The gibbet was erected, amid the December snow, at a point about four hundred feet south of the site occupied by the present High School, very near, if not in the midst of, what is now Chestnut Street. Christmas Day was followed by a thaw, and on Friday, the day set for the execution, a torrent of rain fell during the morning hours. Yet before noon the village was thronged with a multitude of men, women and children, keenly anticipating the gruesome tragedy, until more than four thousand people were gathered about the gallows.
The court-house and jail stood then not far from their present site. The procession from the jail to the place of execution was conducted with much military pomp. Two marshals, each mounted on a prancing steed, led a troop of cavalry, a corps of artillery, and four companies of infantry. This formidable array of forces, drawn up in a hollow square at the jail, having enclosed within its ranks the condemned man and the attending ministers of the Gospel, moved solemnly to the place of execution. The prisoner, apparently in a feeble state of health, lay upon a bed in a sleigh drawn by his favorite black horses, the same that he had driven to Albany to witness the execution of Strang. The ministers of religion, the Rev. Mr. Potter and the Rev. John Smith, pastor of the Presbyterian church, rode in state in the two sleighs that followed.
Near the gallows there had been erected for the accommodation of spectators a staging one hundred feet in length and twelve feet in depth, the front being elevated six feet and the rear eight feet from the ground. From this structure about six hundred people commanded an excellent view of the gibbet, while some three thousand others, lacking this advantage, jostled each other, craning their necks, and standing on tiptoe, to see what was going forward.
The procession from the jail had arrived upon the grounds, and the solemnities were about to commence, when the staging suddenly gave way and fell with a tremendous crash. The spectators upon it were plunged into a confused heap, struggling for freedom amid the broken timbers. The shrieks and groans that arose from the scrimmage terrified the assemblage, and the wild rush of anxious friends and relatives toward the scene of accident resulted almost in a riot. When order had been in some measure restored the work of rescue began. Between twenty and thirty persons were drawn forth from the wreckage severely injured. Elisha C. Tracy, an engraver, was found to be dead, the upper part of his face being crushed inward to the depth of more than an inch. Daniel Williams, an elderly man resident at Richfield, had a leg and arm broken, and died a few hours later. The dead and wounded were carried from the field, and some of the spectators, having had enough of tragedy, withdrew.
The ceremonies of the execution then proceeded, although amid an atmosphere of intense nervous excitement. The condemned man was taken from his sleigh, and, because of his illness, required assistance in ascending the gallows. As he stood there, the centre of all eyes, he seemed a different man from the passionate murderer of Abraham Spafard. Weak and sick, he looked down upon the multitude assembled to see him die. His look was one of regretful sympathy because of the unexpected accident rather than of fear of his own impending fate. "Who are killed; and how many are injured?" he inquired.
The rope was noosed about Kelley's neck. The Presbyterian minister stepped forward, and commended the convict's soul to the mercy of God in a prayer in which Kelley, with bowed head, seemed to participate. Then the drop fell. After a few twitchings of the limbs, the body quivered, and hung still. The show was over. The crowd dispersed.
The effect of this exhibition was to give voice to a growing sentiment against public hangings. The next issue of the Freeman's Journal protested against such spectacles as demoralizing, and suggested a movement in the State legislature to amend the law. Kelley's was in fact the last public hanging in Cooperstown.
The execution of Levi Kelley, with its unexpected accompanying catastrophe, was long the talk of the neighborhood. It was commemorated by Isaac Squire, an Otsego rhymester, in some verses that are of curious interest as a survival of the old ballad form in which events were wont to be celebrated. Many years afterward there were those who recalled that the doleful lines were committed to memory by some of the village children, and sung to a droning tune:
LINES ON THE EXECUTION OF LEVI KELLEY.
In eighteen hundred twenty seven Poor Kelley broke the law of Heaven; He murdered his poor tenant there, Who took his place to work on share.
'Twas early on a Monday night This horrid scene was brought to light; He seized his loaded gun in hand, And with malicious fury ran,
And when about four feet apart, Alas! he shot him to the heart. The expiring words, we understand, Were, "O Lord, I'm a dying man!"
They quickly ran him to relieve, But death could grant him no reprieve; He expired almost instantly, In his affrighted family.
Kelley's indicted for the crime; Confined in prison for a time; A murderer here can take no rest, While guilt lies heavy on his breast.
November on the twenty-first, For murder of a fellow dust, He was arraigned before the bar, And tried by his country there.
Full testimony did appear That when the Jury came to hear In verdict they were soon agreed That he was guilty of this deed.
And in their verdict they did bring That cause of death was found in him; The Judge his sentence did declare, And thus declared him guilty there:
"Your time is set, O do remember, The twenty-eighth of December, Between the hours of twelve and three, Be launched into eternity.
"Your time is short on earth to stay; Prepare for death without delay; Though you no pity showed at all, May God have mercy on your soul."
December on the twenty-eighth Did Levi Kelley meet his fate; This awful scene I now relate Caused thousands there to fear and quake.
Though wet and rainy was the day, The people thronged from every way; With anxious thought each came to see The unhappy fate of poor Kelley.
The day was come, the time drew near, When the poor prisoner must appear; The officers they did prepare, And round him formed a hollow square,
That they with safety might convey Him to the place of destiny; The music made a solemn sound While they marched slowly to the ground.
A scaffold was erected there, And hundreds on it did repair, That all thereon might plainly see The unhappy fate of poor Kelley.
Before they bid this scene adieu, An awful sight appeared in view. See, hundreds with the scaffold fall! And some to rise no more at all
Till the great day when all shall rise, To their great joy or sad surprise, And hear their sentence "Doomed to Hell," Or, "With the saints in glory dwell."
The wounded here in numbers lie, And loud for help now some do cry While others are too faint to speak, And some in death's cold arms asleep.
The cry was heard once and again That "Hundreds now we fear are slain!" But God in this distressing hour Revives again each withering flower.
Poor Kelley, in this trying time, Was executed for his crime. He hung an awful sight to see; May this a solemn warning be.
A word to such, before we close, That love the way poor Kelley chose; Their vicious ways if you attend Will bring you to some awful end.
[Footnote 93: Otsego Herald, July 19, 1805.]
The property which now includes Edgewater was inherited by Isaac Cooper, the second son of Judge Cooper, on the death of his father in 1809. In the following year he began the erection of the house, which took nearly four years in building. Aside from its now venerable aspect, this solid residence, constructed of old-fashioned brick, preserves much of its original appearance as one of the largest dwellings in the village. It was modeled after a colonial residence in Philadelphia well known to the Cooper family. The style of the entrance hall, with the balanced symmetry of semicircular stairways that ascend to the upper floor, is singularly effective, while the carved wood of the interior, as seen in the doorcaps and mouldings, displays skillful workmanship. No house in Cooperstown commands so fine a general view of Otsego Lake as that which is to be seen from the porch of Edgewater. The surrounding ground includes over two acres, and extends to the waters of the lake, although now traversed by Lake Street, which made its way, by long usage, across the original property. The house is approached through the paths of an old time garden, thickly grown with shrubs, and shaded by a variety of trees.
Isaac Cooper had married Mary Ann, daughter of General Jacob Morris, of Morris, Otsego county, and took possession of Edgewater as his residence on December 4, 1813. It is not difficult to understand the feeling of satisfaction, on being established in this beautiful home, which prompted Isaac Cooper, at the age of thirty-two years, to record the event in his diary thus:
Moved—where I hope to end my Days—and I pray Heaven to allow this House and this Lot—whereon I this day brought my Family, to descend to my children and to my children's children, and may they increase in virtue and respectability, and become worthy of the blessings of Heaven.
This diary is hardly more than a record of weather, with a single line of "general observations," under which head, from day to day, he makes brief mention of his doings, social engagements; births, marriages, and deaths among his friends; his own frequent illnesses: occasionally he moralizes, or indulges in a bit of self-criticism. A few entries selected from Isaac Cooper's diary will show its general character. It will be noticed that he refers to himself in the third person as "Mr. C." or "Mr. Cooper."
August 20, 1814—New waggon paraded, to the admiration of the villagers.
August 30—Quilting party at Mrs. Pomeroy's—very pleasant.
January 4, 1815—Cate, Mr. Prentiss married.
February 7—Time passes heavily! Good reason why!
August 8—Laid corner brick of Morrell's & Prentiss' House.
July 30, 1816—Tea Party at Mrs. Poms. Also a party on the Lake. Major Prevost fell overboard.
October 5—Done quilting, thank fortune.
October 25—Mr. C. set out plum trees in back yard.
October 28—Mr. C. fell down stairs last night. Don't feel so well for it.
November 13—Took in some pork.
November 16—Mr. Phinney played backgammon with Mrs. Cooper this evening.
November 27—A Milliner arrived with an assortment of elegant cheap hats. (Sold a twelve dollar one! I wonder who to?)
November 28—A mystery dissolved. Mrs. Starkweather was the purchaser of the hat.
December 4—Mrs. Cooper's neck washed—good!
December 5—A dinner party at Mr. J. Cooper's.
December 13—Dipped 700 candles.
December 16—Wine and Brandy tap't. Head combed.
February 7, 1817—Tea Party—30 besides us, viz; Mr. and Mrs. Campbell, the Miss Starrs, Mr. and Mrs. Dr. Pomeroys, Mr. and Mrs. George Pomeroy, Mr. and Mrs. E. Phinney, Miss Tiffany, Miss Talmage, Miss Shankland, the Misses Fuller, H. Phinney, Mr. Aitchison, Mr. Lyman, Mr. Crafts, Mr. Stewart, Mr. and Mrs. Morrell, Mr. and Mrs. Webb, Miss Edmonds, Miss Webb, Mrs. Prentiss, Mrs. Dr. Webb, Mrs. Russell, Mrs. Williams.
