tells of dreadful ordeal... Introduced
by Murray Montgomery
A Captive of the Comanche
the Texas frontier in the 1800s, just the word, "Comanche," would
strike fear in the hearts of frontier folk. The Indians frequently
took children captive when they raided the settlements and more often
than not, the little ones were never heard from again.
The July 18, 1905, issue of The Gonzales Inquirer published an article
about one such Comanche raid; the story was about Mrs. Sarah E. (Putman)
Mitchell and her experiences as a child captive of the dreaded Comanche.
Excerpts from that old newspaper story are reprinted below.
The Gonzales Inquirer - July 18, 1905 - Headline: 'Thrilling Incident
Recalled After Years.'
Mrs. Sarah E. Mitchell, an aged resident of Wrightsboro, spent Thursday
night with friends in the city, whom she entertained relating thrilling
episodes of her life during the years that she was a prisoner of the
Comanche Indians. Mrs. Mitchell was one of the four Putman children,
who with Mathilda Lockhart were captured in 1838 by the Indians near
their home on the Guadalupe River. The children had started to gather
pecans in a grove a few hundred yards from the house when the Indians
who were concealed in a thicket, dashed by them on horses running
at full speed and picked the children up before them and galloped
on until they were many miles from home and parents.
At last they reached the Indian camp and the children were given to
squaws, who regarded them as their individual possessions. They were
dressed in short buckskin slips and shod with moccasins, and fed chiefly
on dried meat of deer, buffalo and antelope, which the men killed
with bows and arrows. Most of the time was spent traveling or moving,
the women camping for short intervals while the men were engaged in
Mrs. Mitchell distinctively remembers hearing the guns of battle,
and the Indians return to camp afterward with two scalps of white
men on a flagstaff, which a maiden held and waved aloft while the
chiefs engaged in a war dance. The squaw who had charge of little
3 year-old Lucy Putman, died, and the golden haired child was killed
and buried with her, according to Indian custom.
Mathilda Lockhart, as is learned in Texas history, was rescued in
a battle and returned to her friends. James Henry Putman, aged 9 years,
was exchanged with the whites for an Indian prisoner. A few months
later, Sarah Elizabeth Putman and nine other captive children - a
white boy, a Negro girl and seven Mexicans were exchanged in San Antonio
for Indian prisoners. The Indians refused to exchange 14 year-old
Rhonda Putman and her fate is unknown.
Sarah Putman was given in care of Dink Smith's family, who lived near
the river, wherein she was bathed and afterwards neatly attired. The
little buckskin slip and moccasins which she had worn so long were
thrown into the river and floated away. She remained for three weeks
with this family, carefully guarded, for she sought to return to the
squaw she had learned to love.
Judge Hemphill and Judge Robertson, recognizing her by family favor,
returned her to her father's house. She knew the members of her family
at once, and instantly approached her older sister and clasped her
arms around her neck.
© Murray Montgomery
September 8, 2004