The residences across the river are all in the town of Middlefield, but the village of Cooperstown has extended its corporate limits to include some of them, and virtually claims them all.
After the death of Henry Bowers, his son, John Myer Bowers, married in 1802 Margaretta Stewart Wilson. Young Bowers was said to be the handsomest and most fascinating man in New York, and had inherited a fortune which in that day was regarded as princely. Shortly after the marriage he decided to make his residence on the Bowers Patent in Otsego, and came hither with his bride in 1803, occupying a part of the Ernst house at the northwest corner of Main and River streets, while the present house at Lakelands was under construction. The building was erected during 1804, and Mr. and Mrs. Bowers took possession in 1805. Mrs. Bowers's mother, Mrs. Wilson, made her home with them, and lived at Lakelands for a half a century. These two ladies contributed much to the life of the community, and the younger generation was fascinated by their vivid memories of the leading spirits of the Revolutionary War. Mrs. Wilson occupies a niche of fame in The Women of the American Revolution, by Elizabeth F. Ellet, who said of her that "her reminiscences would form a most valuable contribution to the domestic history of the Revolution." She was in Philadelphia on the day of the Declaration of Independence, and made one of a party entertained at a brilliant fete, given in honor of the event, on board the frigate Washington, at anchor in the Delaware, by Captain Reid, the commander. The magnificent brocade which she wore on this occasion, with its hooped petticoat, flowing train, laces, gimp, and flowers, remained in her wardrobe unaltered for many years. Mrs. Wilson was Martha Stewart, daughter of Col. Charles Stewart of New Jersey, who was a member of Washington's staff. At the age of seventeen she married Robert Wilson, also closely associated with Washington, and in the midst of the war she was left a widow. During the Revolution Mrs. Wilson was more favorably situated for observation and knowledge of significant movements and events than any other lady of her native state. Her father, at the head of an important department under the commander-in-chief, became familiarly acquainted with the principal officers of the army; and, headquarters being most of the time within twenty or thirty miles of her residence, she not only had constant communication in person and by letter with him, but frequently entertained at her house many of his military friends. General Washington himself, with whom she had been on terms of friendship since 1775, visited her at different times at her home in Hackettstown. Mrs. Washington also was several times the guest of Mrs. Wilson, both at her own house and at that of her father at Landsdown. Such was the liberality of Mrs. Wilson's patriotism that her gates on the public road bore in conspicuous characters the inscription, "Hospitality within to all American officers, and refreshment for their soldiers," an invitation which, on the regular route of communication between the northern and southern posts of the army, was often accepted.
The hospitality which Mrs. Wilson had the privilege of extending to illustrious guests was returned by marked attentions to her daughter and only child, on her entrance into society in Philadelphia during the presidency of Washington. Mrs. Wilson was the object of much devotion on her own account at the capital, where her appearance was thus described by a lady of Philadelphia in a letter to a friend: "Mrs. Wilson looked charmingly this evening in a Brunswick robe of striped muslin, trimmed with spotted lawn; a beautiful handkerchief gracefully arranged at her neck; her hair becomingly craped and thrown into curls under a very elegant white bonnet, with green-leafed band, worn on one side." At the same time the debutante daughter, Margaretta Wilson, became a favorite with Mrs. Washington, who distinguished her with courtesies rarely shown to persons of her age. A contemporary letter describes her appearance at a drawing-room given by the President and Mrs. Washington: "Miss Wilson looked beautifully last night. She was in full dress, yet in elegant simplicity. She wore book muslin over white mantua, trimmed with broad lace round the neck; half sleeves of the same, also trimmed with lace; with white satin sash and slippers; her hair elegantly dressed in curls, without flowers, feathers or jewelry. Mrs. Moylan told me she was the handsomest person at the drawing room, and more admired than anyone there."
Such was the belle whom John Myer Bowers carried away as his bride to the wilds of Otsego, where, shortly afterward, at Lakelands, her mother also came to dwell. These two ladies, with their unusual experiences, added a new flavor to the life of Cooperstown.
Eight children born to Mr. and Mrs. Bowers at Lakelands were girls. The father's hopeful anticipations were so well known in the community that when a son and heir, Henry J. Bowers, was born at last, in 1824, the event was signalized by the ringing of the village church bells in Cooperstown, the only birthday in the region that was ever honored by such a demonstration.
John Myer Bowers, in his later years, was far from being the Beau Brummel of his youthful days in New York, and came to be known in the village as a distinct character, ruggedly determined not to yield to the infirmities of old age. When his physical strength began to fail he kept a horse constantly in harness and standing at the door of Lakelands that he might ride to and from the village. This horse, known as "Old Chap," was a familiar figure on the road in those days, and faithful to his master to the advanced age of thirty-seven years.
John M. Bowers died in the year 1846. His widow continued to occupy Lakelands until her death in 1872, and a daughter, Martha S. Bowers, continued the occupancy during her life. After the death of the latter Lakelands was sold in making division of the Bowers estate. Henry J. Bowers married in 1848 a daughter of William C. Crain, a prominent citizen of the adjoining county of Herkimer. She was a woman of large intellectual gifts and undaunted spirit, and personally undertook the education of their eldest son, John Myer Bowers, who sat on the floor before her, while the mother, book in hand, instilled into his mind the importance of the three R's, with much stress upon the principles of fidelity and loyalty as elements of success in business. At the age of sixteen years she sent him to New York to study law under one of the leading attorneys of that city. He became one of the foremost lawyers of the State, and a few years after its sale repurchased Lakelands, with its forty acres along lake and river, as his summer home. No native son of Cooperstown has had a more successful career than John M. Bowers. In 1915 he won a verdict for Theodore Roosevelt in the celebrated trial at Syracuse in which suit for libel was brought against the former President of the United States by William Barnes, the proprietor of the Albany Evening Journal.
A mansard roof was added to Lakelands at the period during which the property was out of the possession of the Bowers family, but the remainder of the house is of the original building, and the carved wooden doors and mantel-pieces within testify to the skill of old-time workmanship in Cooperstown. The wide stretches of lawn shaded by venerable trees, and the long sweep of lake shore commanded by Lakelands make it a charming country seat.
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In 1801 George Pomeroy, a young man of twenty-two years, arrived from Albany, and set up in business as the first druggist in the village and county. His store stood on Main Street on the site of the present Clark Gymnasium. Some of the hardships of the early settlers to which history may only allude are suggested by a sign which hung in front of the drug store of Dr. Pomeroy, as he was called. This sign depicted a hand pointing to these words: "Itch cured for 2 cts. 4 cts. 6 cts. Unguentum. Walk in."
Dr. Pomeroy had other talents beside his skill in chemistry, and soon became a popular citizen of the village, displaying one accomplishment that was perhaps not so rare then as now in being an expert in the exposition of the Bible. Dr. Pomeroy was not so absorbed in his Bible as to be indifferent to the heavenly qualities which radiated from the person of Ann Cooper, the seventeen-year-old daughter of the founder of the village, for it soon appeared that these two young people had formed a romantic attachment. In aspiring to the hand of the heiress Dr. Pomeroy could not promise to endow her with great riches, but he had a good name in being a grandson of General Seth Pomeroy who fought at Bunker Hill.
It was as a wedding gift to his daughter, on her marriage to George Pomeroy in 1804, that Judge Cooper built the old stone house which stands at the corner of Main and River streets. It was the first stone house constructed in the village, and the peculiar herring-bone style in which the stone is laid lends to this old residence a quaint and unusual charm. Under the eastern gable of the house is wrought in stone a spread eagle, with the date of the building, and the initials of the young couple who began housekeeping there. The involved order of the initials—G. A. P. C.—the master-mason, Jamie Allen, explained by saying that the lives, like the initials, of the bride and groom, should be so entwined as to make their union permanent. And so it proved, for they lived in peace and harmony to a great age. The house was for many years called "Deacon Place," Dr. Pomeroy being widely known as a deacon of the Presbyterian church, but in later times it was named "Pomeroy Place."
Ten children were born to the first occupants of the old stone house, and it became one of the liveliest centres of hospitality to old and young in Cooperstown. Years afterward there were those whose mouths watered at the recollection of the dining-room in the southwest quarter of the house, where many a merry feast was held, with particularly fond memories of delicious light buckwheat cakes that came hot from the griddle through a sliding window connected with the kitchen.
As years went on Mrs. Pomeroy became famous as a pattern of good works. In days when trained nurses were unknown, in almost every family when sickness came the first call was for "Aunt Pomeroy," who was by many considered wiser than the physicians. In the course of time the surviving children born to Mr. and Mrs. Pomeroy had homes and families of their own, and the old couple were left once more alone in the old stone house. Aunt Pomeroy's favorite place for receiving her friends was in the northeast corner room of the lower floor. There she was accustomed to sit in her rocking-chair, with her book, ordinarily a volume of sermons, or her knitting, usually a shawl to be sold for the benefit of missions to the heathen. She was fond of a game of whist, and her great-grandchildren once attempted to teach her to play euchre. She was getting on very well with the new game, until an opponent took her king in the trump suit with the right bower. She threw down her cards, exclaiming, "No more of a game where a jack takes a king!" She was always ready to receive visitors, of whom there were many, except at one hour of the day, which was sacred to an ancient pact between her husband and herself. Between the hours of five and six Aunt Pomeroy withdrew to her chamber, while Deacon Pomeroy, at his store, refused himself to customers, and retired to his private office, so that each devoted the same space of time to a secluded reading of the Bible.
The old couple were not permitted to end their days in the house which had been made a kind of symbol of their married happiness, and which they had occupied for nearly half a century. Late in life, owing to financial losses, Mrs. Pomeroy was compelled to sell the property. The aged pair closed the wooden shutters at the windows, fastened the door behind them, and descended the steps of the old stone house, never to return.
