Sarah Creath Howard, pioneer woman, was born near Brownsville in Jackson County, Illinois, around 1812. If trials and tribulations build character, she must have had superior qualities, for her life was marked by one misfortune after another. Little is known of her until she and her husband, John McSherry, arrived in 1828 in DeWitt's colony, Texas, and settled on the west bank of the Guadalupe River some ten miles downstream from their nearest neighbor, Andrew Lockhart. Sarah was described as "a beautiful blonde...graceful in manner and pure of heart." John was "an honest, industrious man of nerve and will." Sarah gave birth to a son in 1829. Later that year her husband was killed by a band of Indians, after which Mrs. McSherry barred her cabin door, grabbed her gun, and prepared to defend herself and her baby. After being rescued by John McCrabb, a passerby, later that evening, Sarah departed her home and arrived the next day at the home of Andrew Lockhart, where she remained until she met and later married John Hibbins (or Hibbons). According to reports, Hibbins was a "well-to-do man." The Hibbinses took up residence in DeWitt County near the Guadalupe, but this time on the east bank near the site of present Concrete. During the summer of 1835, Sarah Hibbins and her two children journeyed to Illinois to visit her relatives. On the return trip to Texas in early 1836, she was accompanied by her only brother, George Creath. After arriving at Columbia on the Brazos in February 1836, Sarah, her children, and George were met by John Hibbins. As they reached Rock Creek, six miles from a site known as Sweet Home and only fifteen miles from the Hibbinses' home, thirteen Comanches attacked the party, killed Hibbins and George Creath, and captured Sarah and her children. Some accounts state that John Hibbins's mother was killed in this attack.
As Indian captives, closely guarded, Sarah and her children were permitted little privacy or freedom. Even while they slept, two guards stayed with them. As the Comanches made their second camp with the captives, the little baby began crying, and one of the Comanches smashed its head against a nearby tree as Sarah looked on in horror. After they had traveled across the Colorado River, the Comanches permitted Sarah and her remaining son to sleep without the close guards. At night, while everyone else was sleeping, Sarah slipped out of the camp, although her escape meant leaving her son behind. She traveled in the river and brush and eventually happened upon a herd of cattle and followed them home to seek help. Her journey of only ten miles had taken her twenty-four hours. Using information given by Sarah, Capt. John J. Tumlinson, Jr., successfully led a group of Texas Rangers in a raid against the Indians and rescued the boy.
Now, Sarah and her son found themselves fleeing from the advancing Mexicans who had just taken the Alamo. Finally finding refuge in Washington County, Sarah settled down and happened upon a former neighbor, Claiborne Stinnett, one of the first representatives of DeWitt County. In the spring of 1837 they were married and returned to the Guadalupe. Stinnett was later elected sheriff of Gonzales County. In the fall of 1837 he was murdered by two runaway slaves who fled to Mexico. It took until late 1842 for the full story of his death to come out and for his remains to be discovered. Not yet thirty and widowed for the third time, Sarah remained unmarried for some two years before marrying her fourth husband, Phillip Howard, around 1840. Though Sarah is best known as Mrs. Hibbins, she was married longest to Howard, who survived her. In the middle of 1840 the Howards left the Guadalupe area and moved to San Juan Capistrano Mission, some eight miles south of San Antonio. Almost immediately upon their arrival, Sarah's son from her first marriage, John McSherry, barely escaped from Indians as they raided the camp. The Howards moved farther down the San Antonio River to the southern end of Goliad County. But there they met with more Indian troubles and once again fled, this time to the area of present Hallettsville in Lavaca County. Now settled in peace, Sarah and Phillip had a daughter in 1845. Phillip was made county judge in 1848. In their later years, the Howards settled in Bosque County, where Sarah died around 1876.
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James T. DeShields, Border Wars of Texas, ed. Matt Bradley (Tioga, Texas, 1912; rpt., Waco: Texian Press, 1976). J. H. Kuykendall, "Reminiscences of Early Texans," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 6–7 (January-July 1903). William L. Mann, "James O. Rice, Hero of the Battle on the San Gabriels," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 55 (July 1951). J. W. Wilbarger, Indian Depredations in Texas (Austin: Hutchings, 1889; rpt., Austin: State House, 1985).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Susan Orr and H. D. Orr,
“Howard, Sarah Creath,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 18, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
October 1, 1995
Most Recent Revision Date:
October 31, 2019
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: