Cooper’s Otsego County: A Bicentennial Guide of Sites in Otsego County Associated with the Life and Fiction of James Fenimore Cooper, 1789-1851

Hugh C. MacDougall

Cooperstown, NY: New York State Historical Association, 1989

Copyright © 1989 by the New York State Historical Association. All rights reserved.

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 88-64177 ISBN: 0-917334-18-3

Editor: Wendell Tripp

Photographer: Milo Stewart [Photos not included here.]

Design: Liliana Zavaleta Design

Printed in the United States of America.

Placed online March 2012 with the authorization of the New York State Historical Association.

[May be reproduced for instructional use by individuals or institutions; commercial use prohibited.]

Corrections or information received since the original 1989 publication are occasionally included in [square brackets] — Hugh C. MacDougall


The Eastern Shore of Lake Otsego

{93} County Route 31 follows the eastern shore of Lake Otsego, and continues north to join U.S. Route 20 at East Springfield. On this side of the lake the hills are steeper, and crowd more closely to the the lakeshore, than on the west. Much of the land belongs to the Clark Foundation, and the shore and hills are heavily forested.

The road up the eastern shore was built by William Cooper in l790, but the original route to Cooperstown from Cherry Valley and the east paralleled the Red Creek through the hills, along the route of present-day County Route 33. It turned to descend to the southern end of Lake Otsego along what is now called Chicken Farm Hill Road, crossing the Susquehanna River a few feet from its source.

The east side of the lake figure both in Cooper’s life and in his fiction. The view from Mount Vision, where his father first glimpsed the lake and valley below, was of special significance to the author, and he wrote of it repeatedly and in detail. On a hillside further north he bought Chalet Farm, where for fifteen years he farmed and found needed privacy. The eastern shore of Lake Otsego and its surrounding hills also appear in Cooper’s novels.

Some Cooper sites along the eastern shore are easily accessible; others are not normally open to the public. The latter can, however, be seen from the water.


{94} At the foot of Lake Otsego, just west of where the Susquehanna River begins its long journey to the sea, a small boulder that rises a few feet above the water has long been known as Council Rock. According to one of three descriptions of it in The Deerslayer:

The rock was not large, being merely some five or six feet high, only half of which elevation rose above the lake. The incessant washing of the water, for centuries, had so rounded its summit, that it resembled a large bee-hive in shape, its form being more than usually regular and even. ... This rock was well known to all the Indians in that part of the country, and ... they were in the practice of using it as a mark to designate their place of meeting, when separated by their hunts and marches. [Chapter III]

Council Rock figures in the novel as the place of rendezvous set by the Deerslayer and his Indian friend Chingachgook. That it did in fact identify a meeting place for Indians is suggested by the numerous arrow points and chips that could, in earlier days, be found on the adjacent shore, though no remains of permanent Indian settlements have been found in the vicinity.

Council Rock Park

In 1937 a flight of stone steps was built at the corner of River and Lake Streets, leading down to a terrace at lake level overlooking both Council Rock and the source of the Susquehanna, and was presented to the village by the Lake and Valley Garden Club. In 1957 Paul Fenimore Cooper, the author’s great grandson, arranged the donation to the village of a one and one-quarter acre plot in front of Council Rock as a park, on condition that it remain forever in its natural state. It and the steps now form Council Rock Park.

Clinton Dam and “The Cricket”

{95} During the American Revolution, in 1779, General James Clinton led a Continental army of 1,800 men from the Mohawk Valley down Otsego Lake and the Susquehanna River, to join with General John Sullivan in a punitive expedition against Iroquois Indians allied with the British. To carry his supply boats down the river, General Clinton built a temporary dam at the foot of the lake, the remains of which survived until 1825. A boulder surmounted by a Civil War era seige mortar, erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1901, marks the site a few yards from Council Rock.

One relic of this expedition survived for a time, as Cooper recounted in The Chronicles of Cooperstown:

At a later day, in digging the cellar of the house first occupied by Judge Cooper, a large iron swivel was discovered. ... This swivel was the only piece of artillery used for the purpose of salutes and merry-{96}makings in the vicinity of Cooperstown, for ten or twelve years after the settlement of the place. It is well and affectionately remembered by the name of the Cricket, and was bursted lately in the same good cause of rejoicing on the 4th of July. At the time of its final disaster ... it is said that there was no very perceptible difference in size, between its touchhole and its muzzle. [Chapter I]

This long-gone cannon appears, fictionally, in The Pioneers, when the settlers assemble their weapons to shoot at the annual swarm of migrating passenger pigeons:

