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July 18, 2013

Editor dies

Cooperstown Crier


From the Otsego Herald

for Saturday, July 17, 1813

Compiled, with comments



[All pages of the paper surrounded with heavy black lines, as a sign of mourning]

On Monday last, departed this life, ELIHU PHINNEY, Esq., aged 58 years, after a more than usual illness of 36 hours —  having served the public as Editor of this paper for upwards of 18 years. His health had been gradually declining for the past ten years. He retained his senses to the last, anxiously awaiting the moment of his dissolution; and when that period arrived, to use the words of Pope,

“Taught half by reason, half by mere decay,

He welcom’d death, and calmly pass’d away.”

On Tuesday his funeral was attended at his last residence — where an appropriate prayer was delivered by the Rev. John Smith, after which his remains were borne forward by the Masonic Brethren in solemn procession to the place of interment, and there, with the usual rites and ceremonies of that order, committed to its native dust.

On the same day, RICHARD WARD, Son of Mr. ROBERT R. WARD, aged 1 year and 8 months.

On Tuesday, ELIZABETH COOPER, eldest daughter of Mr. JAMES COOPER, of this village, aged 1 year and 10 months.

COMMENT: Elihu Phinney (1756-1813), originally from Canaan, was invited to come, with his heavy printing press, to Cooperstown by Judge William Cooper. He later wrote how he “in the winter of 1793, penetrated a wilderness, and broke a track, through a deep snow, with six teams, in the ‘depth’ of winter, and was received with a cordiality, bordering on homage.” He began a very successful publishing business, including the annual Phinney’s Almanack, but most importantly, starting in 1795, the weekly “Otsego Herald” carrying international, national, and local news. Originally a supporter of William Cooper’s Federalist Party, Phinney later switched political sides, leading Cooper in 1808 to sponsor a competing weekly paper called “The Impartial Observer” (now the “Freeman’s Journal”). Following Phinney’s death, the publishing company was continued and expanded by his sons Elihu Phinney Jr. (1785-1863) and Henry Phinney (1782-1850).

Elizabeth Cooper was the oldest child of James Cooper (1789-1851), the novelist, who in 1826 changed his name to James Fenimore Cooper. It is said she died from eating over-ripe strawberries. Robert R. Ward was a local carpenter.

Raid on Hampton

Letter from Captain Cooper, to Charles K. Mallory, Esq., lieut. governor of Virginia.

“I was yesterday in Hampton with my troop; that place having been evacuated in the morning by the British. My blood ran cold at what I saw and heard. The few distressed inhabitants running up in every direction to congratulate us; tears were shedding in every corner.

“The infamous scoundrels, monster, destroyed everything but the houses, and, (my pen is almost unwilling to describe it) the women were ravished by the abandoned ruffians. Great God! my dear friend, can you figure to yourself our Hampton females seized and treated with violence by those monsters, and not a solitary American arm present to avenge their wrongs! But enough — I can no more of this ...”

COMMENT: The letter was written by Capt. James B. Cooper (1761-1854), a distant relative of James Fenimore Cooper. The British attack on Hampton took place at dawn on June 25, 1813, and the invaders quickly took over the town. Unfortunately, the “Independent Foreigners” a unit of French prisoners who had been released on condition that they join the British army, ran riot as described in Capt. Cooper’s letter. The official American report was a bit more circumspect, stating that “The sex hitherto guarded by the soldier’s honor escaped not the rude assault of superior force.”

Battle of Beaver Dams

Letter from Major General [Henry] Dearborn to the Secretary of War, June 25, 1813

“Sir — I have the mortification of informing you of an unfortunate and unaccountable event which occurred yesterday. On the 23d ... Lt. Col. Boerstler, with 570 men ... was ordered to march by the way of Queenstown [in Upper Canada] to a place called the Beaver attack ... the ... [British] enemy collected there for the purpose of...harassing those inhabitants who are considered friendly to the U. States.

“At 3 o’clock yesterday morning, when within about two miles from the Beaver Dams, our detachment was attacked from an ambuscade ... [We soon] received authentic information that Lt. Col. Boerstler with his command had surrendered to the enemy ... The enemy surrounded our detachment in the woods, and ... commenced a general attack ... Our troops fought more than two hours until the artillery had expended the whole of its ammunition; and then surrendered ... H. DEARBORN.”

COMMENT: What Gen. Dearborn did not know was that the British Commander at Beaver Dams, Lt. “Green Tiger” James FitzGibbons (1780-1863) had been warned by Laura Secord (1775-1868), a plucky Canadian housewife from Queenstown who, when American soldiers invaded her house and made her feed them dinner, overheard them talking about the planned American attack.

She walked alone over a dozen miles through the wilderness to warn FitzGibbons with his 50 men and some 400 Indian allies.

This enabled them to ambush Col. Boerstler’s much larger force, defeat them, and take 462 of them prisoners. It helped restore British confidence after what had been until then an unsuccessful 1813 season. Laura Secord became Canada’s greatest military heroine, and her statue stands among the 14 Canadians at the Valiants Memorial in Ottawa, “chosen for their heroism, and because they represent critical moments in Canada’s military history.” Laura Secord is also Canada’s best known brand of chocolates.