February 17—72 loads of wood last week, making my supply for 1817, say 200 loads, exclusive of office.
February 22—Dr. Pomeroy, Mr. George Pomeroy, and Col. Seth Pomeroy spent the eve. here.
April 1—A barrel of Pork, this day opened. Robins killed yesterday by A. L. J., a sin.
May 9—Mr. Cooper feels for all mankind.
September 12—The Old Lady very ill.
September 13—Mrs. Elizabeth Cooper departed this life.
October 18—Mr. Gratz breakfasted here.
Concerning some settlements in the region, much has been written of the spirit of democracy in which they were established, and it has been pointed out that all social distinctions were levelled in the common tasks of frontier life. It does not appear that this was the case in Cooperstown. From the time of the first settlement, apparently, an aristocratic group was formed in the orbit of the Cooper nucleus, and social climbing began before the wolves and bears had been quite driven from the forests of Otsego. The tea party of February 7, 1817, mentioned in the diary, probably names most of those who were at that time admitted to the inner circle of the socially elect; another entry, dated December 31, 1816, relates to a different social sphere, and unconsciously reveals the great gulf which had already been fixed between the one and the other, together with the aristocrat's supercilious astonishment that "that class of society" is in some respects quite as desirable as his own:
This New Year's eve there was a ball at the Hotel (Col. Henry's), a very decently conducted and a very respectable assemblage of the worthy mechanics and that class of society. I was present, and would not wish to see better conduct, better dress, and better looking Ladies!!! There was perfect neatness of dress, without as much Indian finery as I have seen where they suppose they know better.
Another glimpse into the depth of the social gulf is obtained in the back pages of Isaac Cooper's diary, where he records his accounts for wages with the household servants. There is this entry, signed by the humble cross-mark of Betsey Wallby, who "came to work on March 20, 1815, at one dollar a week":
March 20, 1816—By one year's services, faithfully and orderly performed—free from Yankee dignity, and ideas of Liberty—which is insolence only. $52.00.
On New Year's day, 1818, death came to Isaac Cooper at Edgewater, and he was laid at rest in Christ churchyard with the humblest pioneers of the hamlet. Only for a little more than four years had he enjoyed the home which he established at Edgewater.
In Isaac Cooper's diary, by another hand, these words were added:
September, 1823—Sold our house. Necessity compelled us.
Shortly before the house was vacated by the family of Isaac Cooper, the garden of Edgewater was the scene of a pretty romance. Isaac Cooper's second daughter, Elizabeth Fenimore, was a child of rare beauty, and as she began to grow toward womanhood became renowned for wit and loveliness. Strictly guarded by the conventional proprieties, Elizabeth made glorious excursions into the realm of fancy, where errant knights are ever in search of fair ladies to deliver them from castle dungeons. Edgewater, with the freedom of its garden, was a pleasant sort of prison, but Elizabeth was not less gratified when the knight of her dreams actually appeared in the person of a young college student who was spending his summer vacation in Cooperstown—Samuel Wootton Beall, a native of Maryland. Summer evenings in Edgewater garden passed quickly away, and there came a night of farewell, for on the next day young Beall must return to his college, and to long months of Greek, Latin, and mathematics. On that night the young man brought a Methodist minister into the garden with him. There was a mysterious signal. Elizabeth Fenimore Cooper glided out of the house, and joined the two in darkness. They stood beneath the locust tree which rose just east of the front steps, while in low voices the young lovers took their vows, and the parson pronounced them man and wife. The bride immediately crept back into the house, thrilling with her secret, while the bridegroom went his way, and on the next day was gone.
Nothing was said of the wedding until Samuel Beall was graduated from college, and returned to Cooperstown to claim his wife. Beyond the extreme youth of the couple, there was really no objection to the match. Mrs. Cooper was astonished at the announcement, but gave her blessing to the union. Only one condition she exacted. Shocked at the informality of their wedding, she required them to be remarried with the full rites of the Church.
Young Beall and his wife went West, where he prospered, and, returning to Cooperstown in 1836, purchased Woodside as their residence. After a few years at Woodside, they settled once more in the West.
In Edgewater garden the locust that sheltered the secret marriage was long known as the Bridal Tree, and grew to lofty size. In the winter of 1908 the first fall of snow came upon the wings of a great wind. During the night the big locust fell crashing to the ground, and in the morning was found covered with a mantle of virgin snow, gleaming white like a bridal veil.
In 1828, Edgewater having passed into the hands of a company which had organized to establish a seminary for girls, the house was rearranged for such occupancy. The numerals which then marked the rooms of the students are still to be seen on the doorways of the top floor. The school was a financial failure, and in 1834 the trustees sold Edgewater as a summer residence to Theodore Keese of New York, who, eight years previously, had married the eldest daughter of George Pomeroy and Ann Cooper, sister of Isaac Cooper. Thus the property came back into the family of the original owner.
In 1836 Mr. and Mrs. Keese came to Cooperstown to live, and their eight-year-old son, George Pomeroy Keese, then began a residence at Edgewater that continued for seventy-four years. In 1849, at the age of twenty-one years, he brought to Edgewater his bride, Caroline Adriance Foote, a daughter of Surgeon Lyman Foote, of the United States Army. In this house their eight children were born, and all of these, with the exception of one who died in infancy, lived to celebrate the sixtieth wedding anniversary which their parents commemorated with a notable gathering of friends at Edgewater in the autumn of 1909. Living to old age in perfect health of body and mind Mr. and Mrs. Keese made Edgewater a famous centre of hospitality.
During this long residence in Cooperstown Pomeroy Keese stood in the forefront of its affairs, and came to occupy a unique position in the life of the village. In boyhood, as the grand-nephew of Fenimore Cooper, he was brought into close contact with the novelist, and at the beginning of the twentieth century was one of the few residents of the village who distinctly recalled the famous writer's personality. He was best known to the business world as president for nearly forty years of the Second National Bank of Cooperstown, but the qualities that made him so interesting a figure lay rather in the many avocations of his life. He was senior warden of Christ Church at the time of his death, and had been a member of its vestry for more than half a century. Of thirteen successive rectors of Christ Church he had known all but Father Nash, the first. For the old village church, surrounded with its quaint tombs and overshadowing pines, he had a love that seemed about to call forth the response of personality from things inanimate.
On the streets of Cooperstown, in his later years, G. Pomeroy Keese was a picturesque and characteristic figure. His face seemed weather-beaten rather than old; his eye was like that of a sailor, with a focus for distant horizons; the style of thin side-whisker affected by a former generation gave full play to every expression of his countenance. It was a common sight, of a winter's day, to glimpse his slight and dapper form with quick step ambling to the post-office, while, quite innocent of overcoat, he compromised with the frosty air by clasping his hands, one over the other, across his chest, as a means of keeping warm!
Pomeroy Keese was somewhat contemptuous toward mufflers, arctics, and other toggery which Otsego winters imposed upon his neighbors. He seemed immune against the assault of climatic rigors. His attitude toward the weather was confidential, for he was the most weatherwise of men. He kept a daily record of the weather, with accurate meteorological data, for more than half a century, and for many years furnished the local official figures for the United States weather bureau. From his experience he originated the theory that, while seasons from year to year appear to differ widely in their character, the temperature and precipitation within the compass of each year actually reach the same general average. It seemed to cause him real annoyance when a period of weather departed too widely from the usual average, yet if a cold snap or hot spell was generous enough to break all previous records his enthusiasm was boundless.
An equally substantial though smaller house that antedated Edgewater by a few years was erected in the summer of 1802 by John Miller as a farm house. It was built of bricks, and was the second building in the place that was not constructed of wood. It stands at the southwest corner of Pine Street and Lake Street, facing the latter, and the dense evergreen hedge which surrounds the house seems to hold it aloof from the later growth of the village. It is said that the house is haunted, for not long after it was built a tenant of the place murdered his wife by smothering her with a pillow in her bedroom, and for many years it was rumored that occupants of the house occasionally were terrified by muffled sounds of moaning as of one in mortal agony.
The building referred to in Isaac Cooper's diary as "Morrell's and Prentiss' house" includes the two brick houses on Main Street which stand conjoined just east of the Village Club and Library. Judge Morrell went West, and his house, the more westerly of the two, became better known as the property of its later owner, William Holt Averell, whose descendants continued to occupy it a century after him. The adjoining house, built by Col. Prentiss, remained after his death in possession of his family, and his daughter, Mrs. Charlotte Prentiss Browning, lived to celebrate its centennial.
Col. John H. Prentiss, for more than half a century a resident, and for forty years editor of the Freeman's Journal, was a notable figure in Cooperstown. Under his editorial management the Freeman's Journal became a strong political organ, and exercised an influence that made Otsego one of the stanchest Democratic counties in the State of New York. Col. Prentiss represented his district in Congress during the four years of Van Buren's administration, having been reelected at the expiration of his first term. It was at this time that his next door neighbor, William Holt Averell, was a candidate for Congress on the Whig ticket. The first returns indicated that Averell had been elected, and there was a noisy demonstration by Averell's supporters in front of his residence, bringing him forth for a speech which was received with great enthusiasm. The returns came in slowly in those days, and a day or two had passed before it was learned that Prentiss had been elected, and his doorstep became the scene of another jubilation. According to the recollections of some this seesawing of returns occurred more than once, and the two neighbors, whose friendship was not interrupted by their political antagonisms, each joined in the demonstration in honor of the other.
