Thursday, August 27, 2015

Pie for Sale: Lucy Stoddard Wakefield

by ~ Linda Farmer Harris

What's your favorite pie? As a child, I was partial to lemon meringue. The higher the meringue the better. My Grandma Farmer was the master of whipping up the egg whites.
Lemon Meringue Pie
Lucy Ann Stoddard Wakefield was a master pie maker, too. In 1849, Dr. John and Lucy Ann Stoddard Wakefield arrived in Dry Diggins, California. He was an English-born dentist and she was eager to earn her own money. The money she inherited from her father's estate was controlled by her husband. 

One of her relatives, Ship Captain Leslie Bryson, wrote after a visit that, "wretched & miserable pride forbade her to complain of her own choice & stir the stink among her Friends, although he [Dr. Wakefield] was in the constant habit of tentelizing [sp] and insulting her feelings with abusive epithets & jealous aspersions of all her connections."

She looked around and decided that the Argonauts, as the miners were called, needed coffee and dessert as consolation for hard days in the mines. According to the Placerville Democrat, May 8, 1891, Mrs. Wakefield baked dried-apple pies in deep, wide tins and sold the whole pie for two dollars.

In the beginning, she sold them from her down-town home. Folks would stop in for coffee ($.50) and a quarter of a pie for $.50. She sold an average of 20 dozen (240 pies) a week. 

Died-Apple Pie
Can you imagine preparing enough apples to dry, mix the spices, and dough to fill 240 pie tins every week? I doubt she used more than a paring knife.

I'm doing good to prepare enough for a dozen turn-overs and I have the handy dandy apple peeler.

It is reported that over 100 different apple parer patents were granted from 1850 to 1890. Out of all the antique designs, only two have made it to modern time: the turntable design and the lathe design. The arc design didn't make it.

Antique Apple Parers/Peelers
Special thanks to Mark Viney, 
curator of The Virtual Apple Parer Museum, for above picture.

Lucy remarked in a letter to friends in her home town of New Haven, Connecticut, that she worked long days "without anyone to fetch as much as a bucket of water." Apparently she didn't have the advantage of the Apple Bees
popular back east.

In 1850, she transferred her business to a log cabin on Main Street, somewhere about the site of Alderson's store, below the Post Office. Dr. Wakefield allowed his wife to use her inheritance money to pay $250 for the cabin.

Dry Diggins, 1849 - became Placerville, CA, in 1854

She wrote to relatives that she rose before dawn, finished the first batch by daylight, then baked a second batch in the afternoon. In the Fall of 1851, she decided she didn't intend to work more than three months longer. She was tired of work and only wanted enough to set aside funds for a comfortable life. The self-imposed deadline passed and she was still making pies. By that time, she had receipts totaling more than $25,000.

She wrote to her friends Lucius and Rebecca that "there is no way for a woman to make money except by hard work of some sort." 

Her entertainment was Whist Parties at home in the evenings. Whist, according to Wikipedia, is a "classic English trick-taking card game which was widely played in the 18th and 19th centuries. Although the rules are extremely simple, there is enormous scope for scientific play." 

Whist was derived from the older game Ruff and Honours. Bridge is the game that replaced Whist as the most popular international game among serious card players. For fun you might want to play Whist at

Lucy took advantage of the 1851 California Legislation allowing residents of six months or more to file for divorce on such grounds as impotency, desertion, neglect, adultery, and habitual intemperance. 

She filed the first divorce in El Dorado County, District Court of Coloma, on the grounds of cruelty and jealousy. The jury ruled in her favor based on her reputation of honest and hard work. It's said that being attractive didn't hurt either. She was awarded the couple's home, the bakery, all of her earnings, and the rest of her inheritance.

Not content to be the former Mrs. Wakefield, she persuaded California Senator Benjamin F. Keene to draft an act in the Statutes of California to allow women to change their names. When Chapter 201 was approved on February 28, 1852, Lucy changed her name back to Lucy Ann Stoddard.

In April, 1852, the California Legislature passed an act authorizing married women to do business as sole traders independent of their husbands. The inspired Lucy to begin a series of real estate deals.

She sold the Main Street log house and cooking stove to W.M. Krahmer and A.M.Halftermeyer for $1,000, a 300 percent return on her initial investment of $250. She paid $800 for the Thomas & Young Mercantile Store. She bought a lot on the east side of Main opposite the Mercantile.

On May 10, 1852, she married Christopher Clayton Batterman. Within a week of this marriage, she filed the first deed under the separate property act.

Lucy died at the age of 78. In her April 3, 1895 obituary, the Walker Lake Bulletin reported, "She was well known on the Comstock."

Linda Farmer Harris

Lin and her husband, Jerry, live on a ranch in Chimney Rock, Colorado. She writes historical fiction for adults and children. Her enjoyment of genealogy and family history adds unique elements to her stories.

Her novella, The Lye Water Bride, is included in the California Gold Rush Brides Collection (Barbour, 2016).


  1. I really enjoy a good coconut cream with that wonderful meringue! Wow 240 pies a week! I'm tickled when I accomplish 1 a month for dessert :) I really enjoyed Lucy's story, what a strong woman..

    1. Hi Deanna, thank you. I love meringue, too. Can't have the meringue shell candies any more, but I still pine over them at the grocer's.There is so much more to her story. Being a "first" in divorce and name change for her area in California is just the tip of the ice burg. She would be considered a driving force for women's right in our century.

  2. Good for Lucy to take charge of her life. I prefer my own apple pie, but I never say no to chocolate cream.

    1. Hi Terri, Lucy was quite the entrepreneur of her day. She was still wheeling and dealing after her divorce from Dr. Wakefield and marriage to Christopher Clayton Batterman. I'm partial to deep dish apple pies with crunchy apples like Granny Smith. You won't hear me saying no to chocolate either.

