Lockhart, Matilda (ca. 1825–ca. 1840)

By: Alice Gray Upchurch

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: August 7, 2020

Matilda Lockhart, who as a young girl was taken captive by Comanche Indians, was probably born in Illinois around 1825. Her father, Andrew Lockhart, emigrated with his family from Illinois to Texas in 1828 and settled on the Guadalupe River in Green DeWitt's colony. In the fall of 1838, when Matilda was about thirteen years old, she and four children of Mitchell Putnam were captured by Comanche Indians and carried into the Guadalupe Mountains. Two unsuccessful excursions were made to free the children, one to the head of the Guadalupe River in late 1838 and one under John H. Moore in 1839 to Spring Creek, a tributary of the San Saba River. Under the terms of a treaty, sixty-five Indians led by the chieftan Muguara (Muk-wah-rah) delivered Matilda to authorities in San Antonio on March 19, 1840. Mary Ann Maverick, who witnessed the event and helped to bathe and dress the girl after she was returned, later recounted that Matilda had been badly tortured and "was utterly degraded, and could not hold up her head again. Her head, arms, and face were full of bruises, and sores, and her nose actually burnt off to the bone-all the fleshy end gone, and a great scab formed on the on the end of the bone. Both nostrils were wide open and denuded of flesh. She told a piteous tale of how dreadfully the Indians had beaten her, and how they would wake her from her sleep by sticking a chunk of fire to her flesh, especially to her nose...her body had many scars from the fire." During her two years with the Comanches, Matilda had learned to understand some of the Comanches' language, and she revealed to the Texan authorities in San Antonio that the Indians still held thirteen other captives and that they planned to bring them in one by one and bargain for each in exchange for ammunition, blankets, and other supplies. Her harrowing tale of privation and torture and the failure of the Indians to deliver the Putnam children and other captives resulted in the Council House Fight, which took place the day Matilda was returned. According to Maverick, the girl never recovered from her experience and died two or three years later.

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T. R. Fehrenbach, Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans (New York: Macmillan, 1968). Rena Maverick Green, ed., Memoirs of Mary A. Maverick (San Antonio: Alamo Printing, 1921; rpt., Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989). Andrew Jackson Sowell, Early Settlers and Indian Fighters of Southwest Texas (Austin: Ben C. Jones, 1900; rpt., Austin: State House Press, 1986). J. W. Wilbarger, Indian Depredations in Texas (Austin: Hutchings, 1889; rpt., Austin: State House, 1985).

  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Captives and Victims of Attack
  • Women
  • Native American Captives
Time Periods:
  • Republic of Texas

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

Alice Gray Upchurch, “Lockhart, Matilda,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 11, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/lockhart-matilda.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 7, 2020

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