A large part of the work of publishing his newspaper was done by Judge Prentiss himself. Besides being sole editor, he attended to the financial department, and for forty years, except while in Congress, he gave his personal attention in the printing office to the mechanical department. A later writer recalls often seeing Col. Prentiss in the press-room, with coat off, sleeves rolled up, either inking the type with two large soft balls, or pulling at the lever of the old Ramage press. He describes him as "an industrious, energetic man, a little inclined to aristocratic bearing, but open, frank and cordial with his friends."
The last appearance of Col. Prentiss in public life, from which he had previously kept aloof for several years, was as a delegate to the Democratic State convention which was held in Albany on February 1, 1861. In that body of distinguished and able men, of which he was one of the vice-presidents, he attracted much attention, and the question was frequently asked by those in attendance, referring to Col. Prentiss, "Who is that large, fine-looking old gentleman, with white, flowing hair?"
Colonel Prentiss's next door neighbor, William Holt Averell, son of James Averell, Jr., was for more than half a century one of the most prominent citizens of the village, who did more perhaps than any other for its financial development. He was one of the first directors and for many years president of the Otsego County Bank, the original of the present First National Bank, and for which the building across the way from his house, now used as the Clark Estate office, was erected in 1831. As he issued every day from the doorway of this building with its portico of fluted columns, his figure was exactly such as the imagination might now devise as most in harmony with the surroundings; for in his youth Averell was extremely punctilious in his dress, being a very handsome man, and for many years it was his custom to wear a white beaver hat, and ruffled shirt, with ruffles at the cuffs that set off to good advantage his small and delicate hands. He did all his reading and work at night. Those who passed his windows at a late hour were sure to glimpse him bending over his desk, and nobody else in Cooperstown went to bed late enough to see his lamp extinguished, for the servants often found him still at work when they came to summon him to breakfast in the morning. He lived long enough to be regarded as a gentleman of the old school, positive and dogmatic in his opinions, which were usually those of a minority, but which he defended with the resourcefulness of a brilliant and well-trained mind.
In 1813 Henry Phinney, one of the two sons of Elihu Phinney, began the construction of the large brick house on Chestnut street now known as "Willowbrook," and completed it three years later. In Cooper's Chronicles of Cooperstown several houses "of respectable dimensions and of genteel finish" are mentioned as having been erected between the years of 1820 and 1835. Among these is the house of Elihu Phinney, the younger son of the pioneer, which still stands on Pioneer Street opposite to the Universalist church. It is of brick, partly surrounded by a veranda, and exquisite in many details of construction, much of the interior woodwork being notable in excellence of chaste design.
During this same general period several houses of stone were erected that still remain among the most solid and attractive in Cooperstown. William Nichols built Greystone, the fine old residence that stands at the southwest corner of Fair and Lake streets; Ellory Cory erected the house on the west side of Pioneer Street near Lake Street; John Hannay set a new standard for the western part of the village when he put up on the north side of Main Street, not far from Chestnut Street, the dignified residence now occupied by the Mohican Club. In 1827 the low structures of stone which stand on the east side of Pioneer Street, between Main and Church street, were erected; and in 1828 the three-story stone building on the north side of Main Street, midway between Pioneer and Chestnut streets, was an important addition to the business section of the village.
A country-house of classic poise and symmetry was designed in 1829, when Eben B. Morehouse purchased a few acres from the Bowers estate, on the side of Mount Vision, at the point where the old state road made its first turn to ascend the mountain, and there erected the dwelling called Woodside Hall. For many years an Indian wigwam stood on the site now occupied by Woodside. This old stone house, set on the hillside against a background of dense pine forest, has an air of singular dignity and repose. Standing at the head of the ascending road which continues the main street of the village, Woodside, with its row of columns gleaming white amid the living green of the forest, may be seen from almost any point along the main thoroughfare of Cooperstown. It is approached from the highway by a rise of ground, where the Egyptian gate-tower adds a fanciful interest to the entrance, with glimpses of the terraced lawn and garden that climb toward the house. In summer, on gaining the porch, one looks back upon a mass of foliage beneath which Cooperstown lies concealed, except for a vista that traverses the length of the village and rises to the pines that crown the hills beyond; while a glance toward the north sweeps across the surface of the lake to its western shore. The woods that come down almost to the house are composed of pines and hemlocks of splendid proportions and great antiquity, lending a shadowy atmosphere of mystery to the environs of Woodside Hall.
The charm and grace of this residence seem to reflect certain qualities in the character of Judge Eben B. Morehouse, who designed it as his home. For he is described as a man of rare personality and unusual culture, whose intellectual ability gave him exceptional rank in his profession. He was district attorney in 1829, member of Assembly in 1831, and became a justice of the Supreme Court of the State in 1847. Mrs. Morehouse, a daughter of Dr. Fuller, one of the pioneer physicians of Cooperstown, was a woman of many social gifts, and established traditions of hospitality and festivity at Woodside.
In 1836 Judge Morehouse suffered reverses of fortune, and when he had sold Woodside to Samuel W. Beall, took up his residence in a modest cottage in the village. It was said of Judge Morehouse that, during this period, in walking about the village streets, he was careful never to raise his eyes toward Woodside, and, if occasion brought him in the vicinity of his old home, he passed it with averted face. After a few years he was able, to his great joy, to buy Woodside back again, and he continued residence there until his death in 1849.
A President of the United States was once lost in the grounds of Woodside. It was in 1839, when Judge Morehouse gave a large evening reception for President Martin Van Buren. After the reception, when the guests were departed, Mr. Van Buren and a friend who accompanied him became separated from their companions, and lost their way in attempting to find the gate-tower. For a long time they wandered and groped about in the darkness of the grounds, finally returning to the house for a guide and a lantern, just as the family were going to bed.
In 1856 Mrs. Morehouse sold Woodside to the Hon. Joseph L. White, whose family entertained generously and delightfully. White was a distinguished lawyer of New York, and one of the most famous stump orators of his time. He became identified with the early days of the Nicaragua Canal project. While at work on the isthmus he was killed by the bullet of an assassin.
After the death of White, the place was bought by John F. Scott, whose family were among the earliest settlers in Springfield at the head of the lake.
In 1895 Woodside was purchased by Walter C. Stokes of New York. Mr. and Mrs. Stokes, occupying Woodside as a summer home, gave it new embellishment, and revived the traditions of its hospitality.
At the extreme northwest margin of the lake there is a little cove, with a landing, near which one ascends from the shore by means of a swaying board walk over swampy ground, where flags and forget-me-nots bloom luxuriantly during summer days, and fireflies hold carnival at night. At the top of the slope stands "Swanswick," a cottage-like and rambling house whose rear windows look down the lake, while the low veranda in front opens upon a lawn and quiet lily-padded pond, a mill-pond originally, for near at hand are the falls that operated Low's mills, in the days of the pioneers. Swanswick stands upon the site of a house erected in 1762, the first ever inhabited by a white man on the shore of Otsego Lake. The present house was built after the Revolution by Colonel Richard Cary, one of Washington's aides, and the place was called Rose Lawn. General Washington was a guest here when he made his visit in Otsego in 1783, and a ball was given in his honor. The daughter of the house was Anne Low Cary who married Richard Cooper, and after his death became the wife of George Hyde Clarke, who built Hyde Hall. She inherited Rose Lawn from her mother, and gave it to her son, Alfred Cooper Clarke. The latter was childless, and left the place to his nephew, Leslie Pell, who belonged to the well known Pell family of New York and Newport, and who assumed legally the name of Clarke.
Leslie Pell-Clarke married the charming Henrietta Temple, a cousin of Henry James the novelist, and of William James, the psychologist. He changed the name of the place to Swanswick, and lived there from the early 'seventies until his death in 1904. The Pell-Clarkes made Swanswick known as a haven of good cheer for miles around. The old house, simple in its lines and modest in proportions, had an air of singular distinction. The library in the west wing, with its curious skylight, and bookcases well stocked with the classic favorites of an English country gentleman, was a revelation to the connoisseur of old volumes; and the whole house was full of quaintly delightful surprises. It was the master of the house himself who gave to the place its atmosphere. He was ideally the centre of things, especially when he sat in the library reading aloud from some favorite author, which he did always with perfect justice of expression, and in a voice of unrivalled melody. He was a lover of outdoor life, and laid out on his own property at the head of the lake the golf grounds now managed by the Otsego Golf Club, the oldest links of any in America that have been maintained on their original course. Mr. and Mrs. Pell-Clarke were reckoned and beloved as partly belonging to Cooperstown, for they drove down from the head of the lake almost daily, drawn by the whitish speckled horses, Pepper and Salt, that everybody came to know. Pell-Clarke had the frame and bearing of an athlete. Tall, with clean-cut features, he was one of the handsomest men of his time, a noble and brilliant soul, an exuberant and fascinating personality.
A country-seat that may be described as unique in all America, Hyde Hall, lies nestled in the haunches of the Sleeping Lion, toward the head of Otsego Lake. "The Sleeping Lion" is Cooperstown's nickname for Mount Wellington, the wooded hill that stretches along the northern margin of the Glimmerglass. The formal name was given to Mount Wellington by the builder of Hyde Hall, in honor of his famous classmate at Eton, in England. When this mountain is viewed from Cooperstown the aptness of the more familiar, descriptive term—the Sleeping Lion—becomes evident. In spite of its distance from the village, Hyde Hall has its place not only in the view but in the story of Cooperstown, for its proprietors have been closely associated with the life at the southern end of the lake.