Mrs. Pomeroy passed her later years at Edgewater, the home of her grandson. Her death was typical of her life of piety. On a certain afternoon seventy-five women were assembled for Lenten sewing. After greeting them all in the drawing-room Aunt Pomeroy ascended the stairs to her room, stretched herself upon the bed, and quietly drew her last breath. In accordance with the old custom the clock in the death-chamber was stopped, and a sheet was drawn over the mirror. Down stairs the rector of the parish read a prayer, and the women filed out of the house in silence.
Pomeroy Place was not permanently lost to the family for which it was originally built. When the centennial of the building was celebrated in 1904, the house had already returned to its first estate, having been purchased by the granddaughter of the original owners, Mrs. George Stone Benedict, who with her daughter, Clare Benedict, came to occupy it as their American home between journeys abroad.
Mrs. Benedict's sister, Constance Fenimore Woolson, who made many summer visits in Cooperstown, may be said to have drawn her original literary inspiration from this region, for Otsego appears in her first work, "The Haunted Lake," published in December, 1871, in Harper's Magazine, while Pomeroy Place itself is commemorated in one of her earliest productions, "The Old Stone House." From this period till her death in 1893 the sketches, poems, and novels that came from Miss Woolson's pen reached such a level of literary art that Edmund Clarence Stedman called her one of the leading women in the American literature of the century. Miss Woolson spent the latter years of her life in Europe, changing her residence frequently. Gracefully impulsive and independent, she had a gypsy instinct for the roving life of liberty out-of-doors; yet in character and demeanor she was so serenely poised, so self-contained, with such inviolable reserve and dignity, that she was, as Stedman put it, "like old lace."
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One of the most remarkable men of early times in Cooperstown was Elihu Phinney, publisher of the Otsego Herald, who had brought his presses and type here in the winter of 1795, breaking a track through the snow of the wilderness with six teams of horses. The first number of the Otsego Herald, or Western Advertiser, a weekly journal, appeared on the third day of April. This was the second newspaper published in the State, west of Albany, and its title shows that Cooperstown was then regarded as belonging to the far west of civilization. Like all newspapers of that period, the early files of the Otsego Herald appear to the modern reader to be singularly lacking in local news, and only the rarest mention of what was going on in Cooperstown is to be found in its faded pages. There is much of the news of Europe, and the political news of America admits the printing in full of long speeches delivered in Congress, but the happenings in Cooperstown seem to have been left to the tongues of village gossips, and the advertising columns stand almost alone in reflecting the daily life of the place.
Elihu Phinney was a great favorite in the village, being a man of delightful social qualities, and distinguished for his remarkable wit and satire. His bookstore in Cooperstown furnished a large section of the country with an elemental literature, and with many historical works. A year after his arrival he was made associate judge of the county. It was in the printing office of Judge Phinney that Fenimore Cooper, when a boy, was in the habit of setting type "for fun," which experience he afterward stated was very useful to him in the oversight of the typographical production of his writings. On the overthrow of John Adams's administration Judge Phinney changed the political policy of his newspaper, The Otsego Herald, and became a supporter of Thomas Jefferson, in opposition to the views of his patron, Judge Cooper, who remained a Federalist. It was this breach of political friendship which brought to Cooperstown Col. John H. Prentiss, who came from the office of the New York Evening Post, in 1808, to conduct a newspaper in opposition to The Otsego Herald. Thus came into being The Impartial Observer, which shortly changed its name to The Cooperstown Federalist, and in 1828 became The Freeman's Journal, under which name it is still published.
Judge Phinney founded a bookselling and publishing business which, through his sons and grandsons, was carried on in Cooperstown for the better part of a century after its establishment. His place of business was on the east side of Pioneer Street, next south of the building that stands at the corner of Main Street, and the present building on the original site of their enterprise was erected by the Phinneys in 1849.
The Phinney establishment became famous for original methods of conducting business. Large wagons were ingeniously constructed to serve as locomotive bookstores. They had movable tops and counters, and their shelves were stocked with hundreds of varieties of books. Traveling agents drove these wagons to many villages where books were scarcely attainable otherwise. The Erie Canal opened even more remote fields of enterprise. The Phinneys had a canal boat fitted up as a floating bookstore, which carried a variety beyond that found in the ordinary village, anchoring in winter at one of the largest towns on the Erie Canal. Up to the year 1849, when the publishing department was moved to Buffalo, and only a bookstore remained of the Phinney enterprise in Cooperstown, their efforts had built up in this village a large publishing business, while they stocked and maintained the largest bookstores in towns as far away as Utica, Buffalo, and Detroit. As early as 1820 their stereotype foundry in Cooperstown had cast a set of plates for a quarto family Bible, one of the first ever made in the United States, and of which some 200,000 copies were printed. Later they published Fenimore Cooper's Naval History, Col. Stone's Life of Brant, several volumes by Rev. Jacob and John S. C. Abbott which were household favorites for a generation afterward, not to mention many school text-books and histories.
The occasion which caused the removal of this publishing business from the village arose out of the discontent of some workmen whose services were dispensed with when new power presses were substituted for hand-work in printing. The entire manufactory was burned at night by incendiaries in the spring of 1849.
Elihu Phinney, the founder of the business, was the originator in 1796 of Phinney's Calendar, or Western Almanac, which was known in every household of the region, for some three score years and ten. The weather predictions in this calendar were always gravely consulted. In one year it happened, through a typographical displacement, that snow was predicted for the fourth of July. When the glorious Fourth arrived the thermometer dropped below the freezing point, and snow actually fell, a circumstance which greatly increased the already reverent regard for Phinney's Almanac.
A quaint character who established himself in the village before the coming of Elihu Phinney was Dr. Nathaniel Gott. He was a man of fiery spirit. When Dr. Gott's patients, on being restored to health, seemed inclined to forget their indebtedness to him, he threatened them with chastisement, and published the following rhymed notice in the Otsego Herald:
Says Dr. Gott, I'll tell you what, I'm called on hot, All round the Ot- -Segonian plot, To pay my shot For pill and pot. If you don't trot Up to the spot, And ease my lot, You'll smell it hot.
Dr. Gott was an eccentric. He wore short breeches, with long stockings, and always ate his meals from a wooden trencher. Among a company of village men enjoying a convivial evening at the tavern a contest of wit and satire arose between Dr. Gott and Elihu Phinney who had become warm friends. Finally it was proposed that each should compose an impromptu epitaph for the other. In the epitaph which he improvised for Judge Phinney Dr. Gott, adapting the conceit of the schoolmen, made out Judge Phinney's soul to be so small that thousands of such could dance on the point of a cambric needle. Judge Phinney retorted with the following:
Beneath this turf doth stink and rot The body of old Dr. Gott; Now earth is eased and hell is pleased, Since Satan hath his carcass seized.
Amid shouts of laughter from the onlookers, Dr. Gott, turning jest into earnest, strode from the tavern, and his friendship for Judge Phinney was ended.
The town pump stood on the north side of Main Street a few rods east of Chestnut street. Its former position is now marked by a tablet set in the sidewalk. On the corner west of the pump Daniel Olendorf kept a tavern. He was a small man, and very lame from a stiff knee. The muscles of the leg were contracted, making it considerably shorter than the other. At one time he was leading a lame horse through the street, when a little dog came following on behind, holding up one leg and limping along on the other three. The sight caused no little merriment along the street when the lame man, the lame horse, and the lame dog were seen marching in procession. Olendorf, wondering at the cause of so much amusement, looked back and saw the uninvited follower. He picked up a stone, and flung it at the dog, exclaiming, "Get along home; there is limping enough here without you, you little lame cuss, coming limping after us!"
Young James Cooper, afterward the novelist, had left the village when a young lad to be tutored by the rector of St. Peter's, Albany, and thereafter spent little of his boyhood in Cooperstown. After his uncompleted course at Yale, and a year's cruise at sea, he returned for a time, in 1807, to his village home, being then a youth of eighteen years. To this period belongs the incident of his participation in a foot-race among some of his former companions in the village. The racecourse agreed upon was around the central square, that is, beginning at the intersection of Main and Pioneer streets, at the Red Lion Inn, the runners were to go up Pioneer Street to Church Street, thence to River Street, down River Street to Main, and so back to the place of starting.
James Cooper was mentioned as one of the competitors, and his antagonist was selected. The prize was a basket of fruit. Cooper accepted the challenge, but not on even terms. It was not enough for the young sailor to outrun the landsman; he would do more. Among many spectators Cooper caught sight of a little girl. He caught her up in his arms, exclaiming, "I'll carry her with me and beat you!" Thus the race began, the little black-eyed girl clutching Cooper's shoulders. As the contestants rushed up Pioneer Street, and turned the corner where the Universalist church now stands, the amused and excited villagers saw with surprise that the sailor with his burden was keeping pace with the other flying youth. Around the square the runners turned the next two corners almost abreast. After rounding the corner of the Old Stone House, as they came up the main street toward the goal Cooper, bearing the little girl aloft, gave a burst of speed, amid wild cheers, drew away from his opponent, and won the race. The basket of fruit was his, which he distributed among the spectators, and the little girl, afterward the wife of Capt. William Wilson, long lived in the village to tell the story of her ride upon James Cooper's shoulders.
[Footnote 72: The Otsego Herald of Jan. 14, 1796, contained a notice of warning issued by Henry Bowers against persons who had been cutting down trees "on my patent, in Newtown Martin."]
[Footnote 73: The Women of the Revolution, Elizabeth F. Ellet, published in 1850, pp. 37-67.]
