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March 7, 2013

A cave tomb in Tennessee

Cooperstown Crier

---- — From the Otsego Herald

for Saturday, March 6, 1813

Compiled, with comments



Died, in this town on the 2d inst. [March] of the prevailing epidemic, Mr. JACOB PRICE, aged 47 years.

COMMENT: Jacob Peck (1764-1813) came from Scituate, R.I., and was living in Fly Creek when he died. He left his wife, Mercy (Rutenber) Peck (1758-1841) and six children. The “prevailing epidemic” was presumably “spotted fever” (meningitis).


Died, on the 28th ult. [February] Mrs. PRISCILLA WEAVER, aged 72 years.

COMMENT: She had been a member of the Cooperstown Presbyterian Church since 1809.


Died, on the 27th Mr. DAVID SHIPMAN, aged 84 years.

COMMENT: David Shipman (1730-1813) is generally believed to have been a model for Natty Bumppo in James Fenimore Cooper’s Leather-Stocking Tales. A revolutionary veteran, and a keen hunter and fisherman, he lived alone in a cabin in Hartwick. Cooper, in his “Chronicles of Cooperstown” (1838) referred to Shipman as ““the ‘Leather Stocking’ of the region, ... [who] could at almost any time, furnish the table with a saddle of venison”

A Cave Tomb in Tennessee

CURIOUS DISCOVERY: A gentleman late from Tennessee, gives the following narrative:

“A person was digging after Saltpetre in the summer of 1811, on the waters of Duck river, Smith county, State of Tennessee; he discovering a large stone set against the mouth of a cave. Curiosity led him to overset the stone. On entering the cave, which appeared natural, in a lime-stone rock, something resembling a vault or ancient sepulchre, he discovered deposited in a cave, the bodies of two human persons, a male and a female, each in a curious wrought basket made of splits of cane.

The bodies were in a sitting position. Around each body was wrapped a kind of large shroud or plaid, seemingly wrought with the fingers, made of lint of something resembling wild nettles or Indian hemp. Both bodies and shrouds were entire. The bodies were consolidated.

A number of doctors, and the curious from several states visited the cave. The body of the male was dissected into hundreds of pieces, every person desiring of having a small piece of both body and shroud … The man appeared old and grey-headed.

The female appeared a child about 7 years old. She was transported entire with her shroud to Peal’s museum in Philadelphia …

COMMENT: This account was transcribed from “The Halcyon Luminary, and Theological Repository,” Volume II (1813), p. 191. Often referred to as the “copperas cave mummies,” there have been many published descriptions of this find.

More from Maine

Col. Ulmer, commanding the U.S. Volunteers at Eastport, has succeeded in taking possession of the British store ship Diligence, lately cast away near St. Johns [New Brunswick, Canada], and took out of her 27 pieces of ordnance, viz. 10 pieces 24 lb. cannon, 15 12 lb. cannon, and two 9 lb. cannon. Also a number of carriages for the large pieces, iron wheels for the whole, and 25 tons of shot. The Diligence sailed from England for Halifax on the 8th of Nov. last, in company with six other transports…and parted company with them in a gale of wind.

COMMENT: As reported to Washington, “Ship Diligence, mounting twelve guns, a government transport, a great ship, laden with most valuable stores (military) wrecked near Machias, as follows. ‘A very valuable ship of 500 tons burthen-) carrying 18 guns, and deeply laden with dry goods, muskets, ammunition and cannon, from London, via Halifax, for St. John’s.’” 

Not mentioned in the newspaper account is that the British succeeded in burning the wreck of the Diligence before Col. Ulmer and his volunteers could reach her, although the Americans were able, as stated, to rescue many of the cannons she carried.

A New Sheriff

The Council of Appointment has appointed WM. SPRAGUE, of this village, sheriff of this county.

COMMENT: William Sprague (1763-1842) was Sheriff of Otsego County from 1813-1815. A Federalist, he became Otsego Town Supervisor, 1820-1823, headed the Cooperstown Masons in 1807-1808, and was a Colonel in the Militia. He had two wives, Abiah Hubbell (1770-1796) and Mary Gregory (1775-1852), and 11 children. He left Cooperstown in 1825, and died in Livingston County in 1842.