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May 3, 2012

In These Otsego Hills: 1986 continues ...

This week we continue our journey through the columns of 1986 with the answer to the question “for whom, according to tradition, was Hannah’s Hill named?”

In the column of Feb. 5, we wrote: “Concerning Hannah’s Hill, Howard P. Michaels, Fly Creek, called our attention to ‘The Story of Cooperstown,’ by Ralph Birdsall. Rector of Christ Church from 1903 to 1918. In that marvelous volume, Father Birdsall states ‘...the pine clad summit which overlooks...the village from the West is still called in her honor, Hannah’s Hill.’ The ‘her’ referred to Hannah Cooper, Judge William Cooper’s eldest daughter. She was only 23 years old when, on September 10, 1800, she fell from her horse while on a ride with her brother, Richard, and died.

“The Cooper brother and sister were on their way to visit General Jacob Morris at his home at what was then called Butternuts and what is now called Morris. When Hannah fell from her horse she struck her head on a tree root and was killed immediately, according to Birdsall’s account.

We must confess that as we grew up here we rarely heard ‘the pine clad summit’ referred to as Hannah’s Hill. Indeed, not too long ago, a native and lifelong village resident asked us quietly on Main Street where Hannah’s Hill was located. Hannah Cooper is buried in the Cooper family plot of Christ Church yard.”

And then, since we had mentioned Birdsall’s book, we where given the following historic information for the column of Feb. 12: “Andrew Gilchriest, Nelson Avenue, was kind enough to point out to us a paragraph from Ralph Birdsall’s ‘The Story of Cooperstown’ concerning the 1901 unveiling of the marker placed by the Otsego Chapter D.A.R. to commemorate Clinton’s Dam: ‘Directly across the river, on the eastern point of the outlet, the newly erected marker was concealed beneath the  folds of an American flag...from beneath the green foliage down the river a canoe paddled by a young man who wore the dress and war paint of a Mohawk brave approached.

Seated with him in the canoe were two little girls attired in patriotic colors...The  young girls were Jennie Ordeliaand Fannie May Converse, both descendants of James Parshall, an orderly sergeant who was present at the building of the dam in 1779. The Indian was impersonated by F. Hamilton McGown, a descendant of John Parshall, private, a brother of James Parshall.’”

And while not exactly historical, we note the following in the column of Feb. 26: “In closing, we have never pondered much over why William Cooper picked this particular spot for his village. Certainly the peaceful lake, verdant hills, lush meadows and woodlands were (and are) a most appealing place.

However, we firmly believe that if Judge Cooper had first arrived here on a day such as several we experienced last week foggy, damp, cold, wet, grey, snowy he probably would have settled in West Palm Beach instead.”

Our historic musings continued when we also wrote in the column of Feb. 26: “On another historical note, in August of 1863, Cooperstown played host to most distinguished visitors. Secretary of State William H. Seward brought the entire diplomatic corps from Washington D.C. to tour the manufacturing areas in New York State. While on said tour, the group visited Cooperstown which charmed them.

Actually Seward had another reason, a secret one, for coming to Cooperstown. He was using the diplomats’ visit as a smokescreen thus masking his true mission. Why was Secretary of State Seward in Cooperstown that August of 1863? Hint...yes, it has to do with the Civil War.”

The answer to the William Seward question appeared in the March 5 when we wrote: “Cloak and daggerish as it seems, in the summer of 1863 Secretary of State William H. Seward was sent by President Lincoln to Cooperstown to consult with Samuel Nelson, a village resident and associate justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1845 to 1872.

The Republican president was most eager to have an unofficial ‘off the record’ opinion from Justice Nelson, a Democrat, on the constitutionality of the new federal draft law. Lincoln did not want it known that he was sending Seward to Cooperstown for such a reason. Thus the whole diplomatic corps tour was designed as a screen which would keep the press from suspecting the truth.

The secretary of state and the justice discussed the draft law at a midnight meeting and Seward returned to Lincoln with the news that Nelson supported the law.

“That the president could seek out Samuel Nelson’s opinion is an indication of the respect that the justice commanded nationally. Locally Nelson was much esteemed. So much that one of the village’s streets bears his name.

We thank Dr. Louis Jones and his book Cooperstown for much of the above.”

On March 5, we turned our attention, as a result of an article written for the paper by Jane Johngren, to the advent of dial telephone service in Cooperstown. We wrote: “We enjoyed Jane Johngren’s telephone article in last week’s Journal. We well remember that day when Cooperstown got dial phones.

We remember wondering what it would be like to make a call without the operator’s saying, ‘Number, please.’ We also wondered if we could remember all those new strange long numbers.

“Our pre-dial phone number was 949 and our neighbors’ across the street, the Spraker’s, was 44. We confess that we do not remember any other pre-dial numbers. Are there any pre-dial telephone books extant?”

Next week we will continue with the answers we received to these burning questions about the telephones.

PLEASE NOTE: Comments regarding this column may be made by mail at 105 Pioneer Street, Cooperstown, NY 13326, by telephone at 547-8124 or by email at cellsworth1@stny.rr.com

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