The grounds of Hyde Hall lie toward the head of Otsego, on the eastern side, where Hyde Bay increases the width of the lake by a generous sweep of rounded shore. Into this bay from the east flows Shadow Brook, the most picturesque stream of water in the region, whose pellucid current reflects clear images of foliage and sky, and offers a favorite resort, in shaded nooks, to the drifting canoes of lovers. In a clearing of the woods farther northward along the shore, and at a good elevation, stands Hyde Hall, facing the southeast across the bay. It is massively constructed of large blocks of stone, and seems designed for a race of giants. The main part of the house, completed in 1815, is two stories high, in the colonial style, and over two hundred feet in length. In 1832 the facade was added, in the Empire style, with two splendid rooms on either side of a large entrance hall. The doorways and windows, as well as the chambers into which they open, are planned on a big scale. Solidity of construction appears throughout the building, where even the partition walls are of brick or stone. The masons, carpenters, and mechanics who built Hyde Hall lived on the premises while the house was under construction. They quarried and cut the stone from adjacent beds of local limestone; they burnt the brick from clay found at the foot of the hill; they cut the timber in the neighboring forest, and manufactured all the windows, doors, and panel-work.
The house commands a superb view of the lake, and is surrounded by beautiful old trees and forest land. Upwards of three thousand acres belonging to Hyde Hall enclose it on all sides, and the residence is approached by three private roads averaging over a mile in length.
Within the house, as one tries to visualize its spirit, from Trumbull's portrait of the Duke of Wellington, which stands above the fireplace in the great drawing-room, through rambling passages with glimpses of a courtyard and alcoves and wings; up curved stairways to landings that present unexpected steps down and steps up; along halls that beckon amid dim lights to unrevealed recesses of space; down through kitchens where huge pots and cauldrons reflect the glow of living coals, while shadowy outlines of spits and cranes are lifted amid a smoke of savory odors; deeper down into the spacious wine-cellars darkly festooned with cobwebs, and chill as the family burying-vault where vines and snakes squirm through the bars of its iron gates beneath the hill,—out of these fleeting impressions rises the atmosphere of an old-world tradition strangely created amid the original wilds of Otsego at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It is a house that should be ashamed not to harbor romance, and mystery, and ghosts.
Hyde Hall has the air of an English country-seat, with squire and tenantry, transplanted to the soil of an alien democracy. To comprehend its place in the life of Cooperstown it must be regarded as the symbol of certain ancestral traditions toward which good Americans are expected to be indifferent. George Clarke, who was colonial governor of New York from 1737 to 1744, came to America shortly after being graduated at Oxford, having received an appointment to colonial office from Walpole, then prime minister of England. He came from Swanswick, near Bath. After a few years' residence in New York he met and married Anne Hyde, the daughter of Edward Hyde, royal governor of North Carolina. She subsequently became the heiress of Hyde, in England, in her own right, and by the old English law of coverture, George Clarke became the owner of the estate. The lady died during his term of office as governor of the colony, and was buried, with a public funeral, in the vault of Lord Cornburg in Trinity church, New York.
George Clarke, the builder of Hyde Hall on Otsego Lake, was a great-grandson of the colonial governor, a part of whose large estate of lands in America he inherited. He came to America in 1791, to comply with the statute requiring all English born subjects who were minors during the War for Independence, and who owned lands in this State subject to confiscation, to become American citizens. After several trips across the water George Clarke decided, in 1809, to make his abode in the New World, and leaving his home, Hyde Hall, at Hyde, in Cheshire, he came to America, married as his second wife Anne Cary, the widow of Richard Cooper, brother of James Fenimore Cooper, and in 1813 began the building of his new Hyde Hall.
The property originally controlled from Hyde Hall was of vast extent. At an early day George Clarke encountered much opposition from his tenantry. The tenure by which they held their lands was not in accordance with the views of American settlers. The estates were leased out, some as durable leases, at a small rent, and others for three lives, or twenty-one years. The settlers disliked the relation of landlord and tenant, and Clarke was frequently annoyed by demands which his high English notions of strict right would not allow him to concede. His prejudices were strong, and if he believed anyone intended to wrong him, he was stubborn in resisting any invasion of his rights. Hence there were many collisions between landlord and tenant in the early days of Hyde Hall. The warm aspect of his nature, which disarmed the enmities of tenants, appeared in his social qualities. He was companionable, gave good dinners, conversed well, told a good story, delighted in a good one from others, and when in a gay mood would sing an excellent song, generally one that he had brought with him from Merrie England.
In his habits and sentiments Clarke was thoroughly English. He delighted to have his dinner got up in old English style, with the best of roast beef and mutton, garnished with such delicacies as the lake and country afforded, and just such as his countrymen, who knew how to appreciate good things, would order, were they the caterers; and in these particulars he hardly ever failed to excel. Not only were his household arrangements in this style, but he was English in his religious views; unless those matters were held in conformity to the Anglican Church they were not acceptable.
When Clarke's son George, who afterward succeeded to the estate, was baptized, in 1824, Father Nash officiated, and several other clergymen of the Episcopal Church were in attendance, besides some guests from Utica, and many from Cooperstown and the surrounding country who had come to Hyde Hall for the occasion. The christening was performed with suitable gravity, and in due time the dinner was announced, which was in the substantial excellent style that Clarke knew well how to order for such a festivity. The host was talkative and charming; as the dinner proceeded the guests became increasingly good-humored, exceedingly well satisfied with him and with themselves. "In due time the ladies and clergy retired," says Levi Beardsley, who was present at the feast, "and then the guests were effectually plied with creature comforts."
Nothing seemed more delightful to the first proprietor of Hyde Hall than thus to sit in company with congenial men at the flowing bowl; to begin in the enjoyment of rational conversation; to discuss literature and art and statecraft; to warm up to the telling of rare stories and the singing of good songs; and, in the end, to get his guests, or a portion of them, "under the table." On this occasion, after partaking of the viands and good cheer, the guests left the table in the early part of the evening, and repaired to the plateau in front of the house, where some of them ran foot-races in the dark, with no great credit to themselves as pedestrians. As they were going back into the house, one of the guests stumbled and fell into the hall, where he lay for some time, obstructing the closing of the outer door. One of the servants came to Clarke, who had retired for the night, and asked what he should do with the large gentleman who had fallen in the doorway, and was unable to rise. "Drag him in, and put him under the table" was the order which was immediately complied with, and under the table the fallen guest remained until morning.
The builder of Hyde Hall died in 1835, and his only American born son, George Clarke, succeeded him in his American estate, thus becoming at the age of twenty-one years the largest landed proprietor in the State of New York. The patents which he held included 1,000 acres in Fulton county, 6,000 acres in Dutchess county, 7,000 acres in Oneida, 12,000 in Montgomery, besides 16,000 acres in Otsego county, and a valuable tract in Greene county including one-half of the village of Catskill. George Clarke married Anna Maria Gregory, daughter of Dudley S. Gregory, the wealthiest man in Jersey City, and their married life was begun in great prosperity, with a town house on Fifth Avenue in New York, in addition to the country-seat on Otsego Lake.
Clarke had three span of fast horses, and was a familiar figure in Cooperstown when he drove to service at Christ Church every Sunday, and frequently came to the village for the transaction of business, or to meet his friends, making nothing of the seven mile drive from his home.
In his younger days Clarke was quite celebrated as a beau and dandy, and at one time was said to be the best dressed man in New York; but in his later years he became notorious for his carelessness of attire, and few of his tenants wore a cheaper costume. In this matter he was indifferent to public opinion, and went about looking like an old-fashioned farmer. In winter he covered himself with a buffalo coat that had areas of bare hide worn through the fur; in summer his favorite habiliment was a linen duster. For Fifth Avenue in New York he dressed in the same clothes that served him in Cooperstown. When his friends ventured to remonstrate, he put them off by saying that dress was a matter of indifference alike in city or country. "In Cooperstown," said he, "everybody knows me; in New York nobody knows me." When he had become accustomed to a suit of clothes, he was as loath to change them as to alter his friendships or politics. As he was plain in dress, so he was simple and abstemious in habits of life. His bare living probably cost as little as that of any working-man in the country.
George Clarke had an insatiable land-hunger. In looking after his wide estates he allowed the Hyde Hall Property to become dilapidated, and mortgaged the land that he owned to buy more. His land gave him great yields of hops at the height of that industry in Otsego, but he was always inclined to buy more hops rather than to sell. Little by little, mortgages were foreclosed; Hyde Hall fell into decay; and in 1889 George Clarke died insolvent.
Mrs. Clarke, in her youth, was said to be one of the most beautiful women of her day. Those who knew her in later years can testify to an abiding charm of personality which time could never efface. Hyde Hall in summer she loved, but always the most perfect place in the world to her was Monte Carlo, and there for many years she passed the winter, becoming at last the oldest member of the American colony, having crossed the ocean thirty times from America to Southern France. An old lady tireless of life and all its activities, sprightly in manner, brilliant in conversation, graceful in gesture, gay in dress, decked in jewelry that scintillated with her quick motions, shod in tiny, high-heeled slippers that clicked the measure of an alert step, and sometimes permitted a flash of bright silk stockings; a lover of life and gaiety and beauty to whom Monte Carlo seemed the most homelike spot on earth—her reign as mistress in her younger days gave a color of its own to the story of Hyde Hall.
When George Clarke died in 1889, his son, George Hyde Clarke, having been graduated at the Columbia Law School, had for several years made his home at Hyde Hall, and had restored the place to something like its original condition. He married Mary Gale Carter, granddaughter of William Holt Averell of Cooperstown, and it was through her inheritance that the old home was saved to the family.
