May 30th Holidays and Observances

Andrew Jackson Wins Duel, 1806

The quarrel started over a horse race.

Jackson owned a horse named Truxton, of whom he was very proud. Joseph Erwin, a neighbor, owned a horse named Ploughboy, with whom he was equally pleased. Erwin challenged Jackson to a horse race, Jackson accepted, and the race was scheduled. Then Ploughboy went lame, and the race was called off. Erwin paid a forfeit. There had been heavy betting among Jackson and Erwin’s friends and associates, and some disputes took place.

Erwin’s son-in-law, Charles Dickson, was one of the most vehement, possibly because he was one of the most heavily liquored. He was also bitterly jealous of Jackson — they were rival lawyers in the same community at the time. Dickson continued to bad-mouth Jackson at every chance he got, and not just about the race.

Jackson, as you may know, had been “married” to the lovely Rachel Donelson for two years before her divorce from her previous husband became final. It was entirely an error on Jackson’s part (he thought they had been legally divorced), but it was an error that would haunt him all his life. It seemed that whenever anyone got angry at Jackson, Rachel’s name came into the name-calling. Dickson was no exception.

Jackson called Dickson a “base poltroon and a cowardly talebearer.” Dickson called Jackson a “worthless scoundrel, a base poltroon, and a coward.” Both Jackson and Dickson had friends who were eager to urge the quarrel along, for both personal and political reasons.

Dickson’s denunciation of Jackson was actually printed in the Nashville Review, so there was no ignoring it. Jackson challenged Dickson to a duel.

Dueling was illegal in Tennessee, so the two men met just over the state line, in Kentucky. Everyone in the area was aware of Dickson’s reputation with a dueling iron, and he was heavily favored to win. According to the duel etiquette of the day, Dickson would fire first and Jackson, if he was still alive, could then return fire.

Dickson fired. Jackson remained standing, apparently unhurt. Dickson exclaimed, “Great God! Have I missed him?” Jackson then took aim, but the pistol locked at half-cock. According to dueling etiquette, this was not a fire, so Jackson still had his shot. He took careful aim and fired, gut-shooting Dickson. Dickson died two hours later at a hotel.

As Jackson and his second, Thomas Overton, left the dueling field, Overton noticed that one of Jackson’s boots was filling with blood. Jackson had been shot. Dickson had aimed for his heart, but Jackson, standing sideways and wearing bulky clothing over his thin frame, had misled him as to his anatomy. Jackson suffered several broken ribs and a bullet that lodged in his chest, so close to his heart that it could never be removed. Jackson was to say later, “I should have hit him if he had shot me through the brain.”

Henry VIII Weds Jane Seymour, 1536

Jane Seymour was the third wife of Henry VIII. He became engaged to her on the day following Anne Boleyn’s execution. She was said to have been Henry’s favorite wife — possibly because she was the only one to give him a son, but almost certainly also because she didn’t live long enough to annoy him.

Jane had been a lady in waiting to both Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. She was said to have a child-like face and a modest demeanor. The court took a very different turn once Jane became queen. Gone were the extravagant entertainments of Anne Boleyn’s court, and instead there was a strict observation of court protocol and decorum. There were rules about such details as how many pearls could be sewn into a lady’s skirt. Of course, the French fashions that Anne had introduced to court were now banned.

Although generally not getting involved in political matters, Jane did endeavor to restore the Princess Mary to the line of succession. Henry refused, but Jane did manage to reconcile the two on a personal level.

Jane gave birth to the future King Edward IV on October 12th, 1537. Her labor lasted two days and three nights. She died on October 24th, 1537, of complications from the delivery, probably either a retained placenta or puerperal fever.

Pearl Hart Robs a Stage Coach, 1899

It was one of the last stage coach robberies of the Old West. Even more amazing, it was performed by a woman.

Pearl Hart was born Pearl Taylor in 1861 in Lindsay, Ontario, the daughter of religious and affluent parents. At the age of 16 she eloped with a young man named Hart — Brett, William, or maybe Frank, take your pick, details about his name are a little contradictory. He was said to be a rake and a gambler, and undoubtedly a drunkard as well. Pearl soon found him abusive and returned to her parents. The couple would separate and reconcile several times throughout their marriage. The pair had two children, which Pearl left in the care of her mother.

At the age of 22, Pearl and her husband attended the Chicago World’s Fair where he worked as a midway barker. Pearl was fascinated by the Wild West shows, and, when the Fair was over, she went to Colorado with a piano player named Dan Bandman. Soon she split with Bandman, and went from town to town working as a cook, singer, and probably a prostitute. She was said to enjoy the benefits of tobacco, alcohol, and morphine.

In 1898, Hart was working in Mammoth, Arizona, either working as a cook, or running a brothel near a local mine. When the mine closed, her income dried up. She also received a message from her mother, who was seriously ill and wanted her to return, but she had no money for travel.

Hart and a friend, Joe Boot (probably an alias), tried working a mining claim that he owned, but were not successful. Plan B was for them to rob the Globe to Florence stage coach.

There had been no stage coach robberies in the area for some time, so the coach didn’t have a shotgun attendant. Hart and Boot stopped it, took the $431.20 it contained, as well as two firearms belonging to passengers and the driver’s revolver. Hart then returned $1 to each passenger and the pair rode away. Hart had cut her hair short and dressed in men’s clothing.

The pair was arrested on June 5th, and Hart was transferred to Tucson, while Boot remained in Florence. (Florence didn’t have accommodations for female prisoners.) The room in which Hart was held was made of lathe and plaster, and Hart managed to dig an 18-inch hole through the wall and escape. She was captured two weeks later.

At the trial, Hart made a moving plea for mercy, citing her need to return to her ill mother. The two were acquitted by the jury (much to the displeasure of the judge) but were immediately rearrested for tampering with the US Mail. A second trial found them guilty. Hart received a five year sentence. Boot received a sentence of 30 years, but managed to escape after only two.

In December of 1902, Hart received a pardon from Governor Alexander Brodie, on the condition that she would leave the territory. The reason for the pardon is unknown. There was, however, a rumor that Hart was pregnant at the time, and that knowledge of the fact would embarrass the prison. Since Hart apparently never had a third child, it may have been a ploy on her part.

Sources: Chase’s Calendar of Events, 2011 Edition: The Ultimate Go-To Guide for Special Days, Weeks and Months, Editors of Chase’s Calendar of Events;;;;;;;;;;;