Horn, Sarah Ann Newton (ca. 1809–ca. 1839)

By: Sherilyn Brandenstein

Type: Biography

Published: February 1, 1995

Sarah Ann Horn, one of many Indian captives, was born about 1809 in Huntingdon, England, the youngest child in the Newton family. She was raised in a poor household headed by her widowed mother. On October 14, 1827, she married merchant John Horn in London; by 1831 they had two sons. Hearing of opportunities in the United States, Horn moved his family to New York in July 1833. That year John Charles Beales was in New York recruiting colonists for a fledgling community near the Rio Grande in Coahuila, Mexico. Horn bought into Beales's colony. Taking his wife and children, he sailed to Copano Bay, Texas, late in 1833. From the coast the party traveled for more than two months to reach Presidio del Río Grande, then continued to Beales settlement, Dolores, thirty miles north of the site of present Eagle Pass, Texas. By the time they arrived in March 1834, the Horns had heard many reports of Comanche Indian attacks.

The immigrants at Dolores endured severe conditions for two years. By March 1836 the consistently poor harvests, mismanagement by Beales's representatives, and Comanche Indian attacks nearby prompted the Horn family to leave for Matamoros, Tamaulipas. Hoping to return to England, they set off with several men and the Harris family. Their group circled north toward San Patricio, trying to avoid the Mexican army and Indian parties moving between the Rio Grande and the Nueces River that spring. They had crossed the Nueces on April 4 when a band of Comanches surprised their party. The Indians killed several men, including Horn, and took as captives Sarah Horn, Mr. and Mrs. Harris, the children of both families, and a German man. At a large encampment nearby, the captive women witnessed the murder of Mr. Harris, the Harris baby, and the German. The entire Indian group then left the vicinity and subjected the captive women and the Horn boys to physical abuse throughout the journey. In the Comanches' home area Sarah Horn's boys were separated from her group. She only had brief encounters with her sons afterward. In the meantime, the group holding Mrs. Harris situated itself near the family keeping Sarah and allowed the captive women to remain in contact. Mrs. Horn reported a three-month trip northwest late in June 1837. At a trading rendezvous in San Miguel, a town on the Pecos River near the site of present Las Vegas, New Mexico, American traders bought her from the Comanches.

She remained with Americans in the vicinity for nearly a year. Friends sent out parties hoping to purchase her sons, but heard from Comanches that the younger son had died of exposure and the elder one was not for sale. Although Sarah Horn and others petitioned the Texas government for assistance in rescuing Americans held by Indians, the new nation's officials failed to aid them. She lost hope that she could recover her sons and requested her own safe return to the United States. She traveled with a large caravan from Santa Fe to Independence, Missouri, where she arrived in September 1838. In Howard County, Missouri, she was taken in by the family of trader William Donoho. A writer, E. House, recorded her account, published in 1839 under the title A Narrative of the Captivity of Mrs. Horn, and Her Two Children, with Mrs. Harris, by the Camanche Indians. House employed the sensational style of early-nineteenth-century "penny dreadful" stories.

Still afflicted with injuries sustained during captivity, Mrs. Horn died about 1839 in Pulaski County, Missouri. In 1851 a shortened version of her narrative, also attributed to House, was published in Cincinnati. Like most Texas Indian captivity stories, the Horn narrative was distributed primarily to readers outside of Texas. In 1839 it also appeared in a fictional treatment by Anna C. Johnson Miller, under the pseudonym Minnie Myrtle, titled Narrative of the Captivity and Extreme Sufferings of Mrs. Clarissa Plummer; this book was based on the captivity accounts of Sarah Horn and Rachel Plummer.

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John Henry Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas (Austin: Daniell, 1880; reprod., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Richard VanDerBeets, The Indian Captivity Narrative: An American Genre (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1984).
  • Peoples
  • English
  • Native American
  • Captives and Victims of Attack
  • Women
  • Native American Captives

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Sherilyn Brandenstein, “Horn, Sarah Ann Newton,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 17, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/horn-sarah-ann-newton.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1995

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