Among the relics of the old military excursions ... there had been found in Templeton, at its settlement, a small swivel, which would carry a ball of a pound weight. ... This miniature cannon had been released from the rust, and being mounted on little wheels, was now in a state for actual service. For several years, it was the sole organ for extraordinary rejoicings used in those mountains. On the mornings of the Fourths of July, it would be heard ringing among the hills, and ... considering its dimensions, it was no despicable gun for a salute. It was somewhat the worse for the service it had performed, it is true, there being but a trifling difference in size between the touch-hole and the muzzle. [Chapter XXII]


The Susquehanna River flows out of Lake Otsego, a few feet from Council Rock. Its beginning, “which did truly seem to be a stream lying in ambush,” is described in The Deerslayer:

The high banks might have been a hundred feet asunder, but on the western side a small bit of low {97} land, extended so far forward, as to diminish the breadth of the stream to half that width. As the bushes hung in the water beneath, and pines that had the stature of church steeples, rose in tall columns above, all inclining towards the light until their branches intermingled, the eye, at a little distance, could not easily detect any opening in the shore to mark the egress of the water. ...

[Beyond] the fringe of bushes immediately on the shore of the lake...[was] a narrow stream, of a sufficient depth of limpid water, with a strong current, and a canopy of leaves, upheld by arches composed of the limbs of hoary trees. Bushes lined the shores, as usual, but they left sufficient space between them to admit the passage of any thing that did not exceed twenty feet in width, and to allow of a perspective ahead of eight or ten times that distance. [Chapter III]

Though there have been many changes, including the digging out of the banks for clay, and the construction of homes and boathouses along the riverbank, enough of the wilderness remains to conjure up Cooper’s image, from Council Rock Park or from the bridge where Main Street spans the river.

The first bridge across the river was a pine tree felled across the stream near the outlet in 1786, the stump of which was still pointed out as “The Bridge Tree”, 50 years later. A log bridge at the same spot replaced it the following year, from which travelers could ascend Stage Coach Lane to the main street of the village. A bridge was built at the present location in 1794, to connect with a new state road linking Cooperstown with Cherry Valley and Albany.


{98} East of the river, nestled in the hillside and surrounded by tall pines, is Woodside Hall, now an adult home, overlooking the end of Main Street. The handsome stone mansion was built in 1829 by Judge Eban B. Morehouse, in a blend of Federal and Greek Revival styles. Later owners included Joseph L. White, a lawyer and celebrated orator who was assassinated in Central America while working on a Nicaragua Canal project, and State Senator Walter C. Stokes. A small gatehouse near the road combines Gothic and Egyptian Revival features. When Martin Van Buren, the only sitting President to visit Cooperstown, dined at Woodside Hall in 1839, he is said to have a bit too much to drink and to have gotten lost trying to find his way from the house to the gate.

The grounds, but not the mansion itself, figure in Home as Found, when the Effinghams, on their first arrival in “Templeton”, walk down from the summit of Mount Vision

until they reached the grounds of a house that was beautifully placed on the side of the mountain, near a lovely wood of pines. Crossing these grounds, until they reached a terrace in front of the dwelling, the village of Templeton lay directly in their front, perhaps a hundred feet beneath them, and yet so near, as to render the minutest object distinct. [Chapter X]


No location around Cooperstown had greater meaning to James Fenimore Cooper than the view of the village and lake from the top of Mount Vision, a hill rising some 500 feet above the lake immediately to the east of the village, and the southernmost of the summits which rise steeply from this side of the lake. This hill should not be confused with the hamlet of Mount Vision a dozen miles {99} to the southwest. It was from Mount Vision that Cooper’s father first glimpsed Lake Otsego in 1785, and here, in The Pioneers and Home as Found, Cooper’s fictional protagonists first catch sight of the lake and village.

The summit of Mount Vision can easily be reached on foot from the top of Chicken Farm Hill Road, which follows the old Great Western Turnpike route to Cherry Valley. This road (closed to vehicles in winter, but an easy walk from the base) branches upward from County Route 31 a few yards beyond Woodside Hall. Climbing steeply, past an abandoned quarry, it makes a hairpin right turn to reach a plateau where the slope flattens out and the road continues eastward to join County Route 33. The summit of Mount Vision is a short climb through the woods from the point where the slope flattens out, on the right (southern) side of the road. The hillside is thickly forested, and the village and lake can today be seen only intermittently through the trees. The scene that James Fenimore Cooper so admired can best be viewed from around the quarry, or from other vantage points where the slope is steepest.