  3. What an amazing woman! All that energy without any vitamin supplements, ha! Thanks for the link to whist, too--it was one of the most popular card games of the regency. :)

    1. Hi Linore, I thought of you and your regency connection when I discovered she was a Whist player. Played a few hands myself after I finished the article. I'm not sure I'd have the fortitude to keeping going in the face of hardship in an 1849 mining town.

  4. A hard-working lady! I can't even imagine! I bet she was a hoot! Thanks for the great post.

    1. Hi Carrie, thank you. Glad you stopped by. From some of her letters back to friends and relatives she had a good sense of humor, but was so no-nonsense about business. She must have been a formidable card player.

  5. Very interesting post, LInda. What an enterprising and independent woman she was!

    1. Thank you, Marilyn. She was apparently hardy and hale. One account says she rode horseback New Haven Conn. to Dry Diggins not on the wagon. Another account claimed it was her husband, Dr. Wakefield who rode the horse. At any rate, a wagon or horse would be difficult.

  6. Pie making is one of my specialties, but I can't imagine making that many and working that hard. The most I've ever made was five different kinds for my family at Thanksgiving one year. I like lemon meringue, but my favorite is chocolate cream pie. My husband loves coconut, so he gets a coconut pie for his birthday and special occasions. I like Lucy's grit and determination. Thanks for an interesting post.

  7. Hi Martha, you're welcome. I enjoyed discovering Lucy Ann Stoddard Wakefield Batterman. Since you're the chef and baker in our blog crew, I wondered what kind of pies you'd make for Rex and how many when your family gathers. Thanks for sharing. I liked Lucy's grit and determination, too. She makes me feel lazy.

  8. The pies I made for Thanksgiving were Apple, Chocolate, Coconut, Pecan and Pumpkin. All home-made. I would love to have been able to have one of Lucy's pies. Bet she made them like my grandmother in the late 19th century and early 20th using lard instead of the shortening we use today.

  9. Wow! Lucy was an amazing woman. Thanks for sharing her story!

  10. Hi Linda,
    Hope this finds you well! Wondering if there are any images of Lucy? My child is doing a report on Lucy and perhaps was hoping for a pic to add to her report. Thanks for a wonderful resource!

  11. Hi Linda,
    Wondering if you have a pic of Lucy. Couldn't find anything listed or any drawing. My child would like to add this to her paper on Lucy. Your web site is wonderful! Thanks, Steve

  12. Hi Mr. Sherwin. No, I don't have any pictures or drawings of Lucy. My preliminary research centered on her and her first husband Dr. John Wakefield. I do have a picture of her tombstone with her second husband, Gen. Christopher C. Batterman. You can see it at —

    If y’all are interested, you can email me at and I'll send you the jpg.

    Hoping to find a May 10, 1852 wedding picture of her and Gen. Batterman for your child, I searched through the Record-Union Newspaper in Sacramento, California, Placerville Democrat, and through Nevada genealogical records where they moved several years after their marriage.

    I hoped at least a relative would have a picture of her and would have posted it on social media. The genealogical records of,,, and the LSD databases didn't yield any pictures.

    The "Life and Times of the Stoddard Family didn't have any pictures. She is often listed as Lucy A S Batterman and is in the 1880 Census as a housewife living in Carson City, Ormsby County (now Carson City County), Nevada.

    If your timeline permits, I'd be happy to see if other sources and old Nevada online newspapers yield any pictures.

    It seems like she gave up her life in public eye when she moved to Nevada.

    Sorry I couldn't be more help. I appreciate your query and your compliment.

  13. Linda,
    As Steve Sherwin inquired of you, I am also interested in a picture of Lucy A S Batterman (Wakefield) and/or her and her husband CC Batterman. I am the President of the El Dorado County Historical Society, who owns and operates the Fountain & Tallman Museum, 524 Main Street, Placerville Ca 95667 (Dry Diggins/Old Hangtown). We have an exhibit dedicated to Lucy Wakefield with no picture. The Battermans lived in Virginia City/Gold Hill NV, so I have done some research at the NV State Museum and Library/Archives in Carson City NV, no picture. Also I went to the Storey County Courthouse, Virginia City, NV, no picture. My next stop is the Nevada State Historical Society in Carson City, NV. Hope, we can find the picture/pictures of Lucy. Thanks.
    Kris Payne (

  14. Linda,
    I just visited the Nevada Historical Society research library - Reno, NV. No picture. Very little information on Lucy. Some info on C.C. Batterman.

    1. Hi Kris, thanks for your note. Since Mr. Sherwin's request, I've been looking pics of Lucy and Mr. Batterman. I will let you know when I find something. Feel free to put my email in your reminder file so we can keep in touch.

    2. Hi Kris, thanks for your note. Since Mr. Sherwin's request, I've been looking pics of Lucy and Mr. Batterman. I will let you know when I find something. Feel free to put my email in your reminder file so we can keep in touch.

    3. Hi Kris, thanks for your note. Since Mr. Sherwin's request, I've been looking pics of Lucy and Mr. Batterman. I will let you know when I find something. Feel free to put my email in your reminder file so we can keep in touch.

  15. Thank you greatly for this post and your well stated and documented comments. I teach Gold Rush history here in Coloma and Placerville and love being able to give details of women who made a difference! Thanks again.

  16. Hi Kris, thanks for your note. Since Mr. Sherwin's request, I've been looking pics of Lucy and Mr. Batterman. I will let you know when I find something. Feel free to put my email in your reminder file so we can keep in touch.

  17. Wow thank for the story about her. I love mergine pie