Hyde Clarke inherited some of the English traditions of his grandfather. He was sent to England at the age of fourteen years, and educated at the famous Harrow school. In spite of his later devotion to legal studies, and his admission to the bar of the State of New York, his real tastes inclined to agriculture. Having been trained as a scholar, he added farming to his accomplishments, and when he settled down at Hyde Hall it was as a son of the soil. For the rest of his life, being at once a gentleman and a farmer, he was the better in both characters for being so much in each. The combination of birth and practical aptitude gave him a position quite unique in Cooperstown and the surrounding country. He was a man of wide reading and culture, an exceedingly good talker, and a delightful social companion. He was at the same time respected as a farmer among farmers, who knew him well, and called him by his Christian name. It is related that shortly after her marriage to Hyde Clarke, the stately and distinguished Mrs. Clarke was complaining to her butcher in Cooperstown that he had sent her poor meat. "Very sorry, Mrs. Clarke," replied the butcher "but 'twas one of Hyde's own critters!"
Hyde Clarke had certain mannerisms that added interest to his personality. He would sometimes sit silent in company, without the slightest effort to contribute to the conversation; but when he chose to talk, he talked well and informingly, and it was a delight to hear him. In a voice well-modulated and even, he selected his words with care, sometimes pausing for the precise expression, which he brought out with a quiet emphasis that made its exactness impressive. Repeatedly in conversation he seemed about to smile, or there was a movement behind the drooping moustache and in the eyes that suggested merriment, which quickly disappeared when one began to smile in return, leaving one with a foolish sense of having smiled at nothing. His deliberation of speech was significant of his carefulness of thought and judgment, and he was always leisurely in action. If he invited a guest to dine with him at seven o'clock, he was quite likely himself not to reach home until seven-thirty. A tall, calm man, he had the "British stare" to perfection, which in him was not an affectation, but arose from an entire lack of self-consciousness, and from moments of absent-mindedness. He could stare one out of countenance without intending rudeness; he could ignore the social amenities when he chose, without giving offense; while he was the only man in Otsego who could enter a lady's drawing-room in farming togs and with a hat on, without seeming less than well-bred.
His arrival at the services of Christ Church on the Sunday mornings of winter became characteristic. Always late for the service, and often coming in after the sermon had begun, he walked deliberately forward up the main alley, clad in the great fur coat which had served him for the cold drive from Hyde Hall. Arrived at his pew, the front one at the left, he would stand there while he slowly removed his coat, meantime gazing curiously at the preacher, as if wondering what the text might have been. Still standing, his hand described circles over his head while he unreeled the long muffler wrapped about his throat. Then, turning about, he would give a wide stare at the congregation, produce his handkerchief, and with a trumpet-blast sit down to compose himself for the rest of the sermon.
Hyde Clarke was exactly the man to have lived in what Levi Beardsley called the "Baronial establishment" of Hyde Hall, amid broad acres of wooded hill, and farm, and pasture. Besides being a practical farmer and hop-grower, he was a leader among politicians of the better sort in the Democratic party of the county and State. Through many avenues of interest he reached all sides of life, and gained experiences that saved his culture from dilettanteism, and made him a man among men, a true democrat. In his judgments of men, he was big enough to overlook the little imperfections that often conceal a fundamental soundness of character; he saw the good in all, and spoke evil of none. He had friendships among people of all sorts and conditions. Nor did he limit his friendship to the human race; he knew horses and cows and dogs. He loved all moods of nature, and faced all kinds of weather.
Hyde Hall, in the first century of its existence, measured the lives of three men, passing from father to son, and leaving its traditions to the great-grandson of the builder, another George Hyde Clarke, who, in 1915, married Emily Borie Ryerson, a daughter of Arthur Ryerson of Chicago, a gentleman affectionately remembered as the host of "Ringwood" at the head of the lake, and mourned for his untimely death at sea, in the loss of the Titanic.
Hyde Hall is at its best as the centre of a function, crowded with guests, buzzing with conversation, while the company overflows from the house to the lawn, presenting a kaleidoscope of color in the shifting throng that moves to and fro in the spacious foreground of the venerable mansion. There are those to whom one scene stands out as typical of Hyde Hall in its glory: a brilliant autumn afternoon in 1907, the wedding day of the daughter of the house; a picturesque concourse of wedding guests upon the lawn before the doorway; a sudden lifting of all eyes to the balcony above the portico, where the bride appears, clad in her wedding gown, stands radiant, with her bridal bouquet poised aloft, and flings it to the bridesmaids grouped below.
[Footnote 94: History of Otsego County, 1877, p. 285.]
[Footnote 95: Reminiscences, from which the description of Clarke is taken.]
THE BIRTHPLACE OF BASE BALL
The game of Base Ball was invented and first played in Cooperstown in 1839. Few statements of historical fact can be supported by the decision of a commission of experts especially appointed to examine the evidence and render a verdict, but in fixing the origin of Base Ball it is exactly this solemn form of procedure that has placed the matter beyond doubt.
In 1905 a friendly controversy arose, as to the origin of Base Ball, between A. G. Spalding, for many years famous as a patron of the sport, and Henry Chadwick, fondly known as the "Father of Base Ball." Chadwick had long contended that the game of Base Ball derived its origin from the old English pastime called "Rounders." Spalding took issue with him, asserting that Base Ball is distinctively American, not only in development, but in origin, and has no connection with "Rounders," nor any other imported game. Each view enlisted its champions, and, when no agreement could be reached, the contending forces decided to refer the whole matter to a special Base Ball commission for full consideration and final judgment.
The members of the commission were well known in the Base Ball world, and some of them were men of national reputation in more serious fields of achievement. They were A. G. Mills of New York, an enthusiastic ball player before and during the Civil War; the Hon. Arthur P. Gorman, former United States Senator from Maryland; the Hon. Morgan G. Bulkeley, United States Senator from Connecticut, and formerly Governor of that State; N. E. Young of Washington, D. C., a veteran ball player, and the first secretary of the National Base Ball League; Alfred J. Reach of Philadelphia, and George Wright of Boston, both well known business men, and, in their day, famous ball players; James E. Sullivan of New York, president of the Amateur Athletic Union. The last named acted as secretary of the commission, and during three years conducted an extensive correspondence in collecting data, as well as following up various clues that might prove useful in the determination of the question at issue. When all available evidence had been gathered the whole matter was compiled and laid before the special commission, which spent several months in going over the mass of data and argument.
Briefs were addressed to the commission, by Chadwick in support of his contention that Base Ball was developed from the English game of "Rounders," and by his opponents, who claimed a purely American origin for the national game.
The similarity of the two games, Chadwick contended, was shown in the fact that "Rounders" was played by two opposing sides of contestants, on a special field of play, in which a ball was pitched or tossed to an opposing batsman, who endeavored to strike the ball out into the field, far enough to admit of his safely running the round of the bases before the ball could be returned, so as to enable him to score a run, the side scoring the most runs winning the game. This basic principle of "Rounders," Chadwick contended, is identical with the fundamental principle of Base Ball.
Those who maintained the strictly American origin of Base Ball were unwilling to admit a connection with any game of any other country, except in so far as all games of ball have a certain similarity and family relationship. It was pointed out that if the mere tossing or handling of a ball, or striking it with some kind of stick, could be accepted as the origin of our game, it would carry it far back of Anglo-Saxon civilization—beyond Rome, beyond Greece, at least to the palmy days of the Chaldean Empire. It was urged that in the early 'forties of the nineteenth century, when anti-British feeling still ran high, it is most unlikely that a sport of British origin would have been adopted in America. It was recalled that Col. James Lee, who was one of the moving spirits in the original effort to popularize Base Ball in New York City, and an organizer of the Knickerbocker Ball Club in 1845, had asserted that the game of Base Ball was chosen instead of and in opposition to Cricket on the very ground that the former was a purely American game, and because of the then existing prejudice against adopting any game of foreign invention. The champions of this theory of American origin further contended that those who would derive Base Ball from "Rounders" had totally ignored the earlier history of both games, and had been misled by certain modern developments of "Rounders," as more recently played in England, after many of the features of Base Ball had been appropriated by the English game.
The American source of Base Ball is traced to the game of "One Old Cat," which was a favorite among the boys in old colonial times. This was played by three boys—a thrower, a catcher, and a batsman. If the batsman after striking the ball could run to a goal about thirty feet distant, and return before the ball could be fielded, he counted one tally. This game was developed to include more players. "Two Old Cat" was played by four boys—two batsmen and two throwers—each alternating as catchers, and a "tally" was made by the batsman hitting the ball and exchanging places with the batsman at the opposite goal. In the same manner "Three Old Cat" was played by six, and "Four Old Cat" by eight boys. "Four Old Cat," with four batsmen and four throwers, each alternating as catchers, was played on a square-shaped field, each side of which was about forty feet long. All the batsmen were forced to run to the next corner, or "goal," of this square whenever any one of the batsmen struck the ball, but if the ball was caught on the fly or first bound, or any one of the four batsmen was hit by a thrown ball between goals, the runner was out, and his place was taken by the fielding player who put him out.
From this game was developed "Town Ball," so called because it came to be the popular game at all town meetings. This game accommodated a greater number of players than "Four Old Cat," and resolved the individual players into two competing sides. It placed one thrower in the centre of the "Four Old Cat" square field, and had but one catcher. The corners of the field were called first, second, third, and fourth goals. The batsman's position was half way between first and fourth goals. The number of players on a side was at first unlimited, but "three out, all out," had already become the rule, allowing the fielding side to take their innings at bat.
