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Almost Yesterday is a glimpse into the rich history of our region. Dr. Frank Nickell takes listeners on a journey to specific moments in time, such as the first radio broadcast on KFVS, the history of Farmington’s Carleton College, and the short-lived safari on a Mississippi River island. A gifted storyteller and local historian, Dr. Nickell’s wit and love for the past are combined with sounds and music that augment his narrative.On Saturday, June 7, 2008, Almost Yesterday received First Place in the "Special Programs" category at the Missouri Broadcasters Association Awards Banquet in Kansas City, Missouri.Almost Yesterday airs every Wednesday at 5:42 and 7:42 a.m. and 5:18 p.m.

Almost Yesterday: Sarah Althea Hill, Cape Girardeau Lady of Controversy

 Sarah Althea Hill of Cape Girardeau
Southeast Missouri State University

It seems like Almost Yesterday that Sarah Althea Hill of Cape Girardeau, Missouri became one of the most controversial and mysterious women in the United States.

Born in 1850, Sarah was the daughter of Samuel and Julia Sloan Hill. She was educated by tutors at the home of her uncle, Isaac Hunter, in New Madrid. She attended St. Vincent’s Young Ladies Academy and St. Agnes Academy in Memphis.

When she arrived in California in 1870 with her brother, Morgan Hill, the beautiful twenty-year old Sarah Hill attracted much attention. Her brother introduced her to his employer, William Ralston, a millionaire bank executive, who introduced her to his business partner, William Sharon, the wealthiest man west of the Mississippi.

In 1875, Sharon’s wife died, he took over the Ralston Banking interests, and was selected as a U.S. Senator from Nevada.

According to Ms. Hill, she and Senator Sharon became close friends and were quietly married in 1880, with a written agreement that the marriage could not be made public for at least two years. But Ms. Hill violated the agreement when she sued for divorce, charging the Senator with having similar arrangements with a number of other women.

This resulted in two celebrated trials in which Sarah won the first round and the Senator the second. But in the course of the trials, Sharon died and Sarah married her attorney. Her attorney/husband was shot and killed by a U.S. Marshall for threatening the judge. Later, Sarah was found to be in contempt of court and ruled insane.

This beautiful young lady from Cape Girardeau spent the last 52 years of her life in the California Hospital for the Insane, where she died on February 14, 1937.

Frank Nickell is a retired history professor at Southeast Missouri State University.
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