Voice of the People: Daily Life in the Antebellum Rural Delaware County New York Area
Family and Daily Life
Background: Lucy Ann Lobdell was born in Westerlo, Albany County, NY in 1829. Lured by cheap land, Lucy's family moved to Delaware County when Lucy was young. Her father was unable to do much work. Lucy took up hunting to provide food for her family. She felt sorry for a man by the name of George Washington Slater and married him. He mentally abused her and deserted her when their infant child was a few weeks old. Lucy again took up hunting and spent much of the rest of her life as a man.
Google Map indicating where the events of Lucy's life occurred.
Lobdell, Lucy Ann. Narrative of Lucy Ann Lobdell, the Female Hunter of Delaware and Sullivan Counties, N. Y. New York: Published by the Authoress. 1855.
Excerpt from Page 36
As I have greatly enlarged on the first part of this work, I shall be obliged to
pass over some hundred little hunting adventures, and give them a place in my
next book. But those days have passed, and I have left those happy scenes; for
after the work of Mr. Talmage, the peddler, came before the public, in 1854, my
hunting grounds were infested with hunters, and thus I was obliged last winter
to hunt but little. I will copy his work here, as I may make truth appear
convincing as it regards my present occupation:
Bridgeport, Conn., Jan. 2, 1853.
“MR. POMEROY – SIR: I received a letter a few days ago from a friend of mine, from this State, traveling as a peddler in the wild portions of Delaware and Sullivan counties, N.Y., in which he related an account of an adventure he had, which, if you think worth the trouble, you will please correct mistakes and improper language, and give it a place in your paper. The story is as follows; I give it in his own words:
“ ‘ I must relate an adventure that I met with a few days since. As I was trudging along one afternoon, in the town of Freemont, one of the border towns of Sullivan county, I was overtaken by what I, at first, supposed was a young man, with a rifle on his shoulder. Being well pleased with the idea of having company through the woods, I turned round and said, ‘Good afternoon, sir.’ ‘Good afternoon,’ replied my new acquaintance, but in a tone of voice that sounded rather peculiar. My suspicions were at once aroused, and to satisfy myself, a made some inquiries in regard to hunting, which were readily answered by the young lady whom I had thus encountered. She said that she had been out ever since daylight; had followed a buck nearly all day, and had got but one shot and wounded him; but as there was little snow, she could not get him, and
was going to try him the next day, hoping that she could get another shot, and was quite certain that she could kill him. Although I can not give a very clear idea of her appearance, I will try to describe her dress. The only article of female apparel visible was a close-fitting hood upon her head, such as is often worn by deer hunters; next an India-rubber over-coat. Her nether limbs were encased in a pair of snug-fitting corduroy pants, and a pair of Indian moccasins were upon her feet. She had a good looking rifle upon her shoulder, and a brace of double-barrelled pistols in the side-pockets of her coat, while a most formidable hunting-knife hung suspended by her side. Wishing to witness her skill with her hunting instruments, I commenced bantering her in regard to shooting. She smiled, and said that she was as good a shot as was in the woods, and to convince me, took out her hunting-knife, and cut a ring, about four inches in diameter, on a tree, with a small spot in the centre; then stepping back thirty yards, and drawing up one of her pistols, put both balls inside the ring. She then, at eighteen rods from the tree, fired a ball from her rifle into the very centre. We shortly came to her father’s house, and I gladly accepted of an invitation to stop there over night.
“ ‘ The maiden-hunter instead of setting down to rest as most hunters do when they get home, remarked that she had got the chores to do. So, out she went, and fed, watered, and stabled a pair of young horses, a yoke of oxen, and three cows. She then went to the saw-mill, and brought a slab on her shoulder, that I should not like to have carried, and with an axe and saw, she soon worked it up into stove-wood. Her next business was to change her dress, and get tea, which she did in a manner which would have been creditable to a more scientific cook. After tea, she finished up the usual house-work, and then sat down and commenced plying her needle in the most lady-like manner. I ascertained that her mother was quite feeble, and her father confined to the house with the rheumatism. The whole family were intelligent, well-educated, and communicative. They had moved from Schoharie county into
the woods about three years before; and the father was taken lame the first winter after their arrival, and has not been able to do any thing since, and Lucy Ann, as her mother called her, has taken charge of, ploughed, planted, and harvested the farm; learned to chop wood, drive the team and do all the necessary work.
