THE HORRORS OF INDIAN CAPTIVITY - PART THREE
JOHN HENRY BROWN
(Continued. Read PART TWO here)
Omitting Mrs. Horn's mental tortures on account of her children, she avers that the sufferings of Mrs. Harris were much greater than her own. That lady could not brook the idea of menial service to such demons and fared badly. They were often near together and were allowed occasionally to meet and mingle their tears of anguish. Mrs. Harris, generally, was starved to such a degree that she availed herself of every opportunity to get a mite of meat, however small, through Mrs. Horn.
In about two months two little Mexican boys, who were prisoners, told her a little boy had arrived nearby with his captors and told them his mother was a prisoner somewhere in the country. By permission she went to see him and found her little Joseph, who, painted and his head shaven excepting a tuft on the crown, recognized her at a distance and ran to her overflowing with cries and tears of joy. She was allowed to remain with him only half an hour. I draw the veil over the heart-rending scene of their separation.
It was four months before she heard of John, her elder son, and then she saw him passing with a party, but was not allowed to go to him. Sometime later, however, when the different bands congregated for buffalo hunting, she was allowed to see him. Time passed, and dates cannot be given, but Mrs. Horn records that "some of Captain Coffee's men came to trade with the Indians and found me." They were Americans and made every effort to buy her, but in vain. On leaving they said they would report to Captain Coffee and if anyone could assist these captives he could and would. Soon afterwards he came in person and offered the Indians any amount in goods and money, but without avail. Mrs. Horn says: "He expressed the deepest concern at his disappointment and wept over me as he gave me clothing and divided his scanty supply of flour with me and my children, which he took the pains to carry to them himself. It is, if possible, with a deeper interest that I record this tribute of gratitude to Captain Coffee because, since my strange deliverance, I have been pained to learn that he has been charged with supineness and indifference on the subject; but I can assure the reader that nothing more can be unjust. Mrs. Harris was equally the object of his solicitude. The meeting of this friend in the deep recesses of savage wilds was indeed like water to a thirsty soul, and the parting under such gloomy forebodings opened anew the fountain of grief in my heart. It was to me as the icy seal of death fixed upon the only glimmering ray of hope, and my heart seemed to die within me, as the form of him whom I had fondly anticipated as my delivering angel, disappeared in the distance."
(The noble-hearted gentleman thus embalmed in the pure heart of that daughter of sorrow, was Holland Coffee, the founder of Coffee's Trading House on Red River, a few miles above Denison. He was a member of the Texan Congress in 1838, a valuable and courageous man on the frontier, and to the regret of the country was killed a few years later in a difficulty, the particulars of which are not at this time remembered:) Colonel Coffee, formerly of Southwest Missouri, but for many years a citizen of Georgetown, Texas, was a brother to the deceased.)
Soon after this there was so great a scarcity of meat that some of the Indians nearly starved. Little John managed to send his mother small portions of his allowance and when, not a great while later, she saw him for the last time he was rejoiced to learn that she had received them. He had been sick and had a sore throat, but she was only allowed a short interview with him. Soon after this little Joseph's party camped near her and she was permitted to spend a day with him. He had a new owner and he said he was then treated kindly. His mistress, who was a young Mexican, had been captured with her brother and remained with them, while her brother by some means had been restored to his people. He was one of the hired guard at the unfortunate settlement of Dolores, where Joseph knew him and learned of his captivity and that his sister was still with the savages. By accident this woman learned these facts from Joseph, who to convince her, showed how her brother walked, he being lame. This coincidence established a bond of union between the two, greatly to Joseph's advantage. As the shades of evening approached the little fellow piteously clung to his mother, who, for the last time, folded him in her arms and commended his soul to that beneficent God in whose goodness and mercy she implicitly trusted.
Some time in June, 1837, a little over fourteen months after their capture, a party of Mexican traders visited the camp and bought Mrs. Harris. In this work of mercy they were employees of that largehearted Santa Fe trader, who had previously ransomed and restored Mrs. Rachel Plummer to her people, Mr. William Donoho, of whom more will hereafter be said. They tried in vain to buy Mrs. Horn. Although near each other, she was not allowed to see Mrs. Harris before her departure, but rejoiced at her liberation. They had often mingled their tears together and had been mutual comforters. Of this separation Mrs. Horn wrote: "Now left a lonely exile in the bonds of savage slavery, haunted by night and by day with the image of my murdered husband, and tortured continually by an undying solicitude for my dear little ones, my life was little else than unmitigated misery, and the God of Heaven only knows why and how it is that I am still alive."
