The Chronicles of Cooperstown/Chapter VII

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CHAPTER VII.
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  Having now given the simple and brief annals of the place, from the time when the site of Cooperstown was a wilderness, down to the present moment, we shall close our labors, with a more general account of its actual condition, trusting that posterity will not permit any period to extend beyond the memory of man, without adding to that which has been here given, in order that there may always exist authentic local annals, for the information and uses of those most interested.

  The village of Cooperstown stands in the 44th° of north latitude, and as near as can he ascertained from maps, in the 76th° of longitude, west from Greenwich. It contains within the corporate limits, according to an enumeration that has been made expressly for this work, the following buildings, viz.:

  Dwelling Houses ..... 169    Churches ............   5
  Stores ..............  20    Bank ................   1
  Shops ...............  42    Court House .........   1
  Offices .............  14    Engine House ........   1
                                                    ----
         Total,..................................... 253

  To these buildings may be added between sixty and eighty barns, carriage-houses, stables and minor constructions, that stand in the rear of the lots. The buildings of Lakelands, Woodside, and Fenimore, all of which places, though quite near the village, stand without its legal limits, are also omitted in this enumeration. If these latter, and some ten or twelve dwelling-houses that stand between Fenimore and Cooperstown, be included, the total number of buildings of all sorts, would not be far from three hundred and fifty.

  The population does not probably vary much from 1,300 souls at the present moment.

  Cooperstown is better built than common, for a village of its size. Of the dwelling-houses, there are a good many of stone or brick, as there are also stores and shops. In the whole, near forty of the buildings are of one or the other of these materials. Many of the dwellings, besides those particularly named, are genteelly finished, and would be considered respectable habitations even in the larger towns. — 54

  The village is beautifully placed at the southern end of the lake, being bounded on one side by its shores, and on another by its outlet, the Susquehanna. The banks of both these waters are sufficiently elevated, varying from twenty to forty feet. Apple hill probably stands sixty or seventy feet above the river, which it almost overhangs. There is an irregular descent from the rear of the town towards the banks of the lake, and which has been brought to a regular grading in some of the streets running north and south. The place is clean, the situation is dry, and altogether it is one of the healthiest residences in the State.

  Lake Otsego is a sheet of limpid water, extending, in a direction from N. N. East to S. S. West, about nine miles, and varying in width from about three-quarters of a mile to a mile and a half. It has many bays and points, and as the first are graceful and sweeping, and the last low and wooded, they contribute largely to its beauty. The water is cool and deep, and the fish are consequently firm and sweet. The two ends of the lake, without being shallow, deepen their water gradually, but there are places on its eastern side in particular, where a large ship might float with her yards in the forest. The greatest ascertained depth is at a place about two miles from the village, where bottom has been got with a line of one hundred and fifty feet. There are probable spots of a still greater depth. The fish of the Otsego have a deserved reputation, and, at particular seasons, are taken in great abundance. Among those that are edible, may be mentioned the following, viz. the lake fish, or salmon trout, the bass, eels, perch, sun-fish. pickerel, cat-fish, or bull-pouts, and suckers. The river has the white fish, and many of the small neighboring streams are richly supplied with common trout. The trout is little, if any, inferior to the salmon, and has been caught as large as from twenty to thirty pounds; those that weigh from eight to twelve pounds are not uncommon. The bass, or Otsego bass,is also a delicious fish, resembling the white fish of the great lakes. The pickerels and the eels are both excellent of their kind, and very abundant in their seasons.