[Footnote 74: A skillful builder and noted character, commemorated by Fenimore Cooper in Wyandotte, or the Hutted Knoll.]
THE PIONEER COURT ROOM
In the fore part of the nineteenth century, when public amusements were few, the people of Cooperstown found a pleasant relaxation from the hard tasks of pioneer life in attending the trial of suits at law in the court house. Here were large crowds of interested spectators, and the matters of litigation were widely discussed in the taverns and homes of the village. Cooperstown, as the county seat, was the chief battle ground of an endless warfare among the lawyers of the region, and the forensic struggles of the first twenty years of the century developed an array of legal talent in Otsego county which gained the reputation of being the ablest in the State west of the Hudson. In those days the best lawyers were orators, and some were actors who would have done credit to the dramatic profession. The public had its favorites among them, and their names were known in every household. The trial practice of that day was a keen encounter of wits between men of high native talent who perfectly understood each other's motives, and showed infinite dexterity in twisting facts and arguments to serve their purposes.
The ablest lawyer in the county from 1813 to 1820, when he removed to Hudson, was Ambrose L. Jordan, who began his career in Cooperstown in partnership with Col. Farrand Stranahan. Jordan was a commanding figure, six feet tall, slim and graceful in figure; blue eyes that were at once keen and kindly added lustre to the impression produced by the sensitive features of his countenance. He had a profusion of brown curls and a complexion as fine as a woman's. Dignified and courtly in manner, he was as brilliant in conversation as he was impressive and powerful as an orator. In natural eloquence Jordan was a man of the first rank. Added to this he was a close student, and prepared his cases with great care. He had great powers of endurance, and in long trials always appeared fresh and strong after other advocates were exhausted. In his pleadings before a jury he used every resource at his command, indulging in flights of oratory that kindled the imagination, dazzling his hearers with rhetorical tropes and figures, at times humorous and playful, with a tendency to personal allusion most uncomfortable for his opponent. Jordan was terrible in sarcasm. One Asbury Newman, a poor, worthless, drunken fellow, ever ready to testify on either side for a drink of whiskey, was brought upon the witness stand. Jordan knew his man. After exhibiting his character in its true light, ringing all the changes upon his worthlessness, and ridiculing his opponent for bringing him there, he closed by saying, "Gentlemen of the jury, I will convince you that this degenerate specimen of humanity is not the son of the saintly and exemplary Elder Asbury Newman, but that he is the legitimate son of Beelzebub the prince of devils. He is an eyesore to his father, a sore eye to his mother, a vagabond upon earth, and a most damnable liar!" Poor Asbury never appeared in court as a witness afterwards.
Jordan would never submit to being imposed upon by sharp practice. On one occasion, as he was returning homeward in the early evening from the trial of a case in a neighboring village, his wagon broke down. There was some snow on the ground, and a farmer in a lumber sleigh was gliding by, when Jordan requested his assistance to reach Cooperstown, some five miles away. The two put the broken wagon on the sleigh, and leading the disengaged horse, drove on to Jordan's home. No bargain had been made, and when, at the journey's end, Jordan inquired what he should pay, the sharp farmer named a most extortionate sum. Jordan then declared that the pay demanded was three times as much as the service was worth; yet rather than have any hard feeling about the matter he would pay double price: but more he would not pay. The offer was refused, and the farmer departed, breathing threats.
Within a few days a summons was served on Jordan to appear before a justice who was a near neighbor and friend of the farmer. On the trial the justice gave judgment for the plaintiff for the full amount of the claim, and costs. As soon as the law would permit, execution was issued on this judgment, and placed in the hands of a deputy sheriff for collection.
Jordan managed to have information of the coming of the officer to collect this judgment. His law partner, Col. Stranahan, was the owner of a handsome gold watch and chain, which for that occasion Jordan borrowed, and hung up conspicuously from a nail on the front of the desk at which he was writing, in the little office building which then stood on Main Street, near Jordan's home.
When the officer entered, saying that he had an execution against him, Jordan asserted that he did not intend to pay it.
"Then," said the officer, "my duty requires me to levy on your property, and I shall take this,"—at the same time taking the watch, and putting it into his pocket.
"My friend," said Jordan, "I advise you to put back the watch. If you do not, you will get yourself into trouble."
The deputy was obdurate, however, and left the office, taking with him the watch. With all possible expedition a writ and other papers in a replevin suit were prepared for an action of Stranahan against the deputy sheriff. The sheriff of the county was found, the replevin writ put into his hands, which he at once served on the deputy, took back the watch and delivered it to the owner. The deputy sheriff called on the farmer to indemnify him in the replevin suit, which he felt compelled to do. The result of the affair, which was soon arrived at, was this: the plaintiff succeeded in the replevin suit, the costs of which amounted to over one hundred dollars. The judgment obtained by the extortionate farmer was about twenty dollars, and he finally had to pay over to Jordan, as Stranahan's attorney, the difference between these sums.
When Ambrose Jordan began the practice of law in Cooperstown he planted an elm tree on Chestnut Street in front of his home, at the northwest corner of Main Street. This elm, grown to mighty proportions, celebrated its one hundredth birthday in 1913. Within a few paces of the corner, facing on Main Street, and in the rear of the dwelling which fronts Chestnut Street, stood the small building that Jordan occupied as an office. This is one of the few remaining examples of the detached law offices which were common in Cooperstown, as in other villages, in early days, and often stood in the dooryard of a lawyer's residence.
Jordan's partner, Col. Stranahan, was less conspicuous as a lawyer than as a soldier and politician. He was in command of a regiment throughout the War of 1812, and received official commendation for gallantry. On his record for military service and personal popularity he was elected senator, from what was then known as the Western District, in 1814, and again in 1823. During this period he became the recognized leader of the Otsego Democracy. Stranahan was a poor man, and his official service was rendered at the sacrifice of his law practice. When Cooperstown celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of our national independence, Col. Stranahan, because of his debts, was a prisoner in the county jail. A multitude of people from every part of the county had gathered in Cooperstown, and among the guests of honor were two old friends of Stranahan, Alvan Stewart and Levi Beardsley of Cherry Valley, the former being the orator of the day. Stewart and Beardsley, greatly distressed that, on an occasion devoted to the celebration of liberty, Stranahan should be in jail, went to the sheriff and gave their word to indemnify him, if he would bring his prisoner to the celebration. Accordingly Stranahan came, closely attended by the sheriff, and, after the oration, dined with the celebrating party. After the drinking of many toasts, toward evening the sheriff wished to return with his prisoner to the jail. By this time the party was in a merry mood, and full of the spirit of independence. The sheriff had some difficulty in persuading the banqueters to permit him to withdraw Stranahan from the festivities. Finally it was decided that if Stranahan must return to jail it should be with an escort of honor, and a group under the leadership of Stewart, Beardsley, and Judge Morell agreed to perform this duty. On reaching the jail the members of the escort were seized by another freak of fancy, and insisted upon being locked up with Stranahan. The sheriff having complied with their wishes, the prisoners soon tired of their confinement without further refreshment, and sent for the plaintiff against Stranahan to come to the jail. This being done they affected a compromise with him, by which he agreed to cancel a part of the debt if Stranahan's friends would each pay him twenty dollars. Thus Stranahan was released in triumph, and the rest of the night was passed in celebrating the event.
Ambrose L. Jordan's chief rival among the lawyers of Otsego county was his neighbor Samuel Starkweather, a man of great physical and mental power. He was in many ways to be contrasted with Jordan, more strongly built, swarthy, having dark eyes and hair, with a massive head set upon broad shoulders, and every feature of his face indicative of strong will and energetic action. Somewhat less of an orator than Jordan, Starkweather equalled him in close logical reasoning.
At the beginning of the century John Russell, Elijah H. Metcalf, and Robert Campbell were resident in Cooperstown. Russell was the second member of Congress to be elected from the place. Col. Metcalf served two years in the legislature of the State. Campbell, of the well-known Cherry Valley family, built for his residence in 1807 the house which still stands on Lake Street facing the length of Chestnut Street. He was a man of stout build, with a full face, slightly retiring forehead, a trifle bald, urbane and unassuming in deportment. As a pleader at the bar he was only moderately eloquent, but he was popularly designated far and near as "the honest lawyer," and his advice was not only much sought but implicitly relied upon. In a period not much devoted to the amenities of legal procedure one member of this group of lawyers, George Morell, made a reputation not so much as an advocate as for his faultless diction and polished manners.
On the other hand, Alvan Stewart of Cherry Valley was the clown of the court room, and to such good purpose that the ablest lawyers of Cooperstown dreaded him as an opponent. He was a master of absurd wit and ridicule. In Proctor's Bench and Bar he is referred to as "one of the most powerful adversaries that ever stood before a jury." He was not a profound lawyer, and seems never to have studied the arrangement of his cases, nor to have bestowed any care in preparation for their presentation, but his mind was richly furnished with thoughts upon every subject which came up for discussion in the progress of a trial, and his illustrations, although unusual and grotesque were strikingly appropriate. His greatest power lay in that he could be humorous or pathetic, acrimonious or conciliating, denouncing the theories, testimony and pleas of the opposition in lofty declamation, and almost in the same breath convulsing his audience, the court and jury included, by the most laughable exhibitions of ridicule and burlesque.
A case in which Alvan Stewart opposed Samuel Starkweather was long afterward famous in Cooperstown. The case was an important one, and was brought to a climax when the logical and serious Starkweather began summing up for the defense. While he was speaking Stewart took a position so as to gaze continually into the face of his opponent, evidently with the intention of disconcerting him, and of distracting the attention of the jury. Starkweather was not a little irritated at Stewart's absurd look and attitude. In spite of this, however, he grappled with the strong points at issue, and elucidated them with telling logic in his own favor; he kept the closest attention of the jury, producing conviction in the justice of his position; and took his seat well satisfied that he would have a favorable verdict. In his closing words Starkweather made some allusion to Stewart's staring eyes, and cautioned the jury against being influenced by the well-known absurdities which he was wont to introduce.
Stewart in the mean time sat with a pompously assumed calmness and dignity, like a turkey cock beside his brooding mate before awaking the dawn with his matin gobbling. After a time he began to gather himself up, and slowly lengthened out to his full height, about six feet four. His blue frock coat thrown back upon his shoulders sat loosely around him. His arms hanging down beside him like useless appendages to a statue; his white waistcoat all open except one or two buttons at the bottom; his white necktie wound carelessly about his neck; his shirt collar wide open; his face a kind of oblong quadrilateral containing features grotesquely drawn downward; his eyes, large and prominent, so turned as to show most of the sclerotic white of the eyeballs,—all were combined to present the buffoon in his utmost burlesque of himself.
Alvan Stewart's first movement was to turn his head and roll his eyes so as to fix the attention of his audience, who were ever ready to laugh when his lips opened, whether wit or folly came from them. Then, with an awkward bow, he paid his respects to the court, and, turning to the jury, commenced:
"It appears, gentlemen of the jury, from the remarks of the opposing counsel," here turning to Starkweather, "that my eyes constitute the principal thing at issue"—pausing a moment, then turning again to the jury,—"in the cause pending before us. They are the same eyes that my Maker fashioned for me, and I have used them continually ever since I was a b-o-y,"—drawing the last word out with a deep guttural voice,—"and this is the first time that I have ever heard their legitimacy questioned." He then went on to compare his eyes to two full moons rising upon the scene, a phenomenon made necessary to dispel a little of the darkness that, under the pretence of light and justice, had been ingeniously thrown around the cause they were to decide. For a full half hour this rambling burlesque was continued, with a manner of delivery indescribably ludicrous, only now and then touching upon the cause on trial, and then only to fling ridicule upon some of the points previously argued for the defendant.
During all this time the spectators were shaking with laughter, while the jury and even the judge had to press their lips to retain their gravity, and were not always successful. More than once Stewart was interrupted by Starkweather for bringing in matters not related to the subject under litigation, or for making statements not warranted by the facts. Stewart stood blinking at him until he had finished, then turned beseechingly to the judge; when the decision was against him he struck out into some other line of buffoonery equally grotesque. In conclusion he came down to argumentation, bringing his logic to bear upon the few points that he had not involved with absurdities, and sat down in triumph.
When the verdict had been rendered in Stewart's favor, Starkweather strode forth from the court room in a rage, muttering fierce imprecations against a man who was capable of overmatching reason and justice by low buffoonery.
But none could be long angry at Stewart. He had no personal enmities and no enemies. Later in life he became an anti-slavery agitator and temperance lecturer pledged to total abstinence, the latter a much needed measure of reform in the case of Alvan Stewart.
[Footnote 75: Noted Men of Otsego during the Early Years, Walter H. Bunn, Address at the Cooperstown Centennial.]
[Footnote 76: Random Sketches of Fifty, Sixty and More Years Ago, Richard Fry, in the Freeman's Journal, 1878.]
[Footnote 77: History of Otsego County, 1878, p. 283.]
[Footnote 78: Moved to the north of the residence, 1917.]
[Footnote 79: Reminiscences, Levi Beardsley, 223.]
[Footnote 80: Walter H. Bunn.]
[Footnote 81: Richard Fry.]
The saintly life and strange personal charm of the Rev. Daniel Nash, the first rector of Christ Church, made a deep impression upon the village of Cooperstown in its early days; and the wide range of his apostolic labors as a missionary gave him a singular fame, during half a century, throughout Otsego county, and far beyond its borders. The grave of Father Nash is in Christ churchyard, marked by the tallest of the monuments along the driveway, at a spot which he himself had chosen for his burial.
Daniel Nash was born in Massachusetts at Great Barrington (then called Housatonic) May 28, 1763. At the age of twenty-two years he was graduated at Yale in the same class with Noah Webster. He was originally Presbyterian in his doctrinal belief, and in polity was sympathetic with the Congregational denomination, of which he was a member. But within ten years after his graduation from college Daniel Nash became a communicant of the Episcopal Church and began to study for Holy Orders. It was one of the quaint sayings attributed to him in later years that "you may bray a Presbyterian as with a pestle in a mortar, and you cannot get all of his Presbyterianism out of him," and when asked how he accounted for his own experience, "I was caught young," he would reply.
Through the influence of the Rev. Dr. Daniel Burhans, who had made several missionary tours through Otsego and adjoining counties, Nash became fired with zeal for missionary work in this romantic and adventurous field. In 1797, having taken deacon's orders, he was accompanied to Otsego by his bride of a little more than a year, who was Olive Lusk, described as "an amiable lady of benignant mind and placid manners," the daughter of an intimate friend of his father. They made their first home at Exeter, in Otsego, and the early ministerial acts of Daniel Nash were divided between Exeter and Morris, about eighteen miles distant.
The missionary zeal of Daniel Nash was so intense that he was unable to comprehend lukewarmness in such a cause. The first bishop of the diocese of New York, the Rt. Rev. Samuel Provoost, belonged to a type of ecclesiastical life that was characteristic of the century then closing. Orthodox, scholarly, not ungenuinely religious, a gentleman of lofty aims and distinguished manners, Bishop Provoost charmingly entertained at his New York residence the rugged missionary of Otsego who came to report to him, but he was quite unable to enter into a missionary enthusiasm that appeared to him fanatical, or to understand the character of an educated man who lived by choice among the people of rude settlements and untamed forests. Nash was so indignant at the attitude of his chief that he resolved not to receive from his hands the ordination to the priesthood, and it was not until the autumn of 1801, shortly after the consecration of the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Moore as coadjutor bishop of New York, that he became a priest.
As the result of tireless labor, of much travel through difficult regions, by the maintenance of divine services at many outposts, Father Nash was able little by little to establish self-supporting church organizations throughout Otsego and the neighboring region. In 1801 Zion Church was built at Morris. Eight years later Father Nash organized St. Matthew's parish at Unadilla, and in 1811 completed the formal organization of Christ Church parish in Cooperstown, where the church building had been erected in 1807-10, and where Father Nash now came to be in partial residence as rector during seven years.
Aside from these parishes which so soon became permanently established this extraordinary man was regularly or occasionally visiting and shepherding the people of many other settlements. In Otsego county, besides giving pastoral attention to Exeter, Morris, Unadilla, and Cooperstown, he held services and preached—to name them in the order of his first visits—in Richfield, Springfield, and Cherry Valley; Westford and Milford; Edmeston, Burlington, and Hartwick; Fly Creek and Burlington Flats; Laurens, LeRoy (now Schuyler's Lake), Hartwick Hill, and Worcester; New Lisbon and Richfield Springs. In Chenango county, after the establishment of the church in New Berlin, he officiated at Sherburne and Mount Upton. Beyond these points he extended his work to Windsor and Colesville in Broome county; to Franklin and Stamford in Delaware county; to Canajoharie and Warren in Montgomery county; to Lebanon in Madison county; to Paris, Verona, Oneida Castle, Oneida, and New Hartford, in Oneida county; to Cape Vincent on Lake Ontario in Jefferson county; and to Ogdensburg in St. Lawrence county, one hundred and fifty miles to the north of the missionary's Otsego home. Such was the field of the priest who officially reported each year to the convention of the diocese of New York as "Rector of the churches in Otsego county."
Here belongs the story of an unusual coincidence. From 1816 to 1831 there lived, in the same general region of New York State, within one hundred miles of the apostle of Otsego, another well known Christian minister whose surname was Nash, whose only Christian name was Daniel—the Rev. Daniel Nash,—always known, by a title which popular affection had bestowed on him, as "Father" Nash. To the people of Otsego and Chenango counties the name of Father Nash was a household word, while to the residents of Lewis and Jefferson counties the same name signified quite a different person. It is curious that no chronicle of either region betrays any contemporary knowledge of the coincidence. Each prophet was honored in his own country, and unknown in the stronghold of the other. This is the more strange, since their paths almost crossed in the year 1817, when the two men of identical name, title, and profession were within forty-five miles of each other, one being resident as pastor of the Stow's Square church, three miles north of Lowville in Lewis county, while the Otsego missionary was holding services at Verona in Oneida county. At different times they traversed the same counties: it was in 1816 that the Otsego missionary made tours in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties; the other Father Nash is known to have visited these counties eight years later.
The series of coincidences is made more singular by the fact that each Father Nash had married a wife whose first name was Olive, so that not only were both men called Father Nash, but the wife, after the custom of that day, in each case was addressed as Mrs. Olive Nash.
Aside from these remarkable identities the two men were quite dissimilar. Both were natives of Massachusetts, but the Otsego Nash came from the extreme west of that State, the other from the farthest east. Both originally belonged to the Congregational denomination, but the Otsego Nash had become a priest of the Episcopal Church, while the other was a Presbyterian minister. The Presbyterian Nash was a famous revivalist. The Otsego missionary detested revivals. He said that the converts "reminded him of little humble-bees, which are rather larger when hatched than they are sometimes afterwards."
