James Fenimore Cooper (James Fenimore Cooper)

James Fenimore Cooper

Author. He was the first major American novelist who wrote numerous sea-stories as well as historical romances known as the “Leatherstock Tales,” a series of frontier adventure novels featuring  fictional character ‘Natty Pumppo’ who lives free, close to nature while the settlers bring civilization that destroys the wilderness,  “The Last of the Mohicans” an adventure story set in the Lake Champlain area is considered the centerpiece of the series and is the best known having been made into a number of movies while television has utilized the story in numerous programs.  However, James Fenimore Cooper considered Leatherstock novels “The Pathfinder” and “The Deerslayer” his best works.  The prolific writer wrote over thirty novels before his death at his boyhood home, Otsego Hall in Cooperstown, New York a day shy of his sixty second birthday. Cooper was born in Burlington, New Jersey, the eleventh of twelve children to Quakers. When James was one, his family moved to the wild untamed area of Otsego Lake, New York where his father established a settlement on his vast holdings which became Cooperstown, New York.  Young James loved the wilderness which surrounded the family home, roaming at will while developing a love of nature which would become the hallmark of his books.  He was educated in the small one room village school, then further tutored by the rector of St. Peter’s Church, then sent to Albany for higher education and finally enrolled at Yale at age fourteen but expelled at seventeen.  A tour of duty in the Navy inspired his sea stories. Some of many…”John Paul Jones” “No Steamboats” “Old Ironsides” “Homeward Bound” and “Life Before the Mast.”  His father, Judge Cooper, was attacked and killed after a political meeting in Albany.  James became the executor of the estate receiving the bulk of the assets.  After his marriage to Susan Augusta De Lancey, a descendent from a New York political family, they became nomadic.  The couple lived and moved freely among the various settlements in the State of New York.  James was a vivacious reader and upon completing a novel, he complained of its poor quality making the statement, “I could write a better book.”  His wife challenged him and James found his calling and indeed wrote better books.  Cooper moved to Europe while changing his writing agenda, compiling many unsuccessful books about democracy, politics and society.  He served as the US consul at Lyons, France. With his income dwindling, he returned America.  Cooper had lost his prospective in writing, forgetting what made him famous and popular, instead turning out political and social view publications. James felt ill-treated by journalists and fought back with libel suits, winning most of his cases  but his biting opinions cost him the loss of his friends and popular public standing.  His brilliant writing career was essentially over. Cooper repurchased the previously sold Otsego Hall, his parents home, where he had grown up in Cooperstown and spent the rest of his life remodeling the structure and bickering with towns people over land and various issues.  He died from sclerosis of the liver.  The body lay in state at Otsego Hall and the funeral service was held in Christ Church with burial in the Cooper family plot in the church cemetery.  His wife followed him in death four months later.  His grave, covered by a slab of marble marked by a cross has become a shrine and a source of pilgrimages for his literary admirers.  Legacy…The birthplace of America’s first true novelist located at 457 High Street in Burlington, New Jersey is preserved and open to the public.  It is unique, not that is in a row house setting but because the unit next door was the longtime home of Captain James Lawrence, the naval war hero of the War of 1812. Visitors will see many Cooper displayed items. His daughter, Susan Fenimore Cooper followed in her father’s footsteps and became an author of some re-noun spending most of her life trying to redeem his tarnished image.  The Fenimore Art Museum is located outside Cooperstown and houses the Cooper Room which is loaded with memorabilia of the Cooper family.  The Postal Service issued a two cent commemorative stamp in the Famous America Authors series on January 29, 1940.  The Cooper grounds is now kept as a public park and was the location of Otsego Hall, which sadly, burned to the ground a few years after the death of the author.  The little town of Cooperstown founded by Judge Cooper and where James Fenimore Cooper wrote twenty of his books became even more famous while Abner Doubleday was attending school here and given credit for inventing baseball in a Cooperstown cow pasture. The village has become the centerpiece of the sport with the establishment of baseball’s “Hall of Fame.”  A fascinating trivia:  Although controversy exists about Doubleday’s status as the creator of baseball, a 1907 commission, investigating all sides of the issue, gives official credit to him. (bio by: Donald Greyfield)  Family links:  Parents:  William Cooper (1754 – 1809)  Elizabeth Fenimore Cooper (1752 – 1817)  Spouse:  Susan Augusta DeLancey Cooper (1792 – 1852)*  Children:  Susan Augusta Fenimore Cooper (1813 – 1895)*  Caroline Martha Cooper Phinney (1815 – 1892)*  Anne Charlotte Fenimore-Cooper (1817 – 1885)*  Maria Frances Fenimore-Cooper Cooper (1819 – 1898)*  Paul Fenimore Cooper (1824 – 1895)*  Infant Cooper (1900 – 1900)*  Siblings:  Isaac Cooper (____ – 1818)*  Richard Fenimore Cooper (1775 – 1813)*  Hannah Cooper (1777 – 1800)*  Ann Cooper Pomeroy (1784 – 1870)*  William Cooper (1785 – 1819)*  Samuel Cooper (1787 – 1819)*  James Fenimore Cooper (1789 – 1851) *Calculated relationship


  • September, 15, 1789
  • USA


  • September, 09, 1851
  • USA


  • Christ Churchyard
  • USA

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