The Scandalous Saga continued — in Federal Court

No sooner was the divorce trial of Sarah Althea Hill and Senator William Sharon concluded in Sarah Althea’s favor, than the federal suit brought by Sharon against Allie began. It took up most of the year 1885 and went over much the same ground.

At the same time a number of spin-off suits were being pursued. Senator Sharon, of course, appealed the divorce decision. At the same time, Allie sued him for her alimony, which he refused to pay. The attorneys in the case and a variety of witnesses were sued for a variety of causes: libel, contempt of court, fraud, and obscenity were some of the charges. The obscenity charge was brought against Allie’s attorney G. W. Tyler for calling Neilson (the man who started the whole thing) an “infernal puppy.” Such language!


Daily Alta California, 4 August 1885

All of this was wearing on the lady, and she was getting desperate, for her money and for the whole thing to be over.  During testimony by an expert being questioned about the authenticity of the marriage contract, Allie kept up a steady stream of abuse and threats against Senator Sharon and his attorneys, Barnes and Evans, loud enough to be heard throughout the courtroom. Then Evans noticed that she was fingering a revolver on the table in front of her.


Daily Alta California, 4 August 1885

(Although referred to as “Judge” Evans, he was not the sitting judge in this case, but Sharon’s attorney.)

Sarah (who I have mostly called Allie) was severely reprimanded by Federal Justice Stephen J. Field. We shall see how Field’s involvement in the case would come to endanger his life. In the meantime, a deputy marshal was assigned to “take all such measures as may be necessary to disarm the said defendant and keep her disarmed and under strict surveillance” in the court.




About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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