Lucy MacLean was a daughter of an American Revolution Patriot, known as a belle and an authoress of some merit. This is her story as written in 1883.
Olean (N.Y.) Correspondence New York Tribune. Published in the Cinncinnati Enquirer Newspaper, Saturday, November 24, 1883, Roll 86, page 12, Column 7, Allen County Public Library, microfilm newspaper collection, Fort Wayne, Indiana
While in New York the other day a gentleman of this place noticed a gray-haired woman begging at one of the Park Row entrances to the Post-Office. He was informed that the woman’s name was Lucy E. MacLean, and that she was a person of literary tendencies. Residents of this place recognize the name as that of a singular and unhappy woman well known here; whose strange actions have caused much comment here. Her mania for bustles was a predominating characteristic. In summer and winter alike she wore a dark calico dress, with a long full skirt and a waist of a style in vogue twenty or twenty-five years ago. She is tall, and in other days was doubtless graceful.
She is the daughter of Captain MacLean, who served in the Revolutionary War, and who afterward moved with his family to Ohio, and from there to Springville, Erie County, and this state. Lucy Maclean and her sister Sarah moved from there about twenty-five years ago to this place. When the two girls were young Lucy was a great belle, was pretty, talented and gay; and her admirers were many. She also wrote poetry of some merit, and many of her productions found their way to the pages of Graham’s Godey’s and the Knickerbockers. One of their best pieces was a satire on a schoolmaster who had unintentionally, as it appeared afterward, given her offense. This had a great run in the newspapers of that day. She had an extensive correspondence with the literary men of the day, and among others with Mr. Longfellow. While yet in the bloom of her youth she became acquainted with Salmon P. Chase, with whom, it is said, she corresponded. It was not long after the correspondence was terminated that her friends notices that her actions were strange. She manifested more and more crazy impulses until finally she became hopelessly insane. For twenty years she has roamed about aimlessly, dependent upon the charity of her sister.
Some of Lucy’s habits are singular. For years she haunted the banks of the city, continually inquiring for remittances that never came. Finally she gave this up, and took to borrowing or trying to borrow, small sums of money. Her usual way was to enter a store when the proprietor was busily engaged, apologize for her intrusion in a lady-like manner, and asked for the loan of from twenty-five cents to $2- never more that that and never less. A refusal had no effect, as she would return the next day with an apology and like request. She has frequently been to New York, and several years ago she went to Washington to certain members of Congress about a subsidy she claimed she was entitled to as an authoress. It is a mystery how she traveled, as she had no money. Some say she did not use any money at all, but trusted to the gallantry of the conductors not to put her off their trains between stations. And when she had gone as far on one train as possible to wait patiently for the next Some of her bazarites are shown by an incident that happened here five or six years ago. Theodore Tilton was to lecture one evening, and she took a stand at the foot of the stairs, awaiting his coming. When he approached with two gentlemen she went toward him, touched him on the shoulders and said: “Mr. Tilton, I want you to pay me the money you own me.” Tilton was so astonished that for some time he was unable to say anything, but as length he asked here for what he was indebted to her. “You have been using my lecture long enough,” she said,” and now I want you to pay me for it.”