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Interesting bit of Western history
[HR][/HR]TRUCKEE, Calif. — Western stagecoach companies were big business in
the latter half of the 19th century. In addition to passengers and
freight, stages hauled gold and silver bullion as well as mining
company payrolls.

Stage robbery was a constant danger and bandits employed many
strategies to ambush a stagecoach. Thieves rarely met with much
resistance from stage drivers, since they had passenger safety
foremost in mind. The gang was usually after the Wells Fargo money box
with its valuable contents. Passengers were seldom hurt, but they were
certainly relieved of their cash, watches and jewelry. Before the
completion of the transcontinental railroad over Donner Pass in 1868,
the only transportation through the Sierra was by stage. Rugged
teamsters held rein over six wild-eyed horses as they tore along the
precipitous mountain trails. The stagecoaches were driven by skilled
and fearless men who pushed themselves and their spirited horses to
the limit.

One of the most famous drivers was Charles Darkey Parkhurst, who had
come west from New England in 1852 seeking his fortune in the Gold
Rush. He spent 15 years running stages, sometimes partnering with Hank
Monk, the celebrated driver from Carson City. Over the years,
Pankhurst’s reputation as an expert whip grew.

From 20 feet away he could slice open the end of an envelope or cut a
cigar out of a man’s mouth. Parkhurst smoked cigars, chewed wads of
tobacco, drank with the best of them, and exuded supreme confidence
behind the reins. His judgment was sound and pleasant manners won him
many friends.

One afternoon as Charley drove down from Carson Pass the lead horses
veered off the road and a wrenching jolt threw him from the rig. He
hung on to the reins as the horses dragged him along on his stomach.
Amazingly, Parkhurst managed to steer the frightened horses back onto
the road and save all his grateful passengers.

During the 1850s, bands of surly highwaymen stalked the roads. These
outlaws would level their shotguns at stage drivers and shout, “Throw
down the gold box!” Charley Parkhurst had no patience for the crooks
despite their demands and threatening gestures.

The most notorious road agent was nicknamed “Sugarfoot.” When he and
his gang accosted Charley’s stage, it was the last robbery the thief
ever attempted.

Charley cracked his whip defiantly, and when his horses bolted, he
turned around and fired his revolver at the crooks. Sugarfoot was
later found dead with a fatal bullet wound in his stomach.

In appreciation of his bravery, Wells Fargo presented Parkhurst with a
large watch and chain made of solid gold. In 1865, Parkhurst grew
tired of the demanding job of driving and he opened his own stage
station. He later sold the business and retired to a ranch near
Soquel, Calif. The years slipped by and Charley died on Dec. 29, 1879,
at the age of 67.

A few days later, the Sacramento Daily Bee published his obituary. It read;

“On Sunday last, there died a person known as Charley Parkhurst, aged
67, who was well-known to old residents as a stage driver. He was in
early days accounted one of the most expert manipulators of the reins
who ever sat on the box of a coach. It was discovered when friendly
hands were preparing him for his final rest, that Charley Parkhurst
was unmistakably a well-developed woman!”

Once it was discovered that Charley was a woman, there were plenty of
people to say they had always thought he wasn’t like other men. Even
though he wore leather gloves summer and winter, many noticed that his
hands were small and smooth. He slept in the stables with his beloved
horses and was never known to have had a girlfriend.

Charley never volunteered clues to her past. Loose fitting clothing
hid her femininity and after a horse kicked her, an eye patch over one
eye helped conceal her face. She weighed 175 pounds, could handle
herself in a fistfight and drank whiskey like one of the boys.

It turns out that Charley’s real name was Charlotte Parkhurst.
Abandoned as a child, she was raised in a New Hampshire orphanage
unloved and surrounded by poverty. Charlotte ran away when she was 15
years old and soon discovered that life in the working world was
easier for men. So she decided to masquerade as one for the rest of
her life.

The rest is history.

Well, almost. There is one last thing. On November 3, 1868, Charlotte
Parkhurst cast her vote in the national election, dressed as a man.
She became the first woman to vote in the United States, 52 years
before Congress passed the 19th amendment giving American women the
right to vote!

4,172 Posts
Thanks for sharing that story I enjoyed it

6,451 Posts
Borneo would have enjoyed that. I suspect that he would have already known the story though. Very well read man.


2,719 Posts
I first read about charley in the fifties, and I think her story was dramatized on the TV show Death valley days back then.
BTW, Calamity Jane got the name Calamity because of the number of men she infected with V.D.

814 Posts
Where is Borneo now?

Super Moderator
18,142 Posts
Borneo has left the forum.

1,967 Posts
Gay? Bi? Trans? Cross dresser?
All of the above?
Or just one cool as hell ol' gal who did things absolutely her own way?
She probably chuckled to herself before she died, about the surprise awaiting the undertaker!
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