A Same-Sex Marriage In 1877

Homer Thiel

August 15th, 2011

[Homer Thiel is a Tucson-based historical archeologist, genealogist, and a good friend of mine. An article he wrote, “An 1887 Same-Sex Marriage In Nevada,” appears in this month’s issue of American Ancesters, published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Copies of the magazine can be purchased for $4.95 plus shipping by calling 888-296-3447. And you can check out the day-to-day happenings in Homer’s World at his blog.]

Opponents of same sex marriage would like everyone to think that the desire for gays and lesbians to marry their partners is a very recent phenomenon. A while ago, when I was reading through 19th century Arizona newspapers, I came across a cryptic mention of a same sex marriage that took place in 1877 in Nevada. Further research revealed the fascinating life story of Sarah Maud Pollard, who, as Samuel M. Pollard, married in Tuscarora, Elko County, Nevada Territory to Marancy Hughes on September 29, 1877. An article I prepared on Pollard has just appeared in American Ancestors magazine, published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society. A condensed version of Pollard’s life story is presented here.

Sarah Pollard was born in 1846 in New York, the daughter of a middle class merchant family. After working in a shoe factory in Massachusetts and sewing shirts in New York, she headed west to Colorado in the 1870s. She caused a stir because of her masculine appearance. Around 1876 she moved to Nevada and took up wearing male clothing in order to find work and she started calling herself  “Sam.” She met young Marancy Hughes, born in 1861 in Missouri, and actively courted her. Hughes’ family hated Pollard and the couple eloped on September 28, 1877.

New Orleans Times-Picayune article about the Pollard marriage, June 23, 1878. (Click to enlarge.)

They were happily married for six months, and then Marancy broke the secret. The small silver-mining town of Tuscarora, Nevada was transfixed by the story. The matter ended up in court and after Marancy testified, a dramatic re-union took place. Stories about the troubled marriage were carried in newspapers across the country (even appearing in a New Zealand paper). The couple broke up two more times, before Marancy moved on to a marriage with a man in 1880.

Sarah moved to Minnesota to start a new life by 1883, working by herself on a farm. The story of her successful farming career again made national newspapers, which noted she wore a bloomers-type outfit while plowing. By the 1890s she had met a woman named Helen Stoddard, a schoolteacher who was born in 1864 in Vermont. In later census records Helen was listed as her partner or companion. Sarah died in 1929, and Helen paid for her arrangements at a local funeral home, the owners puzzling over the relationship of the two women.

The stories of gay and lesbian Americans prior to recent times have largely been lost or hidden. Within my own family, a lesbian great aunt has been “straightened up.” Sarah Pollard is an unusual case in that is has been easy to locate information on her unconventional life in late 19th and early 20th century America. Like thousands of modern-day Americans, she wanted to marry her same sex partner. Her first relationship failed, large because she took on a masculine role, a major taboo of the time. Later she returned to feminine attire, while taking up a typically masculine career, and settled into a second, long lasting partnership with Helen Stoddard.

JCF

August 15th, 2011

Her first relationship failed, large because she took on a masculine role, a major taboo of the time.

I think that’s waaaaaaay too simplistic an assessment. I’m not sure anyone can look back and say why “Her first relationship failed” . . . but the thing that stands out to me is that she (or he: it’s not clear which was Pollard’s preferred gender ID) married a 16 year-old, 15 years her junior. A different gender and/or sexuality ID may not be something that someone that young, in that (sexist/heterosexist) context, could really deal with. [But that, too, is just a guess.]

Raven Biker

August 15th, 2011

It happened so-o long ago and the sky hasn’t fallen yet and nor has God smited us. H-mmm.

Timothy (TRiG)

August 15th, 2011

Like JCF, I’m uncertain from this story whether Sarah/Sam Pollard was a lesbian woman or a trans man. (Or indeed whether, in that culture, the distinction existed as clearly as it does in modern Western culture.)

TRiG.

Erin

August 15th, 2011

I know plenty of lesbian women who identify just as that- lesbian women, who dress in male attire and have very masculine physical features. Sometimes women choose to wear masculine clothes because they have masculine frames to begin with and girly clothes kind of don’t look right on them. Also, male clothing is just generally more comfortable. They figure, they already look masculine, so why not be comfortable in men’s clothes? Wearing clothing of the opposite gender doesn’t always mean one is transgender. Of course it’s possible Sarah was transgender as well. It’s certainly not a new thing that was invented by the “Gay Agenda” as some may assert. It is something someone knows about them self and feels inside of them.

Timothy Kincaid

August 15th, 2011

History is full of gay people if we knew how to look. Sadly, the records – usually consisting primarily of marriage, birth and death – don’t tell us much.

But sometimes a relative will. In college, before I was comfortable in my own skin, I lived with my grandmother. At one point she mentioned – with just the slightest inflection – that she had two “bachelor uncles”.

It’s hard to be certain.

Women were genuinely scarce in the northeast corner of California at the turn of the 20th Century (one of her uncles ordered a bride out of a catalog and traveled by train to New Orleans to collect the French-speaking girl from an orphanage/convent).

But my grandmother certainly was implying something when she mentioned these uncles. And if I had been able to be open with her, maybe that part of my family’s history would not now be gone forever.

TJ Davis

August 16th, 2011

Yes, before he died my dad told me of two, “uncles” that never married. They lived in the hayloft of the barn on grandma’s farm.
That statement of and in itself says nothing about the sexual identity of those two old men, but the implications are all too clear.

Ted

August 16th, 2011

That sort of cover-up is still going on today. I’m 21 and I have an Uncle (whom I have never met) who has always been a bachelor and who lives in San Francisco. I’m next to certain that he is gay, but my family never talks about him. All I can really gather is that he’s some sort of black sheep.

DC Benson

August 17th, 2011

@ TED I also had an uncle that the family never really spoke about ar visited with. Mine lived in NYC. I made it a point to seek him out and we enjoyed a great relationship wit his being gay as well as myself. He was able to relate to most problems I had, was always avaialble to listen when I needed a shoulder to cry on among many, many other things. Take the time to try and locate yours and see what you might be missing.

Danielle

August 17th, 2011

Reading the linked image of the article makes it rather clear that the person described was a trans man, e.g. used the name “Samuel” and “stoutly asserted that he belonged to the male sex.”

Leave A Comment

All comments reflect the opinions of commenters only. They are not necessarily those of anyone associated with Box Turtle Bulletin. Comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

(Required)
(Required, never shared)

PLEASE NOTE: All comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

 

Latest Posts

NC Gov McCrory Throws In The Towel

Colorado Store Manager Verbally Attacks "Faggot That Voted For Hillary" In Front of 4-Year-Old Son

Associated Press Updates "Alt-Right" Usage Guide

A Challenge for Blue Bubble Democrats

Baptist Churches in Dallas, Austin Expelled Over LGBT-Affirming Stance

FBI Reports Massive Surge In Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes in 2015

Baptist General Convention of Texas Warns Churches in Dallas and Austin Over LGBT Inclusion

Trump Selects Alt-Right Nationalist As "Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor"

Featured Reports

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.

Slouching Towards Kampala: Uganda’s Deadly Embrace of Hate

When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.

Paul Cameron’s World

In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.

From the Inside: Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out”

On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.

Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"

The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing The Myths

At last, the truth can now be told.

Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!

And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.

Testing The Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?

Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.

Straight From The Source: What the “Dutch Study” Really Says About Gay Couples

Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.

The FRC’s Briefs Are Showing

Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.

Daniel Fetty Doesn’t Count

Daniel FettyThe FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.