  The shores of the Otsego are generally high, though greatly varied. On the eastern side, extends a range of steep mountains, that varies in height from four to six hundred feet, and which is principally in forest, though here and there a farm relieves its acclivities. The road along this side of the lake is peculiarly pleasant, and traveled persons call it one of the most strikingly picturesque roads within their knowledge. The western shore of the lake is also high. though more cultivated. As the whole country possesses much wood, the farms, viewed across the water, on this side of the lake, resemble English park scenery. Some of the glimpses of the settlement, which has obtained the name of Pier’s from the circumstance that several farmers of that family originally purchased lands there, are singularly beautiful, even as seen from the village. — 55

  Immediately opposite to the village, on the eastern side of the valley (for the Susquehanna winds its way for near four hundred miles through a succession of charming valleys,) the range of mountain terminates, heaving itself up into an isolated hummock, however, before it melts away into the plain. This rise is called the Vision and its summit is much frequented for its views, which are unrivaled in this part of the country. The ascent is easy, by means of roads and paths, and when there, the spectator gets a bird’s-eye view of the village, which appears to lie directly beneath him, of the valley, and of the lake. The latter, in particular, is singularly lovely, displaying all the graceful curvatures of its western shores, while the landscape behind them, embracing Piers, and the hills beyond, is one of the richest and most pleasing rural pictures that can be offered to the eye. Nothing is wanting but ruined castles and recollections, to raise it to the level of the scenery of the Rhine, or, indeed, to that of the minor Swiss views.

  Prospect rock, which lies on the same range with the Vision, also offers a good view of the village and the valley, though it does not command as extensive an horizon as the first.

  The mountains south of Cooperstown form a background of great beauty, and it is seldom that a more graceful and waving outline of forest is met with any where. The Black hills in particular, are exceedingly fine, and are supposed to be nearly a thousand feet above the level of the lake.

  As the valley of Cooperstown is about twelve hundred feet above tide, it will readily be conceived that the summers are cool and the air invigorating. These facts are very apparent to those who come from the low counties during the warm months. Even with the thermometer at eighty, as sometimes happens, there is a sensible difference between the oppression produced by the heat here, and by that produced by the same heat at a less elevation. The lake also, has the effect to produce a circulation of air, it being seldom that there is not a breeze either up or down this beautiful sheet of water.

  The banks of the lake abound with eligible situations for country houses. On its western side, there is scarcely a quarter of a mile without one. and we feel persuaded that nothing but a good road to the Mohawk is wanting to bring this spot into so much favor as shall line the shores of the Otsego with villas. As the roads now are, it requires but twenty hours to go to New York, and by the improvements that are in progress there is reason to expect this time will ere long be shortened to ten or twelve hours. When that day shall arrive, we predict that Cooperstown, during five months of the year, will become a place of favorite resort for those who wish a retreat from the dust and heat of the larger towns. — 56

  The society of this place is already of a higher order than that of most villages of its size. iii this respect, Cooperstown has always been remarkable, more liberal tastes and a better style of living having prevailed in the place from its commencement than is usually to be found in new countries. At different periods, many families and individuals accustomed to the best society of the country have dwelt here, and they have imparted to the place the habits and tone of their own condition in life. So far from gaining by a closer connections with the commercial towns therefore, in this respect, there is reason to think that the village might not be better off than it is at present. Lying as it does off the great routes, the village of Cooperstown is less known than it deserves to be. Few persons visit it without acknowledging the beauties of its natural scenery and the general neatness and decency of the place itself.. The floating population, it is true, has brought in some of that rudeness and troublesome interference which characterizes the migrating and looser portion of the American people; but a feeling has been awakened among the old inhabitants that is beginning to repel this innovation, and we already, in this class, see signs of a return to the ancient deportment, which was singularly respectable, having been equally free from servile meanness and obtrusive vulgarity. One or two instances of audacious assumptions of a knowledge of facts and of a right to dictate, on the part of strangers, have recently met with rebukes that will probably teach others caution, if they do not teach them modesty. On the whole, the feeling of the community is sound, and is little disposed to tolerate this interference with the privileges of those who have acquired rights by time and a long connection with the place.

