We are often asked the origin of the Parkhurst name and the inspiration to fashion wine under this brand versus our own names. The answer, like the namesake that we have adopted, is a story all on its own.
As the idea of making wines in the Rogue Valley came closer to being a reality for us, it was important that we find a name to work with that embraced many of the facets of our own journey to this point in time both personally, and in our wine “Story”. We have seen many historical names serve as an homage to the past and what “was” but rarely do they transcend into a modern story that is both engaging and inspiring. Even more so, some contemporary names and monikers seem to fade like fashion, almost with the seasons. It was our hope that whatever name we chose to brand on our wines would reflect part of our life’s journey and would be relatable to many others…providing a sense of inspiration as well as intrigue.
We found the Parkhurst name in the pages of the history books of the wild west. Woven into the tapestry of time that saw the settling of California and Oregon came a character so intriguing; we simply had to embrace the legendary story of “One-Eyed Charley Parkhurst” as an inspirational spirit for our wines.
Charley Parkhurst began life as part of a normal east coast family with siblings and parents as part of the local community. At a very young age Charley was sent to an orphanage as the Parkhurst family suffered tremendous loss and began to break apart. Eventually, Charley fled the orphanage likely due to ill-treatment and set out near the age of 12 to craft a future like no other. Over time, training in various forms of horse handling sent the youngster through the south and eventually to California. At this point, Charley had already lost an eye to an unfriendly kick from one of the horses in the stable. Undaunted, Parkhurst become quite adept at handling the large teams of horses necessary to take the stagecoaches of the west over untamed terrain. Facing inclement weather, dangerous highwaymen bent on stealing “The Box” and the untamed west itself, Charley became recognized as the best in the business. Being “The Whip” on a western stagecoach was a heavy challenge that Parkhurst embraced requiring bravery and skill while ensuring that the cargo, human or gold, came through safe and sound.
As time passed, the stories and fables of One-Eyed Charley Parkhurst became well known along the trails that tamed the west between California and Oregon as Charley, at one time or another, crossed them all.
As Charley aged, retirement waited in California for the salty “Whip” as agriculture became Parkhurst’s new vehicle for the rest of his days. Eventually, Charley passed and the local coroner came to collect the body. As the Doctor examined the weathered body it became immediately evident that Charley Parkhurst was actually Charlotte Parkhurst. Yes, in a world where men dominated the taming of this new land, one of the most respected and successful figures was a woman, living as a man.
This is the stuff of legends!
As legends go, the western legend of the “One-Eyed” stagecoach whip has inspired many characters seen in movies and in books of the fabled Wild West.
One of the most notable books written on the life of Charley Parkhurst is, “Charley’s Choice” by Fern J. Hill. (Available here http://www.fernjhill.com/ ) Although this book is a fictional biography about the life and times of Charlotte/Charley Parkhurst, the facts of the story that comes through speaks of the character behind the name.
“Charley” lived a purposed life that challenged the conventions of the time and dared anyone to believe differently. Her decision to live as a man bravely and inevitably placed her in the throes of a new world, struggling for survival as she braved physical and sociological frontiers every step of the way. Her courageous lifestyle is an inspiration to many as we face the challenges and choices that fashion each of us into who we are as humans.
As we travel back and forth between Oregon and California, it’s impressive to see the terrain that the brave men and women of those early years faced. What drive and ambition they manifested to follow the paths and travel ways that led to new lands and settlements. The opportunities afforded those who brave a new path and lead a life that may defy common perceptions, are usually the most rewarding. We feel that the Rogue Valley offers a rich tapestry of culture, history and opportunity on many levels, including winegrowing. Our choice to establish our winemaking efforts here doesn’t follow the common path in this business of wine but embraces a new frontier that we are inspired to meet now and as the years pass.
We hope that our journey inspires you as it does us.
Here's to Charley!