Morning in the Washoe Valley
Today we leave the Bay Area for the Washoe Valley near the Sierras to tell the story of One-Eyed Charlie Parkhurst. Charlie was a stagecoach driver in the mid 1800s who drove a team of six horses over these hard grounds to San Francisco. Although only five-foot-six Charlie was famous for his horse driving skills, hauling passengers all over Nevada and California. In one famous story, Charlie drove his team over a rickety bridge above the swollen Tuolumne River during a huge rainstorm just seconds before the bridge collapsed.

Charlie was always a character, wearing embroidered gauntlets, chewing tobacco and smoking cigars. When a horse accidentally kicked out an eye Charlie simply added an eyepatch and continued his stage runs to Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and Santa Cruz. In 1858 rheumatism forced Charlie into saloon ownership and eventually cattle and chicken farming. Finally in 1876 Charlie died of cancer alone in his cabin, three days after Christmas. While the undertakers were preparing his body they made a discovery, Charlie Parkhurst was a woman.

Charlie's story reported in the San Francisco Chronicle led to documents showing that she'd had been born in New Hampshire in 1812 and been given the name Charlotte. She'd run away from an orphanage there then disguised herself as a boy to work for a stable owner. When her employer moved to California she followed him there and continued to live as a man.

A bronze plaque erected in the town of Soquel, declares that Charlie had voted in 1868, making her the first woman cast a ballot in a presidential election. Today Charlie rests in the Old Pioneer Cemetery in Watsonville under a stone that reads, 'Charley (sic) Darkey Parkhurst, noted whip of the Gold Rush.'