  It has been said, both directly and indirectly, that the, village of Cooperstown is well built; unlike most such places, its best houses are private residences, and not taverns. The Hall and Edgewater are both American country houses of the first class. The house of Mr. Henry Phinney, which is sometimes called the Locusts, is a very pretty pavilion of considerable size, and the building is well finished and in good style; all three are of brick. Woodside is also a substantial and respectable dwelling, in stone. Lakelands is not a very large house, but it is well placed, and is finished more like a villa than any other building around it. Apple hill has a house of no great beauty, but the situation is much the best within the limits of the village. The present house at Fenimnore is respectable, though with very little pretensions to architecture; but the whole of the grounds are delightful, and the site of the old building is one of the most beautiful in the State, for a residence of that character. In addition to these places, which, from possessing select grounds, are the most conspicuous, there are a dozen other dwellings that have more or less advantages, and some of which are also well placed. Even many of the buildings that stand directly on the principal streets are above the ordinary level, and the general impression made on the observer is that of respectability and good taste. Many of the houses have gardens, though the original plan prevented the introduction of court yards, of which there are but eight or ten that deserve the name in the place. — 57

  The present condition of Cooperstown is sufficiently prosperous, without being in that state of feverish excitement that has afflicted so many other small towns. The trade is not great, but it is steady and profitable. The village contains six dry goods stores, all of which are on a respectable scale; four groceries; two druggists; hatters, watchmakers and jewelers, tinmen, and the customary number of more common* mechanics, such as tailors, shoemakers, blacksmiths, &c., &c., some of which establishments are on a scale larger than common.


*Mr. Cooper, by the term "common," here means, of course, general, i.e., mechanics generally found in all places. [Editor S. M. Shaw's note]

  Distinctly within the recollection of many now living, or some forty years ago, there were not probably half a dozen pianofortes, if as many, in the State west of Schenectady. There was one in the Hall, which was certainly the only one in the county of Otsego at that time. There are now two manufactories of the instrument in the village, both of which also make organs, and no less than thirty-five private houses in which pianos are to be found. Three of the churches have organs. Lessons in music are given by three different competent persons, and a good taste in this delightful art is fast obtaining.

  There are two boarding schools for females in Cooperstown, though no good classical school for boys has ever existed in the place. The proximity to the Hartwick Academy, distant only five miles, is supposed to retard the accomplishment of so desirable an object. Nevertheless, a higher order of instruction is gradually coming into use, particularly among the females, and as Cooperstown has always possessed good models, it is hoped the attainments and principles which render the sex so attractive and useful, as well as respectable, will take deep root in the community. As they improve their minds and tastes. the young of that sex, on whose example so much depends, will obtain new sources of happiness, which, while they create a disrelish for the less refined amusements, will give them a still higher standard of attainments, juster notions of their own dignity, and an increasing dislike for those familiar and unladylike pursuits that are too apt to form the aim of a mere village belle. The term village belle, however, is inapplicable to the state of society that already exists in this little community, and we regard. with satisfaction, the signs of a more general advancement than formerly, in the accomplishments that mark an improved association, the possession of which is so certain, when carried beyond their elements, to bring with it its own reward. — 58

  Cooperstown has two weekly newspapers, the Freeman’s Journal and the Otsego Republican, the former of which has always been esteemed for a respectable literary taste. In politics, as a matter of course, these papers are opposed to each other.

  There are nine practitioners in the law, at present residing in the village, viz: Messrs. Campbell, Crippen, Morehouse, Cooper, Bowne, Walworth, Lathrop, Starkweather and Turner. William H. Averell, Esquire, is also in the profession, but he does not practice. Of these gentlemen, Messrs. Averell and Cooper are natives of the place; Messrs. Campbell and Crippen of the county.

  The principal mercantile firms are those of H. B. & U. W. Ernst, L. MeNamee, E. D. Richardson & Co., J. Stowell, John Russell & Co., and H. Lathrop & Co. Most of these gentlemen are natives of the village, or of the country immediately around it. Mr. McNamee is a European by birth, but he has resided in Cooperstown, as a merchant, thirty-six years.

  There are four practising physicians at present, viz : Doctors Spafard, Curtis, Johnson and Harper.