This method of alternating sides at bat was retained in the fully developed game of Base Ball, and marks the most radical difference in the ancestry of Base Ball and the English "Rounders." For the great feature of "Rounders," from which it derives its name, is the "rounder" itself, meaning that whenever one of the "in" side makes a complete continuous circuit of the bases, or, as it would be called in Base Ball, a "home run," he thereby reinstates the entire side; it then becomes necessary to begin over again to retire each one of the side at bat, until all of them have been put out. If Base Ball had been derived from Rounders, it would be likely to show in its history some trace of this distinctive feature of the English game. But no such feature has ever appeared in Base Ball or its antecedents.
All these considerations, with much else, entered into the discussions of the special Base Ball commission. The final decision of the commission was unanimous, and was published early in 1908. The decision covered two points, the first rejecting the alleged connection with Rounders, the second fixing the time and place of the origin of Base Ball in America. Under the first head the commission decided "that Base Ball is of American origin, and has no traceable connection whatever with 'Rounders,' or any other foreign game."
It was the second point in the decision, however, that added historic lustre to a village already famous in romance. The commission decided "that the first scheme for playing Base Ball, according to the best evidence obtainable to date, was devised by Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown, N. Y., in 1839."
Up to the time of this investigation it had been supposed that the modern game of Base Ball originated in New York City, where the game was played in a desultory sort of way by the young business men as early as 1842, although the first rules were not promulgated until the organization of the old Knickerbocker Base Ball Club in 1845. But Abner Graves, a mining engineer of Denver, convinced the commission that the real origin of the game must be sought elsewhere.
Graves was a boy playfellow of Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown in 1839. He was present when Doubleday outlined with a stick in the dirt the present diamond-shaped Base Ball field, indicating the location of the players in the field; and afterward saw him make a diagram of the field on paper, with a crude pencil memorandum of the rules for his new game, which he named "Base Ball." Although sixty-eight years had passed since that time Graves distinctly remembered the incident, and recalled playing the game, with other boys, under Abner Doubleday's direction.
Doubleday's game seems to have been an orderly and systematic development of "Town Ball," in which confusion and collision among players in attempting to catch the batted ball were frequent, and injury due to this cause, or to the practice of putting out the runner by hitting him with the ball, often occurred. Although Doubleday provided for eleven men on a side, instead of nine, using four outfielders instead of three, and stationing an extra shortstop between first and second bases, he had nevertheless invented fundamental principles that became characteristic of Base Ball. He had definitely limited the number of contestants on each side, and had fixed the position of players in the field, allotting certain territory to each, besides adding something like the present method of putting out the baserunner to the old one of "plugging" him with the ball. Under Doubleday's rules a runner not on base might be put out by being touched with the ball in the hand of an opposing player. From this was an easy step to the practice of throwing the ball to a baseman to anticipate the runner. The new importance thus given to the bases, in their relation to both fielders and batters, justified for the game the name of "Base Ball."
"Abner Doubleday," writes Graves, "was several years older than I. In 1838 and 1839 I was attending the 'Frog Hollow' school south of the Presbyterian church, while he was at school somewhere on the hill. I do not know, neither is it possible for anyone to know, on what spot the first game of Base Ball was played according to Doubleday's plan. He went diligently among the boys in the town, and in several schools, explaining the plan, and inducing them to play Base Ball in lieu of the other games. Doubleday's game was played in a good many places around town: sometimes in the old militia muster lot, or training ground, a couple of hundred yards southeasterly from the Court House, where County Fairs were occasionally held; sometimes in Mr. Bennett's field south of Otsego Academy; at other times over in the Miller's Bay neighborhood, and up the lake.
"I remember one dandy, fine, rollicking game where men and big boys from the Academy and other schools played up on Mr. Phinney's farm, a mile or two up the west side of the lake, when Abner Doubleday and Prof. Green chose sides, and Doubleday's side beat Green's side badly. Doubleday was captain and catcher for his side, and I think John Graves and Elihu Phinney were the pitchers for the two sides. I wasn't in the game, but stood close by Doubleday, and wanted Prof. Green to win. In his first time at bat Prof. Green missed three consecutive balls. Abner caught all three, then pounded Mr. Green on the back with the ball, while they and all others were roaring with laughter, and yelling 'Prof. is out!'"
It is of interest to recall that Abner Doubleday, the inventor of Base Ball went from his school in Cooperstown to West Point, where he was graduated in 1842, and served with distinction in the Civil War, attaining to the rank of Major General. Base Ball, indeed, owes much of its vogue to the United States Army, for it was played as a camp diversion by the soldiers of the Civil War, who, during the years of peace that followed, spread the fever of this pastime throughout the length and breadth of the United States, and thus gave to the game its national character.
In 1908, at the time of the Base Ball Commission's decision that the game originated at Cooperstown in 1839, there were several old residents of the village whose recollections included that early period. On the strength of their statements rests a probability that the Cooperstown Classical and Military Academy, which was flourishing in 1839 under Major William H. Duff, was the school attended by Doubleday. This would be in accord with the recollection of Abner Graves that, in 1839, Doubleday was "at school somewhere on the hill." This school was at "Apple Hill," as it was called, in the grounds of the present "Fernleigh," where the Clark residence was built and now stands. Owing to the number of trees and the abrupt slope to the river, it is not likely that a full-sized Base Ball game was ever played within these grounds. But it is pleasant to fancy young Doubleday standing here, surrounded by an eager crowd of boys, amid the golden sunlight and greenery of long ago, as he traces on the earth with a stick his famous diamond, and from these shades goes forth with his companions to begin the national game of America.
[Footnote 96: Opinion of John M. Ward, a famous player, afterward a lawyer in New York City.]
[Footnote 97: Spalding's Official Base Ball Guide, 1908, p. 48.]
[Footnote 98: The Watkins place on Chestnut Street, opposite the Village Hall, occupies this training ground, which extended east and south to the rear of the buildings on Main Street, and included part of the Phinney lot.]
[Footnote 99: The clergy house of St. Mary's Church occupies the site of the Otsego Academy.]
[Footnote 100: The Country Club grounds.]
[Footnote 101: The present "Brookwood."]
FENIMORE COOPER IN THE VILLAGE
The childhood memories of James Fenimore Cooper were associated with the village which his father had settled at the foot of Otsego Lake, for hither he was brought a babe in arms, and remained until, at the age of nine years, he was sent to Albany to be tutored by the rector of St. Peter's Church. After his career at Yale and in the Navy, he was married in 1811 to Susan de Lancey, and brought his bride to Cooperstown on their honeymoon. Three years later they came back to take up their residence at "Fenimore" just out of the village, on Otsego Lake, but, after three seasons of farming, circumstances once more drew Fenimore Cooper away from Cooperstown.
It was in 1834, when he had become a novelist of international fame, and had lived for seven years in Europe, that Cooper, at the age of forty-five years, took steps to make a permanent home in the village of his childhood. Otsego Hall, which his father had built upon the site now marked by the statue of the Indian Hunter, in the Cooper Grounds, was repaired and partly remodeled, and here Fenimore Cooper dwelt until his death in 1851.
Two names of later renown are connected with Fenimore Cooper's reconstruction of Otsego Hall. Among the artisans employed was a lad of seventeen years apprenticed as a joiner, Erastus D. Palmer, who already had begun to attract attention as a wood-carver, and afterward became famous as a sculptor. While the alterations were in progress Cooper had as his guest in Cooperstown Samuel F. B. Morse, who assisted him in carrying out his ideas for the reconstruction of the Hall, and drew the designs which gave it more the style of an English country house. The local gossips said that Morse aspired to the hand of his friend's eldest daughter, Susan Augusta Fenimore, then twenty-one years of age, but that Cooper had no mind to yield so fair a prize to an impecunious painter, a widower, and already forty-three years old. Morse was at this time experimenting with the telegraph instrument which was afterward to bring him wealth and such fame as an inventor as to overshadow his reputation as an artist.
The Cooper Grounds, now kept as a public park by the Clark Estate, include the property that belonged to Fenimore Cooper. Otsego Hall, which was destroyed by fire in 1852, after the novelist's death, must be imagined at the centre of the grounds, where its outward appearance, as well as the arrangement of its interior, may be reconstructed by the fancy from the wooden model made from a design by G. Pomeroy Keese, and now to be seen in the village museum. Cooper's favorite garden-seat exists in facsimile in its original situation at the southeast corner of the grounds.
When in 1834 the old mansion of the founder of Cooperstown began once more to be occupied it was a matter of great interest to the people of the village. Many of them well remembered Fenimore Cooper and his bride when, twenty years before, they had lived at Fenimore. They recalled the former resident as James Cooper, for it was not until 1826 that he adopted the middle name, in compliance with a request which his mother had made that he should use her family name. Twenty years had made many changes in Cooperstown, and there was a large proportion of residents who knew Fenimore Cooper only from his writings and by reputation. Therefore when he came back to dwell in the home of his youth he was regarded by many almost as a newcomer in the neighborhood, and to his family as well as to himself a rather cautious welcome was given. It had to be admitted at the outset that the changes which Fenimore Cooper made in Otsego Hall were disapproved by some of the villagers. They did not like the foreign air which the old house now began to give itself with its battlements and gothic elaborations. Here was the first muttering of the storm that clouded the later years of Fenimore Cooper.
