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Warren County Historical Society Presents …
The Digital Version “REWIND”
Jeffrey Cowper, Queensbury’s First Permanent White Resident
Jeffrey Cowper was the first permanent white inhabitant of what would become the Town of Queensbury. He resided in the temporary Block House at the Halfway Brook, located in the area of today’s Enterprise Car Rental across from Price Chopper’s location on Upper Glen Street (Route 9)
While little is known of Mr. Cowper, we do know that as a young man he was a sailor. Early records indicate that he was a second lieutenant on the ship, Snow Cicero. Ephraim Cook, the owner of that vessel, stated that in the event of his death, he would like the command of the ship passed to Richard Harris (his 1st Lieutenant) and Jeffrey Cowper.
This would be similar to the Snow Cicero on which Jeffrey Cowper served before coming to Warren County.
At one point, Mr. Cowper successfully operated an inn at Fort George, which gave him reason to operate other such establishments. Sir Jeffrey Amherst gave permission “to occupy the small post at Half-way brook between Fort Edward and Lake George.” Mr. Cowper was probably a dependent, possibly even a relative of Lord Amherst, perhaps giving him an edge on living at the Blockhouse.
According to a proclamation by Honorable James DeLancy, Esq., the King’s Lieutenant Governor and Commander-in-chief in and over the province of New York and the territories depending thereon in America, settlers were invited to settle in the area between Lake George and Fort Edward once the fort at Crown Point was well under way.
In DeLancy’s proclamation, dated 21 September 1759, it states:
“…as an encouragement to Settlers, he (Major General Amherst) has desired I would make known, that those who with the leave of this Government shall now choose to go and settle between Lake George and Fort Edward, will there find, three Several Spots of cleared Ground, two of them capable of containing half a dozen Families each, and the other (Halfway Brook) not less than twelve; on which shall be left standing for their Convenience the Wooden Hutts and Coverings of the Troops that have been posted there since the beginning of the Campaign, which from the footing we have now at Crown Point, will be no longer necessary, and will be evacuated and left for the use of those who shall become Settlers.”
In a letter to a Mr. Sharp, dated 20th October, 1762, Sir Jeffrey Amherst wrote the following:
The permit to Jeffrey Cooper (sic) to occupy the small Post at Half-way Brook between Fort Edward and Lake George was only intended for the preservation of the barracks, etc., that had been erected there, and for the conveniency of Passengers, as I judged it unnecessary after the reduction of Canada, to leave a Garrison at that Post.
Whereas W. Jeffery Cooper has established an Inn at Fort George, for the Convenience of Passengers, which I am Informed proves usefull (sic) and commodious to all Travellers passing that way, and that he has requested my leave to continue there for carrying on his occupation, I do, in consideration of the good character given me of him, not only permit him to continue at that Post, in the aforesaid station of an Innholder, but I likewise permit him, either thro’ himself, or other proper Persons, on whose good, sober, (???), to carry on the same business of an Innholder at the Halfway brook, which I have for that purpose this day made over to him.
By His Excellency Jeffery Amherst, Esq
Jeffery Amherst – he spelled his first name this way.
The proclamation goes on to say that as long as Cooper (Cowper) and the people working for him “…remain sober, discrete, and do not sell spirits to the soldiers, they will continue to enjoy the privileges granted them.”
In a Rewind column written about Blind Rock, John Strough offers the following insight on Jeffrey Cowper:
“After the fort (Fort Edward), the next and perhaps last outpost of civilization they would encounter would be Geoffrey (or Jeffrey) Cowper’s trading post, located at the intersection of the Halfway Brook and the Military Road. After selling the northern traveler a few vital provisions, I am sure Geoffrey Cowper would offer his customary warning, ‘Beware near the top of the hill just yonder, at the cross trails, near Blind Rock, it is a known place of ambush, frequented by thieves and others.’ Thanking him, the traveler proceeded northward. Past the swamp and nearing the crest of the hill, the now wary traveler, heard a rustling sound up ahead. “Was it the wind or the ambushers?” the traveler pondered. Just to be safe, the traveler decided to bury his bag of gold coins aside the Military Road. If the sound were just the wind, he would return to retrieve his money. Cautiously, he proceeded closer to the crest of the hill. If it was not the wind that made that rustling sound, he would never return to retrieve his coins!”
Early Map of Queensbury.
Article prepared by Marilyn Van Dyke and Stan Cianfarano for the Warren County Historical Society.
© March 1 2015, Warren County Historical Society.