News of Otsego County

sherlee rathbone

Earhart Visited Here, Marker Says

Earhart Visited Here, Marker Says


Mary Winne stands by the tree where she believes Arrie Hecox may have sat with Amelia Earheart during her 1921 visit. (Jim Kevlin/

After losing his mother to appendicitis in the spring of 1921 at age 7, Arrie Hecox of Fly Creek found solace in Amelia Earhart three years later.

Walking back and forth to school, Hecox spotted Earhart, then in her 20s, at the inn that neighbored his family’s farm on Route 28.

“As you did in that time, they introduced themselves,” Arrie Hecox’s grandson, Michael Baker said.

In later years, Hecox told his story to newspaper columnist Jim Atwell, who included it in his 2004 book, “From Fly Creek: Celebrating Life in Leatherstocking Country.”

“What are you reading?” Hecox asked the young woman in a khaki shirt, jodhpurs and boot, who was seated under an apple tree.

“A book about airplanes,” she replied with a smile.

Earhart sojourn and what became the Famulare family’s farm in the 1940’s is about to be memorialized.


The Fly Creek Historical Society announced its application for a “Legends & Lore” marker has been approved by the Pomeroy Foundation, and will be erected later this year.

That’s the historical society’s sixth Legends & Lore marker. Sherlee Rathbone, society president, said that means the Town of Otsego, where Fly Creek is located, has more than any community in the state.

The others memorialize David Shipman, inspiration for James Fenimore Cooper’s Natty Bumppo, as well as Cattown Road, Honey Joe Road, Bed Bug Hill and Panther Mountain.

Mary Winne, who lives on nearby Johnston Road, is a Famulare and was raised in the white clapboard cape across 28 from Simple Integrity’s headquarters.

When her family moved into the house in the 1940s, the living room had been divided into three bedrooms, she said; her parents concluded it had been a rooming house.

It’s also thought, she continued, that Earhart, the first woman aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, was friendly with aviators at an a airstrip in Frankfort, down in the Mohawk Valley, which kept her around for a while.

As Atwell related it, Hecox considered Earhart, who would disappear in 1937 trying to fly over the Pacific, the “first love of (his) life.”

“When my grandfather heard (Earhart) went missing, he said he felt it in his heart that she was gone from this world,” said Baker.

Both Bumppo Claims Equal, Power Foundation Concludes


Both Bumppo Claims Equal,

Power Foundation Declares

Pete Nowicki, the county’s sign expert, examines Bumppo “Legend & Lore” marker. (Jim Kevlin/

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

FLY CREEK – Wuz we robbed?

The Pomeroy Foundation has, finally, approved a “Legend & Lore” marker for the grave of David Shipman, whom James Fenimore Cooper himself identified as the model for Natty Bumppo, who ranks with Huck Finn among the foremost protagonists in American literature.

Here’s the text of the new “Lore & Legend” marker in Hoosick Falls.

At the same time, though, Pomeroy also approved a “Legend & Lore” marker for Nathaniel Shipman’s grave in Hoosick Falls, giving him equal billing with the local woodsman who inspired the most memorable character in Cooper’s “The Last of the Mohicans.”

The “Legend & Lore” marker is a step down from Pomeroy’s “Historical Marker,” which would actually aver David Shipman was the model for Natty Bumppo. Instead, the marker set up at the Adams Cemetery between Fly Creek and Toddsville simply said that some people think he was Cooper’s hero, also known as the Leatherstocking and “La Longue Carabine.”

“It means you can’t prove it,” said Sherlee Rathbone, president of the Fly Creek Historical Society, which sought the Pomeroy designation. “In order to have a ‘History’ sign, we need to have primary sources. And we don’t; we can’t find it. We had no option.”

That is contrary to the conclusion reached by Alan Taylor, author of the Pulitzer-winning “William Cooper’s Town” (1996), who now holds the Thomas Jefferson Chair in American History at the University of Virginia. He has since won a second Pulitzer, in 2014 for “The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832.”

Taylor researched the complicated relationship between the Cooper family and David Shipman, who would often provide the village’s first family’s table with venison, fish and other edible wildlife.

As proof, Taylor cites James Fenimore Cooper identifying David Shipman as Bumppo in “Chronicles of Cooperstown” (1838).

That – the writer himself designating David Shipman – would constitute a primary source.
In a 2016 e-mail to this newspaper, Taylor declared, “I certainly consider DS to be the model for JFC in crafting the character of Natty Bumppo.”

In addition to the gravesite, former county treasurer Dan Crowell’s family has identified the confluence of Oaks Creek and the Susquehanna – it can be seen on the north side of the Route 11C bridge – as the site of David Shipman’s cabin. A depiction of Shipman also appears atop the Cooper obelisk in Lakewood Cemetery.

On its website, the Pomeroy Foundation also includes an audio tape, recording Rathbone and Joyce Brewer, from the Hoosick Township Historical Society.

It traces the rivalry between Cooperstown and Hoosick Falls to 1874, when David Shipman’s great-granddaughter threatened to sue, blocking plans in the Washington County town from raising a statue to Nathaniel Shipman.

Nathaniel was born in 1738 in Connecticut, moving to Hoosick in 1756, where he was a scout for the British.  When the American Revolution began, Nathaniel was tarred and feathered for his loyalty to the crown, and fled to the Otsego Lake region, supporting himself by hunting and fishing, and living in a cave.

Back in Hoosick Falls, his daughter, Patience, married a John Ryan, who became a state Assemblyman, Brewer recounts. In Albany, he met Judge William Cooper, also an Assemblyman, who regaled him with stories about a Shipman.

Acting on this information, Ryan and Patience retrieved an “aged white man” from the Cooperstown area, and brought him back to Hoosick Falls, where he died in 1809 and is buried in the Baptist Cemetery.  Patience was “pretty sure that was her father,” the audiotape says.

“Natty,” Brewer says, is a nickname for “Nathaniel,” not “David.”

The audiotape, quoting Rathbone, reports David Shipman was born in 1740 in Saybrook, Conn., and died in Fly Creek in 1813 and was buried in the Adams Cemetery.  “He was a renowned hunter and trapper,” she said, “dressed in leggings and high moccasin boots – hence Leatherstocking.  He supplied the table of many folks with venison and wild meats, include Judge Cooper’s.”

Hoosick Falls has a corpse, Brewer said.  “We do not,” said Rathbone.  “We do have anecdotes.”


Who Thought Up Names

Of Otsego Town Roads?


MEETING – 7 p.m. Fly Creek Area Historical Society, “The Origin of the Names of the Roads in the Town of Otsego” presented by Sherlee Rathbone. Fly Creek Methodist Church, 811 Cty. Rd. 26, Fly Creek. Info,

SENIOR DINNER – 4-6 p.m. Student Coucil hosting dinner for senior citizens. Cherry Valley-Springfield Central School Cafeteria, 597 Co Rd 54, Cherry Valley. Info, Laura Carson, (607) 264-9332 ext. 501,

OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD – 4-6 p.m. Pack a shoebox with items that will bring joy to children as they are delivered around the world. Collection point at Main St. Baptist Church, corner of Main and Maple Sts., Oneonta. Info, @ or email or call (607)432-5712

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