Mount Vision in 1785

Judge William Cooper first sighted Lake Otsego from the summit of Mount Vision in the autumn of 1785, and while he did not himself write about it, his son put a “literally true” account of the moment into the mouth of Judge Temple in The Pioneers:

“I left my party, the morning of my arrival, near the farms of Cherry Valley, and, following a deer-path, rode to the summit of the mountain, that I have since called Mount Vision; for the sight that there met my eyes seemed to me as the deceptions of a dream. The fire had run over the pinnacle and in a great measure laid open the vie. The leaves were fallen, and I mounted a tree, and sat for an hour looking on the si{100}lent wilderness.

“Not an opening was to be seen in the boundless forest, except where the lake lay, like a mirror of glass. The water was covered by myriads of the wild-fowl that migrate with the changes in the season; and, while in my situation on the branch of the beech, I saw a bear, with her cubs, descend to the shore to drink. ... Not the vestage of a man could I trace ... from my elevated observatory. No clearing, no hut, none of the winding roads that are now to be seen, were there; nothing but mountains rising behind mountains, and the valley, with its surface of branches, enlivened here and there with the faded foliage of some tree, that parted from its leaves with more than ordinary reluctance. Even the Susquehanna was then hid, by the height and density of the forest.” [Chapter XXI]

The View from Mount Vision in 1793

In the opening chapters of The Pioneers (1823), Cooper describes the view in mid-winter, as seen by Judge Temple and his daughter on the frosty Christmas Eve of 1793:

Immediately beneath them lay a seeming plain, glittering, without inequality, and buried in mountains. The latter were precipitous, especially on the side of the plain, and chiefly in forest. Here and there the hills fell away in long, low points, and broke the sameness of the outline. ... A few dark and moving spots were, however, visible on the even surface ... so many sleighs going their several ways, to or from the village. On the western border of the plain, the mountains, though equally high, were less precipitous, and as they receded, opened into irregular valleys and glens, or were formed into terraces and hol{101}lows that admitted of cultivation. ... The points on the western side of this remarkable plain, on which no plant had taken root, were both larger and more numerous than those of its eastern, and one in particular thrust itself forward in such a manner, as to form beautiful curved bays of snow on either side.

A dark spot of a few acres in extent at the southern extremity of this beautiful flat ... alone showed, by its rippling surface, and the vapors which exhaled from it, that what at first might seem a plain, was one of the mountain lakes, locked in the frosts of winter. ... Immediately on the bank of the lake and at its foot, stood the village of Templeton. [Chapter III]

The View in 1835

In Home as Found, the Effingham family, returning to “Templeton” from Europe in May of 1835, stop, as did their ancestors in The Pioneers, to admire the scene below:

Hundreds of feet beneath them, directly in front, and stretching leagues to the right, was a lake embedded in woods and hills. On the side next the travellers, a fringe of forest broke the line of water; tree tops that intercepted the view of the shores; and on the other, high broken hills, or low mountains rather, that were covered with farms, beautifully relieved by patches of wood, in a way to resemble the scenery of a vast park, or a royal pleasure ground, limited the landscape. High valleys lay among these uplands, and in every direction comfortable dwellings dotted the fields. ... Bays and points added to the exquisite outline of the glassy lake on this shore, while one of the former withdrew towards the north-east, in a way to leave the eye doubtful whether it was the termination of the transparent sheet or not. ... A wide, {101} deep, even valley, commenced at the southern end of the lake, ... and stretched away south. ... At the northern termination of this lovely valley, and immediately on the margin of the lake, lay the village of Templeton. ... [Chapter IX]

Visitors seeking traces of Cooper in Cooperstown, should visit Mount Vision and seek to recapture the spell it cast on James Fenimore Cooper, as demonstrated in his descriptions, partially quoted here.


The old quarry on Chicken Farm Hill Road, was probably opened between 1796-1800, on the right of the road a few hundred yards from its beginning at the lake shore. It plays a part in the opening scenes of The Pioneers, when Richard Jones makes an almost disastrous attempt to turn around his four-horse sleigh:

It was in the quarry alone that he could effect the object, without ascending to the summit of the mountain. A very considerable excavation had been made in the side of the hill, at the point where Richard had succeeded in stopping the sleighs, from which the stones used for building in the village, were ordinarily quarried, and in which he now attempted to turn his team. [Chapter IV]

Not a few drivers seeking to ascend Chicken Farm Hill Road in the snow, after plowing has been terminated for the winter, have like Richard found the quarry entrance the only practicable place to change their minds and turn their vehicles around.

The abandoned quarry remains a picturesque spot frequented by hikers, with water spilling down its almost vertical sides and freezing into gigantic icicles in the winter. During the 1950s it was for several years {103}the site of an evening Christmas Carol program, to which the villagers ascended on foot, in the often bitter cold, with candles and flashlights.


