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North America » United States » California » Watsonville
November 19th 2012
Published: November 19th 2012
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ONE EYED CHARLIE



Charlie Parkhurst had the reputation of being one of the greatest stage coach drivers in the storied history of early California. Charlie was born in Lebanon, New Hampshire in 1812 and raised in an orphanage there, later working as a stable boy for Ebenezer Balch in Worchester and then in Providence; winding up at the What Cheer Stables behind the Franklin House in Providence. A couple of Charlieā€™s pals, James E. Birch and Frank Stevens, got caught up in the California Gold Rush, went out and consolidated a few small stage lines into the California Stage Company and invited Charlie to join them as a driver. Soon after arriving Charlie got kicked in the face by a fractious horse and lost an eye. Over the long years One Eyed Charlie toughened into a masterful driver on the run over Mount Madonna to and from Watsonville. One who was impervious to any inclemency of weather, and could fight and swear and spit tobacco juice, and tell engaging stories. Charlie was as intemperate as Hank Monk, but on each run took splendid care of all animals, passengers, mail and property. One Eyed Charlie would shoot it out with robbers when necessary and killed at least one. Eventually the stage line just wore itself out and Charlie was forced into retirement. Other trades were tried such as lumbering, cattle ranching, even raising chickens on a farm in Aptos but those efforts held little interest. Charlie continued to be a trustworthy friend and good citizen; registered to vote in Soquel, paid taxes, grumbled about jury duty and local politics. One Eyed Charlie developed a tongue cancer and was found dead as a hammer in a small cabin out along the stage coach road near the base of the mountain. When friends went to prepare the body for funeral, lo-and-behold they discovered that One Eyed Charley was a woman; the first female to vote in California. The photo shows her gravesite at the Pioneer Cemetery in Watsonville.

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