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March 20, 2014

A fire in Cooperstown

Cooperstown Crier

---- — From the Otsego Herald

for Saturday, March 19, 1814

Compiled, with comments



On Thursday morning last, between the hours of 3 and 4 o’clock, our citizens were aroused from their slumbers by the alarming cry of fire, which proved to be in the building occupied by Mr. Joseph Wilkinson as a store and dwelling. The fire caught in a part of the building occupied by Taylor and Graves as a Taylor’s and Barber’s shop, and had made such progress before the alarm became general, that it was impossible to save the building.

The end of Messrs. Cook and Crafts store, which stood within about 10 feet east, was several times on fire, but by the prompt exertions of the citizens in hastening supplies of water, and the well directed application of it through the fire engine, united with the calmness of the weather, its desolating progress was arrested, and the whole range of buildings east to the corner saved from impending destruction.

The shutters and windows in Col. Stranahan’s brick house, facing the fire, were burnt out;—this building formed a barrier to the progress of the fire westward.

The principal part of Mr. Wilkinson’s dry-goods, his books, papers, and a part of his furniture were saved —he was himself absent on business to Albany. We understand his goods were insured. Messrs. Taylor and Graves saved nothing from their shop — the loss of their books and papers, by deranging their accounts, adds much to their misfortune.

The ladies of the village deserve much praise for the promptitude and alacrity with which they volunteered their aid to the general exertions. They joined the ranks at an early hour, and continued during the whole time of danger to render every assistance in their power; in fine [in short], all seemed to exert themselves to the greatest possible advantage, and little or no disorder prevailed.

COMMENT: Soon after the Village government took office in 1812, it had purchased “a small fire engine,” which had received its first trial when a row of storehouses on Second [today Main] Street, including William Cooper’s first house in the village, were burned on Dec. 2, 1812. In May of 1813, the Fire Engine Company of Cooperstown Engine No. 1 was formed, and all villagers were required to keep leather fire buckets at every house or shop for use in fighting fires. For a complete history of fire and fire-fighting in Cooperstown, see Douglas M. Preston, “The Clang of the Bell, the Wail of the Whistle: A History of the Cooperstown Fire Department” (MA Thesis, Cooperstown Graduate Program, 1975).

Notices by Cooperstown Companies

Farrand Stranahan presents his sincere thanks to the officers and men of the village Fire Engine Company, and to the citizens generally, for the timely attention and vigorous exertions in the preservation of his property this morning from the ravages of fire. Cooperstown, 17th March, 1814.

Cook & Crafts, grateful for the exertions of the Fire Company, and the citizens generally, in the preservation of their property this morning, most respectfully tender their thanks for their vigilance and attention, at a period when the prospect of saving their store and effects was almost hopeless. Cooperstown, 17th March, 1814

NOTICE. Taylor & Graves,

HAVING been unfortunate, in the destruction of their property, by fire, together with all their notes and book accounts, most urgently requests all persons having accounts open with, or indebted to them, to call and settle the same immediately; at the same time, desiring their customers to refresh their recollections with the kind of work done, that T. & G. may be enabled to obtain their just dues. They have claims only upon the honor & justice of their customers, therefore hope they will be ready to account with them to the utmost farthing.

Shortly, T. & G. hope to be able to announce the commencement of their business, & their readiness to attend, as usual, to all orders. Cooperstown, 19th March, 1814.

COMMENT: Farrand Stranahan (1778-1826) was a Cooperstown lawyer. Seth Cook (1782-1819) and his brother-in-law George Crafts had recently opened a dry goods, groceries, and hardware store next door to Joseph Wilkinson’s home and shop. The damaged firm of Taylor and Graves was probably headed by a Taylor (not yet identified) and Calvin Graves (1794-1848), uncle of the Abner Graves “who brought baseball to Cooperstown.”


DIED — In Laurens, on the 11th inst. [March] Mr. DANIEL GRIFFITH, of the asthma, in the 88th year of his age. He retained his senses to the last, and lived and died in the full faith of the Christian Religion.

DIED — in this town on the 16th inst. Mr. JAMES WHIPPLE.

COMMENT: Daniel Griffith (July 18, 1726-Mar. 6, 1814) came from Rochester in Plymouth County, Mass. He had 16 children, by two wives; his son Stephen (1754-1775) died at the Battle of Bunker Hill at the beginning of the American Revolution. Deacon James Whipple (ca. 1772-Mar. 16, 1814) was one of eight children of Captain Benajah Whipple (1734-1817), who died in Cooperstown.

Defeat of General Floyd

From Washington — Private letters communicate an unpleasant report, that Gen. Floyd has been defeated by Indians, with the loss of 300 men and all his cannon.

COMMENT: Brigadier General John Floyd (1769-1839) was a commander of Georgia State militia (and later a Georgia Congressman). A modern source states: “On Jan. 27, 1814 his troops fended off a predawn surprise attack by over 1,300 Indian warriors on the banks of Calabee (Chalibee) Creek. If it had not been for the aid of the friendly Lower Creek Indians, who had allied themselves with the white state militias, and the quick actions of the veteran companies, General Floyd might have lost this brutal battle.” It was one of the last battles of the so-called Creek War in 1813-1814.