Just beyond the entrance to Chicken Farm Hill Road is Lakewood Cemetery, established in 1856. Inside its principal entrance, on the right side of the {104} road, rises a memorial to James Fenimore Cooper. It is commonly known as the Leatherstocking Monument.

After Cooper’s death in 1851, a memorial meeting in New York City chaired by the poet William Cullan Bryant sought funds for a statue to be erected in his honor in New York City, but only $658 was subscribed and the project languished. In 1858, residents of Cooperstown raised $2,500 in a drive of their own, to erect a monument in or near the village; the New York committee, represented by author Washington Irving, turned over its funds to the Cooperstown group. A prominent sculptor, Robert E. Launitz, was commissioned to carve the monument, and in 1860 it was completed and placed in Lakewood Cemetery.

The white Italian marble monument, on a six foot granite base, rises twenty-five feet to its Corinthian capital. The four sides are carved with emblems symbolic of Cooper and his works: the front (west) side with his name and wreath; the north with an anchor, crossed oars, sword and spyglass reflecting his naval career and sea stories; the south with a bow and arrows, tomahawk, and other Indian symbols; and the east with pen and inkwell, books, manuscript, and literary emblems. On top of the column is a four and one-half foot statue of Natty Bumppo, the “Leatherstocking,” in a fur cap, loading his rifle with his faithful hound Hector at his side.

Cooper’s Leatherstocking

Launitz’ portrayal of Leatherstocking, like those of the many illustrators who have drawn Cooper’s best-known character, should be compared with Cooper’s first and most complete description of Natty Bumppo, as he appears in the beginning of The Pioneers:

He was tall, and so meager as to make him seem above even the six feet that he actually stood in his {105} stockings. On his head, which was thinly covered with lank, sandy hair, he wore a cap made of fox-skin. ... His face was skinny, and thin almost to emaciation; but yet it bore no signs of disease—on the contrary, it had every indication of the most robust and enduring health. The cold and the exposure had, together, given it a colour of uniform red; his grey eyes were glancing under a pair of shaggy brows, that overhung them in long hairs of grey mingled with their natural hue; his scraggy neck was bare, and burnt to the same tint with his face; though a small part of a shirt collar, made of the country check, was to be seen above the over-dress he wore.

A kind of coat, made of dressed deer-skin, with the hair on, was belted close to his lank body, by a girdle of coloured worsted. On his feet were deer-skin moccasins, ornamented with porcupines’ quills, after the manner of the Indians, and his limbs were guarded with long leggings of the same material as the moccasins, which, gartering over the knees of his tarnished buck-skin breeches, had obtained for him, among the settlers, the nick name of Leather-stocking. Over his left shoulder was slung a belt of deer-skin, from which depended an enormous ox horn, so thinly scraped, as to discover the powder which it contained. [Chapter I]


Fairy Spring Park, along the shore just beyond Lakewood Cemetery, was established as a village park in 1937, after the land was donated by Robert Sterling Clark. It provides swimming and picnic facilities to the public during the summer months.

Natty Bumppo’s Hut

{106} Somewhere near the “Fairy Spring” which gives its name to the park, was the fictional location of Leatherstocking’s hut by the side of the lake. Here, in The Pioneers, Natty Bumppo lives with his old Indian friend Chingachgook, and hides the mystery on which the plot turns. In the end, he burns the hut down rather than let strangers inside. The placing of Natty’s fictional hut near the “Fairy Spring” does not come from The Pioneers, which says only that it stood “under the mountain, near the eastern bank of the lake,” but from a passage in Home as Found:

“There, near the small house that is erected over a spring of delicious water, stood the hut of Natty Bumppo, once known throughout all these mountains as a renowned hunter; a man who had the simplicity of a woodsman, the heroism of a savage, the faith of a Christian, and the feelings of a poet.

“Yonder little fountain that you see gushing down from the thicket, and which comes glancing like diamonds into the lake, is called the ‘Fairy Spring,’ by some flight of poetry, ... fairies having never been known, even by tradition, in Otsego.” [Chapter XIII]

Since Natty carefully preserves his secrets, Cooper provides no detailed description of his hut in The Pioneers.

