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  Texas : Features : Columns : Lone Star Diary :

Survivor tells of dreadful ordeal...
A Captive of the Comanche

Introduced by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery
Along 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 hunting.

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
Lone Star Diary

September 8, 2004
 
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