  The printing establishment of Messrs. H. & E. Phinney is one of the most extensive manufactories in the village,if not the most extensive. It ordinarily employs about forty hands, of both sexes, and consumes annually 3,000 reams of paper. It has five presses in almost constant use. Large Bibles and school books are chiefly produced. Of the former, this house publishes 8,000 copies annually. It also publishes 60,000 volumes of other books, chiefly school books, and 200,000. almanacs, toy books, &c.

  The tannery is still kept up, and it produces a considerable amount of leather, annually. Iron castings are also made in the village. The manufactory of Messrs. E. & H. Cory, in cabinet ware, pails, &c., &c.is on a respectable scale. The manufactory of hats, by J. R. Worthington, an establishment that has passed into the second generation of the same family, is also considerable; Ralph Worthington carried on the business in 1802. Mr Stephen Gregory has long had a respectable shoe store, and manufactory, that is still kept up. The industry of the place, however, as a whole, is directed more toward supplying the wants of the surrounding country, than to exportation. In this sense, the business is considerable, and is gradually increasing, with the growing wealth of the county. — 59

  Although Cooperstown, which has now had an existence of half a century, may not have produced any very eminent men, it has had a fair proportion of respectable citizens. Several young artists and mechanics, that were born here, have risen to some notoriety in their sev- eral callings, and the clergy and the members of the bar, have generally maintained respectable stations in their respective professions.

  Cooperstown for the last twenty years has been rather remarkable for its female population. Perhaps no place of its size can boast of a finer collection of young women than this village, the salubrity of the climate appearing to favor the development of their forms and constitutions. The beauty, indeed, of the sex in this village, has been celebrated in verse even, and we think quite justly.

  As the growth and improvement of Cooperstown have been steady, and, with very trifling exceptions, regularly progressive, they may be expected to continue in the same ratio, for a long time to come. We shall have no mushroom city, but there is little doubt that in the course of time, as the population of the country fills up, this spot will contain a provincial town of importance. The beauty of its situation the lake, the purity of the air, and the other advantages already pointed out, seem destined to make it more peculiarly a place of resort, for those who live less for active life than for its elegance and ease. It is highly probable that, half a century hence, the shores of the lake will be lined with country residences, when the village will be the center of their supplies of every kind. Were an effort made, even now, by the erection of proper lodging houses, the establishment of reading rooms and libraries, and the embellishment of a few of the favorable sp ts, in the way of public promenades and walks, it strikes us that it would be quite easy to brin,, the place into request, as one of resort for the inhabitants of the large towns during the warum months. The mode adopted in the smaller European towns, would be the most suitable for commencing such an experiment. If a few persons with narrow incomes, and who possessed proper buildings, were to fit up rooms, as parlors and bed rooms, a set in each house, furnish the breakfasts and tea, and, if required, the dinner, persons of fortune would be induced to frequent the place, would pay liberal prices, and the village in a few years, would reap the benefit of a large expenditure. The system of common boarding houses will not for a long time draw to (Jooperstown company in sufficient numbers to remunerate; or company even of the right quality; but half a dozen furnished lodgings, on a respectable scale, we think would lay the foundation of a system that might prove to be exceedingly serviceable to the interests of the place. There is everything that is wanted for such an object, and, as society produces society, a few years would bring an accession of this important requisite, that would be certain to sustain itself. — 60

  To conclude, Cooperstown is evidently destined to occupy some such place among the towns of New York, as is now filled by the villages and towns on the shores of the lakes of Westmoreland, in England, and by the several bourgs on those of the different waters of Switzerland. The period of this consummation may be advanced, or it may be retarded by events; though nothing will be so likely to hasten it, as to provide the means of comfortable private lodgings. As it is. scarcely a summer passes that families do not reluctantly go from this beautiful spot, to others less favored by nature, and with an inferior society, in consequence of their being unable to obtain the required accommodations. Still every thing shows a direction towards this great end, among which may be inentior’ed the increasing taste for boating for music, the languages, and other amusements and accomplishments of the sort, that bespeak an improving civilization. — 61


Introduction, Ch. I, Ch. II, Ch. III, Ch. IV, Ch. V, Ch. VI, Ch. VII