Chingachgook’s Grave

The Fairy Spring is also the final resting place of two of the fictional characters in The Pioneers. At the end of the novel, after Natty Bumppo’s hut has been destroyed, the level plot on which it once stood is cleared and covered with grass, with a “circle of mason-work” enclosing two graves. The tombstone of Maj. Effingham notes {107} that the miseries of his old age were “alleviated only by the tender care of his old, faithful, and upright friend and attendant, Nathaniel Bumppo.” The other tomb reads: “This stone is raised to the memory of an Indian Chief, of the Delaware tribe, who was known by the several names of John Mohegan; Mohican; and Chingachgook. He was the last of his people who continued to inhabit this country; and it may be said of him, that his faults were those of an Indian, and his virtues those of a man.” [Chapter XLI]


Above the Fairy Spring, wrote Cooper in The Chronicles of Cooperstown, “Prospect Rock, which lies on the same range with The Vision, also offers a good view of the village and the valley, though it does not command as extensive an horizon as the first.” [Chapter VII] Prospect Rock is the first summit to the north of Mount Vision, and the two have sometimes been confused. Here, in The Pioneers, Elizabeth Temple and Louisa Grant take an {108} almost fatal stroll:

The path took them but a short distance above the hut of Leather-stocking. ... They had gained the summit of the mountain, where they left the highway, and pursued their course under the shade of the stately trees that crowned the eminence. ...

In this manner they proceeded along the margin of the precipice, catching occasional glimpses of the placid Otsego. [Chapter XXVIII]

The two young women are attacked by a “panther” (mountain lion), and rescued in the nick of time by Natty Bumppo.


About a mile from the foot of the lake, a state historical marker notes the site of “Natty Bumppo’s Cave.” A private dirt road leads diagonally to the right up the hillside, to a point where a cleared meadow opens on its right side. From the southeast corner of this meadow, at the far upper right end, a steep trail ascends several hundred yards to a deep cleft in the rocks traditionally known as “Natty Bumppo’s Cave” and identified with the location where, in The Pioneers, Leatherstocking saves Elizabeth from a forest fire, and reveals the final mysteries of the story.

As Cooper describes this cave in The Pioneers, it is located on the side of Mount Vision, above the road, and is a sort of a natural cavern, which was formed in the face of the rock, and was not unlike a fire-place in shape. In front of this place lay a pile of earth, which had evidently been taken from the recess, and part of which was yet fresh. An examination of the exterior of the cavern left ... doubt whether it was one of na{109}ture’s frolics that had thrown it into that shape, or whether it had been wrought by the hands of man, at some earlier period. But there could be no doubt that the whole of the interior was of recent formation. ...

The whole formed an excavation of about twenty feet in width, and nearly twice that distance in depth. The height was much greater than was required for the ordinary purposes of experiment; but this was evidently the effect of chance, as the roof of the cavern was a natural stratum of rock, that projected many feet beyond the base of the pile. Immediately in front of the recess, or cave, was a little terrace, partly formed by nature, and partly by the earth that had been carelessly thrown aside by the labourers. The mountain fell off precipitously in front of the terrace, and the approach by its sides, under the ridge of the rocks, was difficult, and a little dangerous. [Chapter XXIX]

Tradition has, however, identified this cave with the narrow cleft described above, though it is at least a mile north of the location specified by Cooper. This cave does not greatly resemble that of the story, and has no real interior, but it has been accepted by tradition and because the author’s daughter Susan included an engraving of it in her Pages and Pictures, a compilation of extracts from Cooper’s works published in 1861.

Another Natty Bumppo’s Cave?

In August 1909, Charles T. Cooke of Cooperstown (a great uncle of this guidebook’s compiler) led an “Expedition” on behalf of The Glimmerglass, a daily newspaper intended primarily for the guests of the newly opened Otesaga Hotel, in search of the “real” Natty Bumppo’s Cave. He found a cave considerably larger than the {110} “official” cave, in the woods further north beyond Point Judith. The Glimmerglass, which sought to emulate, tongue-in-cheek, the exploits of metropolitan dailies that sent explorers to Africa and the Arctic, duly claimed this new cave for Natty Bumppo. During the summer the cave was visited by numerous parties of tourists, including some “intrepid” women. Two years later, a conclave of Boy Scouts voted it “the real cave.” Since then this cave has been has been lost sight of.

The Echo of the Glimmerglass

In the lake about a mile north of the Fairy Spring, and some 275 yards offshore, opposite “Natty Bumppo’s Cave,” is the “Echo of the Glimmerglass.” In Cooper’s Home as Found, the protagonists say of it:

“I never knew a lady come on the Otsego, but one of the first things she did was to get paddled to the Speaking Rocks, to have a chat with herself. They come out in such numbers, sometimes, and then all {111} talk at once, in a way quite to confuse the echo. I suppose you have heard, young lady, the opinion people have now got concerning these voices.”

“I cannot say I have every heard more than that they are some of the most perfect echoes known;. ...”

