On a Sunday afternoon in November 1883, fifty-six year old Lafayette Cook of Auburn, Maine went for a sprightly stroll with his grandchildren. Afterwards he declared that he was going to prepare himself for the coffin by shaving and putting on a fresh set of clothing. His family didn’t think much of his preoccupation with his death at the time. That morning after breakfast he proclaimed, “I shall never eat another breakfast with you.” Lafayette, a Spiritualist, had a reputation for being eccentric and just two weeks prior he predicted the date of his death, which was upon him. Cook had no serious health problems and in the time since he’d made it known that he was soon to die he seemed in good spirits, possibly even more chipper and congenial than usual. He even continued to sew overalls from home for a local company until about a week before he died. He called upon a neighbor to collect an order of overalls for delivery. He told the neighbor not to bring him additional sewing and added, “I have done all the work I shall ever do.”
From the Daily Dispatch on November 16, 1883: “He said he wanted no harrowing death-bed scene and no demonstration of grief. He called for a spread, and lying carefully upon a lounge he drew a comforter about him and apparently settled himself for a nap. His wife and family gathered about him, but he made no formal farewell, simply bidding them all good-bye. They were impressed by his gentle earnestness, but had no real though of his dying.
|The Daily Dispatch 16 November 1883|
Mr. Cook lay with his cheek resting in one had and with the other arm by his side. In that position he seemed to fall asleep. They watched over him, as he seemed to be quietly dreaming. They saw no change. At tea-time they tried to wake him. He was breathing softly, but they could not rouse him. Then they became alarmed and used more vigorous efforts to awaken the unconscious man. Nothing would bring a sign of returning consciousness. He sank into a deeper stupor, his breath coming shorter and slower. They worked over him all night, and a physician was called in, but it availed nothing. Early yesterday morning all signs of life disappeared, and the strange man was dead on the day he appointed for taking off. He made no movement after he first closed his eyes.”
The above article was my first acquaintance with Mr. Cook and after reading it, my initial thoughts were that either this was one eerie coincidence or that he had actually committed suicide despite the family’s idea that he hadn’t ingested any drugs.
An article about Mr. Cook in the December 13, 1883 issue of The Democratic Press provided even weirder details about the events surrounding Cook’s premonition, which he prophesied after a run-in with a partridge (a death omen) and a two-hour long trance.
“Coroner Brooks made a careful examination, and found the medical facts to be as first stated. He found the body lying as Cook had laid himself out, and it was the most life like corpse he had ever examined. Death was shown to have resulted from natural causes, and yet there was no disease. Mr. Clark and Mr. Cates, who watched with Cook on Sunday night, say that the only movement they saw was the slight expansion of his chest occasionally. The death flutter was noticed at five minutes before 8 a.m. on Monday. Of the genuineness of the old man’s prophecy there is abundant proof.
|The Democratic Press 13 December 1883|
Mr. B.N. Chesley, of Auburn, is a brother of a recently deceased daughter-in-law of Cook. Mr. Chesley was standing in the mayor’s office, in Auburn, on Tuesday morning, when someone remarked the peculiar manner of Lafayette Cook’s death. Mr. Chesley had not heard of it.
‘Cook dead!’ exclaimed he. ‘There is something singular about that. He has been saying for two weeks that he was going to die Monday morning. Two weeks ago he went into a trance, and made the announcement. My sister’s child came over to the house last weekend and said that her grandfather was getting ready to die, and that he was going to die on Monday morning.’
About two months ago Cook’s daughter-in-law died. Cook was one of the most sincere mourners He accompanied her remains to the grave, and expressed the tenderest solicitude toward his grandchildren. It was just after the death of Mrs. Cook that Cook made his first statement in regard to his coming dissolution.
It was 10 o’clock in the morning when a grandchild run into the house with the news that a partridge had flown into the shed and couldn’t get out. Mr. Chesley says that Cook manifested great concern. The little girl says that her grandfather ‘turned pale and was afraid.’ At first he delayed going into the shed. The partridge ruffled its feathers at the children and Everett Cook, and the latter went into the house after a gun. Then the old gentleman went into the shed. He did not want the bird shot. Mr. Chesley says that the moment that Cook appeared the behavior of the bird changed. It flew at Mr. Cook, and wheeled in a circle about his feet. Then it perched on his shoulder, pecked at his face, and alighted on his hands. At length it was given to one of the children and placed in an apple tree. It flew directly back. The bird stayed half an hour, all the time showing the utmost affection toward Cook. Finally it flew away to the burying ground where Mrs. Cook was buried. Cook then returned to the house and went into a trance, which lasted two hours. When he recovered he said that he should die. He said that the first warning was the visit of the bird. He had great faith in such omens. He frequently had what he called trances, and was a believer in Spiritualism.”
From The True Northerner: “He took no poison or drug of any sort. It was a simple surrender of vital power.”
|The True Northerner 22 November 1883|
|(another related clip from Rocky Mountain Husbandman 22 November 1883)|