James Fenimore Cooper
The best-known books of James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) are The Last of the Mohicans and The Deerslayer, which can be found in full text for free at www.gutenberg.org. The tribe “Mohicans” is Cooper’s variant spelling of a tribe that lived in the area during his time named the “Mahicans.”
He only lived at his birthplace home in Burlington at 457 High Street as a baby, but the house, built in 1780, is preserved for visitors to this day. Burlington is a small town and the center, with its long rows of shops, lends itself to walking strolls. Read more about it here: https://www.loc.gov/item/nj0319.
As a young man, Cooper was schooled in Burlington and later stopped by the house and met the new owners, as is recorded in his writings.
Today, the walkway next to the Cooper home leads to a research library that will provide information about what life was like for the Coopers and how the house changed through the years. Ask the museum staff for guidance through the home. Of special note is a display of early editions of The Last of the Mohicans published in many languages and with different illustrators.
An interesting anecdote is that a chair that may have belonged to the mother of James Fenimore Cooper remains in the house. As the story goes, she did not want to move out of the house when the time came, so she was lifted out while sitting in the chair.
While visiting, you will also see a bed and other belongings of the brother of Napoleon, who had fled to the same area.
The house next to the Cooper house is another historical structure that now serves as a charming interactive children’s museum for ages 3 to 9, as the result of grant funding.
Dr. James Still Historic Office and Education Center
South of the James Fenimore Cooper Birthplace and also in Burlington County is the historical medical office of Dr. James Still (1812-1882), open to the public and now serving the local community as an education center. Visit the website of the Dr. James Still Center for updates and information at www.drjamesstillcenter.org.
Dr. James Still (1812-1882) was a son of enslaved persons and a descendant of a Guinean prince in Africa, according to https://www.americaslibrary.gov, which also states this about his brother William:
“In 1872 William Still wrote the classic book The Underground Railroad about the heroism of the runaway slaves, many of who stopped at his house on their way to freedom, and the people who helped them escape. If you want to learn more about the people on the Underground Railroad, this would be a good book to read.”
As an adult, Still decided to study medicine in order to serve the community as a doctor, treating a full range of physical ailments. He experimented with using herbs to create medicinal treatments and allowed patients to purchase the healing mixtures in order to continue to work on their healing independently. He became very popular and eventually one of the wealthiest landowners in Burlington County, New Jersey, according to http://www.drjamesstillcenter.org/drjamesstill/LifeDrStill.html.
Dr. James Still’s autobiography is entitled Early Recollections and the Life of Dr. James Still. It was published in 1877, according to https://www.goodreads.com.
These two stops in Burlington County are the fourth and fifth destinations on our New Jersey Author Adventures Trail.