The Town of Otsego


Image and text from Otsego county New York Geographical and Historical
by Edwin F Bacon, Ph B. 1902 Oneonta NY

Page 49. OTSEGO. Area 32,141 Acres. Population 4,497.

Otsego is the oldest township in the county. It was organized as a part
of Montgomer county in 1788, and included nearly all that portion of the
resent county west of Otsego Lake and the Susquehanna river, which rises

Its surface consists mainly of a hilly upland, divided into ridges by
Fly and Oaks creeks. The first white man who passed through this region
was Cadwallader Colden, surveyor general, in the year 1737. Sixteen
years later, in 1753, Rev. Gideon Hawley was sent to this localtity as a
missionary to the Indians. The next noted visitor was Gen. George
Washington, who passed through on an exploring expedition in 1783, and
"viewed the Lake Otsego at the source of the Susquehanna."

The Indian wars of the Revolutionary period desolated this whole region,
but with the return of peace a tide of emigration set in, and the
portion now known as Otsego township was especially attractive.

The influx of settlers dates from 1788. Among the first were William
and Asel Jarvis, who became prominent citizens. William was a physician
and Asel erected at Fly Creek, in 1813, the first foundry and machine
shop. His three sons, Chester, Dwight and Kent, were leading men and
active in the old military organizations. Other early settlers at Fly
Creek were John Adams, Ebenezer Cheeney and Oliver Bates.

In 1788 came also George Scoot from Yorkshire, England, and about the
same time John Patton from Perthshire, Scotland. Other pioneers were
Abner Pier, for whom Pierstown was named, and Major George Pier, a
celebrated musician. Hon. Isaac Williams came in 1793. He occupied
various important offices. In 1813, 1817 and 1823 he represented his
district in congress. Darius Warren came here from Connecticut in 1788
and was the first man who received deed of land from Judge William
Cooper. Erastus Taylor came from Bennington, VT, and raised a family
notable for longevity.

Other early settlers whose names have been perpetuated in this vicinity
are George Roberts, Ira Tanner, Jesse Teft, Norman and Bingham Babcock,
Martin Coates, Reuben Hinds, Platt St.John, Andrew Scribner, Levi
Pierce, John Badger, Russell Williams, John Baldwin and Eleazur Loomis.

VILLAGES: There are four villages in this township, viz.: Cooperstown
(population 2,368), Fly Creek (population 238), Oaksville (population
149), and Hope Factory (population 130). Snowdon and Bourne are rural

SCHOOLS: Number of school districts 18, number of teachers 32, children
of school age 803.

CHURCHES: There are ten churches in this township, viz.: At
Cooperstown, Baptist, Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian,
Universalist. At Fly Creek, Methodist, Presbyterian and Universalist.
In the Hinds neighborhood north of Fly Creek, Methodist.

NEWSPAPERS: Freeman's Journal, Otsego Farmer, and Otsego Republican,
all published at Cooperstown.


Cooperstown was founded by Judge William Cooper, the father of J.
Fenimore Cooper, who in 1785 purchased from Colonel George Croghan (who
had purchased it from the Indians) a tract of 100,00 acres of land lying
on the west side of the river and embracing the site of the present
village and extending both north and south of it. He purchased this
land before seeing it, but in the fall of the same year, he came with a
party of surveyors, and in January, 1786, took formal possession of his
property, afterwards known as the "Cooper patent." William Ellison, a
surveyor, came the same year, and in 1788, under Mr. Cooper's direction,
he laid out the village.

In 1789, a large house having been built for them, Mr. Cooper brought
his family from Burlington, N.J., their former home. The youngest
member of this family was James, aged two years. The name Fenimore, the
mother's maiden name, was later added by himself. This child was
destined to become the most famous of America novelists and the place to
which he thus came to be famous as the scene of his romantic tales. The
following is from a graphic description of Judge Cooper's arrival
written in 1871 by G. Pomeroy Keese esq. of Cooperstown:

"One bright October afternoon eighty years ago, as the sun was drawing
lengthened shadows over the landscape, bathing in rich autumnal light
the hills which surround the limid waters of Otsego Lake, there came
around the base of Mount Vision a lumbering family coach, bearing, with
its attenant vehicles, the founder of Cooperstown and his household to
their new home. All the glorious beautites of the changing foliage
which have since charmed so many thousands who have visited this still
rural retreat, were in their virgin splendor, and as the new comers
looked upon the scene and beheld in the reflection of the lake below the
dark shades of the evergreens contrasted with the gold and crimson hues
of the maple and the beech, they must have been sadly insensible to the
chief attraction of their future abode if they failed to see in it one
of the most perfect combinations of hill and valley, lake and forest,
which the hand of painter could portray. The party, numbering fifteen
in all, with the family domestics, was an imposing cavalcade in this
primitive region just emerging from the wilderness...The whole
population of the place--thirty-five in all--were drawn up to receive
the "lord of the manor," who, from henceforth, as the first judge of the
county and its largest landed proprietor, became the leading spirit of
all that region."

The village thus began more than a century ago, although of slow growth,
has always prospered and kept pace with modern progress. Its streets
are broad and well kept; its driveways along the lake and river
delightful, and its camping and boating facilities unsurpassed. It has
an electric lighting plant, is supplied with pure water, and its
spacious hotels and swellings invite summer guests, of whom a great
number are received every season. The work of the public authorities
has been generously supplemented by Mrs. Alfred Corning Clark, a
distinguished resident, to whom the place is indebted for a beautiful
park and gymnasium, and for the splendid edifice of the Young Men's
Christian Association.

To its natural beauty of situation and its advantages as a summer
resort, Cooperstown add the romantic interest that is associated with
the "Leatherstocking Tales." Cooper excelled in his descriptions of
natural scenery, and the reader who bears his vivid pictures in mind
will easily recognize the localities along the lake made classic by his

Cooperstown has been at times the permanent or summer home of some
famous men, among whom, beside the great novelist, are Samuel F.B.
Morse,Thurlow Weed, Gen. John A. Dix, Abner Doubleday, Gen. George C.
Starkweather, Hon. Samuel Nelson, Justice of the United States Supreme
Court, and Col. William L. Stone, editor of the New York Commerical

The Otsego County Agricultural Society holds an annual fair at
Cooperstown, which is largely attended.

Important benevolent institutions at Cooperstown are the "Thanksgiving
Hospital," in the establishment of which Miss Susan Fenimore Cooper, a
daughter of the novelist, was largely instrumental, and the "Orphan
House of the Holy Savior," which is under the control of the Episcopal
diocese of Albany, but which receives inmates regardless of
denominational lines.


This institution is fully equipped for thorough instruction. It is
supplied with all needed apparatus, and with a library of 4,000 volumes.
The academic department, under the Regents, prepares for college and for
law and other special courses. The faculty consists of a principal and
eleven assistants.


James Fenimore Cooper died at his home in Cooperstown on the 14th of
September, 1851, at the age of sixty-two years. Cooper sleeps in the
churchyard beside his kindred, an unpretending slab marking the site of
his grave. His monument is at Lakewood cemetery, on the eastern shore
of the lake, just beyond the site of the panther scene in the "Pioneer."
It is of Italian marble, twenty-five feet high, with a figure of
Leatherstocking on the summit. Natty is represented as loading his
rifle and gazing off on the lake spread out beneath him, while his dog
by his side watches his master with eager interest.

Transcribed by Karen Flanders Eddy.

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