Sarah E. Putman Mitchell, Former Captive

Sarah Elizabeth Putman Mitchell was one of the four children of Mitchell A. Putman (1794 – 1887) and Rebecca Hall Putman (1802 – 1846) who were taken captive by the Comanche on December 9, 1838 along with Matilda Lockhart. Sarah was born to the couple in May, 1832 while they were living in Benton, Alabama.

Sarah’s story, unlike some, had a more positive ending. She was eventually reunited with her family and lived a long life including having a family of her own. Over the years, she gave a number of newspaper accounts of her experiences. One was in the September 1, 1912 issue of the San Angelo Daily Standard. She was eighty-one years old at the time and was passing though San Angelo with one of her daughters, a Mrs. L. D. Sheppard. Both ladies were visiting Sarah’s granddaughter who lived on a ranch on nearby Grape Creek. They had stopped over in San Angelo as they were heading by train for Sweetwater and ultimately on to Midland were Mrs. Sheppard lived.

The reporter, John Warren Hunter, was able to spend some time with the ladies and Mrs. Mitchell recalled many events of her life. She began by telling that her father, Mitchell Putman, had served in United States Army both the Creek War, the War of 1812 (under Andrew Jackson) and finally in the Mexican-American War. In other accounts, Mitchell is also said to have served for several months in 1836 in the Texas Army, but it was not mentioned in this particular article. In 1835, the Putman family had come first to Austin’s Colony after it had been settled but had continued on to DeWitt Colony area, settling on the Guadalupe River near the current town of Cuero, Texas most likely living directly adjacent to the family of Andrew and Esther Lockhart.

According to her account, she and her siblings were out gathering pecans with Matilda Lockhart in the Guadalupe bottoms when a band of mounted Comanche tribesmen seized them and took them away. According to her account, Matilda Lockhart and her sister Rhoda Putman were both fourteen, her brother James was seven, her sister Lucy was two and she was five. She and the younger children were given out to various females of the tribe. She made a point to say that she and some of the others were treated kindly.

Sarah said she was with her captors in 1839 during a battle between them and a group made up of Anglos and Lipan. The captives along with the women and children of the tribe were taken to safety. In a comment we have not read elsewhere, Sarah says that Matilda Lockhart heard the voice of her father Andrew calling her but was unable to connect with him and that afterward Matilda was punished for yelling out during the attack. The date of this event was later determined to be February 15, 1839 and the group that attacked the tribe had been led by Captain John H. Moore.

The following spring in San Antonio the Council House Fight occurred and only Matilda Lockhart was restored to her family that day. The talks broke down, a number of Comanches were killed while others were wounded or captured. Shortly afterward, she recalls, a Comanche female who had been captured in the fight was given provisions and released on horseback to carry the message that other Comanche captives would be released in exchange for Anglo captives held by the tribes. Under a white flag of truce, an exchange was carried out and one of those released by the Comanche was Sarah Putman. Sarah recalled that there were ten captives, seven of whom were Mexican, one was Black and two were Anglo. She also recalls that she was allowed to tell Rhoda goodbye before she left and said “That was the last time I ever saw my beloved sister; we never heard of her again.”

Sarah related the remarkable story of the youngest of the siblings to be captured, Lucy, who was separated from her early on. Lucy was later sold to man named “Chinault” in the article who named her Mary. Mr. Chinault adopted her and saw to it that she was educated. Ironically, Chinault had a brother who lived at Gonzales in Texas and had served for many years as District and County Clerk. Some twenty-eight years after her capture, Lucy/Mary (who had not yet married) and her adoptive father Chinault also moved near to Gonzales, only twelve miles from where she had been taken. The story of her former captivity became known and various people began to visit them to see if she might be related. Eventually Mitchell Putman and Sarah came to visit them. Mary was identified by them as being Lucy Putman by means of a birthmark and a scar she had at the time she was taken away. After the happy reunion, Mary again took the name Lucy since that was the name her mother had given her. Her mother had died back in 1846, but she returned to the old family home to live with Mitchell until she married.

One item remains unresolved concerning the life of Lucy. Near the end of the article, Sarah said that Lucy had married a man named Jack Harris and that the couple had moved to far West Texas where Lucy died around 1891. Another credible account has Lucy marrying a Richard W. Gibson in 1869, raising a family and living for many years in or near Dripping Springs. This account has Lucy passing in 1922 and being buried in Dripping Springs. These two accounts cannot be reconciled at this time.

Less is known about their brother James, but if his story is mentioned at all, he is usually said to have escaped from his captors and returned to the Gonzales area by around 1850. He married a widow named Nash and after she died, he remarried. James is believed to have lived in Gonzales County until his own passing around 1891 and his burial place is unknown.

Sarah married George Daniel Mitchell (1829 – 1866). The couple had a number of children and resided in Wrightsboro, Gonzales County. George Daniel Mitchell served in the Confederate Army in the 8th Texas Cavalry during the Civil War.

Biographical information about George Daniel Mitchell says that he was born in Louisiana. He served in the Mexican-American War after which he married Sarah in December of 1848. In 1850, he and Sarah were living in Salt Stream in Gonzales County with their four children. At that time, his occupation was listed as farmer and wagon driver. He enlisted in the Confederate Army in Houston in September of 1861, was wounded at Shiloh, Tennessee in April of 1862, was wounded yet again at Bardsdown, Kentucky in October of 1862. His wounds left him unable to use his right arm, but he continued to serve as a wagon driver. Mitchell died of unknown causes on December 17, 1866 at the age of thirty-seven. Sarah survived him another fifty years until she passed in 1919. She is also buried in Wrightsboro.

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