After the departure of Mrs. Harris the Indians traveled to and fro almost continually for about three months without any remarkable occurrence. At the end of this time they were within two days' travel of San, Miguel, a village on the Pecos, in Eastern New Mexico. Here an Indian girl told Mrs. Horn that she was to be sold to people who lived in houses. She did not believe it and cared but little, indeed dreaded thereby she might never see her children, but hope suggested that as a prisoner she might never see them again, while her redemption might be followed by theirs. A great many Indians had here congregated. Her old woman friend in reply to her questions told her she was to be sold, wept bitterly and applied to her neck and arms a peculiar red paint, symbol of undying friendship. They started early one morning and traveled until dark, encamping near a pond. They started before day the next morning and soon reached a river, necessarily the Pecos, or ancient Puerco, which they forded, and soon arrived at a small town on the margin, where they encamped for the remainder of the day. The inhabitants visited the camp from curiosity, among them a man who spoke broken English, who asked if Mrs. Horn was for sale and was answered affirmatively by her owner. He then gave her to understand that if he bought her he expected her to remain with him, to which, with the feelings of a pure woman she promptly replied that she did not wish to exchange her miserable condition for a worse one. He offered two horses for her, however, but they were declined. Finding that he could not buy her, he told her that in San Miguel there was a rich American merchant, named Benjamin Hill, who would probably buy her. Her mistress seemed anxious that she should fall into the American hands, and she was herself of course intensely anxious to do so.
They reached San Miguel on the next day and encamped there. She soon conveyed through an old woman in the place, a message to Mr. Hill. He promptly appeared and asked if she knew Mrs. Harris, and if she had two children among the Indians. Being answered in the affirmative, he said: "You are the woman I have heard of," and added, "I suppose you would be happy to get away from these people." "I answered in the affirmative, when he bid me 'good morning,' and deliberately walked off without another word, my throbbing bosom swelled with unutterable anguish as he disappeared."
For two days longer she remained in excruciating suspense as to her fate. Mr. Hill neither visited nor sent her anything, while the Mexicans were very kind. On the morning of the third day the Indians began preparations for leaving, and when three-fourths of the animals were packed and some had left, a good hearted Mexican appeared and offered to buy Mrs. Horn, but was told it was too late. The applicant insisted, exhibiting four beautiful bridles, and inviting the Indian owning her to go with her to his house near by. He consented. In passing Hill's store on the way, her mistress, knowing she preferred passing into American hands, persuaded her to enter it. Mr. Hill offered a worthless old horse for her, and then refused to give some red and blue cloth which the Indians fancied, for her. They went to the Mexican's house and he gave for her two fine horses, the four fine bridles, two fine blankets, two looking glasses, two knives, some tobacco, powder and balls, articles then of very great cost. She says: "I subsequently learned that for my ransom I was indebted to the benevolent heart of an American gentleman, a trader, then absent, who had authorized this Mexican to purchase us at any cost, and had made himself responsible for same. Had I the name of my benefactor I would gratefully record it in letters of gold and preserve it as a precious memento of his truly Christian philanthropy."
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It was shown in the sequel that the noble heart to which the ransomed captive paid homage, pulsated in the manly breast of Mr. William Donoho, then of Santa Fe, but a Missourian, and afterwards of Clarksville, Texas, where his only surviving child was residing in 1894. His widow died there in 1880, preceded by him in 1845.
The redemption of this daughter of multiplied sorrows occurred, as stated. at San Miguel, New Mexico, on the 19th of September, 1837, one year, five months and fifteen days after her capture on the 4th of April, 1836, on the Nueces river in Texas.
On the 21st of September, to her surprise, Mr. Hill sent a servant requesting her to remove to his house. This she refused. The servant came a second time saying, in the name of his master, that if she did not he would compel her to do so. A trial was had and she was awarded to Hill. She remained in his service as a servant, fed on mush and milk and denied a seat at the luxurious table of himself and mistress until the 2nd of November. A generous hearted gentleman named Smith, residing sixty miles distant at the mines, hearing of her situation, sent the necessary means and escort to have her taken to his place for temporary protection. She left on the 2nd and arrived at Mr. Smith's on the 4th. The grateful heart thus notes the change: "The contrast between this and the house I left exhibited the difference between a servant and a guest, between the cold heart that would coin the tears of helpless misery into gold to swell a miser's store, and the generous bestowal of heavenly friendship which, in its zeal to relieve the woes of suffering humanity, gives sacred attestation that it springs from the bosom of `Him, who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor that we, through His poverty, might become rich.' "
Her stay in the home of Mr. Smith was a daily repetition of kindness, and she enjoyed all that was possible in view of the ever present grief over her slaughtered husband and captive children.
In February, 1838, she received a sympathetic letter from Texas, accompanied with presents of clothing, from Messrs. Workman & Rowland, Missourians, so long honorably known as Santa Fe traders and merchants, whose families were then residing in Taos. They advised her to defer leaving for Independence until they could make another effort to recover her children and invited her to repair, as their guest, to Taos to await events, and provided the means for her doing so, placing her under the protection of Mr. Kirkindall (probably Kuykendall, but I follow her spelling of the name.) "But," she records, "friends were multiplying around me, who seemed to vie with each other in their endeavors to meet my wants. Other means presented themselves and I was favored with the company of a lady and Dr. Waldo."
