Abuse prompts Markleeville outrage in 1874 | RecordCourier.com

Abuse prompts Markleeville outrage in 1874

by Karen Dustman

Silver Mountain City from the cover of Karen Dustman's book "Ghost of the Sierra: Silver Mountain City."

Horses and buggies and dirt streets may have gone by the wayside. But dallying spouses and irate neighbors – well, some things never change. And one sad story from 1874 has an all-too-modern ring.

When Emily Jane Palmer married Alfred Bates in February, 1868, the pair was destined for anything but wedded bliss. The newlyweds moved from Mono County to the mining town Silver King where, according to the Alpine Chronicle, Mrs. Bates found a new “affinity.”

An all-too-predictable confrontation ensued between Mr. Bates and his rival. In July 1874, guns were drawn and blows exchanged. The “affinity” wound up cooling his heels for 60 days in Silver Mountain’s cold stone jail, for battering Bates, while Bates too found himself in trouble with the law for drawing a deadly weapon. Emily, meanwhile, high-tailed it out of Silver King and promptly replaced both beaux with a new “affinity” in nearby Markleeville.

But if it weren’t for bad luck, Alfred Bates must have had no luck at all. A month later, the jilted husband was crushed by a mule falling backwards upon his body. After “intense suffering,” the ill-fated Bates left his worldly troubles behind.

With Emily’s first husband now conveniently gone, the dallying widow quickly tied the knot with her latest love, Andy Grow. But just a few days after the wedding, Emily’s baby daughter passed away. This time, the death was hardly an accident; the cause of the child’s passing was “cruelty and neglect.”

The citizenry of Markleeville decided it was time to intervene. A “committee” was formed and paid a vigilante-style visit to the household. There, they advised Grow in no uncertain terms to “settle up his business” and skedaddle out of Alpine County within the next five days.

But while they were there, the intervening neighbors stumbled upon another sad fact: the couple had been “in the habit of beating the surviving daughter,” three-year-old Helen Belle, who they discovered was “sick unto death.” The local paper deemed it an “outrage.”

The citizens didn’t bother with judges or legal niceties. They simply scooped up little Helen and took her away with them. A rancher’s wife brought the child into her home, tending to her needs as well as anyone could. But a happy ending was not to be. Little Helen died Sept. 26, 1874.