This Old House - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1810234

This Old House

My maiden name was Cynthia Kendrick Sebolt — I am the third great-granddaughter of Captain Mercator Cooper on my mother’s ancestral side.

My concerns for the last five years have been for Cooper Hall and the lack of recognition that the Rogers Memorial Library has for this historic home and man.

Cooper Hall has been in our family for seven generations. Samuel Cooper built a small house on this site sometime between 1652 and 1714. Nathan Cooper bought the lot from his uncle in 1805 and built an A-frame home. In 1830, Captain Mercator Cooper married Maria Jane Rowley Green, daughter of Captain John Green, and moved into Cooper Hall. Mercator was responsible for the existing mansard roof, and small additions were made along the way by other generations.

My great-uncle sold the property in 1982 to a developer, and then, when it was sold to Rogers Memorial Library in 1986, problems arose. The library wanted to move Cooper Hall, which caused an uproar in the town. Ultimately, Cooper Hall stayed and was designated as a historic home.

I follow the news in Southampton and became very concerned about what was going on with the Pyrrhus Concer home — knocking it down and then all the problems and concerns over the rebuild.

Pyrrhus Concer was born in Cooper Hall on March 17, 1814, to his mother, Violet. Violet was a slave that Nathan and his wife, Olive Howell, owned.

Mercator Cooper was 11 years older than Pyrrhus Concer, and both chose the career of whaling.

Mercator worked his way up to master or captain, and Pyrrhus worked his way up to steerer. It took many years of experience and hard work to get to that level of seamanship, and the fact that he was a Black man made this title even more special.

Their real claim to fame was the famous voyage which began in November 20, 1843, when the Manhattan departed from Sag Harbor under Captain Cooper, who was then 39 years old. Pyrrhus, age 28, was the steerer of the ship.

I have to wonder, what is wrong with Southampton? Why won’t the Rogers Memorial Library embrace the wonderful historic history of Cooper Hall and Captain Cooper? Why won’t this town embrace Pyrrhus Concer and the rich African American history that he gave to Southampton? These two influential men, so closely linked together in so many ways, should be celebrated and honored by Southampton.

I am in full support of any effort that Southampton can make to keep these men’s legacies alive. Residents as well as visitors, and for the sake of future generations, must know about these two men who helped to make Southampton what it is today.

Cindy Burnham

Red Bank, New Jersey