Cooperstown, Otsego, NY
Cooperstown Miscellaneous and Leatherstocking Tales
Writing from Cooperstown, a correspondent says, "I confess to a weakness for visiting the houses and haunts of men of genius. Nothing in the world drew me here but the fact that it was the place where Cooper, the great novelist, lived, died, and was buried. I wished to see the scene so graphically described in the 'Pioneer,' and other Leatherstocking tales, and to visit the spot where the great master drew so much of inspiration.
"I had heard much about the loveliness of the place, and for once fame has not overshot the mark. The situation is most picturesque. Cooperstown is embowered in the sweetest of little valleys, amid mountain views, at the source of the Susquehanna river. It has a rich valley on the one side, and the Otsego lake on the other. This lake is not unworthy of the appellation bestowed upon it by Cooper, of 'Glimmerglass,' for the wonderful transparency of its waters. On its eastern shores extend a range of mountains from five to six hundred feet high, densely wooded. On the western shore the hills are less high, less rugged, but hardly less picturesque."
CLASSIC SCENES--THE LEATHERSTOCKING TALES
The shores of Otsego lake are classic. Every cove and rocky glen is hallowed by tender memories. Here re located some of the most thrilling scenes in the "Leatherstocking" tales. Her glorious "Natty Bumppo," first as a 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 hills 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 landed baron in his time, and exercised a mild species of lord-dom 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 distinguished company, numbering among his guest a no less illustrious personage than Prince Tallyrand.
His distinguished son kept up something of the family state, but, living much abroad, affairs fell into neglect. Cooper and Professor Morse, the inventory 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, the family was broken up, and 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, as attorney in Albany; Caroline F., widow of the late H. F. 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. (From 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