“Some people maintain that there is no echo at all, and that the sounds we hear come from the spirit of the Leather-stocking, which keeps about its old haunts, and repeats every thing we say, in mockery of our invasion of the woods. I don not say this notion is true, or that it is my own; but we all know that Natty did dislike to see a new settler arrive in the mountain, and that he loved a tree as a muskrat loves water.” [Chapter XIV]

In the mid-nineteenth century, the Echo was made famous by Joseph Thomas Husbands (1808-1881), a former slave from Barbados who conducted excursions on the lake, and who would station his boat at the proper point and call out: “Natty Bumppo! Natty Bumppo! Who’s there?” To which the echo would clearly call back the name several times. “Joe Tom,” who is buried in Christ Churchyard, could sometimes evoke two or three separate echoes, from Hannah’s Hill and Mount Vision, as well as from the mountainside on the immediate shore, with one single loud shout of “Natty Bumppo.” In modern times, the boats that run tours around the lake in summertime hoot their horns when they reach the “Echo of the Glimmerglass.”


Continuing up the dirt road leading from the state historical marker identifying “Natty Bumppo’s Cave,” is a large open field overlooking the lake, known from its shape as Star Field, and today occupied by {112} Fernleigh Farm, a part of the Clark Estate. This is the site of Chalet Farm, a 200-acre property purchased by James Fenimore Cooper in 1835, after he returned to Cooperstown. He called it Chalet Farm because of its location on the side of the hill, like the houses he had loved in Switzerland. The farmhouse was a small, two-story building with vertical board-and-batten siding, and here Cooper visited almost daily, sometimes even in winter when it could be reached only by sleigh. Chalet Farm, worked primarily by hired employees, provided fresh produce for the Cooper family and their guests at Otsego Hall, but it was never a financial success. As Cooper’s grand niece, Constance Fenimore Woolson, wrote in 1871, “he [was] determined that the crops should grow, and the mountain [was] determined that they should not.”

Chalet Farm seems to have served Cooper as a private refuge, and he rarely mentioned it in writing. His grand nephew George Pomeroy Keese wrote:

It was on this farm that Cooper sought relaxation from his mental labors; and he might be seen almost {113} any summer’s day, not far from eleven o’clock, issuing from the gate of his mansion driving a tall sorrel horse not remarkable for his personal attractions, who rejoiced in the name of Pumpkin ... because his first labor after coming into their possession was drawing a load of pumpkins for the use of his companion in the stable, Seraphina, the cow. ...

Mrs. Cooper frequently accompanied her husband on his excursions, and when the state of her health would not admit of exposure, he would take up some friend whom he hailed on the street, and make him the companion of his trip. He was generally absent about three hours, or until near his dinner time; during which time he superintended the various operations of the farm. ...

In later years, new buildings were erected, and in 1958 the old Chalet farmhouse where Cooper stayed burned down, probably as the result of arson. The site of its foundations, below the present large barn, is overgrown with brush. The location, Star Field, can easily be seen from the western side of the lake.


About two miles from the foot of the lake is Point Judith, the most prominent point on the eastern shore as seen from Cooperstown. In Cooperstown’s early days, it was called Two Mile Point, and was the site of the first recorded picnic on Lake Otsego, given by William Cooper in August 1799 for visiting friends from Philadelphia. His ten-year old son James was probably one of the party. The point’s present name derives from Judith Hutter in The Deerslayer, but it appears only in the epilogue to that tale, when Deerslayer returns to the Glimmerglass fifteen years after the story’s climax:

The Ark was discovered stranded on the eastern {114} shore, where it had long before been driven with the prevalent northwest winds. It lay on the sandy extremity of a long low point, that is situated about two miles from the outlet, and which is itself fast disappearing before the action of the elements. The scow was filled with water, the cabin unroofed, and the logs were decaying. Some of its coarser furniture still remained, and the heart of Deerslayer beat quick, as he found a ribband of Judith’s fluttering from a log. It recalled all her beauty, and we may add all her failings. ... He tore away the ribband, and knotted it to the stock of [his rifle] Killdeer, which had been the gift of the girl herself. [Chapter XXXII]