She left Mr. Smith and the mines on the 4th of March, 1838, and after traveling in snow and over rocks and mountains part of the way, arrived at Taos on the 10th. From that time until the 22nd of August her time was about equally divided between the families of Messrs. Workman and Rowland, who bestowed upon her every kindness. She now learned that these gentlemen had formerly sent out a company to recover herself and Mrs. Harris, who had fallen in with a different tribe of Indians and lost several of their number in a fight. Her friend, Mr. Smith, had performed a similar service and when far out his guide faltered, causing such suffering as to cause several deaths from hunger, while some survived by drinking the blood of their mules. While Mrs. Horn remained with them these gentlemen endeavored through two trading parties to recover her children, but failed. A report came in that little John had frozen to death, holding horses at night; but it was not believed by many. Mrs. Harris and Mrs. Plummer reached Missouri under the protection of Mrs. Donoho. On the 2nd of August all efforts to recover her children having failed, leaving only the hope that others might succeed, Mrs. Horn left in the wagon train and under the protection of Messrs. Workman and Rowland. She was the only lady in the party. Nothing unusual transpired on the journey of 700 or 800 miles, and on the last day of September, 1838, they arrived at Independence, Missouri. On the 6th of October she reached the hospitable home of Mr. David Workman at New Franklin.
This closes the narrative as written by Mrs. Horn soon after she reached Missouri and before she met Mr. Donoho. Her facts have been faithfully followed, omitting the repetition of her sufferings and correcting her dates in two cases where her memory was at fault. She sailed from New York on the 11th of November, 1833, a year earlier than stated by her, hence arrived at Dolores a year earlier, and consequently remained there two years instead of one, for it is absolutely certain that she arrived there in March, 1834, and left there in March, 1836. I have been able also, from her notes, to approximate localities and routes mentioned by her from long acquaintance with much of the country over which she traveled.
Mr. Donoho, in company with his wife—a lady of precious memory in Clarksville, Texas, from the close of 1839 until her death in 1880—conveyed Mrs. Plummer, one of the captives taken at Parker's Fort, May 19, 1836, and Mrs. Harris from Santa Fe to Missouri in the autumn of 1837. He escorted Mrs. Plummer to Texas, left his wife and Mrs. Harris with his mother-in-law, Mrs. Lucy Dodson, in Pulaski county, Missouri, and then hastened back to Santa Fe to look after his property and business, for he had hurried away because of a sudden outbreak of hostilities between the New Mexicans and Indians tonnerly friendly, and this is the reason he was not present to take personal charge of Mrs. Horn on her recovery at San Miguel. When he reached Santa Fe, Mrs. Horn had left Taos for Independence. Closing his business in Santa Fe he left the place permanently and rejoined his family at Mrs. Dodson's. Mrs. Horn then for the first time met him and remained several months with his family. Prior to this her narrative had been written, and she still saw little of him, he being absent on business. Mrs. Harris had relatives in Texas, but shrank from the idea of going there; and hearing of other kindred near Boonville, Missouri, joined them, and soon died from the exposure and abuse undergone while a prisoner of the savages. Mrs. Horn soon died from the same causes while on a visit, though her home was with Mrs. Dodson. Both Mrs. Harris and Mrs. Horn were covered with barbaric scars—their vital organs were impaired, and they fell the victims of that accursed cruelty known only to savage brutes.
In verification of the facts not stated by Mrs. Horn, because when writing they were unknown to her, I have the statements of Dr. William Dodson and Mrs. Lucy Estes of Camden county, Missouri, brother and sister of Mrs. Donoho, who were with all the parties for nearly a year after they reached Missouri.
A copy of Mrs. Horn's memoirs came into my possession in 1839, when it had just been issued, and so remained until accidentally lost many years, believed to have been the only copy ever in Texas. The events described by her were never otherwise published in the State. This is not strange. Beales' Colony was neither in Texas at that date, nor in any way connected with the American colonies or settlements in Texas. It was in Coahuila, Mexico, though now in the limits of Texas. When its short life terminated in dispersion and the butchery of the retreating party on the Nueces, the Mexican army covered every roadway leading to the inhabited part of Texas, before whom the entire population had fled east. None were left to recount the closing tragedy except the two unfortunate and (as attested by all who subsequently knew them) refined Christian ladies whose travails and sorrows have been chronicled, both of whom, as shown died soon after liberation, and neither of whom ever after saw Texas.
The novelty of this history, unknown to the people of Texas at the time of its occurrence, has moved me to extra diligence in search of the truth and the whole truth of its elucidation. As a delicate and patriotic duty it has been faithfully performed in justice to the memory of the strangely united daughters of England and America, and of those lion-hearted yet noble-breasted American gentlemen, Messrs. Donoho, Workman, Rowland and Smith, by no means omitting Mrs. Donoho, Mrs. Dodson and children, nor yet the poor old Comanche woman—a pearl among swine—who looked in pity upon the stricken widow, mother and captive.
Lamenting my inability to state the fate of little John and Joseph, and trusting that those who come after us may realize the cost in blood through which Texas was won to civilization, to enlightened freedom and to a knowledge of that religion by which it is taught that "Charity suffereth long and is kind, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, doeth all things, and endureth all things," I do not regret the labor it has cost me to collect the materials for this sketch.
(We learned a few years ago that Earl Vandale, of Amarillo, Texas, had in his possession a copy of the pamphlet written and published by Mrs. Horn in 1838. This is no doubt the Memoirs of Mrs. Horn, which John Henry Brown mentions in the above. —Editor.)