cow supplied the necessary milk for the family. But George was known to be “a little too fond of ardent spirits.”

Out of the blue George sold the cow one day, and Mrs. Cook thought she knew what her husband had in mind. She visited all the saloons in the neighborhood and asked them to sell no liquor to her husband. She warned that if any did — she would “take such vengeance as lay in her power.”

Soon after the sale of the cow Mrs. Cook spotted George and two friends walking into a saloon across from the mill. She watched through the window as the wife of the saloonkeeper poured drinks for George’s friends and refused his request for one. But before anyone could stop him, George guzzled down the beer set in front of his friend.

Crash, crash, crash went the panes in the windows and doors; down went the glasses and wine bottles behind the bar. Mrs. Cook didn’t stop her rock throwing spree until 47 panes of glass and “numerous” glasses and wine bottles were smashed onto the saloon floor. Witnesses said the place looked as if a “mob had made it the scene of a destructive riot.”

As Mrs. Cook continued, the saloon customers “sought places of safety” and a large crowd gathered. Mr. Cook ran outside and with some of the other men in the saloon tried to stop his wife — but their attempts were “of no avail.” No one could quiet her. Finally, “having wrought all the destruction she could,” Mrs. Cook left the scene and went home.

The owner of the saloon had a warrant issued for Mrs. Cook’s arrest. But Mr. Cook offered to replace the glass and repair the damages providing the warrant against his wife be rescinded. It was thought the saloon keeper would relent. And while no one “exactly justifies” her deeds, the Cook’s neighbors felt a great deal of sympathy for Mrs. Cook. And it was assumed that saloon keepers in the city would think twice before placing liquor where her husband could get his hands on it.

©Cheryl Mullenbach

Read other Iowa Stories and learn more about author Cheryl Mullenbach at

Type of work:

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *