Fenimore Avenue, Cooper Avenue, Oak Openings… around Kalamazoo you can find, if you know what to look for, evidence that a certain famous writer was once much admired here, though mostly forgotten now.
James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) best-known for The Last of the Mohicans, often came to Kalamazoo to visit his niece (married to Horace Comstock) and even owned property here. One of Cooper’s last works was Oak Openings, with the Village of Schoolcraft and the Kalamazoo River as its setting.
Cooper’s works have been in and out of favor—mostly out—since the 1840s. Mark Twain’s scathing reviews in the 1890s practically buried him. But I’m finding that The Pathfinder, with its exciting adventures on Lake Ontario, is a thumping good read, and a new biography by Wayne Franklin is said to “restore Cooper to his rightful place in American literature.”
For more information about Cooper’s place in Kalamazoo history, visit our Local History Room at Central.
To learn more about Cooper's life and works, visit the webpages of the James Fenimore Cooper Society , or watch the video archives of C-Span's American Writers segment about him.
The Leatherstocking Tales