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The Gospel and Schools Lots of De Kalb

An Opinion written by Silas Wright Jr. in 1837 states that immediately after Judge Cooper removed to De Kalb and established his land office there and selected a site for a village, he found these two public lots (Gospel and Schools) situated on the southerly bank of the Oswegatchie River and close upon the western bounds of his proposed village lots.

The road which he planned to build from Black River (currently Old Northern Rd.) must necessarily pass entirely through the lots. The plans of the state did not promise that either of the lots would soon be opened for actual settlement, nor that a road would be laid through them, which would mean that in the immediate vicinity of the proposed village there would be a wilderness which would extend for two full miles along the most important road leading to and from it.

Consideration for the welfare of the future village doubtless led Judge Cooper to assume to mistake the location of these lots and to treat them as a part of his purchase. To be sure they were among the first lands that were sold by him. Things were even more complicated since most of the settlers on these state lands were neighbors of Judge Cooper's from Otsego county, whom he had induced to exchange their improved farms in that county for lands in the then wilderness of De Kalb, and practically all had paid for their lands in full or made substantial payments on them.

These settlers discovered in 1811 that Judge Cooper never had title to the lands and that they were still owned by the state and as might be expected the feeling against the Judge rose very high. In an attempt to right the wrong which the Judge had done (his family) proposed to exchange with the state some of the lands which he owned on the opposite side of the river, for those belonging to the state which he had sold.

This proposal, however brought even more trouble since the lands on the opposite side (Maple Ridge & River Rd) of the river were less valuable originally than the land which he had seized and sold, so that not only did the state object to the transfer but two factions rose in revolt against (the Cooper Family).

In that year (1826), the settlers memorialized the legislature and obtained the passage of an act (Chapter 244 of the laws of 1826), which permitted those who had established themselves on the state lands to purchase these lands from the state at a valuation to be made without reference to the improvements. Since the people already had paid Judge Cooper his price for the lands, and this meant paying for them again, it is hardly to be wondered at that the name of Cooper nor even that of Williamstown failed to be attached permanently, to any important portion of the section.

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