Too much married

Thanks to Olmanriver for this one !

“Sunday, April 23, 1882
In the year 1844 William Kirkham, now deceased, married in Kentucky & getting the California fever, like many others in “49 & ’50, left his old home & came to this state, & located on Wilson creek. He left behind him a wife & two children, the eldest of which is now 24 years of age. .

Kirkham lived the life of a bachelor here until four or five years ago, when he took unto himself another wife (a dusky maiden), by whom he became the father of two more children. Wife number 1 hearing of this, came from her old home in ~ Kentucky for the purpose of commencing an action against her truant husband for bigamy, & arrived about one year ago, living at Arcata since the time of her arrival. But the second marriage being not properly solemnized, being performed by Lieutenant Halloran, then an officer in the U. S. Army, at Camp Gaston, the proceedings against the much married husband were not commenced. Wife number 1 finding that the law would not sustain her in proceedings for bigamy, was about to commence an action for divorce when Kirkham died, & left surviving, a wife at Arcata, number 1, & two children, the issue of said marriage, & a wife, number 2, at Willow creek, & two children, & an estate of the value of about $4,000, which was willed to wife number 2, & A. Norton, of Mad River, was named as the executor of said estate.

Now wife number 1 comes & petitions the court to be appointed administratrix of said estate, & Norton not wishing to have anything to do with the proceedings requested that 0. H. Spring be appointed administrator, which the judge would not grant, knowing that there was a will in existence, & which no doubt, will be filed & the court will be called upon to decide which wife is entitled to the property of deceased.
Thursday, May 4, 1882
We referred last week to the case of William Kirkham, deceased, who, at the time of his death, was the paternal head of two families. He came to California, as stated, in 1850, leaving a wife & two children in Iowa, a third child being born to him soon after his departure for the far west. For more than a quarter of a century Kirkham lived as a bachelor, but four or five years ago took to wife a half-breed damsel, by whom he had two children. The marriage was performed by lieutenant Halloran, then stationed at Camp Gaston. After the ceremony had been performed, lieutenant Halloran learned that Kirkham had left a wife in the states years before, & in order to protect himself required a statement of the facts. Kirkham acknowledged his former marriage, but stated that his wife had died in 1864. Mrs. Kirkham number 1 left her home in Iowa & came to Humboldt arriving in November 1881. The matter will come up in the Superior Court on the 15th of May. In our former notice we stated that Mrs. Kirkham’s oldest girl was 24 years of age. To this the good lady objects, stating that her oldest child living is past 34 years of age, the lady herself being 57. Kirkham was a native of Ohio.”

I don’t know the outcome of the court action, but if I find out, I’ll share.
It is quite creepy (but not too surprising) to note that the 65 year-old Kirkham’s California bride was 17 years old ( and lucky if she’d reached 16 before she had his son…) .  There is no way to comprehend what Native women went through here when (and after) the whites arrived.   See other posts on the topic if it interests you…


1880 Census, Kirkham and (2nd) family in Willow Creek


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