Kingfisher Tower

In 1876, Edward Clark, grandfather of the Edward S. Clark who in the 1930s built Fenimore House and owned Fenimore Farm, built a miniature castle on piles just off Point Judith, in order to give a romantic focal point to the lake scenery. James Fenimore Cooper would certainly have approved; he had once lamented that Lake Otsego scenery only lacked the old castles he admired along the Rhine. Kingfisher Tower, designed after the style of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, is almost sixty feet high. It was designed by the noted architect Henry J. Hardenbergh (1847-1918), better known for the Dakota Apartment House and Plaza Hotel in New York City and the Willard Hotel in Washington. In Cooperstown, in addition to the Kingfisher Tower, Hardenbergh designed the Church & Scott Pharmacy building at the corner of Main and Pioneer Streets, and the Fenimore Cottages, now “The Inn At Cooperstown,” at 14-16 Chestnut Street. Edward Clark proudly described Kingfisher Tower in a letter to the Freeman’s Journal in 1876:

The castle is about twenty feet square at the base, {115} and at a height of five feet above the water is the main floor. Ten feet about this is the first platform, provided with ramparts and machicolated parapets. Above this stage the tower alone rises, eight feet square, crowned with a pyramidal roof pierced with a window on each side, the wall bearing at one angle a bartizan with conical roof.

The walls of the structure are most solidly built of stone from the shores of the lake, the roofs covered with earthen tiles, the bright red of which contrasts finely with the silver gray of the stone. The main windows are brilliant with stained glass, and each bears in the center a heraldic shield. ... Stairs lead to the highest platform of the tower, and from the numerous openings and loopholes with which the walls are pierced, a fine panoramic view of the lake and country can be obtained.

Point Judith and Kingfisher Tower are not accessible to the public, but can be seen and admired from the lake.


Further north on the eastern shore of the lake, about five miles from its foot, is Gravelly Point. Here the hero of The Deerslayer arrives while paddling after a drifting canoe:

On the immediate point there was a small open area, partly in native grass, and partly beach, but a dense fringe of bushes lined its upper side. The narrow belt of dwarf vegetation passed, one issued immediately into the high, and gloomy vaults of the forest. The land was tolerably level for a few hundred feet, and then it rose precipitously in a mountain side. The trees were tall, large, and so free from underbrush, that they resembled vast columns, irregularly scat{116}tered, upholding a dome of leaves. [Chapter VII]

Landing on the point, Deerslayer is treacherously fired upon by a Huron bent on seizing his canoe, and instinctively returns the fire, mortally wounding the Indian. As he lies dying, cradled by a shocked Natty Bumppo, the Indian asks the young man’s name. Bumppo replies,

“Deerslayer is the name I bear now, though the Delawares have said that when I get back from this war-path, I shall bear a more manly title, provided I can ‘arn one.”

“That good name for boy—poor name for warrior. Get better quick. No fear there [tapping Deerslayer on the breast]—eye, sartain—finger, lightening—aim, death. Great warrior, soon—No Deerslayer—Hawkeye—Hawkeye—Hawkeye—Shake hand.” [Chapter VII]

The Indian expires, and Natty Bumppo gains a new name, though he is still referred to as Deerslayer through the rest of the novel. Gravelly Point is not accessible from land.


Still further north, almost opposite Six Mile Point on the western shore, is Pegg’s Point at the entrance to Hyde Bay, where in The Deerslayer Natty Bumppo and Hurry Harry first reach the shore of Lake Otsego.

They both broke suddenly into the brilliant light of the sun, on a low gravelly point, that was washed by water, on quite half of its outline.

An exclamation of surprise broke from the lips of Deerslayer ... when on reaching the margin of the lake he beheld the view that unexpectedly met his gaze. ... On a level with the point lay a {117} broad sheet of water, so placid and limpid, that it resembled a bed of the pure mountain atmosphere, compressed into a setting of hills and woods. Its length was about three leagues, while its breadth was irregular, expanding to half a league, or even more, opposite to the point, and contracting to less than half that distance more to the southward. Of course its margin was irregular, being indented by bays, and broken by many projecting, low, points. At its northern, or nearest end, it was bounded by an isolated mountain, lower land falling off, east and west, gracefully relieving the sweep of the outline. ...

But the most striking peculiarities of this scene, were its solemn solitude, and sweet repose. On all sides, wherever the eye turned, nothing met it, but the mirror-like surface of the lake, the placid void of heaven, and the dense setting of wood. So rich and fleecy were the outlines of the forest, that scarce an opening could be seen, the whole visible earth, from the rounded mountain-top, to the water’s edge, presenting one unvaried hue of unbroken verdure. ... The trees overhung the lake, itself, shooting out towards the light, and there were miles along its eastern shore, where a boat might have pulled beneath the branches, of dark, Rembrandt-looking hem-locks, “quivering aspens,” and melancholy pines. In a word, the hand of man had never yet defaced, or deformed any part of this native scene, which lay bathed in the sun-light, a glaring picture of affluent forest grandeur, softened by the balminess of June. ... [Chapter II]

Natty Bumppo’s fictional arrival at the shore of Lake Otsego has traditionally been placed on the west shore, where a state historical marker used to identify the site as “Hutter’s Point.” A careful reading of Cooper’s text, as well as the historical location of trails to “the settlements” along the Schoharie River and the British garrison at Fort Hunter, which in 1745 were the only settle{118}ments west of Schenectady, make it clear that Cooper intended Pegg’s Point for this important scene.