Cooper's personal appearance was in accord with the strong individuality of his character. He was of massive, compact form, six feet in height, over two hundred pounds in weight and rather portly in later years, of firm and aristocratic bearing, a commanding figure: "a very castle of a man" was the phrase which Washington Irving applied to him. The bust made by David d'Angers in Paris in 1828 gives to Cooper a classic splendor of head and countenance which is in agreement with the impression produced upon those who well remembered him. He had a full, expansive forehead, strong features, florid complexion, a mouth firm without harshness, and clear gray eyes. His head, which was set firmly and proudly upon giant shoulders, had a peculiar and incessant oscillating motion. His expressive eyes also were singularly volatile in their movement—seldom at perfect rest. He was always clean shaven, so that nothing was lost of the changes of expression which animated his mobile face in conversation. He had a hearty way of meeting men, a little bustling, and an emphatic frankness of manner which Bryant says startled him at first, but which he came at last to like and to admire. Cooper was a great talker. His voice was agreeably sonorous. He talked well, and with infinite resource. He could dash into animated conversation on almost any subject, and was not slow to express decided opinions, in which at times he almost demanded acquiescence. His earnestness was often mistaken for brusqueness and violence; "for," says Lounsbury, "he was, in some measure, of that class of men who appear to be excited when they are only interested." He created a strong impression of vigor, intelligence, impulsiveness, vivacity, and manliness.
When walking Cooper usually carried a stick, but never for support. In his last years he carried a small, slender walking stick of polished wood, having a curved handle, and too short for any purpose but to flourish in the hands. As he walked briskly along the village street, erect, and with expanded chest, this slender stick was often held horizontally across his back with his arms skewered behind it, while at his heels a pet dog trotted, a little black mongrel called "Frisk." In returning from the walk which proved to be his last he stopped at Edgewater, then the home of his niece, and, on leaving, forgot to take his stick. There it has remained, through the years that have passed since his death, just as he left it, hanging by its curved handle from a shelf of one of the bookcases in the library.
During this residence in Cooperstown Fenimore Cooper wrote some twenty of his novels, his Naval History, the Chronicles of Cooperstown, besides many sketches of travel and articles contributed to magazines. This prodigious amount of writing, together with many other activities, made his life a full one. He rose early, and a considerable portion of his writing was accomplished before breakfast. In summer hardly a day passed without a visit to the Chalet farm, on the east side of the lake, where he sought relaxation from his mental labors. Accordingly, at about eleven o'clock he might be seen issuing from the gate of his residence in a wagon, driving a tall sorrel horse named Pumpkin. This animal was ill suited to the dignity of his driver. He had a singularity of gait which consisted in occasionally going on three legs, and at times elevating both hind legs in a manner rather amusing than alarming; often he persisted in backing when urged to go forward, and always his emotions were expressed by the switching of his very light wisp of a tail. Mrs. Cooper was most frequently Mr. Cooper's companion on these daily excursions, although often the eldest daughter took the place in the vehicle by her father's side.
In the late afternoon Cooper usually devoted some time to the composition of his novels, without touching pen to paper. It was his custom to work out the scenes of his stories while promenading the large hall of his home. Here he paced to and fro in the twilight of the afternoon, his hands crossed behind his back, his brow carrying the impression of deep thought. He nodded vigorously from time to time, and muttered to himself, inventing and carrying on the conversation of his various imaginary characters. After the evening meal he put work aside, and passed the time with the family, sometimes reading, often in a game of chess with Mrs. Cooper, whom, ever since their wedding day, when they played chess between the ceremony and supper, he had fondly called his "check-mate." He never smoked, and seldom drank beyond a glass of wine which he took with his dinner.
In the early morning, when Cooper shut himself in the library, he set down on paper in its final form the portion of narrative that he had worked out while pacing the hall the previous afternoon. The library opened from the main hall, and occupied the southwestern corner of the house. It was lighted by tall, deeply-recessed windows, against which the branches of the evergreens outside flung their waving shadows. The wainscoting was of dark oak, and the sombre bookcases that lined the walls were of the same material. A large fireplace occupied the space between the two western windows. Across the room stood a folding screen upon which had been pasted a collection of engravings representing scenes known to the family during their tour and residence in Europe, together with a number of notes and autographs from persons of distinction. Attached to the top of one of the bookcases was a huge pair of antlers holding in their embrace a calabash from the southern seas.
The table at which the novelist sat once belonged to his maternal grandfather, Richard Fenimore, and had been brought by Judge Cooper from Burlington at the settlement of Cooperstown. It was a plain one of English walnut, and the chair in which he sat was of the same material. Cooper wrote rapidly, in a fine, small, clear hand, upon large sheets of foolscap, and seldom made an erasure. No company was permitted in the room while he was writing except an Angora cat who was allowed to bound upon the desk without rebuke, or even to perch upon the author's shoulders. Here the cat settled down contentedly, and with half-shut eyes watched the steady driving of the quill across the paper.
Among the many books written in this library The Deerslayer brought the greatest fame to Cooperstown, for it peopled the shores of Otsego Lake with the creatures of Cooper's fancy, and added to the natural beauty of its scenery the glamour of romance. The idea of writing this story came to Fenimore Cooper on a summer afternoon as he drove from the Chalet homeward in his farm wagon, with his favorite daughter by his side, along the shaded road on the east shore of the lake. He was singing cheerily, for, although no musician, often he sang snatches of familiar songs that had struck his fancy, and above the rumbling of the wagon his booming voice frequently was heard along the road in a sudden burst of "Scots, wha ha'e wi' Wallace bled!" or Moore's "Love's Young Dream"—always especial favorites with him. On this occasion, however, it was a political song that he was singing, a ditty then popular during the campaign of 1840 in the party opposed to his own. Suddenly he paused, as an opening in the woods revealed a charming view of the lake. His spirited gray eye rested a moment on the water, with an expression of abstracted poetical thought, familiar to those who lived with him; then, turning to the companion at his side, he exclaimed: "I must write one more book, dearie, about our little lake!" Again his eye rested on the water and wooded shores with the far-seeing look of one who already had a vision of living figures and dusky forms moving amid the quiet scene. A moment of silence followed. Then Fenimore Cooper cracked his whip, resumed his song, with some careless chat on incidents of the day, and drove homeward. Not long afterward he shut himself in his library, and the first pages of The Deerslayer were written.
There were perhaps many in the village who felt honored in being neighbor to a novelist of international fame. But the general sentiment toward Fenimore Cooper in his home town was not altogether created by his success as a writer. It may be that the aged Miss Nancy Williams, who lived in the house which still stands on Main Street next east of the Second National Bank, was not alone in her estimate of this kind of success. Her favorite seat was at a front window where she was daily occupied in knitting, and watching all passers-by. Whenever Fenimore Cooper passed, whom she had known as a boy, Miss Williams called out to him: "James, why don't you stop wasting your time writing those silly novels, and try to make something of yourself!"
Whatever may have been the village estimate of his fame as a novelist, there were certain personal traits in Cooper that went farther than anything he ever wrote to fix the esteem of his fellow citizens. Among acquaintances whom he admitted as his social equals he was universally beloved; to these he showed all the charm and fascination of a gracious personality and brilliant mind. The more intimately Cooper was approached the more unreservedly he was admired, and within his own family he was almost adored. In the humbler walks of life those who habitually recognized Cooper as a superior had nothing to complain of. But there were many in Cooperstown who had no warmth of feeling toward Fenimore Cooper. They were quick to detect in him an attitude of contemptuous superiority toward the villagers. Some of the neighbors felt that he willingly remained a stranger to them. When he passed along the street without seeing people who expected a greeting from him, his friends averred that it was because his mind, abstracted from present scenes and passers-by, was engaged in the dramatic development of some tale of sea or forest. But those who felt snubbed by his indifference were less charitable in their interpretation of his bearing toward them. Cooper had been for seven years a lion in Europe, splendidly entertained by the Princess Galitzin in Paris, where he was overwhelmed with invitations from counts and countesses; dining at Holland House in London with Lord and Lady Holland; a guest of honor at a ball given by a prince in Rome; presented at the brilliant Tuscan court at Florence, for which occasion he was decked in lace frills and ruff, with dress hat and sword;—such incidents of his foreign life began to be mentioned to account for Cooper's disinclination to encourage familiar acquaintance with the villagers of Cooperstown.
Cooper himself was entirely unconscious of any arrogance in his attitude, and when, in connection with the later controversies, it came to his knowledge that some villagers accused him of posing as an aristocrat in Cooperstown, he resented the imputation with some bitterness. "In this part of the world," he said, "it is thought aristocratic not to frequent taverns, and lounge at corners, squirting tobacco juice." Cooper was strongly democratic in his convictions, and was so far from having been a toady during his residence in Europe that he had made enemies in aristocratic circles abroad by his fearless championship of republican institutions. At the same time he was fastidiously undemocratic in many of his tastes. It is a keen observation of Lounsbury's that Cooper "was an aristocrat in feeling, and a democrat by conviction." His recognition of the worth of true manhood, entirely apart from rank and social refinement, is shown in the noble character of Leather-Stocking. Yet the manners and customs of uncultivated people in real life were most offensive to his squeamish taste, and much of his concern for the welfare of his countrymen had to do with their neglect of the decencies and amenities of social behaviour.
More than half a century after his death there were some living in Cooperstown who frequently related their childhood memories of Fenimore Cooper. His tendency to lecture the neighbors on their manners was burned into the memory of a child who, as she sat on her doorstep, was engaged with the novelist in pleasant conversation, until he spied a ring that she was wearing upon the third finger of her left hand. This he made the text of a solemn declaration upon the impropriety of wearing falsely the symbol of a sacred relationship. The lesson intended was probably sensible and wholesome, but the effect produced upon the child was a terror of Fenimore Cooper which lasted as long as life. On the other hand, one who was a slip of a girl at the time used afterward to boast that Fenimore Cooper had opened a gate for her when she was riding horseback, and stood hat in hand while she passed through.
