W. T. Block
Texas' Pioneer "Bad Girl"
Scull, the pioneer Texas 'bad girl" was a combination Belle
Starr, Calamity Jane, and Annie Oakley. She was born Sarah Jane Newman in
1817 in Madison County, Illinois Territory, the daughter of Joseph Newman and
Rachel Rabb. In 1822 her parents and grandfather, William Rabb, were among the
first settlers of Stephen F. Austin's "Old Three Hundred" in Austin's colony,
which in Texas was the equivalent of arriving on the Mayflower.|
on Hwy 77 north of La Grange includes
not a word on "black sheep" granddaughter Sally. TE photo, April 2007|
| Early in life Sally
scoffed at the idea of a sun-bonneted, straight-laced Southern lady, who wore
hoopskirts, rode side saddle, and prized an impeccable reputation. Although Sally
retained her sun bonnets, she was believed to be the first Texas woman, who wore
only riding skirts, rode astride in the saddle like a cowboy, and whose reputation
was quite tainted. |
In Texas folklore she "cussed like a mule skinner,
rode like a man, roped like a vaquero, and picked wildflowers with her bullwhip..."
She always wore two revolvers strapped to her waist, and she shot with either
hand with the skill of a gunslinger.
While living in Dewitt
County, she married Jesse Robinson at age 16 in 1833, bore him two children,
and divorced him ten years later. Soon afterward she married a gunsmith named
George Scull, who disappeared six years later. When asked where he was, she always
answered: "He's dead!," spoken with a scowl so severe that it discouraged further
questioning. Her third husband, John Doyle, also disappeared very quickly.
In 1852, after moving to her 640-acre spread at Banquette
in Nueces County,
she hired several Mexican vaqueros to break and care for her horses, for Sally
became the best-known horse trader in South Texas. She spoke Spanish with equal
fluency. Once or twice annually, Sally would cross the Rio Grande with her vaqueros
and return with a large herd of Mexican ponies.
By then Sally's scowl
and reputation as a desperado also discouraged questions about bills-of-sale or
her horses' origins. Once when a man questioned those items, Sally fired several
shots at his feet, as her antagonist learned to two-step in a hurry.
1852, during the first Lone Star State Fair at Corpus
Christi, John S. "Rip" Ford heard a gunshot. He turned as a man with a pistol
in his hand fell to the ground, and Sally was returning her six-shooter back in
its holster. Several onlookers swore she had fired in self-defense.
1855 Scull married her fourth husband, Isaiah Wadkins. He too disappeared, but
in a less questionable manner. He found a more attractive woman in Rio Grande
City and ran away with her. Hence Sally divorced him.
In 1861, Sally Scull
entered one of the few legal episodes of her life, the wagon-freighting of Confederate
cotton from Alleyton, near
Columbus, to Matamoros, Mexico
where she sold her cotton for fifty cents per pound. Sally owned ten freight wagons,
each of which could carry ten bales, along with many mules and yokes of oxen;
and she had used her vaqueros as teamsters. By 1861, a Houston
railroad had been completed to Alleyton,
leaving the 400-mile distance to be completed by wagon train. On her return journeys,
she brought back muskets, gunpowder, coffee, and medicines for the Confederate
soldiers. Sally reputedly earned a $35,000 fortune in gold during her wagon train
After the Civil War, Sally's fifth husband, "Horse Trough" Horsdorff
reputedly murdered Sally in order to obtain her gold fortune, but he was never
charged with the offense since no body was ever found. Without a doubt, Sally
Scull, profane, provocative, and treacherous, was one of the most colorful figures
ever to dot the Texas landscape, and stories about her will continue to fill the
tales of folklore in Texas.