There is something almost mysterious in the figure of this second Father Nash rising from the mist of bygone years, and one is quite prepared to read of him that he went forth to labor for souls with a double black veil before his face, like the minister in Hawthorne's weird tale whose congregation was terrified by the "double fold of crape, hanging down from his forehead to his mouth, and slightly stirring with his breath." Three miles north of Lowville in Lewis county, in Stow's Square churchyard, a marble shaft eight feet high, conspicuous from almost any point in the country which stretches away to the Adirondack wilderness, commemorates, in connection with the church that he erected there, the Father Nash who labored in Lewis and Jefferson counties, and in an obscure cemetery, not far distant, a modest headstone marks his grave.
Returning to the story of Cooperstown's Father Nash, no estimate of his work can fail to take into account the character of the field in which he labored. When he came to this region the country, while partially settled, was mostly a wilderness. The difficulties of travel were great. The manner of life among pioneers was crude. Bishop Philander Chase visited Otsego county in 1799, and gives a vivid impression of the more than apostolic simplicity of Father Nash's surroundings. The Bishop found the missionary living in a cabin of unhewn logs, into which he had recently moved, and from which he was about to remove to another, equally poor, inhabiting with his family a single room, which contained all his worldly goods, and driving nails into the walls to make his wardrobe. The bishop assisted the missionary in his moving, and describes how they walked the road together, carrying a basket of crockery between them, and "talked of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God."
In his missionary journeys Father Nash rode on horseback from place to place, often carrying one of his children, and Mrs. Nash with another in her arms behind him on the horse's back, for she was greatly useful in the music and responses of the services.
Father Nash held services punctually according to previous appointment, but they were sometimes strangely interrupted. The terror of wolves had not been banished from Otsego, and on one occasion, at Richfield, the entire congregation disappeared in pursuit of a huge bear that had suddenly alarmed the neighborhood. The bear was captured, and furnished a supper of which the congregation partook in the evening. While the bear hunt had spoiled his sermon, Father Nash cheerfully asserted that it was a Christian deed to destroy so dangerous a brute even on a Sunday, and a venial offense against the canons of the Church. It is further related that Father Nash ate so much bear steak, on this occasion, as to make him quite ill.
Although Fenimore Cooper was usually loath to admit that any character in his novels was drawn from life, Father Nash was generally recognized as the original of the Rev. Mr. Grant in the novel descriptive of Cooperstown which appeared under the title of The Pioneers. If this identification be justified, it must be said that while the author of the Leather-Stocking Tales has well represented the genuine piety of his model, he has disguised him as a rather anaemic and depressing person. Father Nash was a man of rugged health, six feet in height, full in figure, over two hundred pounds in weight, of fresh and fair complexion, wearing a wig of longish hair parted in the middle, and dressed always, as circumstances permitted, with a strict regard for neatness.
The only original portrait of Father Nash now remaining, from which all the extant engravings were taken, hangs in the sacristy of Christ Church. This portrait was given to the church in 1910, when the parish centennial was celebrated, by Father Nash's granddaughter, Mrs. Anna Marie Holland, of Saginaw, Michigan, and his great grandson, Harry C. Nash, of Buffalo. Mrs. Holland related a quaint incident concerning the portrait as connected with her own childhood. As it hung in her father's house, she used to be both annoyed and terrified at the manner in which the eyes of the portrait followed her about the room with persistent and, as she thought, reproving gaze. Especially when she had been guilty of some childish prank, the silent reproach in her grandfather's eyes was intolerable. One day she climbed upon a chair before the portrait, and with a pin attempted to blind the eyes. The pin pricks are still visible upon the canvas.
At three score years and ten Father Nash looked upon the bright side of everything, being full of anecdote and humor, and appeared to have more of the simplicity and vivacity of youth than men who were thirty years his junior. One who saw him at this period of life attributed the old missionary's health and vigor in part to his great cheerfulness.
The slightest sketch of Father Nash would be incomplete without some reference to the story of his answer to a farmer who asked him what he fed his lambs. "Catechism," replied Father Nash, "catechism!" And behind the smile that followed this homely sally the analyst of character would have seen the earnest purpose of his mission to the children of Otsego which was one of the sublime secrets of his ministry.
In the history of Western New York Father Nash of Otsego deserves a place of honor among the foremost pioneers. Wherever the most adventurous men were found pushing westward the frontier of civilization, there was Father Nash, uplifting the standard of the Church. Not only had he courage and energy; he displayed remarkable foresight in his manner of laying foundations. Of the Episcopal churches in the Otsego region the greater number were established by him, and most of them flourish at the present time.
"No Otsego pioneer deserves honor more," says Halsey, in The Old New York Frontier, "not the road builder or leveler of forests, not the men who fought against Brant and the Tories. To none of these, in so large a degree, can we apply with such full measure of truth the sayings that no man liveth himself, and that his works do follow him."
[Footnote 82: Lives of Phelps and Nash, John N. Norton.]
[Footnote 83: History of Zion Church Parish, Morris, by Katherine M. Sanderson, p. 6.]
[Footnote 84: Historic Records of Christ Church, Cooperstown, G. Pomeroy Keese.]
[Footnote 85: Reports of Rev. Daniel Nash to New York Convention, 1803-1827.]
[Footnote 86: For The Otsego Nash see Reports of Daniel Nash to New York Conventions. For the other see Memoirs of Rev. Charles G. Finney, New York, A. S. Barnes and Co., 1876, pp. 52, 70, 117.]
[Footnote 87: Finney, Memoirs, p. 70.]
[Footnote 88: Bishop Chase's Reminiscences, Vol. I, p. 33.]
[Footnote 89: Reminiscences, Levi Beardsley, p. 42.]
[Footnote 90: The Church Review, New Haven, October, 1848, p. 398.]
THE IMMORTAL NATTY BUMPPO
In the opinion of Sainte-Beuve, Fenimore Cooper possessed the "creative faculty which brings into the world new characters, and by virtue of which Rabelais produced Panurge, Le Sage Gil-Blas, and Richardson Pamela." Thackeray, praising the heroes of Scott's creation, expressed an equal liking for Cooper's, adding that "perhaps Leather-Stocking is better than any one in Scott's lot. La Longue Carabine is one of the great prize-men of fiction. He ranks with your Uncle Toby, Sir Roger de Coverley, Falstaff—heroic figures all, American or British; and the artist has deserved well of his country who devised him." Thackeray proved the sincerity of his admiration when he borrowed a hint from the noble death-scene of Leather-Stocking in The Prairie, and adapted it to describe the passing of Colonel Newcome.
Cooper's wide audience of general readers is here in agreement with Sainte-Beuve the critic and Thackeray the novelist. Whatever else may be said of Cooper's works it is certain that in the man Natty Bumppo, known as "Leather-Stocking," "Pathfinder," "Deerslayer," and "La Longue Carabine," Cooper created an immortal being. Among heroes of fiction Leather-Stocking stands with the few that are as real to the imagination as the personages of veritable history. Readers of Cooper recall Leather-Stocking with genuine affection; others, without having read a line of the Leather-Stocking Tales have somehow formed an idea of his person and character. Leather-Stocking is a rare hero in being noble without being offensive. "Perhaps there is no better proof of Cooper's genuine power," says Brander Matthews, "than that he can insist on Leather-Stocking's goodness,—a dangerous gift for a novelist to bestow on a man,—and that he can show us Leather-Stocking declining the advances of a handsome woman,—a dangerous position for a novelist to put a man in,—without any reader ever having felt inclined to think Leather-Stocking a prig."
Leather-Stocking was first introduced to the public in The Pioneers, the novel descriptive of early days in Cooperstown which Cooper published in 1823. The character was not yet fully developed, but Nathaniel Bumppo in outward appearance stood at once complete. "He was tall, and so meagre as to make him seem above even the six feet that he actually stood in his stockings. On his head, which was thinly covered with lank, sandy hair, he wore a cap made of fox-skin. His face was skinny, and thin almost to emaciation; but yet it bore no signs of disease; on the contrary, it had every indication of the most robust and enduring health. The cold and the exposure had, together, given it a color of uniform red. His gray eyes were glancing under a pair of shaggy brows, that overhung them in long hairs of gray mingled with their natural hue; his scraggy neck was bare, and burnt to the same tint with his face. A kind of coat, made of dressed deerskin, with the hair on, was belted close to his lank body, by a girdle of colored worsted. On his feet were deerskin moccasins, ornamented with porcupines' quills, after the manner of the Indians, and his limbs were guarded with long leggings of the same material as the moccasins, which, gartering over the knees of his tarnished buckskin breeches, had obtained for him, among the settlers, the nick-name of Leather-Stocking."
In this story the novelist had presented Leather-Stocking as a finished portrait, with his long rifle, dog Hector, and all. Cooper had described him as a man of seventy years, and intimated no purpose of carrying him over into another volume. Natty Bumppo proved to be so popular, however, that in 1826 Cooper made him an important figure in The Last of the Mohicans, representing him in young manhood, at the age of thirty years, and betrayed a more profound interest in the spirit of the character which he had discovered. The success of this venture encouraged the author, in the next year, to bring Leather-Stocking forward, for what he intended to be the last time, in The Prairie. The closing chapter of that story describes the death and burial of Leather-Stocking.
But the public could not have enough of Natty Bumppo, and the result was that, after leaving him in his grave, Cooper resurrected Leather-Stocking as the hero of two more novels. In The Pathfinder, published in 1840, he described Natty Bumppo at the age of forty years; and The Deerslayer, the last published of the series, gave a youthful picture of Leather-Stocking at the age of twenty. When the Leather-Stocking Tales were afterward published complete they of course followed the logical order in the presentation of the hero's life, without regard to the dates of original publication. The actual order in which they were written, however, suggests an interesting glimpse of Cooper's method of work in developing his most successful character.