Allowance must be made for a somewhat distorted perspective in the impression produced by Cooper upon the memories of not a few children, for, judging from their reminiscences, the Garden of Eden was not more inviting than his, nor its fruits more to be desired, nor was the angel with the flaming sword more terribly vigilant than Fenimore Cooper in guarding the trees from unholy hands. The glimpses of the novelist most vividly remembered by these youngsters relate to attempted invasions of the orchard near his house, and their furious repulse by the irascible owner, who charged upon the trespassers with loud objurgations and a flourishing stick. One who picked a rose without permission long remembered the "awful lecture" that Cooper gave her, and how he said, "It is just as bad to take my flowers as to steal my money."
Among the children of his own friends there was quite a different opinion of Cooper. Elihu Phinney, who was a playmate of the novelist's son Paul, and a frequent guest at Otsego Hall, had an intense admiration for the author of the Leather-Stocking Tales, although he long remembered a lesson in table manners, by which, on one of these visits, his host had startled him. At dinner young Elihu passed his plate with knife and fork upon it for a second supply, when from the head of the table came this reprimand: "My boy, never leave your implements on the plate. You might drop knife or fork in a lady's lap. Take them both firmly in your left hand, and hold them until your plate is returned." Half a century afterward Elihu Phinney declared that whatever the ruling of etiquette might be in this matter, he had never since failed to heed this bit of advice from Fenimore Cooper. Mrs. Stephen H. Synnott, wife of a one-time rector of Christ Church in Cooperstown, remembered Cooper as a genuine lover of children. She was Alice Trumbull Worthington, and during the novelist's latter years she lived as a child in the White House on Main Street, nearest neighbor to Otsego Hall. "To meet Fenimore Cooper on the street in the village was always a pleasure," says Mrs. Synnott. "His eye twinkled, his face beamed, and his cane pointed at you with a smile and a greeting of some forthcoming humor. When I happened to be passing the gates of the old Hall, and he and Mrs. Cooper were driving home from his farm, I often ran to open the gate for him, which trifling act he acknowledged with old-time courtesy. His fine garden joined my father's, and once, being in the vicinity of the fence, he tossed me several muskmelons to catch, which at that time were quite rare in the village gardens."
To this same little girl, when she had sent him an appreciation of one of his novels, Fenimore Cooper wrote a letter that certainly shows a benignant attitude toward children. "I am so much accustomed to newspapers," he wrote, "that their censure and their praise pass but for little, but the attentions of a young lady of your tender years to an old man who is old enough to be her grandfather are not so easily overlooked.... I hope that you and I and John will have an opportunity of visiting the blackberry bushes, next summer, in company. I now invite you to select your party, to be composed of as many little girls, and little boys, too, if you can find those you like, to go to my farm next summer, and spend an hour or two in finding berries. It shall be your party, and the invitations must go out in your name, and you must speak to me about it, in order that I may not forget it, and you can have your school if you like or any one else. I shall ask only one guest myself, and that will be John, who knows the road, having been there once already."
Another child who found Fenimore Cooper a most genial friend was Caroline A. Foote, who afterward became Mrs. G. Pomeroy Keese. She was a frequent visitor at Otsego Hall, where the novelist made much of her, and when she was thirteen years old he wrote some original verses in her autograph album, at her request, concluding with these lines:
In after life, when thou shalt grow To womanhood, and learn to feel The tenderness the aged know To guide their children's weal, Then wilt thou bless with bended knee Some smiling child as I bless thee.
Encouraged by this success, Caroline Foote afterward asked Cooper to write some verses for her schoolmate, Julia Bryant, daughter of William Cullen Bryant, who was a warm friend of the novelist. With his young petitioner by his side Cooper sat at the old desk in the library of Otsego Hall and laughingly dashed off these lines:
Charming young lady, Miss Julia by name, Your friend, little Cally, your wishes proclaim; Read this, and you'll soon learn to know it, I'm not your papa the great lyric poet.
In order to understand the local controversy which divided village sentiment concerning Fenimore Cooper, and gave rise to the long series of libel suits, it is necessary to consider certain influences of more remote origin.
In 1826, when Cooper began his seven years' residence in Europe, before making his home in Cooperstown, he had become the most widely read of American authors. No other American writer, in fact, during the nineteenth century, enjoyed so wide a contemporary popularity. His works appeared simultaneously in America, England, and France. They were speedily translated into German and Italian, and in most instances soon found their way into the other cultivated tongues of Europe. Cooper's friend Morse said that his novels were published, as soon as he produced them, in thirty-four different places in Europe, and that they had been seen by American travelers in the languages of Turkey and Persia, in Constantinople, in Egypt, at Jerusalem, at Ispahan. At a dinner given in New York in Cooper's honor, just before his departure for Europe, Chancellor Kent, who presided, voiced the general feeling by toasting him as the "genius which has rendered our native soil classic ground, and given to our early history the enchantment of fiction."
Patriotism in Cooper was almost a passion, and it burned in him with new ardor because of the misunderstanding and disparagement of America which he encountered almost everywhere in Europe. The praise which came to him from Europeans irritated him with its air of surprise that anything good could be expected from America or an American. Nor did he much ingratiate himself in British society, where, when the conversation turned upon matters discreditable to the United States, it became his custom to bring up other matters discreditable to Great Britain. On the Continent he pursued much the same course, and published his first "novels with a purpose," The Bravo, The Heidenmauer, and The Headsman, the object of which was to demonstrate the superiority of democratic institutions over the medieval inheritances of Europe. In his introduction to The Heidenmauer he wrote a sentence that stirred the wrath of the newspaper press of his own country: "Each hour, as life advances," he asserted, "am I made to see how capricious and vulgar is the immortality conferred by a newspaper." This provoked at home the retort "The press has built him up; the press shall pull him down!" He began to be bitterly attacked in some American newspapers, which accused him of "flouting his Americanism throughout Europe."
When Cooper returned to America in 1833 it was with a sore heart. He had tried to set Europe right about America, and the result had been only to arouse resentment abroad and antagonism at home. It is not surprising that he found America much changed in seven years, and not for the better. It had been a period of rapid growth. New men were beginning to push the "old families" to the wall, and social rank was beginning to wait on wealth, in utter indifference to the classifications of the elder aristocracy. To Cooper it seemed that while America had grown in his absence there had been a vast expansion of mediocrity. Manners were dying out; architecture had become debased; towns were larger but more tawdry. In these observations, although they were furiously resented at the time, Cooper was probably correct. There was a period of about fifty years in the nineteenth century, when, in the development of material resources, there was a large indifference to manners in America, and a decline in the love for beautiful things and in the power to create them. This period of neglect toward the refinements of life set in at just about the time of Cooper's residence abroad.
But America, in this awkward age of its youthful growth, was in no mood either to profit by criticisms or to be indifferent to them. Cooper began to regard the attitude of Americans as pusillanimous. They toadied to foreign opinion, and dared not stand up for America abroad; while at home nothing American was ever to be criticised. When he expressed the opinion that the bay of Naples was more beautiful than the bay of New York, or complained that the streets of New York were ill-paved and poorly lighted as compared with those of foreign cities, he was informed by the hushed voices of friends that it would never do. His criticisms of America were received with deeper umbrage, as coming from an American, than the sarcasms of Dickens which, ten years later, aroused a tempest of indignation.
It was in these circumstances that he returned to the village of his youth, and took up his residence at Otsego Hall, in Cooperstown. Here he wrote the Letter to His Countrymen in which he set out to answer certain criticisms of his writings that had appeared in New York newspapers, and, in apparent disgust, publicly announced that he had made up his mind to abandon authorship. Into this letter he imported some remarks upon a political controversy which was then agitating the nation, and touched the political situation in such a way, at a time when feeling ran high, that he succeeded in enraging the adherents of both political parties.
A storm of newspaper abuse then fell upon Cooper. He was not the man to realize that, in controversy, silence is sometimes the most effective weapon. He replied to every attack. Nor did he remain on the defensive. He began new hostilities. He abandoned his resolution to abandon authorship. The Monikins, a satirical novel in which men are burlesqued by monkeys, was published in 1835. In the ten volumes of travel published from 1836 to 1838 he dealt out occasional criticisms of both England and America with so impartial a hand that he drew down upon himself the savage vituperation of the press on both sides of the Atlantic. Then came the period during which, from being the most popular American author, he became the most unpopular man of letters to whom the nation has ever given birth. "For years," says Lounsbury, "a storm of abuse fell upon him, which for violence, for virulence, and even for malignity, surpassed anything in the history of American literature, if not in the history of literature itself."
On the western shore of Otsego Lake there is a low, wooded tongue of land which projects for a short distance into the water, and is called, in reference to its distance from Cooperstown, Three-Mile Point. This has been a favorite resort for picnics and other outings of villagers since 1822. When Fenimore Cooper took up his residence in the village in 1834, after his return from Europe, he found that the free use of Three-Mile Point by the public had given rise to the notion that it was owned by the community. This impression he took pains to correct, saying that while he had no desire to prevent the public from resorting to the Point, he wished it clearly understood that it was owned by the descendants of Judge William Cooper, of whose will he was executor. A defiant attitude toward his claim, and the destruction of a tree at Three-Mile Point afterward led Cooper to publish in the Freeman's Journal the following warning: