Julia Burton Preston

Julia Burton Preston

Julia, courtesy of Preston Family

          Julia Adella Burton (1896-1969) was born in Piseco. Her mother came from the Courtney family who had lived in the Piseco Lake area for generations. Her father was John Burton, who came from Quebec, Canada and was Indian, of Cree descent. 

          Outside the hand-hewn log cabin she grew up in, Julia watched birds, red squirrels, rabbits and chipmunks. As a young teenager, her father taught her to shoot a .22 caliber rifle. Observing wildlife then became more than a child’s pastime. Knowing the ways and movements of animals made Julia a good hunter, which was part of her family’s survival. They were careful never to waste meat and the furs were sold to bring in much needed income. Fishing also was more than leisure and Julia learned all the best spots to find big trout and bass, pickerel and bullhead.

Julia Burton Preston

Julia and Charlie on their wedding day

Courtesy of Preston Family

          At the age of 16, Julia married Charlie W. Preston, whose father, Samuel, owned the Hosley House, a hotel in Wells, New York. Charlie was a guide. He and Julia would hunt and fish together and in the winter set trap lines. In those days they would get top dollar for high-quality furs of mink, weasel, beaver, and muskrat.

          Julia is widely reputed to be the first woman licensed as a guide in New York State. She started guiding groups of hunters in 1914. She would get $10 a day to take a party into the mountains. She loved to use a Winchester 25.20 rifle but her arms were too short. So Charlie cut down the stock for her and she used it for many years.

          When Charlie was in the service during World War II, Julia and her uncle built a log cabin on the Old Piseco Road. The cabin still stands today and a sign beside it honors Julia as “Distinguished Woman of New York State.”

          Julia’s son Homer became a game protector. After he’d been at it for a while Julia happened to hear a conversation among a few of his fellow officers. One of them said Homer was the best officer he’d ever trained. Julia piped up, “He should be, I taught him everything I know about violating!”

          Julia enjoyed knitting, crocheting and embroidering. She also liked to arrange dried flowers, pinecones and twigs. One day she was dissecting a pinecone with Charlie’s jigsaw and she cut off the tip of her index finger. She was not one to complain usually, but it was her trigger finger! 

            In her diary Julia described her pleasure not just in hunting wildlife but also in appreciating the sight of them: “Saw a beautiful doe in the red coat yesterday, she was standing, feeding and watching us and that wonderful color showed so vividly against the green fir trees. Sure was a picture. Even while enjoying the picture the thought crept in...boy---she sure would taste good...So beautiful on the hoof or on the platter...Both very satisfying.”

Julia Burton Preston