“ ‘ Game being plenty, she had learned how to use her father’s rifle, and spent some of her leisure time in hunting. She had not killed a deer yet, but expressed her determination to kill one, at least, before New-Year’s. She boasted of having shot any quantity of squirrels, partridges, and other small game. After chatting some time, she brought a violin from a closet, and played fifteen or twenty tunes, and also sang a few songs, accompanying herself on the violin, in a style that showed she was far from being destitute of musical skill. After spending a pleasant evening, we retired. The next morning she was up at four o’clock, and before sunrise, had the breakfast out of the way, and her work out of doors and in the house done; and when I left, a few minutes after sunrise, she had got on her hunting-suit, and was loading her rifle for another chase after the deer.’”
men waited on me home which gave Mr. Slater such a
story to report about me. He well knew that nothing else would touch my feelings
like a report of that nature, so he hesitated not to sink me, if possible, in
the eyes of the public and my friends. But I had a clear conscience, and I
waited to proclaim the truth. After some lapse of time, and after my child was
born, Mr. Slater came back, and proposed living together again, as he said that
at the time he went off, he was almost crazy and confused. I told him that I
could take care of one child, and that I feared he might get crazy again. So I
thought it proper for him to wait a while till he had become rich, as he said
before he went away, he should always be a poor man while he had me to take care
of; and as I thought that I could get along without his care, he had better try
and see what he could do. So he stayed at Mr. Levally’s some months, and worked
very steady. But as I was not to be shaken in my resolution, he finally went off
to Westerlo again to live. After living there some length of time, he got some
one to write a letter for him to me, which I will copy here:
Westerlo, Oct. 5th, 1854.
MISS LUCY A. LOBDELL,
(As you call yourself, but which is Slater truly, but I address you as you call yourself to please you,) in truth, I wish it were as it was once – peace and harmony. Then I took comfort in my home, and in your presence; but now you, perhaps, will not agree with me. Let that be as it may, I will say that I am well, and hope these few lines will find you enjoying the same blessing. If you could but know the lonely hours that I spend in Westerlo, you would have some words of comfort to send me. Aunt Becky is in this place, and said that you was sick. Sorry was I to hear that; but I hope that you
will gain your health soon. This news I have just heard, but how long you had been ill, I did not hear. I wish you to write as soon as you get this, and let me know how you and that dear little child are. I long to see it once more, and if I hear favorable news from you, I will be in your place soon. But if you talk as if you would like to see the best friend you have in the world, you must say something favorable to me; for I do not wish to come and go to any place unless I am wanted. You must give my best wishes to your parents, and brother and sisters, and all inquiring friends. Tell them I wish to see them all. Now I will close, and say, I bid you do as you see best for yourself. You are capable of doing your own business; and I hope that you will not forget your best friend,
G. W. SLATER
dress in men’s attire to seek labor, as I was used to men’s work. And as I might work harder at house-work, and get only a dollar per week, and I was capable of doing men’s work, and getting men’s wages, I resolved to try, after hearing that Mr. Slater was coming, to get work away among strangers.
I accordingly got up one morning, and it seemed as if I must go that day. I did not dare to tell our folds my calculations, for I knew that they would say I was crazy, and tie me up, perhaps. So I went up stairs, saying I was going to dress, and go a hunting as I was accustomed to. I hurried and put on a suit of clothes, and then my hunting-suit outside. When I came down stairs, mother came to ward me, and was going to take hold of me to see what made me look so thickly dressed. I saw her move, and stepped out doors saying that I must hurry, as it was getting later. I drove the cow up before I left, and then hurried up the mountain. I could not even kiss my little Helen, nor tell her how her mother was going to seek employment to get a little spot to live, an earn something for her as she grew up. So, I stole away with a heavy heart, for I knew that I was going among strangers, who did not know my circumstances, or see my heart, so broken, and know its struggles. As I was walking down to the Hankins Depot I met one of our nearest neighbors. He called to me, and asked me where I was going. I made no reply, but walked on; and I had got but a few yards, when I heard him say, “There goes the female hunter.” I kept on walking in the meantime and pretty good pace, and then I stepped a little one side in the bushes to change my hunting attire. I in a few minutes saw some one pass the road who appeared to be in search of me. After the lapse
of a short time, I walked out of the woods in a different direction, and went to Miss Hankins’s, and she kept me over night. I arose in the morning at four o’clock, and walked to the Callicoon Depot, and bought a ticket for Narrowsburgh.
