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.



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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