Cooper describes Tom Hutter’s fictional offshore home on stilts, “Muskrat Castle,” as lying almost a mile from the eastern shore, and only a quarter of a mile from the western shore, but it takes the frontiersmen fifteen minutes to reach it by canoe from the point of their arrival on the lake. [Chapter II] Deerslayer later lands Hurry Harry “at the precise point where he is represented, in the commencement of our tale, as having embarked ... because he was sufficiently familiar with the signs of the woods, at that spot, to thread his way through them in the dark.” [Chapter XXIII] Finally, Hetty Hutter describes this place as “the point, near the east bay. ...” [Chapter XXVI] A map of Lake Otsego in the authoritative Cooper Edition of The Deerslayer, published in 1987, also places the scene at Pegg’s Point.

The main action of The Deerslayer ends back at Pegg’s Point, where the British troops who have rescued Deerslayer and his friends, and Deerslayer himself, finally leave the Lake:

One party [of troops] ... bearing the wounded, the prisoners, and the trophies ... had been landed on the point, so often mentioned, or that described in our opening pages, and, when the sun set, was already encamped on the brow of the long, broken, and ridgy hills, that fell away towards the valley of the Mohawk. ...

The Ark had already arrived and the soldiers had disembarked, before the canoe of [Deerslayer and Judith Hutter] reached the point. Chingachgook had preceded it, and was already some distance in the wood, at a spot, where the two trails, that to the garrison, and that to the villages of the Delawares separated. ... The Glimmerglass had no longer any charms for [Judith] and when she put her foot on the strand, she immediately proceeded on the trail of the soldiers. ...

For some time Deerslayer was irresolute as to his course; but, in the end, he ... joined the Delaware. [Chapter XXXII]

Pegg’s Point is on private property, but can easily be seen from the water.


At the northern end of Lake Otsego, Hyde Bay extends to the northeast, and is today the site of the Glimmerglass State Park, with facilities for camping and hiking. Much of the terrain is marshy, and it is somewhere in this area that Natty Bumppo and Hurry Harry first reach the lake in The Deerslayer.

A man of gigantic mould broke out of the tangled labyrinth of a small swamp, emerging into an opening that appeared to have been formed partly by the ravages of the wind, and partly by those of fire. This little area, which afforded a good view of the sky, although it was pretty well filled with dead trees, lay on the side of one of the high hills, or low mountains, into which nearly the whole surface of the adjacent country was broken. ...

“Hurrah! Deerslayer; here is day-light, at last, and yonder is the lake, itself.” [Chapter I]

Hyde Hall

Within Glimmerglass State Park is Hyde Hall, a magnificent forty-room limestone English {120} manor house begun in 1817 and completed in 1834 by George Hyde Clarke (1768-1835). George Hyde Clarke was a great grandson of George Clarke (1736-1743) who as lieutenant governor of New York from 1736 to 1743 had acquired over 100,000 acres of land in central New York. Designed in the Greek Revival style by architect Philip Hooker, the massive building, centered around a courtyard, is architecturally unique in Otsego County. George Hyde Clarke in 1813 married Anne Low Carey, widow of James Fenimore Cooper’s brother Richard. The marriage took place a few weeks after Richard’s death. Though Anne insisted the marriage was valid, rumors persisted that Clarke had a wife and family in England. These rumors, and Anne’s precipitous conduct, led to life-long questions about the paternity and legitimacy of Alfred Cooper Clarke (1813-1869), who was later adopted by his step-father. The Clarke family lived in Hyde Hall well into the twentieth century, but the building gradually fell into disrepair. Acquired by New York State as part of the Glimmerglass State Park, the old manor house is gradually being restored by The Friends of Hyde Hall, which administers the site and conducts guided tours of the building.

The Sleeping Lion

Finally, at the northern end of Lake Otsego, rising 600 feet above lake level, is Mount Wellington, known from its shape as “The Sleeping Lion.” It is what Cooper saw, when he looked up the lake from his window in Otsego Hall. It is said that the mountain was originally christened Mount Millington, but was renamed by George Hyde Clarke in honor of the Duke of Wellington, the victor of Waterloo, who had been Clarke’s schoolmate at Eton College in England.