I must now leave the reader for a short time, and then I intend to write another book, in which I shall give a full account of my adventures whilst I adopted male attire; and as I am about to leave the reader for a short time, allow me to state their reasons for my adoption of man’s apparel. The first reason, then, is this: I have no home of my own; but it is true that I have a father’s house, and could be permitted to stay there, and at the same time, I should be obliged to toil from morning till night, and then I could demand but a dollar per week; and how much, I ask, would this do to support a child and myself. I tell you, ladies and gentlemen, woman has taken upon herself the curse that was laid on father Adam and mother Eve; for by the sweat of her brow does she eat her bread, and in sorrow does she bring forth children. Again, woman is the weaker vessel, and she toils from morning till night, and then the way her sorrows cease is this – her children are to be attended to; she must dress and undress them for bed; after their little voices are hushed, she must sit up and look after the preparations for breakfast, and, probably, nine, ten, eleven, or twelve o’clock comes round before she can go to rest. Again, she must be up at early dawn to get breakfast, and whilst the breakfast is cooking, she must wash and dress some half a dozen children. After finishing up the usual morning’s house-work, such as washing dishes, making beds, and filing the kitchen-floor, then comes the dinner as usual. Then comes the husband
– the pudding have been burned a trifle when mother was busy at something else; then come complaints in regard to the pudding. Well, mother was busy with Bridget or Patrick, settling some quarrel or blows, and now mother has made father a little out of taste with the dinner. And this is the way the world is jogging along.
And, now, I ask, if a man can do a woman’s work any quicker or better than a woman herself; or could he collect his thoughts sufficiently to say his prayers with a clear idea? No; if he was confused and housed up with the children all day, he would not hesitate to take the burden off his children’s shoulders, and allow woman’s wages to be on an equality with those of the man. Is there one, indeed, who can look upon that little daughter, and feel that she soon will grow up to toil for the unequal sum allotted to compensate her toil. I feel that I can not submit to see all the bondage with which woman is oppressed, and listen to the voice of fashion, and repose upon the bosom of death. I can not be reconciled to die, and feel my poor babe will be obliged to toil and feel the wrongs that are unjustly heaped upon her. I am a mother; I love my offspring even better than words can tell. I can not bear to die and leave that little one to struggle in every way to live as I have to do.
Again, we see the girl that is obliged to work day by day, and has no home; we see that one toil on - on – on; and the scene becomes changed. We behold her married for the sake of getting a home. Well, suppose we look into that home for a short period – what do we perceive? For a short period, we discover that all is very well. At length, the man becomes tired of being at home, for some reason or another. Perhaps he does not find it quite so
pleasing to sit at home in the evening and hear the baby cry. It is less tedious to walk over to the hotel and learn the news, while mother loves her darling, and will try to soothe his sufferings into slumber; for, indeed, he is crying with pain, and can not tell why he suffers. Thus we see the home that our child has found. Ah! She indeed has found a home – a habitation of care and sorrow! She indeed hugs the cords that bind her there. Again, the husband comes home a little the worse for wine or rum. The mother marks that staggering form as he wends his way to the bed whereon he goes to sleep and forget the care he now throws away in the whirl of drunkenness. Mother clings tighter to that babe, and cries to that Being of Wisdom to enable her to bear the ills that thus betide her. Well, we will follow yet a little farther. WE behold that the father has squandered all his living in drunkenness. He has become a drunkard; his home is now a hovel of wretchedness and misery. The mother is obliged to toil, day by day, for her little ones, and she can scarcely get a morsel of food for herself, as she will toil and feed on the crumbs. And, now, we see again that mother has fallen. Her babes are left to the charity of the world. They have no kind parent to kiss away the tear that courses down their pale cheeks; no mother to pillow their heads upon her heaving bosom. And when thus deprived of a tender mother, we need not wonder that our jails are filled with criminals. The warmth of a mother’s love has long ago been extinguished; and thus the heart has had a sad blight thrown upon its life to make its darkness more terrible.
