The latest episode of A New York Minute In History podcast explores the mystery of who is the inspiration for Natty Bumppo, one of the most recognizable characters from James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales series of novels.
Bumppo was described by Cooper as a rugged frontiersman who dressed in tanned leather and was a skilled hunter and scout. His character was famously ridiculed by Mark Twain.
A trip to Hoosick Falls in Rensselaer County, NY, wouldn’t be complete without a drive down Main Street. As you pass the cemetery, with row upon row of stone monuments dissected by shade trees, an interesting red and gold marker catches your eye. The title reads “Natty Bumppo” a name that is familiar but you can’t quite place it just yet. Reading the marker’s text, those hazy details come streaming back:
IN THIS BURIAL GROUND LIES
THE INSPIRATION FOR JAMES
FENIMORE COOPER’S FAMOUS
“NATTY BUMPPO” CHARACTER
So according to the marker, this is where Cooper’s inspiration came from, a man named Nathaniel Shipman who lies buried in Hoosick Falls.
But, if you drive about 100 miles to the west to Fly Creek, near Cooperstown, NY, there is another red and gold sign with the same title, but the story is different. This one reads:
DAVID SHIPMAN, CA. 1729-1813
BURIAL SITE OF LOCAL HUNTER
KNOWN BY & INSPIRATION FOR
JAMES FENIMORE COOPER’S
So what’s the story here? Was David Shipman the true inspiration or was it Nathaniel Shipman? What was their connection to James Fenimore Cooper and what led to a war of words in 1874 which threatened a lawsuit over erecting a monument?
Co-hosts Devin Lander and Lauren Roberts explore this mystery on the second episode of the podcast’s series Legends and Lore of the Empire State.
You can listen to the podcast here.
You are seeing this podcast announcement courtesy of The New York Almanack. For a full list of this week’s podcasts click HERE. And while you’re here – we rely on small contributions from readers like you. Make a contribution now at our fundraising page at https://rally.org/f/4LBVKo9zYjO or send a check to: New York History Blog, 7269 State Route 9, Chestertown, NY 12817.