Mrs. Arnold & Daughters

          In 1837 the Arnold family opened their door to a hungry and tired fisherman. They supplied the man with pancakes, venison, and a bed. That was the beginning of the hotel business in the Adirondack foothills. In The Story of a Wilderness, Joseph F. Grady proposed that the Arnold women deserve the credit for the success of the hotel. “As advertising mediums, Amy Arnold and her ten daughters directed more attention to the Fulton Chain and Central Adirondack region than did sturdy Otis and his robust son, Ed,” wrote Grady. “They [the women] did the house and farm work, cared for the horses and other livestock, and ministered to the comfort of the Manor’s guests.”

          Amy Barber (circa 1808-1868) was the daughter of a New England farmer. A few years later, after marrying, Amy and Otis Arnold moved to the old Herreshoff Manor, near what is today the village of Thendara. Their daughter Joanna was born in 1838, being the first white child recorded as born in the Fulton Chain region.

Arnold Women

Twin sisters, Dolly and Julia Arnold (1850s-1860s)

Image courtesy of the Town of Webb Historical Association

          The Arnolds were 15 or 20 miles from the closest neighbor. There was no school, church, entertainment place, or store. The Arnolds met their needs by trapping and hunting, and by farming on the 3,000 cleared acres. Most of the plowing, raking, and sowing was done by the girls. It was said, “Two of the girls threshed alone, with common flails, five hundred bushels of oats in one winter.”

          By 1850, the Arnolds had several horses and the girls had become excellent handlers and riders. Author Rev. Joel Headley said the girls rode “with a wildness and recklessness that makes one tremble for their safety.” They always rode without a saddle, sometimes astraddle, sometimes sideways, sometimes without bridle or halter, guiding the horse by a stroke of their hand. Headley thought the girls looked beautiful---”with their hair streaming in the wind, and dresses flying about their white limbs and bare feet, careering across the plains, they look wild and spirited enough for Amazons.”

Arnold Women

Harper's New Monthly Magazine, July 1859

          It was Mrs. Arnold who ran the household and the hotel, and most of the travel writers found her to be an exceptional woman. Headley said she was “the queen of all woodsmen’s wives” and that she could “stump the coolest, most hackneyed man of the world that ever faced a woman.”

          Another tourist noted the Arnolds’ superior use of a smudge. E. R. Wallace wrote, “As we approached the house we passed through a yard where the daughters of the family were engaged in milking, with a little smoking fire beneath every cow.” Some of the onlookers thought the girls were “smoking their beef with the skins on!” or “producing a sort of coagulation whereby the creamy globules are precipitated.” The truth was that the smoldering fires drove the punkies from the cows “so that they might be milked in peace.”

Mrs. Arnold & Daughters