It is generally believed that an old hunter named Shipman, who lived in Cooperstown during Fenimore Cooper's boyhood, suggested to the novelist the picturesque character of Leather-Stocking. The persistence of this tradition requires some explanation, for it is not strikingly confirmed by what Cooper himself had to say of the matter. In the preface of the Leather-Stocking Tales, written after the series was complete, he said: "The author has often been asked if he had any original in his mind for the character of Leather-Stocking. In a physical sense, different individuals known to the writer in early life certainly presented themselves as models, through his recollection; but in a moral sense this man of the forest is purely a creation."
In the face of this, the most that can be said for the current tradition is that Cooper's assertion does not exclude it from consideration. What he lays stress upon is that the inner spirit of Leather-Stocking was the novelist's creation. His statement is not inconsistent with the possibility that he had the hunter Shipman chiefly in mind as the prototype of Leather-Stocking, with some characteristics added from other hunters, of whom there were many in the early days of Cooperstown. The heat with which he denies having drawn upon the character of his own sister in portraying the heroine of The Pioneers seems to betray a feeling, which later writers have not often shared, that an author cannot transfer real persons to the pages of fiction without a violation of good taste. Here lies perhaps a partial explanation of the fact that Cooper never acknowledged a living model for any of his characters. Even Judge Temple in The Pioneers, who occupies exactly the position of Judge Cooper in reference to the village which he actually founded, Fenimore Cooper will not admit to be drawn in the likeness of his father. He disposes of this supposition in the introduction of The Pioneers by observing that "the great proprietor resident on his lands, and giving his name to his estates, is common over the whole of New York." Yet in the same introduction he confesses that "in commencing to describe scenes, and perhaps he may add characters, that were so familiar to his own youth, there was a constant temptation to delineate that which he had known, rather than that which he might have imagined." How far he yielded to the temptation is a question which, in making as if to reply, he deftly leaves unanswered, and his unwillingness to satisfy curiosity on this point is the one thing that a careful reading of his words makes clear. He is free to admit in a general way that he drew upon life for material, but he will not be pinned down as to any particular character; yet only in the one instance—when his sister was named as the original of Elizabeth Temple—did he flatly deny the identification of a real original with a creature of his fiction. After all, even if Cooper had drawn many of his characters from real life, there would have been so much modification necessary to fit them into the action of a story as to warrant him in the assertion "that there was no intention to describe with particular accuracy any real character"; and if he did not wish to take the public into his confidence regarding these intimate details of his work, he had a perfect right to treat the matter as evasively as the truth would permit.
One can see reasons for Cooper's unwillingness to inform the public that his old neighbors in Cooperstown were to be recognized in his books. There is the creative artist's reason, who does not wish to be regarded as a mere photographer; there is the gentleman's sensitiveness to certain rights of privacy not to be invaded by public print; there is the experience of a writer who was often dismayed at the facility of his pen in stirring neighborly animosities.
As to Leather-Stocking, this is to be said: that in Cooper's boyhood there lived in Cooperstown a hunter named Shipman whom Cooper himself in the Chronicles of Cooperstown, published in 1838, described as "the Leather-Stocking of the region." Furthermore,—whether owing to any private information from Fenimore Cooper cannot now be ascertained,—the tradition from his time to the present day, in spite of the author's vague disclaimer, persistently clings to Shipman as the original of Leather-Stocking.
Strangely enough, the matter in dispute has not been the identity of Shipman with Leather-Stocking, but the identity of Shipman himself. Who was Shipman? This is the question that has stirred controversy; and two ghosts have arisen from the past, each claiming to be the Shipman whom Cooper idealized, re-christened, and made immortal.
Cooper gave to his hero the name of Nathaniel Bumppo. It has been claimed that Cooper borrowed not only the character but the Christian name of Nathaniel Shipman, a famous hunter and trapper, who came to Otsego Lake at the time of the Revolutionary War, and made his home in a cave on the border of the lake until about 1805.
According to the discoverers of this original of Leather-Stocking, Nathaniel Shipman was a close friend of the Mohican Indians, and fought with them against the French and the Canadian Indians. In the years immediately preceding the American Revolution Shipman was a well known settler of Hoosick, northeast of Albany and near the border of Vermont, where he had built him a cabin on the banks of the Walloomsac. He was well disposed toward the English, and one of his closest friends was an officer in the British army. When the Revolutionary War began, while Shipman's heart was with the movement for independence, his friendship for the English was such that he determined to be strictly neutral, helping neither one side nor the other. There is nothing to show that he was not genuinely neutral. But his patriot neighbors were intolerant of such neutrality. Anyone who was not for them was against them. Shipman was put down as a Tory, and his neighbors treated him to a coat of tar and feathers.
Soon after this event Nathaniel Shipman disappeared from Hoosick, and not even his own family knew whither he had gone.
In process of time Shipman's daughter married a John Ryan of Hoosick. Ryan served in the Legislature from 1803 to 1806, and at that time became acquainted with Judge William Cooper, founder of Cooperstown, and father of the novelist. In the course of their frequent meetings Judge Cooper told Ryan of an interesting character whom he had seen in Cooperstown, and described the picturesque appearance and quaint sayings of the old hunter who lived on the border of Otsego Lake. At home Ryan told the story to his wife, who soon became convinced that the old white hunter whom Cooper had described was none other than her father, who had been missing for twenty-six years.
Ryan went to Otsego Lake, and, having found the hunter, learned that he was indeed Nathaniel Shipman who had disappeared from Hoosick at the time of the Revolutionary War. Ryan persuaded the old man to return with him, and brought him back to live in the home which then stood some two miles east of Hoosick Falls. In spite of the devotion of his daughter, however, the aged hunter never felt quite at home beneath her roof, or among the former neighbors. His heart was in the wilds, and it is said that he made frequent visits to the place where he had passed so many years in unrestricted freedom, where there was none to question his sincerity or to doubt his loyalty.
Nathaniel Shipman died at the Ryan home in 1809, and his grave is in the old burying ground on Main Street in Hoosick Falls.
The local tradition in Cooperstown does not recognize Nathaniel Shipman of Hoosick Falls. When a movement was made in 1915 to erect at Hoosick Falls a monument to Nathaniel Shipman as the original of Leather-Stocking, the proposition was made the subject of scornful comment in Cooperstown, and Nathaniel Shipman of Hoosick was referred to as "a spurious Natty Bumppo."
Cooperstown agrees that the original of Leather-Stocking was named Shipman. But the name of the original hunter was not Nathaniel. He was David Shipman. His grave is not far from Cooperstown, in the Adams burying ground between the villages of Fly Creek and Toddsville, and at the beginning of the twentieth century was marked with a tombstone by Otsego chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. David Shipman's descendants live in Cooperstown at the present time. When the Hoosick Falls claim to Leather-Stocking was first published in 1915, it was accompanied with the statement that the facts were known to the people of Hoosick sixty years before. Notwithstanding this the claim was contradicted in Cooperstown by the positive statement that "for over a century David Shipman has held the undisputed honor of being the real Leather-Stocking of Cooper's tales."
David Shipman served in the American army in the Revolutionary War, and was a member of the Fourteenth Regiment of Albany county militia under Col. John Knickerbocker and Lieut.-Col. John van Rensselaer. After the Revolution he lived just over the hills west of Cooperstown in a log cabin on the east bank of Oak's Creek, about equi-distant between Toddsville and Fly Creek village. In 1878 Aden Adams of Cooperstown, aged 81, stated that he well remembered David Shipman. As described by Adams, he was tall and slim, dressed in tanned deerskin, wore moccasins and long stockings of leather fastened at the knee, and carried a gun of great length. He was one of the most famous hunters of the whole country, and with his dogs roamed the forest in search of deer, bear, and foxes. He supplied the Cooper family at Otsego Hall with deer and bear meat, and also assisted Judge Cooper when he was surveying land about Cooperstown in the early days of the settlement. Colonel Cheney says that after going west, David Shipman returned to his old home in the Fly Creek valley, and lived there for several years. His wife died, and was buried in the Adams cemetery. The ground was wet, and water partially filled the grave. Elder Bostwick, a Baptist minister from the town of Hartwick, officiated at the funeral, and upon remarking to Shipman that it was a poor place to bury the dead, the old hunter answered, "I know it, but if I live to die, I expect to be buried here myself."
Cooper's most famous hero, carved in marble, rifle in hand, and with the dog Hector at his feet, stands at the top of the Leatherstocking monument in Lakewood cemetery, on a rise of ground near the entrance, overlooking Otsego Lake from the east side, about fifteen minutes walk from the village of Cooperstown. That a monument commemorative of Cooper and Leather-Stocking should stand in the public cemetery, in which neither the author nor his supposed model is buried, is sometimes puzzling to visitors. It is said, however, that the site was chosen with reference to certain scenes in The Pioneers. The monument stands near the spot upon which the novelist, for the purpose of his romance, placed the hut of Natty Bumppo. It is not far below the road referred to in the opening scene of the tale, where the travelers gained their first glimpse of the village, and stands at the foot of the wooded slope upon which, in the same story, Leather-Stocking shot the panther that was about to spring upon Elizabeth Temple.
The monument itself was the result of an unsuccessful effort which was made shortly after Fenimore Cooper's death in 1851 to erect in his memory a statue or monument in one of the public squares of New York City. To this end, ten days after his death, a public meeting of citizens of New York, at which Washington Irving presided, was held in the City Hall; two weeks later the Historical Society of New York held a meeting in commemoration of Cooper; and on February 24, 1852, there was a great demonstration at Metropolitan Hall, with speeches by Daniel Webster and George Bancroft, and a memorial discourse by William Cullen Bryant. The raising of funds for a memorial, which these meetings set as their object, was not commensurate with the expenditure of rhetoric. The sum of $678 was contributed, chiefly at the meeting in Metropolitan Hall, and the committee organized to solicit subscriptions did nothing further.
