Their grandchildren, Maurie and
Delores Miller, still have the Miller Thermometer business at the site of
the original Mortimer home. The third daughter married Ed
Mortimer wanted to build a house that would last. In 1884, he
bought a lot just south of Main Street on S. Center. Then he
contracted with a stone-cutting shop, owned by James R. Cook
was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, in 1822. He served in the Civil
War - a long hitch - about 4 1/2 years as a member of the 85th Pennsylvania
Volunteers. Around 1880 he came to Hartford where he already had some
relatives with established homesteads. One was a sister, Mary Cook
Graff, and her husband, Daniel Graff.
wife died in Pennsylvania and he had left his motherless children safely
with relatives. When his son, William, was 14, James sent for him to
come and join him in the marble and stone-cutting shop located on South
Center Street. William took to the trade immediately, and the two soon
established their reputation as skilled stone cutters.
Charlie Mortimer laid out his plans with James Cook. Out north of town
some huge rocks were located. A glacier had evidently deposited them
many years before. This was on the Washington L. Thomas
farm. Part of that property is now known as the A.J. Watkins
farm. Next door is the Melvin Thomas property (a grandson of
Washington Thomas), now owned and operated by Melvin's son, Roger. Incidentally,
the present owner is a first cousin of one of my boyhood friends, Bernarde
the cutting started, one rock stood above ground as large as a small house,
with no way of knowing how far into the ground it extended. Some local
people estimated 75 to 100 cords in the total rock.
James Cook and son cut up chunks and hauled them into Hartford. There,
wetting down the rock thoroughly to make it cut easier, they divided the
chunks into building blocks. Several large boulders were in the
field. They started working on one that was a grayish
sandstone...about 12 feet across and 4 feet deep. The top was just
below the surface of the ground.
in the upper surface of the boulder, they could see a flagstone some two
inches thick placed on top of the large rock. On removing the covering
they found a cavity in the top of the huge boulder. It was about 6
feet long and 2 wide in the widest place, being narrowest at the ends and somewhat
in the shape of a coffin.
had removed most of the dirt from the cavity when he struck into a quantity
of iron rust. This excited his curiosity and he and Will began to
examine it. He found it to be a tomb in proper shape for receiving the
body of a person. At the east end where the head seemed to have been,
it was about 8 inches deep and, just below, where the shoulders would rest,
it was two inches deeper. From there to the foot it was cut in proper
shape to receive the hips and legs and feet.
the right side, the cavity had been enlarged as if to receive some
implements and contained a quantity of iron rust, evidence that iron had
been placed there with the body. Cook then began a search for the
remains of a skeleton and found two perfectly petrified bones where the hips
would rest, resembling the knuckles to the hip joints.
happened next can only be explained, if not entirely excused. Only
eleven years before, in 1873, in far-off Asia Minor, a German archaeologist
named Heinrich Schliemann had uncovered the ancient city of Troy. The
study of archaeology was very new. Small wonder interest in ancient
things had not yet penetrated to the wilds.
in many ways, Michigan was still a wilderness. Hartford had been
incorporated as a village for only seven years. People in this area
had just not had the leisure time or the interest in the uses of the past to
be concerned about the value of ancient burial sites.
and Will Cook stood and looked at the hollowed-out rock. Then the
father said, "All right, we've got a
house to build." And they went to
work splitting the huge bolder with dynamite, saws, wedges and mauls.
And thus in 1884, they began to build Charles Mortimer's house on South
Stories of the time had it that the crumbling dust in the stone
sarcophagus was an Indian of great reputation who was given the unusual
honor of being buried in solid rock. A few even wondered if the stone
was part of a meteor that had struck the earth, containing the body of a
being from outer space.
The shape of the hollowed-out coffin, and the work entailed in
chipping it out, would almost seem to rule out an Indian burial. And
the rust by the body's right side suggests an iron weapon-sword or something
that would be close at hand for the journey to the next world. I have
heard no other stories of Indians being buried thus.
There are legends about Scandinavian warriors and sailors who
reached our land. Could it have been one of the Vikings? We will
most likely never know because the secret of the dead person's identity is
lost in the mists of time.
In all the years I knew Doc Hinckley, I never heard him tell
the story of the burial place in the rock from which their house was
built. Perhaps he had not heard it. I got the story from another
source, and if the Cooks' stone quarrying team thought about it later,
perhaps they would just as soon forget about the prehistoric tomb they had
cut up to build Charlie Mortimer's house.
Charlie Mortimer's new house was the only one in Hartford to be
build from the huge rocks located north of town. Part of them were
used in the porch of the Merriman house, which is now Hartford's Public
And the stone house endured, even after the death of Dr.
Hinckley. Then, it was torn down in the 1970s. The stone blocks
were stored and later used in the construction of a new house over near