The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

Columns

July 21, 2012

James Fenimore Cooper wasn't always liked in Cooperstown

It might be a slight stretch of the historical imagination, but back in the 1830s, Cooperstown had a situation involving "Occupiers" and the "One Percent."

Village residents, the former, had a run-in with the world-famous novelist James Fenimore Cooper about a stretch of land we know today as Three Mile Point on Otsego Lake.

According to "The Story of Cooperstown," by Ralph Birdsall, Three Mile Point had become a favorite area for local residents as a resort for picnics and other outings.

Ever since the 1820s, the locals had enjoyed unrestricted access to the area.

In 1834, however, James Fenimore Cooper had returned from Europe to take up residence in Cooperstown.

Three Mile Point had been owned by the Cooper family since being acquired by Judge William Cooper.

While Cooper had no problems with the locals enjoying the grounds, he made it abundantly clear that this was his property.

Sometime during those years before his return there had been a notion that the land was owned by the community.

Cooper was quite defiant in his claim to the property, and the way he went about making his point annoyed the local residents.

After a tree was destroyed at Three Mile Point, Cooper gave a published warning in The Freeman's Journal in 1837.

"The public is warned against trespassing on the Three Mile Point, it being the intention of the subscriber rigidly to enforce the title of the estate, of which he is the representative, to the same. The public has not, nor has it ever had any right to the same beyond what has been conceded by the liberality of the owners. J. Fenimore Cooper."

A handbill was soon seen circulating around the community, which in sarcastic terms called for a meeting of public protest.

It was held on Saturday, July 22, at the Inn of Isaac Lewis. The intent was "to defend against the arrogant pretensions of one James Fenimore Cooper."

Stirring speeches and a series of resolutions were passed at the meeting, basically to ignore Cooper's threat to hold title to the land.

One resolution read "to denounce any man as sycophant, who has, or shall, ask permission of James F. Cooper to visit the Point in question."

Another requested that the trustees of what was then called the Franklin Library in the village to remove all books of which Cooper was the author.

Although it wasn't written, there had been a verbal resolution to remove Cooper's books from the library and burn them in a public bonfire. That event never took place.

Cooper continued to defend his position, and according to Birdsall, the controversy between Cooper and his critics "had now reached a degree of violence that was grotesque." While some might have given up, Cooper seemed to enjoy the battle.

Cooper even brought the Three Mile Point controversy into some of his written work, giving rise to a book called "Home as Found."

This led to even more controversies and a long series of libel suits. Cooper argued the cases in court as his own lawyer, and in nearly every case, he won.

Birdsall wrote, "Cooper's reputation as an author suffered from his success as a litigant in an unpopular cause, and his prosecution of the libel suits injured the sale of his books, not only then but for some years after his death."

Visitors to Cooperstown, when looking to buy Cooper's books, were sometimes told by booksellers that they had never heard of the book.

Three Mile Point was owned by William Cooper of Baltimore in the late 1890s, and a sale was arranged at a moderate price for the village of Cooperstown for use of its citizens.

It was a peaceful ending to what had caused near riots several decades earlier.

On Monday: Oneontans enthusiastically supported a U.S. Olympic fund drive in 1952 that went well beyond athletics.

City Historian Mark Simonson's column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www. oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.

1
Text Only
Big Chuck D'Imperio

Cary Brunswick

Chuck Pinkey
Guest Column
Lisa Miller

Mark Simonson

Rick Brockway
Sam Pollak
William Masters
  • Schreibman tops Chris Gibson on women's issues

    As the time to vote draws near, we need to remember how money can run politics more than we can. Raising funds is a prominent (if not the dominant) task of getting elected. Raising issues is also crucial, but those efforts are subject to distortion and fear-mongering.

    September 18, 2012

  • Republicans feelentitled to allthey can garner

    An entitlement is a legal benefit available from the government to individuals who are within a defined category of recipients, such as needing insurance for unemployment or health services.

    September 4, 2012

  • Romney focuses on self; Obama emphasizes unity

    Mitt Romney criticizes President Obama for saying a person's success is rooted in his community, and is not all his alone. Romney belittles this with his belief in individual initiative. He is better at the put-down than the push-up.

    August 21, 2012

  • Romney shows little regard for common man

    The Republicans in Congress have voted over and over, 33 times, redundantly and uselessly, to rescind what they call Obamacare.

    August 7, 2012

  • Scouts' gay ban creates problem where none exists

    The Boy Scouts of America's "emphatic reaffirmation" of its vow to exclude any and all homosexuals from its hallowed ranks is ill-considered and pathetic, especially in view of its having reviewed the matter for two years.

    July 24, 2012

Additional Content
Join the Debate
Helium
Additional Resources
CNHI News Service
Poll

Are you more or less religious than your parents?

More religious
Less religious
About the same
     View Results