Senator Sharon’s suit against Sarah Althea Hill concluded in December 1885. The federal court had spent more than a year going over the same ground that the superior court of California had thoroughly dug up in 1884 and Judge Deady came to the opposite conclusion of Judge Sullivan. He ruled that there had never been a marriage between Sharon and Miss Hill. The marriage contract was a forgery and the “Dear Wife” letters had nothing wifely about them.
The former senator and wealthy man about town was deprived of the satisfaction of this vindication. In November 1885, a month before the judge gave his decision, rich old William Sharon passed away. Allie now claimed to be his widow, but under the court ruling, Allie was neither wife nor widow.
The judge came down hard on Allie. He found her conduct to be “contumacious, frivolous, and contradictory” and her testimony “reckless, improbable and false.” Nellie Brackett recanted her testimony and said that she had helped to forge the documents. As far as Judge Deady was concerned, Allie was a fraudulent adventuress.
Allie shed no tears for the man she had claimed as husband. The decision was no sooner handed down than she married David S. Terry, one of her attorneys, Together they continued to fight for her right to half of Sharon’s considerable property. Appeals were filed in both courts against both rulings, for and against her. Allie could still hope that someday she would profit from the whole vexatious kerfuffle.
In the meantime, she was legitimately Mrs. David S. Terry, married by a Catholic priest at St. Mary’s Church in Stockton on January 7th, 1886, less than two weeks after the end of the federal case. This wedding came complete with witnesses, a public ceremony, a marriage certificate, and a ring. There would be nothing secret or contentious about this marriage. The bride was thirty-two years old; the groom was sixty-two.
David Terry was a man who, as a newspaper reporter stated, was “both feared and respected throughout the San Joaquin Valley.” He had a large ranch near Fresno, a handsome home in Stockton, and a successful career as a politician and attorney. His wife had died the previous year, and over the course of the Sharon v. Sharon trial, he had become close to his attractive, if volatile, young client.
He was famous as a former California Supreme Court Justice and a tough fighter in a courtroom. But what made him notorious was the second most famous duel in American history.
Next: A Look Back at the Terry-Broderick Duel