Lucy Ann Lobdell is among us again.
This woman, known as “The Hunter” to my family and old time neighbors, is the subject of a new historical novel, “The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell,” by Fremont Center, NY resident William Klaber (Greenleaf Book Group Press, June 18, 2013).
A fictionalized memoir, the book traces Lucy’s life as she made her way in the world after she changed into her brother John’s clothes, bound her chest, and left home to live her life as a man named Joseph.
Born in Westerlo, NY in 1829, the real Lucy lived most of her life in and around the Delaware River Valley after her family’s move to the hardscrabble hills of our own Rock Valley. The family settled on the banks of Basket Creek.
Over a century later, writer William Klaber moved to The Basket and was told of the legend of Lucy Ann Lobdell by life-long Fremont resident and local historian Jack Niflot. Jack encouraged the author to write about Lucy, and offered his collection of writings, letters, and clippings, which he had gathered over a lifetime. This included the lengthy obituary published by the New York Times in 1879 under the headline: “Death of a Modern Diana, The Female Hunter of Long Eddy.” While the obit detailed much of Lucy’s complex life, it gave an inaccurate death date; Lucy didn’t die until 1912.
As a teenager (and to this day) I was captured by Lucy’s story, which was still talked about when I was a kid. After all, I was a girl who liked to carry my jackknife everywhere I went. I even drove over to the Wayne County Historical Society in Honesdale, PA (back when I had only a driver’s permit) to see if I could find the book she had been rumored to have written. At that time, I was told there was no such book and wasn’t allowed, for some reason or another, to see what artifacts they had.
The new novel tells of Lucy’s attempt to earn the status, freedoms and wages of a man. It details her adventures while giving dance and music lessons in Bethany, PA, her years on the Minnesota frontier where she was put on trial for the “crime” of wearing men’s clothing, and her love and marriage to Marie Perry by an unsuspecting judge in Damascus, PA. The novel also gives voice to the relentless confusion and fear she lived with.
It is interesting that the book, 12 years in the making, was published just days before the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act. It is also a sad coincidence that Jack Niflot, the impetus to this novel and my own dear friend, died June 22, just four days after the book came out.
Copies of the novel are available at Amazon.com.
Also, check out a presentation and discussion, “Interpreting the life and times of Lucy Lobdell,” to be given by Bambi Lobdell, author of “A Strange Sort of Being, the Transgender Life of Lucy Ann/Joseph Israel Lobdell, 1829 -1912” on August 17 at 2 p.m. at the Rock Valley One-Room Schoolhouse, Long Eddy, NY.