COOPERSTOWN — Henry J. Nicols had a couple of objectives when he set out to write a guidebook pointing out the hallmarks of history in this village on the shores of Otsego Lake.
First, he said Wednesday, he wanted readers to gain an appreciation and understanding of key events and figures in the history of Cooperstown. And second, he added, he wanted to help youth organizations raise needed funds to keep their projects going.
The newly released product of his endeavor is called “A Cooperstown WalkAbout.” Sprinkled with maps and directions, the book is a blueprint for visitors who want to get more out of their stay in Cooperstown than a visit to its most famous attraction, the National Baseball Hall of Fame, he said.
As the title implies, the sites highlighted by the author are best examined on foot, Nicols said. The trail of sites is about five miles long and would take the average person three to four hours to take them all in.
Inspired by similar historic routes such as the “Freedom Trail” in Boston, Nicols said he had been thinking of designing such a trail for Cooperstown for the past 20 years.
“I finally said to myself: I have to stop thinking about it and do it,” he said.
The stops include: Doubleday Field, the Civil War Monument, the First World War Memorial, the Farmer’s Museum, the Fenimore House and Art Museum, the Otesaga Resort Hotel, the Indian Hunter Statue, Council Rock, Lakewood Cemetery, the Indian Grave, James Fenimore Cooper’s grave and the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Nicols, a former history teacher who now as serves as an Otsego County elections commissioner and works as a professor in the graduate program for international educators at the State University at Buffalo, said while the Hall of Fame may be better known today, the village first became known for the novels of James Fenimore Cooper.
The background information Nicols presents in the guide for each stop is designed to stimulate conversation by those on the WalkAbout, he said. For instance, the author draws attention to the fact that the route includes three war-related memorials and questions why less attention is paid to the history of peace.
Nicols also steers visitors into Lakewood Cemetery, to the gravestone over the final resting place of his son, Henry J. Nicols, who as a 10-year-old boy with hemophilia contracted the AIDS virus from a transfusion and went on to become an advocate for those suffering with the infection. He passed away in 2000 at the age of 26.
“The community was tested by the AIDS epidemic when Henry got HIV/AIDS, and the entire community refused to discriminate against one of their own,” the father wrote. “They stood with our family and with Henry. They passed the test.” The book then encourages members of visiting groups to discuss how they might be treated if they were “different.”
Those who complete the Cooperstown WalkAbout are eligible to earn a certificate of recognition or a medal that features an image of the Indian Hunter Statue, the book said. The money raised from the sale of the medal and certificates will all be distributed to local youth groups, Nicols said.
Nicols, who has previously published books about his son’s advocacy for AIDS patients and the Appalachian Trail, said the 56-page guidebook will be on the shelves of local book stores and can also be purchased on the online store amazon.com for $10 per copy.
The book is published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.