What’s for Dinner Tonight?

Here is the Bill of Fare for dinner at the Pacific Hotel in downtown Sacramento on April 8th, 1870, just 149 years ago. Prices are not given, other than for the wines and beers listed at the bottom.  Anything printed on the menu was regularly available, and what is written in were that day’s specials.  For instance, under “Boiled”, you could have ham, corned beef and cabbage, corned pork, or mutton with caper sauce. Or you could order “Pig’s Jowls with Green Cabbage.”

The menu is heavy on meat. Note the vegetables — a decent variety, but I doubt that tomatoes were actually available in April, since they were not in season.

The entrees sound good — “Beef Tongue with Pickle Sauce,” anyone? Bon appetit!

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A Few Last Notes on Sarah Althea, Sharon, and Terry

I hope you have enjoyed reading the many parts of the scandalous saga of William Sharon and Sarah Althea Hill. I’d like to add just a few other notes to the story—

There is a short street in San Francisco named for William Sharon. It runs between 15th and 16th, just off of Market Street.

Sarah Althea Terry is buried next to her husband, David Terry, and his first wife Charlotte, in the Stockton Rural Cemetery. The age is wrong on her tombstone. She was not 80 at her death, but 87.


David S. Terry’s monument (from findagrave.com)


Her name is across the top, and her age is wrong.


William Sharon’s grave site

William Sharon’s rather unusual table-style tombstone can be found at at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, California, the cemetery city of San Francisco.

I took my information from the book Sarah & the Senator, by Robert H. Kroninger (1964) and newspaper articles accessed at the California Digital Newspaper Collection. The legal case is well set out by Mr. Kroninger, himself an attorney and judge, but it had so many bizarre twists and turns, and spun off so many side actions, that my un-legally-trained mind had difficulty following it all. I stuck to the more sensational aspects of the trials — pistols in the courtroom and love potions in the coffee.


Everyone’s favorite font in 1969

This story has also been turned into a novel, The Devil’s Daughter, by Eleazar Lipsky (1969). According to a review that appeared in the ABA Journal for January 1970 (which I accessed at Google Books) it is a fictionalized treatment of the “fabulous series of cases” arising from Sarah Althea’s claim against Senator Sharon. Lipsky adheres closely to the narrative of the cases, leaving out most of the legal technicalities and changing all the names. At 633 pages, I think I can skip that one.


Sarah Althea’s story would make a great novel though. Just imagine what Tolstoy or Thomas Hardy could do with such a fascinating woman and the larger-than-life men she knew. Her brilliant beginning, her tortuous pathway through the courts of law, her tragic end.

Not to mention little Nellie Brackett behind the bureau, faithful Oriental servant Ki, the mysteriously influential Mrs. Pleasant, and a small brigade of fortune-tellers, charm-workers, attorneys (weaving their own kind of spells), and judges. And behind it all, old San Francisco in its glory days.

What a story!

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The Scandalous Saga concluded


Mrs. Terry in mourning

Legal loose-ends remained to be tied up in the various cases brought forth by Sharon v. Sharon and Sharon v. Hill. Sarah Althea was still trying to establish that she had been married to William Sharon, so as to inherit her share of the property. There was a retrial of the divorce case, but Allie lost again. Her attorneys abandoned the case and her attempts to appeal came to naught. By the end of 1890 it was all over.

For the most part Allie stayed on the ranch near Fresno, mourning the death of her husband and protector, but in February 1892 she returned to San Francisco, exhibiting signs of mental illness. Her bizarre behavior put her name in the headlines once again.

The friends she was staying with reported her disappearance after a night spent pacing her room and raving. She heard voices and communed with spirits. She slept and ate little, and her appearance had greatly aged.


San Francisco Call, 15 February 1892

After she left the Culbreth home, she was found staying with her old friend, “Mammy” Pleasant. Mrs. Pleasant had supported her throughout her courtroom trials, and she again tried to help and protect her. But Allie was too much for her. She ruined fine clothing that Mrs. Pleasant gave her by continually pouring cold water over her head or laying in a bathtub for hours fully clothed. She had to be watched constantly to keep her from wandering off. Feeling she could no longer sustain her friend, Mrs. Pleasant had her arrested on an insanity petition. Allie appeared in court for the last time on March 10, 1892, where she put up a lively defense of herself, but also betrayed the sad condition of her mental capacities.


The judge declared her insane and committed her to the state asylum. The next day she was taken to Stockton.

Sarah Althea Terry spent the next 45 years living in the state asylum. She was never considered a danger to herself or anyone else. She continued to think of herself as a grand society belle and dressed in her fine Victorian gowns and hats. She wrote checks on scraps of paper and gave them to other patients. She could talk lucidly on many topics and yet she also told delusional tales of past and present grandeur.

Sarah Althea Hill Terry died on February 14, 1937, long after all the other participants in her drama had left the stage.



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The Scandalous Saga continued — Showdown at the Depot


Daily Alta California, 15 August 1889

Justice Stephen J. Field had earned the undying enmity of the Terrys when he ruled against them in September 1888, and even more so when he sent them to jail for their violent antics in court. David S. Terry, who thirty years earlier had shot David C. Broderick in a duel, was still a man who knew how to hold a grudge. And how to act on it.

Terry served his six months in the Alameda County Jail and then retired to his ranch near Fresno. There is no indication that he laid plans against Judge Field. Only a happenstance encounter at the Lathrop Railroad Depot brought the drama to its bloody end.

Because Terry had uttered verbal and written threats against Field, a deputy U.S. marshal was assigned to Field as a bodyguard when Field returned from Washington, D.C. to California to sit on federal cases in the Ninth Circuit. The deputy marshal was David Neagle, the same man who had disarmed David Terry during the melee in the courtroom the previous September.


Daily Alta California, 15 August 1889

Field and Neagle boarded a train in Los Angeles on August 13th, 1889, bound for San Francisco. Knowing that Terry lived near Fresno, Neagle watched as the train took on passengers in Fresno at midnight. He saw the Terrys as they boarded. They were unaware that their nemesis was aboard the same train.

Early in the morning the train stopped at Lathrop, a town just south of Stockton. Passengers alighted to take breakfast in the depot hotel. Field and Neagle had just sat down to eat when the marshal saw the Terrys enter the restaurant. Allie (Mrs. Terry) wheeled around and went back to the railroad car to get her handbag (where she kept a pistol). David Terry went to sit at a table, and then spying Justice Field, he walked over to where the judge was seated, came up behind him, and slapped him twice on the face.

Neagle yelled “Stop that!” and placed himself between Terry and Judge Field. Quickly  pulling his revolver, he thrust it against Terry’s chest and fired. As Terry collapsed to the floor, he fired again at his head.


The restaurant erupted in pandemonium as some customers fled the room and others moved to surround Terry’s body. Neagle loudly  declared himself an officer of the law. At that moment Allie came into the room, saw her husband lying on the floor covered in blood, and rushed to him to cradle his head and weep over his body.

Sarah swore out an arrest warrant against Deputy Neagle and Justice Field for the murder of her husband.  Both were arrested and Deputy Neagle was taken to jail, but Justice Field was released on his own recognizance. The charges against Field were later dropped. Neagle’s case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld his actions “as he was acting under the authority of the law of the United States.”

This incident, and the precedent it set in the case of Deputy Neagle, is lad out in full at the webpage for the U.S. Marshals Service.

Next: The Sad End of Sarah Althea Hill Sharon Terry

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The Scandalous Saga continued — Disorder in the Court

Sarah Althea Hill, now Mrs. David S. Terry, along with her attorney-husband, were back on court on September 3, 1888 to hear the decision in one of the appeals. The California Supreme Court had supported the lower state court ruling that the marriage was legitimate, but the federal court had ruled just the opposite — the marriage contract was invalid. Justice Stephen J. Field would now pronounce on the appeal to the federal court’s decision.

800px-STField-SCjustice2Field was the judge who replaced Terry on the California Supreme Court in 1856. In 1863 he was appointed by President Lincoln to the newly created tenth Supreme Court seat. This seat had been added to give balance to the court by bringing in a justice from the Pacific states. (That’s a nice bit of trivia — When were there ever ten supreme court justices?)

At the time, the U.S. supreme court justices also were responsible for the federal circuit courts, and it was in this capacity that Justice Field gave his ruling that the federal judgement would stand. He ordered Mrs. Terry (Allie) to surrender the marriage contract.

Allie was outraged. She had guarded that precious contract as her only means of getting her alimony. She not only refused to give it up, she went further. She accused Justice Field of having been bought off by the “Sharon people.”