Six years later Alfred Clarke and G. Pomeroy Keese of Cooperstown undertook to raise by subscription a sufficient sum to erect a monument in Cooper's memory in or near the village in which he lived, having in view the transfer of whatever sum might be on deposit in New York toward the proposed monument. They raised $2,500, to which Washington Irving, acting for the defunct committee in New York, added the $678 already contributed.
The monument, of white Italian marble, with the statuette of Leather-Stocking at the top, was sculptured by Robert E. Launitz, and erected in the spring of 1860. The small bronze casts of this statuette, which one sees in some of the older homes in Cooperstown, belong to the same period.
Another attempt to give artistic expression to pride in Natty Bumppo was wrought in less permanent material. Upon the drop-curtain on the stage of the Village Hall was painted the scene from The Pioneers which represents Leather-Stocking, Judge Temple, and Edwards grouped about a deer that has been shot on the border of the lake. In producing this scene the artist enlarged an illustration drawn by F. O. C. Darley for an early edition of The Pioneers. The original scene described by Cooper, and as depicted by Darley, was a wintry one, showing the lake shore in a mantle of snow. This was thought to be a bit too chilly for a playhouse, so the view as transferred to the curtain was brightened up by the addition of green foliage; and deft touches of the scene painter's brush, without altering the pose of any of the figures, changed winter into glorious summer. Many a Cooperstown audience, waiting for the performance to begin, has studied the scene which this curtain displays, not without wonder that Leather-Stocking is in furs, and that Judge Temple, in so radiant a summertime, has taken the precaution to retain his earmuffs.
Natty Bumppo's Cave, a not very remarkable freak of nature which Fenimore Cooper's pen has made one of the chief points of interest in the region of Cooperstown, is about a mile from the village, high up on the hill that rises from the eastern side of the lake. It offers a stiff climb to the inexperienced, but not to others. It is not much of a cave, being hardly more than a deep and curiously formed cleft between the rocks. From the platform of rock over the cave a magnificent view may be had of the lake and its more distant shores, with the hills beyond.
In The Pioneers Cooper takes advantage of poetic license to enlarge the cave for the purpose of his story, but the description is exact enough to identify it with the present Natty Bumppo's cave. In the summer of 1909 was discovered lower down the hillside another and larger cave, the small entrance of which, in the woods beyond Kingfisher Tower, at Point Judith, had long remained unobserved. Here the name of Natty Bumppo came near being involved in another controversy, for some local archeologists maintained that the newly discovered cave was the one which Cooper meant to describe as Natty Bumppo's, being better adapted to the requirements of the narrative than the one that tradition had fixed upon.
Cooper might have provided a better cave for Natty Bumppo, but he did not. On this point the testimony of his eldest daughter, Susan Fenimore Cooper, is decisive. She was in many ways her father's confidant, and in his later years closely associated with him in literary work. No other person has written so intimately of him. In Pages and Pictures, which Miss Cooper published in 1861, she gives a drawing of Natty Bumppo's cave, and it is the one that has been associated with the tradition and story of the village down to the present time. It is quite possible, however, that the cave near Point Judith is the one referred to in the tradition of Nathaniel Shipman of Hoosick Falls.
Natty Bumppo will live forever as a symbolic figure, representative of certain indigenous qualities in American life. Lowell found in Leather-Stocking "the protagonist of our New World epic, a figure as poetic as that of Achilles, as ideally representative as that of Don Quixote, as romantic in his relation to our homespun and plebeian myths as Arthur in his to his mailed and plumed cycle of chivalry." Americans themselves do not realize how widely, in other countries, Leather-Stocking is still regarded as typical of certain qualities in the American character. Among Americans who had half-forgotten their Cooper, there was no little surprise at the exclamation of Gabriel Hanotaux, member of the French Academy, distinguished author and statesman of France, when, in the spring of 1917, on the entrance of the United States into the war against Germany, he expressed his joy in a message that was cabled round the world, "Old Leather-Stocking still slumbers in the depth of the American soul!"
There is a point on Otsego Lake, opposite to Natty Bumppo's cave, from which passing boatmen awaken the famous Echo of the Glimmerglass. For more than half of the nineteenth century there lived in the village a negro whose lungs were renowned for their power to call forth the fullness of this strange echo. "Joe Tom," as he was named, was always called upon, as the guide of lake excursions, to perform this peculiar duty. Stationing his scow at the focal point, the negro would shout across the water, "Natty Bumppo! Natty Bumppo!—Who's there?" And after a moment the cry would be flung back, as by the spirit of Leather-Stocking, from the heights of the steep woods and rocky faces of the hill. On a still summer evening Joe Tom was sometimes able, by a single shout, to call forth three distinct echoes, which were heard in regular succession,—the first from the region of the cave, the second from Mount Vision, and the third from Hannah's Hill on the opposite side of the lake, until the margin of the Glimmerglass seemed to resound with cries of "Natty Bumppo!—Natty Bumppo!" uttered by eerie voices.
The years pass, and no other name retains such magic power to wake the sleeping echo of the Glimmerglass.
[Footnote 91: History of Otsego County, 1878, p. 249.]
[Footnote 92: Calvin Graves, who came to Cooperstown in 1794, and lived in the place for 84 years, is quoted as saying that he well knew Shipman, the Leather-Stocking of Cooper's novels, and that Shipman was never married. Graves said that he had often visited the old hunter's cave in company with him. This testimony seems to point to the Hoosick Shipman, who having deserted his family for twenty-six years, might easily pass for a bachelor in Otsego, and who is said to have lived in a cave, concerning which nothing is mentioned in the traditions of David Shipman.]
STRANGE TALES OF THE GALLOWS
At the eastern end of the main street of the village the bridge across the Susquehanna River commands a view for a short distance up and down the stream, far enough toward the north to glimpse its source in Otsego Lake, while to the south Fernleigh House appears, high amid the trees on the western bank, and the drifting current below is lost in foliage. Nearer at hand, as seen from the south side of the bridge, Riverbrink claims the eastern shore. Here stands a solemn-visaged house that looks down upon the scene of one of the most extraordinary dramas ever enacted beneath the gallows-tree.
In the summer of 1805, on the flat a little below the place where the house now stands, the gibbet was erected for a public execution. The condemned man was Stephen Arnold, whose crime was committed in Burlington, in this county, during the previous winter. Arnold was a school teacher, and having no children of his own, had taken into his home Betsey Van Amburgh, a child six years of age. An ungovernable temper added a kind of ferocious zeal to the duty of educating this child, for it was her inability to pronounce the word "gig" according to his directions that brought the teacher to the gallows. Betsey insisted on pronouncing the word as "jig," and declared that she could not do otherwise. Whereupon Arnold took her out of the house into the severely cold evening air, and there whipped her naked body until he himself became cold. He then took her indoors to make her pronounce the word correctly, which she failed to do; and again she was taken out and whipped in the same manner. This act of brutality he repeated seven times, declaring that he "had as lieve whip her to death as not." The poor child languished four days, and expired.
Arnold's trial was held in June, in Cooperstown. He was speedily convicted of murder, and sentenced to die.
The date fixed for the execution, Friday, July 19, 1805, was a gala day in Cooperstown. The infamy of Arnold's crime had stirred public indignation throughout this section of the State, and the prospect of witnessing his execution had been eagerly anticipated, through motives ranging from morbid curiosity to a stern sense of duty, in the most distant hamlets of the region. By seven o'clock in the morning on the day fixed for the hanging the main street of Cooperstown was filled with people who had travelled from so great a distance that not one in twenty was known to any of the villagers. The concourse increased until shortly after noon, when, in the village which normally contained about five hundred people, the crowd included about eight thousand.
The first centre of interest was the county courthouse and jail which stood at the then western limits of the village, on the southeast corner of Main and Pioneer streets. The door of the jail was on the Pioneer street side of the building, and across the way were the stocks and whipping-post. These rude symbols of justice might well be a terror to evil doers. A sample of the punishment meted out to petty offenders is found in the record that in 1791 a local physician was put in the stocks for having mixed an emetic with the beverage drunk at a ball given at the Red Lion Inn; and four years later a man was flogged at the whipping-post, for stealing some pieces of ribbon. Both culprits were also banished from the village, apropos of which form of punishment Fenimore Cooper at a later day was moved to remark, "It is to be regretted that it has fallen into disuse."
The crowds that gathered to witness the hanging of Stephen Arnold filled the street in the neighborhood of the jail until the prisoner was brought forth at noon, when some remained to watch the parade, while others hurried on to the place of execution to secure good points of view for the spectacle. A procession was formed in front of the court house under the direction of the sheriff. The ministers of religion and other gentlemen, preceded by the sheriff on horseback, moved with funeral music after the prisoner, who was carried on a wagon and guarded by a battalion of light infantry and a company of artillery. In this array the procession moved solemnly down the main street and across the bridge to the place of execution on the east bank of the river. There stood the gallows; at its foot was a coffin.
The condemned man was assisted to a seat upon his coffin. About him gathered the parsons, the representatives of the law, and the soldiery. There was no house on the bank of the river at that time, and the thousands of spectators were massed in the natural amphitheatre which rises, and then rose uninterrupted, toward the east, from the shore of the Susquehanna.
