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November 1998


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Hugh Mac Dougall <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 10 Nov 1998 14:58:09 -0500
text/plain (86 lines)
To Dan, Les, et al.
        Alas, "James Fenimore Cooper slept here" legends are often as apocryphal,
if not so numerous, as "George Washington slept here" legends. "The Last of
the Mohicans" was written in the spring and summer of 1825, and published
in February 1826. During the summer of 1825, Cooper rented a summer place,
to which he took his family, at Hallett's Cove in Sunswick (now Astoria) on
Long Island. During the course of the summer he suffered from fever (from
sunstroke), which slowed his work on the novel. Throughout the summer he
sailed across the North River to Manhattan to visit his publisher almost
daily.But there is no evidence that he travelled anywhere outside of the
metropolitan New York area that year.
        Cooper had visited Saratoga and Ballston the previous summer, in 1824, in
the company of four young British noblemen (one of whom later became Prime
Minister of England), in a trip that was documented by several of them, and
in which his visit to Glens Falls gave a first inspiration for The Last of
the Mohicans.
        His daughter Susan, in an account of her father written many years later,
dated this trip to 1825, but as has been demonstrated by Cooper scholar
James Franklin Beard in his historical introduction to the definitive
edition of Mohicans published by the State University of New York Press at
Albany in 1983, her recollection was definitely mistaken -- several of the
British gentlemen whom Cooper had accompanied had kept careful records of
the trip, including memories of Cooper's inspiration at the cave at Glens
        Most of Cooper's travels are well documented by correspondence and other
materials. He did remember Ballston with pleasure; in 1832 he wrote from
the Belgian resort town of Spa (from which our use of the word for a resort
based on mineral waters is based) that "The country is not unlike Ballston,
though less wooded, more cultivated, and perhaps a little more varied."
        As for Sodus Point, I am not aware that Cooper ever visited it, though he
might have been at the point itself at some time while serving as a US Navy
Midshipman in Oswego in 1808-09. In the 1840s he made a number of trips by
rail from Fort Plain to Buffalo, en route to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he
was selling some city lots he had acquired. On one of these trips he
stopped off for a bit in Rochester, but so far as I know nowhere else.
        For our best present information on Cooper's whereabouts during his 62
years, see my "Where Was James" in the Miscellaneous Papers section of the
Cooper Society website at http://library.cmsu.edu/cooper/cooper.htm
        But needless to say, I should be very happy to be proved wrong, by hard
evidence showing Cooper's presence at times and places we have not yet
recorded. I would encourage all list recipients to forward citations to
appropriate materials.

Hugh C. MacDougall
James Fenimore Cooper Society
8 Lake Street, Cooperstown, NY 13326-1016

> From: Daniel H. Weiskotten <[log in to unmask]>
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: Brookside Museum, Saratoga County History Center
> Date: Monday, November 09, 1998 11:22 PM
> Hugh (and Les Buell):
>         The story of JFC writing it at Brookside is not known to be
> true, but it is known that he was in Ballston Spa and he sure would have
> been through the area many times in his explorations (always needing a
> comfortable and fashionable place to stay).  There were several other
> places in Ballston Spa and vicinity but Aldrich's Tavern shared the top
> the list with the rival Sans Souci up the street.  I'm copying this
> to Brookside and perhaps they will look more deeply into the legend.  The
> building and its history is wonderfully documented in Field Horn's _First
> Respectable House_ (but, alas, I do not have this text - any one know
> I can get a copy?).
>         I also received another note from Les Buell of Wayne County
saying that
> local legend is that Cooper wrote part of _The Last of the Mohicans_
> a stay in Sodus Point.  I don't expect that he wrote the book over night,
> but what is the probability that he wrote it on the road (do we have a
> proliferation of  "James Fenimore Cooper wrote here" tales?)
>         Dan W.
> from Les Buell:
> "       Our local history (Wayne County - Sodus) has him writing part of
Last of
> the Mohicans during a stay in Sodus Point..... Is this like, "George
> Washington slept here"?"