Too strange not to be true

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Parkhurst, Charley obit 1880
Daily Alta California, Volume 32, Number 10853, 1 January 1880


A Woman Passes for a Man for a Quarter of a Century in California.

"Charley Parkhurst," Pioneer, Stage Driver, Farmer, Woodman, Etc,

Dies at the Age of 67, and is Found to be a Woman.

WATSONVILLE, December 3lst. The Pajaronian, to-morrow, will contain the following: On Sunday last, in a little cabin situated on the Moss Ranch, six or seven miles from town, died a person 67 years of age, well known to the old farmers here, and to stage drivers and stage men generally, as Charley Parkhurst. He was one of the best drivers in early days in various parts of the State — from Stockton to Mariposa, from Oakland to San Jose, and from San Juan to Santa Cruz, when San Francisco was reached via San Juan. For 15 or 20 years past he has been engaged in farming, working in the woods, etc., and it is said that he accumulated several thousand dollars. For years he has not done much, being troubled with rheumatism, which caused him great suffering, a well as considerable deformity. The immediate cause of his death was a cancer of the tongue. He had the best of care till the last, and died without conversing with any one except to express various wants. Now comes the strange part of this sketch. It was discovered, when friendly hands were preparing him for his last home, that Charley Parkhurst was unmistakably a well developed woman. It could scarcely be believed by persons who had known Charley Parkhurst for a quarter of is century. It is one of the most wonderful of the few of such cases on record. That this woman, living among men thirty years or more, going through all the dangers and vicissitudes of California life, should conceal her sex, can hardly be believed, but it was a fact. On the Great Register of this county of the year 1867 appeared this entry: " Parkhurst, Charles Durkee, 55, New Hampshire, Farmer, Soquel, " where he then lived. It is said by several, who knew her intimately, that she came from Providence, R. I. Of course great curiosity is excited as to the cause that led this woman to exist so many years in such a strange guise. There may be a strange history, that to the novelist would be a source of inspiration; and, again, she may have been disgusted with the trammels surrounding her sex, and concluded to work out her fortune in her own way. More light may be thrown on the wonderful case.

Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 115, Number 115, 3 January 1880


The newspapers have been filled with accounts of an alleged extraordinary discovery made on the death of Charley Parkhurst, a once famous stage driver of this State. It is said that in preparing the body for burial it was discovered that the supposed man was a woman, of perfect physical formation. The statement that certain physicians examined the body and certified to the fact would have been much stronger had their names been appended. As the case stands there is in fact no verification of it before the public, and as such verification could not have been in the least difficult, the truth of the whole narrative is seriously impeached by the omission. There is, however, nothing intrinsically incredible in the story, for women have in many remarkable and well-authenticated cases played the part of men, and maintained such disguises to the end. Parkhurst was a noted whip, and of courage once proved conclusively in a fight with highwaymen. A case, however, is on record in which a woman spent the greater part of her life as a common soldier, and engaged in many battles, fighting as sturdily and bravely as any of her male comrades. It is indeed much commoner to find women capable of personating men than men capable of personating women. Of the latter the Chevalier D'Eon is the most remarkable example. During his life the most conflicting reports as to his sex were circulated, but there never was any doubt of it. He was, however, so effeminate in appearance that when he dressed in women's clothes he was always believed to be a woman, and at one period of his life he wore this disguise for several years. If the story of Parkhurst be true it will add another and a particularly consistent and well-rounded instance to the catalogue of abnormally masculine women. In such a case it is evident that the masculine character is present in the fullest sense, and that the physical marks of sex are scarcely more than abortive developments. Such a woman is very much more of a man than anything else, and in adopting male clothing and habits she only obeys the law of her nature, which is in such cases no doubt the safest guide.

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