The History of Otsego County, New York
D. Hamilton Hurd
Published by Everts & Fariss, Philadelphia
COOPER, James Fenimore - Cooperstown
The shores of Otsego lake are classic. Every cove and rocky glen
is hallowed by tender memories. Here are located some of the most
thrilling scences in the "Leatherstocking" tales. Here glorious "Natty
Bumppo," first as the youthful "Deerslayer," afterwards as the aged
"Leatherstocking," loved the dark-eyed Judith Haller, and rescued
from the panther's claws the fair form of "Elizabeth Temple." Here
the curious traveler may explore the depths of "Leatherstocking's Cave,"
visit the scenes of the fight with the panther, and the site of Muskrat
Castle. So true was Cooper to life, so faithful to nature are his
pictures, that every curve and indentation of the shore and every
sweep of the hiills is familiar to the reader of the "Pioneer" and
"Deerslayer.": It requires no great stretch of fancy to people the
scenes with wraiths of old "Haller," "Harry Hussy," the gentle "Hetty,"
"Wah-ta-wah" (the Indian maiden), "Natty," and the rest of the deathless
concourse. Otsego is fitly called the "Haunted Lake."
Judge Cooper, father of the novelist, was a petty lauded baron in
his time, and exercised a mild species of lorddom over the inhabitants
of the village. He was a man of courtly manners, lived in what in
those days was considered a stately mansion, and entertained
distinquished company, numbering among his guests a no less
illustrious personage than Prince TALLEYRAND.
His distinguished son kept up something of the family state, but,
living much abroad, affairs fell into neglect. Cooper and Professor
MORSE, the inventor of the magnetic telegraph, were intimate
friends. They knew each other as young men, when Cooper was a
literary fledgling and Morse an obscure artist at Cooperstown; they
knew each other in Europe, when each had become famous. After
his death (J. Fenimore Cooper died Sept. 14, 1851, aged sixty-two
years) the family was broken up, and the Cooper mansion, after
various vicissitudes, was finally burned. the obliteration of such an
historical landmark is now regarded as a public loss.
Five children of the novelist are living, viz.: Paul, an attorney
in Albany; Caroline F., widow of the late H. T. PHINNEY, of
Cooperstown; Frances M., widow of Richard COOPER; and Misses
Charlotte F. and Susan F., residents of this village. Miss Susan F.
Cooper is somewhat celebrated as an authoress.
"Cooper sleeps in the church-yard beside his kindred, an
unpretendingslab marking the site of his grave. His monument is at
Lakewood Cemetery, on the eastern shore of the lake, just beyond the
site of the panther scene in the 'Pioneer.' It is of Italian marble,
twenty-five feet high, with a figure of Leatherstocking on the summit.
Natty is represented as loading his rifle and gazing off on the lake
spread out beneatrh him, while his dog by his side watches his master
with eager interest.
"The die is carved with symbols in alto-relievo: on one side is
the name of 'Fenimore Cooper,' surrounded by palm and oak
branches; on the opposite is the student's lamp and inkstand, with
the pen borne aloft by an eagle. On the north side are the naval
emblems (Cooper served in the navy some time), and on the south
the Indian devices - bow and quiver of arrows, scalp-locks on a
lance, tomahawk, and necklace of beavers' claws."
Excerpt from History of Otsego Co., NY, page 263
Return to Biography Index