Chewy Morsel #7 – “Transgender” Folk Have Always Been With Us . . . Really by Jim Surkamp

by Jim Surkamp on May 17, 2016 in Jefferson County


In 1859, a man with a naturalist bent took work on a canal boat on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. The author is still unidentified, but their diary, detailed and numbering in thousands of words, was recovered and published by Thomas F.Hahn, a long-time president of the C&O Canal Commission, because of its extraordinary factual content.

Remarkably there is an episode described of an encounter with an atypical person. You may have thought that people who are “transgender” or “”non-binary” or “gender-fluid” are an anomaly. Read on.

I was on the shore grooming the mules when a (strange) person came walking down the canal carrying a fiddle under its arm and went on board the boat. (The visitor) had a dabbled calico dfress with skirts hanging straight down which was more noticeable, as hoops were then in the height of fashion. Tommy was aboard and entertained the visitor but I kept an eye on the object. After talking with Tommy a while (the visitor) played him a tune or two and went on their way. I afterward learned their history. It seems that when (the visitor) was born it was a serious question whether (the visitor) should be called Abby or John, but it was finally decided to call them Abby and by that name (the visitor) was christened and the mistake was not found out until it was too late, but from the time the child could speak it protested by word and action and now grown to full stature (the visitor) was a veritable vagabond traveling around the village with fiddle, a palm-leaf hat, whiskers, heavy bass voice and dressed in petticoats.