Friday, February 19, 2016

Charley Parkhurst: California stagedriving man or woman?

It is always interesting when the records are inaccurate. In the case of Charley Parkhurst, the US Census record of 1870 provides the identity of this California resident as male, which is what Charley apparently liked to convey. She was, however, female. Choosing to get by as a man, she was able to take on a typical male profession and to vote. Listed in this record as a farmer, she drove stagecoach in the Santa Cruz area for years. Her grave is in the pioneer cemetery in Watsonville.

Apparently she was born in Lebanon, New Hampshire or Sharon, Vermont, as Charlotte Durkee Parkhurst, possibly daughter of Ebenezer Parkhurst and, according to the FindAGrave write-up, Sarah Morehouse. Sarah died a few years after Charlotte's birth. Until a birth record shows up, however, this is just one possibility for her parentage.

There are a variety of legends about how Charlotte was abandoned to an orphanage. Charlotte moved around as a young woman, and then came West.

The census record (click to enlarge):

The discovery in 1880 that she was female:

 Census image from Newspaper article from California Digital Newspaper Collection.