Daily Alta California, 4 September 1888

act1scene2Justice Field was not going to stand for that. He ordered the marshal to remove Mrs. Terry from the courtroom. As she continued to revile the judge, the marshal moved to take her out. Her husband, David Terry, stopped him, declaring “No living man shall touch her!’ and then struck the marshal in the face with his fist. As the marshal dragged Allie screaming out of the courtroom, Terry hastened after, drawing his Bowie knife as he went.



Daily Alta California, 4 September 1888

Terry, struggling to strike a blow with the knife, was overpowered and disarmed. A loaded revolver was found in Allie’s satchel. Screams and shouts filled the courtroom.

The members of the press were having a field day. What a way to sell papers! The headline in the Morning Press was “TERRYFIED.”

But Stephen Field was not cowed or terrified by this display of violence. After the mid-day recess he came back and sentenced David D. Terry, former Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, to six months in jail for contempt of court, and his wife to 30 days.

While in jail, Allie continued to rail against Justice Field, and her husband, Terry, sent the judge several threatening letters. In less than a year, the tragic end of the Sharon-Hill-Terry drama would play out in a railroad depot dining room.

Next: Showdown at the Lathrop Depot



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The Tempestuous Life of David S. Terry

The most famous duel in California history took place in 1859 between David S. Terry, Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, and U.S. Senator David C. Broderick.

david terryDavid Smith Terry was born in Kentucky in 1823 and moved with his family to Texas as  young boy.  All his life he considered himself a southerner and supported the southern cause. He studied law in Texas and was admitted to the bar in 1845, fought in the Mexican War in 1846, and in 1849 joined the gold rush to California. Like many others, he found riches not in the diggings, but in his professional field. He rose rapidly in the ranks of law and politics and in 1855 he won a seat on the California Supreme Court, supported by the Know-Nothing Party. Other than that, Terry considered himself a Democrat.

At 6 foot 3 inches, Terry was an imposing figure. He was known for his hot temper. In 1856, representing the state government, he went to San Francisco to take on the Vigilance Committee, an extra-legal band of citizens formed to fight crime and corruption. In an altercation he stabbed Sterling A. Hopkins in the neck with a Bowie knife. Terry was jailed, but released when Hopkins survived the attack.


DavidBroderick-sizedIn 1859 Terry failed in his bid to be re-elected to the Supreme Court, and he blamed his loss on fellow Democrat David C. Broderick. Terry was a leader of the southern faction of the party; Broderick represented the northern abolitionist wing. The former friends fell out over their irreconcilable political views (as did the entire Democratic Party soon after).

They traded insults until Terry sent a note demanding a retraction of remarks made by Broderick. His refusal to do so led to their meeting at Lake Merced (just outside San Francisco city limits in Daly City) early on the morning of September 13, 1859. Broderick fell, fatally wounded by a pistol ball. His death made him a hero and martyr in the fight against slavery, and Terry’s political career was ruined.

You can read more about the Broderick-Terry Duel in this Wikipedia article and at this National Park Service site.



The two pillars mark the spots where Terry and Broderick stood to fire

Just then the Civil War came along, and Terry went back to Texas and joined the Confederate Army, rising to the rank of colonel. After the war he returned to California and resumed his legal practice.

In 1884 he became part of the team of lawyers assisting Sarah Althea Hill in her bid to get her marriage to former senator William Sharon validated and then dissolved. In December of the same year Terry’s wife, Charlotte, died. In January 1886 he married his client, Allie. Together, with great determination, they continued to pursue her right to a portion of property belong to millionaire Sharon, who had died in 1885.

Public interest in the case languished for two years, although the lawyers were busy with a few side issues. Then in 1888 drama erupted once again in the courtroom.

Next: “Marshal. put that woman out!”


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Blooming Bonanza

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The view in Upper Bidwell Park

It’s a great year for wildflowers — get out and enjoy them while they last. Today I went to Upper Bidwell Park to hike around a bit and see what’s in bloom. There are plenty of—

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Blue dicks

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Popcorn flower

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Bird’s eye gilia (and a little bit of goldfields)

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Frying-pans (a kind of California poppy)

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Goldfields — endless swaths of them

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Tidytips — mostly seen near the parking lot

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Something new (to me) — California Man-root (Marah fabacea)

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And old Monkeyface Rock watching over it all. Get out and enjoy before the summer hits us!


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