Annie Cook

Written By: nppladmin - Jan• 13•22
Originally published on Facebook October 1, 2021.

This week’s North Platte History features a woman who was featured in a fictional book, called “Evil Obsession,” by Nellie Snyder Yost. And that woman is Annie Cook.

While Yost changed the name and location of the people in the book, local readers quickly identified the real people. Twenty-five years ago, many North Platte and Lincoln County residents vividly still remembered Annie Cook, even though she died in 1952. And many people believed that the events recorded in the book all had a grain of truth to them. The book that was published as a work of fiction, was probably closer to a true crime novel.

All during the month of October, we are going to feature the people who were impacted the most by Annie Cook. And we start with Annie, herself. Read on!

Anne “Anna or Annie” Maria Cook (Petzke) was born in July of 1875 in Arapahoe, Colorado. Her parents, John William and Amelia (Ike) Petzke emigrated from Russia and moved to Denver, Colorado. Upon arriving in Denver, they opened the Petzke Livery Stable. They had three boys and five girls: Albert, Charles, Elizabeth “Eliza or Lizzie”, Anne, Celia, Joseph, Margaret “Bertha”, and Matie “Maggie”.

The Petzke’s had a large family and everyone worked hard. Annie didn’t mind the hard work. But what did bother her was the fact that because she was a female she didn’t get paid as much as the boys got paid, even though she worked just as hard or harder, than the boys.

In 1892, a thirty-three year old farmer by the name of Frank Cook made a trip to Denver, Colorado to buy supplies for his newly purchased farm, located on 80 acres outside Hershey, Nebraska. The place had a pretty white farmhouse and an irrigation ditch; all it needed was a family.

While in Denver, Frank boarded his horses at the Petzke Livery Stable. After a while, Mr. Petzke took a liking to him, and invited him to his home, for dinner with his family. At dinner, he was seated next to Mr. Petzke’s daughter, a lively 19-year-old named Anna, who was very interested in everything that Frank was telling her about his new farm.

The next year when Frank returned to Denver, it was to marry Anna (Annie). After they were married, the newlyweds returned to Hershey to begin their new life. Who could have known the turmoil that would be caused by this energetic young woman? Frank would spend the next 45 years trying to protect the peaceful Platte valley from his obsessive wife.

Annie knew a good thing when she saw it and immediately accepted Frank’s offer of marriage. They arrived at Hershey, Nebraska in the late winter of 1893. Her childhood frustrations of being denied money (because she was female) fueled her desire to own land and make money. After she arrived at the farm, she quickly became dissatisfied with the land. She devised a scheme to purchase land from her neighbors, thereby doubling the size of her farm and acreage. Once that was accomplished, she wanted more—more land, more money, more property, and more respect. Annie was smart and realized that in order for her to be as successful as a man, she needed to grease the palms of corrupt government officials and high-powered businessmen. Annie had a sixth sense about the weaknesses that could be exploited in the local businessmen, and exploit them she did. (See photo of Annie and Frank in their older years)

In 1894, Annie gave birth to a daughter, Clara. It was the only child born to Frank and Annie. Sadly, as far as Annie was concerned, Clara was just another employee. As soon as Clara was old enough, Annie put her to work in a prostitute house that Annie acquired in her many business dealings. <See pictures of Annie and Clara in the Photographs–Annie is sitting in the photograph>

Annie was bound and determined to become wealthy and important. She was willing to go to any lengths to make her dreams come true. The pursuit of her goals resulted in misery for everyone who was close to her. No one was spared, not her daughter, her sister, her niece, nor her husband. Frank watched helplessly as her obsession with money and power grew.

Over the years, Annie’s husband Frank became fed up and tired with the overbearing, aggressive, money-grubbing nature of his wife. Frank was not a confrontational man; but when Annie accused him of sexually assaulting Clara, he was finally done with Annie. Frank moved into the barn and lived there until he died in 1936.

Annie’s life was driven by the almighty dollar and she didn’t waste any time settling into a life that became many years of her being selfish, greedy, dominating and abusing anyone who crossed her path. Many North Platte residents knew and feared Annie. If they had to walk by her house, they walked on the opposite side of the road, afraid of the mean witch who lived in the Cook house.

Annie easily survived during the great depression and didn’t let the downturn in the economy stop her from continuing to prey upon the weak and the innocent.

The house pictured in the photographs is the bungalow that Annie modeled her home after (there are no surviving pictures of her actual home that researchers have been able to find). She hired the same contractor that built this home. She had him build her home in the exact same style. But of course, Annie had to have it built slightly larger for her own greedy purposes. The bungalow that Annie actually lived in has been torn down and a new house built in that location.

Annie Cook died May 27, 1952 at the age of 79. Come back next week to read more about the people in Annie Cook’s life. As always, thank you for reading!

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