Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cooperstown Pursuit #2

By: Kate Betz, Manager of Public Programs
The story of William and Elizabeth Cooper’s arrival in Cooperstown has been the subject of many exaggerations and complications throughout the town’s history. In fact, so much has been made of their arrival that it was even thought to be a worthy subject of “Ripley’s-Believe it or Not.” Mrs. Cooper is, in their cartoon, the first person to stage a “sit-down strike” to avoid moving from her more comfortable home in New Jersey. (click to enlarge cartoon)
Though a good story, the cartoon lacks historical evidence. When William Cooper brought his wife Elizabeth to his settlement on the banks of Otsego Lake, the couple did indeed travel over rough terrain and uneven roads, even completing their journey by canoe. Elizabeth hated the journey so much that she refused to leave the town until a new road was cut. (No word on whether she was sitting down while delivering this refusal to her husband.) She did not have to wait for long to be able to travel on improved roads. By the turn of the nineteenth century, residents dramatically improved the rough road when “a good Turnpike Road westward from Cooperstown to the Chenango River” was completed, and a stage coach route between Cooperstown and Canajoharie provided travelers with frequent and reliable opportunities for travel outside of the quickly expanding town.
Cartoon: 20th century, Vertical File, NYSHA Research Library.

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