Elmer H. Cook Jr., 54, teacher, owner of Todds Inheritance

September 14, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Elmer H. Cook Jr., a teacher, historian and the proprietor of a famous North Point house that was burned during the 1814 British invasion of Baltimore, took his own life Sunday. He was 54.

Mr. Cook struggled with depression during the last few months of his life, family members said.

At the time of his death, Mr. Cook was a faculty member at Dundalk Community College. Earlier, he taught science and mathematics at Sparrows Point High School for 27 years.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Fort Howard, Mr. Cook fell under the spell of the area's history as a boy, and it became a longtime passion.

In the early 1970s, Mr. Cook purchased Todds Inheritance on North Point Road, a house overlooking Shallow Creek that the Todd family had lived in since receiving the property as a land grant from the King of England in the 1660s.

During the War of 1812, the house was used as a lookout point from which the Todd family observed the British fleet approaching. Family members would sound an alarm when they spotted troops coming ashore.

In retaliation, the British burned the brick house, one of the few private buildings they burned, on Sept. 14, 1814, as they withdrew from Baltimore.

In a 1989 newspaper interview in the Dundalk Eagle, Mr. Cook talked about his fascination with the home, saying, "I was enchanted by the big house, the cemetery with its various Todd family members and the surrounding farm fields."

The house, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was rebuilt on the site in 1816 and remodeled in 1867.

Mr. Cook willingly opened the doors and grounds of the residence to the interested and curious, and portrayed a member of the Todd family at the annual Defenders' Day celebration.

He was amused by the historical continuity of the house and liked to point out to visitors that the first Todd who lived in the house was Thomas, who married Anne Gorsuch. The last to reside there, Clara Todd, had married John Gorsuch, he would recall.

Mr. Cook was a member of the Dundalk-Patapsco Neck Historical Society, the North Point State Park Advisory Committee, the U.S. Bicentennial Commission and the Dundalk Centennial Commission.

His family had roots in the Fort Howard area. His parents, Elmer Cook Sr. and Elva Cook, opening the Fort Howard Supply and Service Co. on North Point Road in 1942.

Mr. Cook was a 1960 graduate of Sparrows Point High School. He earned his bachelor's degree in 1966 from Towson State College and a master's degree in education from Western Maryland College.

He served in the National Guard in the early 1960s and earned the rank of second lieutenant. He was a member of the Fort Howard Community Church and Edgemere Baptist Church.

Services were held Thursday, on Defenders' Day.

In addition to his mother of Fort Howard, he is survived by two sisters, Margaret V. Spangler and Vera Cook Hinkelman, both of Fort Howard; and several nieces and nephews.

Pub Date: 9/14/96

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