An interested observer who looked down upon the assemblage from the high western bank of the river has recorded a vivid impression of the beauty of the scene and the picturesque and emotional qualities of the occasion. Looking back toward the village, and then sweeping with a glance the north and east, his eye caught the roofs of buildings covered with spectators, windows crowded with faces, every surrounding point of view occupied. The natural amphitheatre across the river was "filled with all classes and gradations of citizens, from the opulent landlord to the humble laborer. Blooming nymphs were there and jolly swains, delicate ladies and spruce gentlemen, fond mothers and affectionate sisters, prattling children and hoary sages, servile slaves and imperious masters." In the elevated background of the landscape carriages appeared filled with people. It was a warm July day, brilliant with sunshine, and splendid in the greenery of summer foliage. The throngs of spectators, tier upon tier, as it were, presented a kaleidoscopic effect of movement and color, in the undulating appearance of silks and muslins of different hues, as the eye traversed the multitude; in the swaying and bobbing of hundreds of umbrellas and parasols of various colors; in the vibration of thousands of fans in playful mediation, while the death-struggle of a man upon the gallows was eagerly awaited. In the foreground, on the bank of the Susquehanna, the gibbet, with the solemn group about it, relieved only by flashes of color in the military uniforms, and by the gleam of swords and bayonets, fascinated every eye.
A great silence fell upon the multitude when the preliminaries to the execution began with a prayer offered by the Rev. Mr. Williams of Worcester. The Rev. Isaac Lewis, pastor of the Presbyterian church in Cooperstown, then stood forth to deliver the sermon. Few preachers, even in the largest centres of life, have occasion to address congregations numbered by thousands. What an opportunity was here given to an obscure country parson, when he faced an audience of some eight thousand people! Mr. Lewis preached upon the subject of the Penitent Thief, taking as his text the forty-second and forty-third verses of the twenty-third chapter of St. Luke: "And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into Thy Kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise." Nothing is recorded of the sermon beyond that it was "a pathetic, concise, and excellently adapted discourse." Elder Vining closed the religious exercises by a solemn appeal to the throne of grace for mercy and forgiveness, as well for the vast auditory as for the prisoner.
The condemned man seemed deeply affected, and perfectly resigned to the justice of his fate. His penitence was manifest, and drew forth tears of sympathy from the spectators. After the exercises the prisoner seated himself on the coffin for a short space, when he was informed that if he wished to say anything to the people he might now have opportunity. He arose and addressed a few words to the surrounding multitude, earnestly urging them to be warned by his fatal example to place a strict guard upon their passions, the fatal indulgence of which had brought him to the shameful condition in which they beheld him, notwithstanding he never intended to commit murder. He concluded his address with these words: "It appears to me that if you will not take warning at this affecting scene, you would not be warned though one should arise from the dead."
At the conclusion of this speech the sheriff stepped forward and made ready for the hanging, finally adjusting the fatal cord, except for fastening it to the beam of the gallows.
Near by was a palsied crone, so eager to witness the hanging that she had been carried to the scene in her rocking-chair, which was placed upon an improvised platform. Here she had rocked to and fro in her chair during the whole proceeding, until, when the hangman made ready his noose, the old hag rocked with such nervous violence that she toppled over backward, chair and all, her neck being broken by the fall.
The prisoner remained apparently absorbed in meditation which was entirely abstracted from terrestrial objects. The thousands of spectators waited in silent and gloomy suspense for the final catastrophe. The sheriff stood forth and addressed to the condemned man a few remarks pertinent to the occasion.
Having carried the proceedings to this crucial point, the sheriff, Solomon Martin, then changed his role, and produced from his pocket a letter from his excellency Morgan Lewis, Governor of the State of New York, containing directions for a respite of the execution until further orders, and announcing that a reprieve, in due form, would soon be forwarded.
It was now long after noon, and the sheriff, having received this letter at nine o'clock in the morning, had kept it in his pocket during the entire proceedings, "conceiving it improper to divulge the respite until the crisis." The sheriff had acted with the advice of a few others who were let into the secret. Even the attending ministers of religion were uninformed of the respite until it was dramatically produced upon the stage. The thing, in fact, outdid all stagecraft, for while it is quite consistent with the traditions of theatrical art that an execution should be stayed at the critical moment by the appearance of a furiously galloping horseman waving a reprieve above his head, probably never elsewhere in the history of the drama or in the annals of the law has the official document been produced at the gallows, after the adjustment of the fatal noose, from the pocket of the hangman!
In the judgment of the sheriff it appeared that since the order for a respite had arrived too late to forestall the gathering of great multitudes to witness the hanging, it was equally clear that it had come too early to be made public at once without causing unnecessary disappointment to thousands who were still enjoying the ecstasies of anticipation. So he carried out the original programme to the letter, going through with all the preliminaries and forms of the execution, stopping short only of the actual hanging.
When the sheriff made his amazing announcement from the scaffold, the prisoner swooned, and the whole scene was changed. The prisoner was reconducted to the jail with the same pomp and bravery of troops and music that had brought him to the scaffold. The spectators slowly dispersed, and before sunset the village assumed its accustomed tranquility.
The next issue of The Otsego Herald asserted that "the proceedings of the day were opened, progressed, and closed in a manner which reflected honor on the judiciary, the executive, the clergy, the military, and the citizens of the county."
Arnold was never hanged. The State legislature commuted his sentence to imprisonment for life.
Another story of the gallows belongs to a later period. On Friday, August 24, 1827, the hanging of a man named Strang was witnessed in Albany by about thirty thousand spectators. Judging from contemporary accounts, the circumstances of the execution were not edifying. "We are more than ever convinced," said the Albany Gazette, "of the bad effect of public executions. Scenes of the most disgraceful drunkenness, gambling, profanity, and almost all kinds of debauchery, were exhibited in the vicinity of the gallows, and even at the time the culprit was suffering. We do most sincerely hope that some law may be enacted requiring that executions shall be performed in private." The Albany Argus was more hopeful of some moral benefit from the execution. "Whilst we may question the utility," it said, "of such spectacles, tending as they do in general, to gratify a morbid curiosity, and to excite a sympathy for the criminal rather than an abhorrence, and consequently a prevention of crime; we trust none who were witnesses of the scene, will forget that this ignominious death was the consequence of an indulgence of vicious courses and criminal passions."
Preliminary to the hanging there was the usual speech from the gallows. Addressing the multitude the condemned murderer said he hoped his execution would lead them to reflect upon the effects of sin and lust, and induce them to avoid those acts for which he was about to suffer a painful and ignominious death.
Among the spectators at this hanging was Levi Kelley of Cooperstown, who, in order to witness the spectacle, had covered a distance of 75 miles, drawn by his favorite team of black horses, a noble span, of which he was very proud. Kelley was much depressed in spirit by the dreadful scene at the gallows, and to a friend who accompanied him on the homeward journey remarked that no one who had ever witnessed such a melancholy spectacle could ever be guilty of the crime of murder.
In Christ churchyard in Cooperstown, near the southern border of the burial ground, and about twenty paces from River Street, stands a tombstone which commemorates a former resident of the village, and is unusual for the precision of terms in which it records the date of his decease; for there is inscribed not merely the day, but the very hour, of death. The inscription reads:
IN MEMORY OF ABRAHAM SPAFARD WHO DIED AT 8 O'CLOCK P. M. 3D. SEPT. 1827 IN THE 49TH YEAR OF HIS AGE. THE TRUMP SHALL SOUND AND THE DEAD SHALL BE RAISED.
The passer-by who suspects a concealed significance in this desire to emphasize the exact hour of Abraham Spafard's death is not mistaken. Abraham Spafard was murdered, shot to the heart by Levi Kelley, and died almost instantly, at 8 o'clock in the evening, September 3, 1827, just ten days after Kelley had witnessed the hanging in Albany.
The murderer is buried in the same churchyard with his victim. For Kelley, on the maternal side, was a connection of the Cooper family. During his imprisonment before and after the trial he was frequently visited at the jail by Mrs. George Pomeroy, daughter of William Cooper, a lady noted for her many works of Christian charity, and after Kelley had paid the penalty of his crime, she brought it about that his body was interred in the Cooper plot in Christ churchyard, although no stone was ever raised to mark the place of his burial, and the exact spot is now unknown.
The murder occurred in the house of Levi Kelley, in which Abraham Spafard lived as tenant in Pierstown, about three miles north of Cooperstown. Kelley was noted for his furious outbursts of temper, while Spafard was of an amiable and peaceable disposition. Kelley violently attacked a lame boy who was employed about the place, and when Spafard interposed, Kelley's anger turned against Spafard, so that a struggle ensued. The evidence at the trial showed that Spafard struck no blow and committed no violence, using no more force than was necessary for his defence. He besought Kelley to desist, and at last, unclenching Kelley's hands from his throat, Spafard retired quietly into the house. Kelley then ran for his gun, and following Spafard into his room, shot him to the heart. Kelley's own wife, as well as the members of Spafard's family, were the terrified witnesses of the murder.
Kelley's trial, which was held in Cooperstown, began on the twenty-first of November, and was concluded on the next day. The judge in the case was the Hon. Samuel Nelson, afterward associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. In passing sentence Judge Nelson addressed to the prisoner a homily which created a deep impression upon the crowded court room.
The execution of Levi Kelley was attended by an immense concourse of people. The hanging of a murderer was still regarded by many, in that day, not only as fit method of punishment, but as offering a spectacle of great moral and educational value. It was at once a deterrent from crime and a vindication of the majesty of the law. When the day set for the execution of Kelley was come, there was many a home in which the father of the family announced at breakfast that the children must be duly washed and dressed in Sabbath array, to accompany him, as in duty bound, to the solemn spectacle. Nor were all attracted to the dreadful scene by a sense of duty only, perhaps, at a period when public shows were few.