And now, reader, you have read, in part, a history of your unfortunate writer; but may God grant that you
may never experience the sorrow I now feel. I am among strangers penning this little book. I am not permitted to lay the pen aside and kiss the child of my bosom. No; I am far away, struggling with my pen to lift the veil that has so long shrouded the hearts of fathers and mothers as regards the future for their offspring.
And now you, perhaps, are rich and have plenty. Could you bear to suppose that the little child you so fondly love should, after your body is crumbling back to earth again, be obliged to toil with the common class, and drudge; day by day , for a scanty livlihood, when, if you had been a prudent man, you might have foreseen and provided for the evil. Help, one and all, to aid woman, the weaker vessel. If she is willing to toil, give her wages equal with that of man. And as in sorrow she bears her own curse, (nay, indeed, she helps to bear a man’s burden also,) secure to her her rights, or permit her to wear the pants, and breathe the pure air of heaven, and you stay and be convinced at home with the children how pleasant a task it is to act the part that woman must act. I suppose that you will laugh at the idea of such a manner of convincing; but I suppose it will not do to convince the man of feeling, who can see and pity, and lend a helping hand to release the afflicted, the child of your bosom, the choice of your heart, young man.
And, now, as I have done speaking of these bodies, these tenements of clay, let me speak of the spirit that dwells therein; let me tell you of a promised rest to the faithful; to those that serve God and love to serve him. Had I been deprived of a hope in this life, I could not have borne the keen arrows that have been hurled, and wounding me continually. But my Heavenly Father has pro-
tected and supported me in all my trials; and if I but meet the approbation of my Heavenly Friend, I shall not fall by the hand of my enemies. And now I must close with a few remarks; and as I am about to say farewell, permit me to invite you to choose my Friend to go with, and support you through the short journey of life; for as the Scriptures saith, “Man that is born of a woman hath but a few days, and they are full of trouble.” It is a true, that every heart feels its own sorrows. Let me point you to one who will be a friend that sticketh closer than a brother; and for wisdom , search the Scriptures, for in them you have eternal life; and although I may never behold your faces in the flesh, I feel that I shall meet you at the great Judgment Day. And then how happy I should feel, if I, in writing this little scrawl, had persuaded a brother or sister, in the flesh, to love God, and keep His commandments, that they may have a right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates to that great city. And though some do call me a strange sort of being, I thank God, in whom I believe, and in whom I trust, and who is my defence, and I can praise Him, that He has given me a heart, that He will mould and fashion after His holy will; and as nothing is more calculated to make a heaven on earth than the love of God, I can say, that my affliction has taught me a thousand truths of His loving kindness; for whomsoever the Lord loveth, He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son and daughter of Adam. And though the hand that has written this may crumble and mingle with dust again, yet this work may remain as our works will follow. And as the present day and age of the world appears to be black with iniquity, I would say take the Word of God for your counsel and guide. If you love God, and
keep His commandments, you will get to heaven in
spite of professed preachers, or churches, or the devil and all his dominies;
and though your name may be cast out as evil, you can rejoice, knowing that if
you but endure to the end you will be saved. Amen !
Your humble servant,
L. A. LOBDELL.
[End of book]
Wise, P. M. Case of Sexual Perversion. Alienist and neurologist: A quarterly journal of scientific, clinical and forensic psychiatry and neurology 4, no.1 (1883): 87-91.
A Queer Married Couple Warren Ledger, November 9, 1883
Photo of Lucy Ann Lobdell is courtesy of Lucy's family.
Transcribed by Margaret Monaco. Misspellings have carefully been preserved.All materials on this website are for non-profit, educational use.