Cooperstown, Otsego, NY
COOPER'S GRAVE AND MONUMENT
"Cooper sleeps in the church-yard beside his kindred, an unpretending slab 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 beneath 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 '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 side the Italian devices--bow and quiver of arrows, scalp-locks on a lance, tomahawk, and necklace of beavers' claws."
The following picture of the lake and surrounding hills is from the "Deerslayer:" "On a level with the point lay a broad sheet of water, so placid and limpid that it resembled a bed of the pure mountain atmosphere compressed into a setting of hills and woods. At its northern or nearest end it was bounded by an isolated mountain, lower land falling off eat and west, gracefully relieving the sweep of the outline; still, the character of the country was mountains; high hills or low mountains rising abruptly from the water on quite nine-tenths of its circuit. But the most striking peculiarity of the scene were its solemn solitude and sweet repose. On all sides, wherever the eyes turned, nothing met it but the mirror-like surface of the lake, the placid river of heaven, and the dense setting of woods. So rich and fleecy were the outlines of the forest that the whole visible earth, from the rounded mountain-tops to the water's edge, presented an unvaried line of unbroken verdure."
The points viewed by "Leatherstocking" still remain,--the same nooks, cascades, hills, and the beautiful lake, are all here, as they were in the long ago.
Cooperstown in 1848 is thus described by Nathaniel: "It looks like a town where everybody 'gets along,' where there are six or seven rather rich people, and no such thing as a pauper. The principal tavern looks a good deal fingered and leaned against; the 'hardware stores' are prosperously well-built; the boys playing in the street draw grown-up audiences whose pleased attention to the varlets shows that there is nothing better going on; and in the windows of the houses on the side streets sit young ladies without a sign of a shirt-collar in their company, and this last bespeaks a town of exhausted uncertainties; everybody's exact business ascertained, and no object is visiting except with definite errand or invitation. By glimpses that I caught, over rose-trees and picket-fences, I should say there are many a charming girl waiting her twilights in Cooperstown, while I saw no sign of the gender to match,--nothing masculine stirring except very little boys and very manifest 'heads of families.'"
This state of affairs has been materially changed. Since Willis rumbled in in the old stage-coach, a railway has been built, connecting with the Albany and Susquehanna railroad on the south, and the steamers "Natty Bumppo" and "Pioneer" ply on the lake, connecting with the D. L. and D. W., on the north, thus rendering Cooperstown easy of access. In the summer it presents a lively appearance, as it is much sougth by the denizens of the cities, who delight to leave the "madding crowd" and wander here in the cool shade along the classic shores of the "Glimmerglass," rendered famous by the pen of America's gifted son, J. Fenimore Cooper.
The village is pleasantly located at the foot of the "Haunted Lake," and has a population of about 2500 inhabitants. It contains six churches,--Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, Universalist, and Catholic,--two banks, two newspaper,--The Freeman's Journal and Otsego Republican,--a flourishing school, seven hotels, and various mercantile establishments, all of which seem to indicate an unusual degree of prosperity. (The History of Otsego, NY, by Duane Hamilton Hurd, 1878)
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Transcribed by Holice B. Young
Copyright Debbie Axtman and Holice B. Young
December 24, 1999