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May 1, 2014

Fire at Benjamin & Barnard

Cooperstown Crier

---- — From the Otsego Herald

for Saturday, April 30, 1814

Compiled, with comments



Last Thursday, about one o’clock P.M. our citizens were again alarmed by the cry of fire, which proved to be in the shop occupied by Messrs. BENJAMIN & BARNARD, Cabinet-Makers.

The shop together with the tools, and a quantity of stuff were consumed; but a number of articles of furniture of considerable value, were preserved, and by the usual activity of the citizens the further progress of the flames, which threatened destruction on either side, arrested.

The whole side of Esq. Foote’s dwelling house next the fire was burned to coal, and the wood house of J. Russell, Esq. was unroofed to prevent the progress of the fire in that quarter.

The fire is said to have caught from burnt shavings falling from the stove and communicating with those on the floor. This is the second loss of the kind Mr. Benjamin has sustained within the last 18 months.

COMMENT: The earlier fire was reported in the Otsego Herald of Dec. 5, 1812, when the furniture shop of Eli Foster Benjamin (1790-1856) on today’s Main Street was destroyed. Now, in 1814, Benjamin had announced his new co-partnership with Charles Barnard just two weeks before, at a shop which appears to have been on what is now Pioneer Street, between Main Street and the lake.

A Card

JOHN RUSSELL & ELISHA FOOTE, return their thanks to the Fire Company and the Citizens generally, for their timely aid in saving their property from the impending destruction with which it was threatened, on Thursday last. April 30th, 1814.

COMMENT: Cooperstown’s first Fire Company had been formed only about a year before.


MARRIED — In this village, on Thursday evening last, by the Rev. John Smith, Mr. ANDREW W. BURRELL, TO Miss HANNAH GRAVES.

COMMENT: Andrew W. Burrell [or Burwel] married Hannah Graves (b. 1788), daughter of Recompense Graves (1756-1821) and Susanna Little Graves (1759-1813). Her parents had moved to Cooperstown in 1793.

On the same evening, JOEL PEEBLES, Lieut. in the U.S. army, to Miss SALLY OSTRANDER.

COMMENT: Joel Peebles had become First Lieutenant in the 29th Infantry Regiment on April 30, 1813, and was promoted to captain on Aug. 5, 1814. He was born in Massachusetts in about 1791, lived in Pittsfield and New Berlin and was last heard of in 1870 in Wellsville. Sarah (Sally) Ostrander (1795-about 1865) was probably the daughter of Cooperstown innkeeper Moses Ostrander.

Grants to Colleges

Promotion of Literature — By an act passed at the late session of the [NY] legislature, 100,000 dollars is granted to Union College, for completing the buildings already commenced, and for erecting such others as the trustees may deem requisite; 30,000 dollars for discharging a debt already contracted by the said trustees; 20,000 for increasing the library, and extending the philosophical and chymical [sic] apparatus; and 50,000 dollars to augment the charity fund of said college.

40,000 dollars to Hamilton College.

To Columbia College, a tract of land in the city of New York, known by the name of the Botanic Garden; on condition that the college establishment be removed to the said tract of land, within twelve years.

30,000 dollars to the College of Physicians and Surgeons in the city of New York.

The amount of all the grant of be raised by lottery, and interest for six years is allowed on the same. ... Two classes of the lottery to be drawn in each year; but not to commence until all the lotteries previously authorized by law shall be completed. – N.Y Gazette.

COMMENT: Monies raised by lotteries remained the main way in which New York State funded local colleges. In cash, the $200,000 for Union College in Schenectady was by far the largest amount. It enabled Eliphalet Nott, who was President of Union College from 1804 to 1866 (!) to complete its planned campus designed by the French architect Joseph Jacques Ramee (1764-1842).

Eliphalet Nott (1773-1866), it will be recalled, was a Presbyterian Minister who began his long academic career as principal of Cherry Valley Academy from 1796-1798.

However, the “tract of land” given to Columbia College ultimately proved even more valuable, though Columbia never actually moved there. This was the “Elgin Botanical Garden,” occupying some 20 acres between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, from 47th to 51st streets, which had been created by Dr. David Hosack (1769-1835) in 1800 to experiment with medicinal and other useful plants.

By 1806, the Elgin Garden was growing over 2,000 species of plants, and had a large greenhouse and two hothouses. In 1810 the Garden was purchased by New York City for $75,000, considerably less than Dr. Hosack had spent on it with his own money, and in 1814 the city transferred it to Columbia College.

Thereafter the Garden was gradually allowed to decay, but eventually Columbia earned millions of dollars by leasing and eventually selling it in bits and pieces. The money helped made possible Columbia’s eventual transformation into a University at its present location at 110th Street at the end of the 19th century.


1000 Sheep Skins, Well Tanned for Book-Binding, at the Bookstore of H. & E. Phinney, Cooperstown.