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Rare Genuine Texas Captivity in Original Boards

First-Hand Account of the Dystopian Beales Colony

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224.     HORN, [Sarah Ann Newton] & E. House (editor). A Narrative of the Captivity of Mrs. [Sarah Ann Newton] Horn, and Her Two Children, with Mrs. Harris, by the Camanche [sic] Indians, after They Had Murdered Their Husbands and Travelling Companions; with a Brief Account of the Manners and Customs of That Nation of Savages, of Whom So Little is Generally Known. [Four lines of verse] Copyright Secured. St. Louis: C. Keemle, Printer, 22 Olive St., 1839. [1-5] 6-60 pp. (pp. 15-22 in sympathetic facsimile). 12mo (18 x 11.5 cm), original brown cloth over publisher’s printed boards with title within ornamental border: A Narrative of the Captivity of Mrs. Horn…with That of Mrs. Harris, by the Camanche [sic] Indians, and Who Was Ransomed by the American Traders, and Brought by Them from Santa Fé to New Franklin, Mo., in the Fall of 1838. Written by E. House…. Cloth spine slightly worn, spine extremities slightly chipped, spine partially shellacked, fragile covers moderately rubbed and worn (some dulling of text), printed covers have a few voids affecting some text. Interior with light overall browning and foxing; some leaves lightly waterstained in margins. Ink ownership inscriptions of G.M. Stoltz on front fly leaf and of S.M. Long on lower pastedown (the latter with genealogical notes). The book is rare in any condition. The copy at the Center for American History at the University of Texas is in lesser condition, with wraps very worn and lacking nine leaves. The Siebert Sale copy, which fetched $20,700 in 1999, was in boards but re-backed and had perforations on the title page and one other leaf.

     First edition of a very rare, genuine Texas captivity. Ayer 134. Eberstadt, Texas 162:401 (pp. 51-58 in facsimile): “The first copy to appear at public sale since 1912.” Graff 1973. Field 715. Howes H642 (“c”). AII, Missouri Imprints 244. Plains & Rockies IV:74:1. Rader 1929. Sabin 33024. St. Louis Mercantile Library Association, Adventures and Sufferings: The American Indian Captivity Narrative through the Centuries 14. Streeter 1347 (locating seven copies, none in Texas, though we know of one copy in a private collection and UT owns a defective copy): Tate, The Indians of Texas: An Annotated Research Bibliography 2298. Vaughan, Narratives of North American Indian Captivity 13. Not in American Imprints.

     This is a first-hand historical account, not to be confused with the “penny dreadful” captivity genre, such as the Caroline Harris captivity story, New York, 1838 (Streeter 1312), and the Clarissa Plummer narrative, New York, 1838 (Streeter 1320). Carl Coke Rister considered the work authentic and reprinted it in full in Comanche Bondage (Glendale: Arthur H. Clark, 1955). Rister comments on the rarity of this book and speaks of “its narration of stark realism, of primitive Indian life, and of terrible cruelty and grim tragedy.” For additional commentary on this authentic work and its influence on fictional captivity tales, see Streeter’s notes to his entry 1312A and Roy Harvey Pearce, “The Significance of the Captivity Narrative” (American Literature, Vol. XIX, No. 1, March, 1947, pp. 16-17).

     Filled with the usual recitations of atrocities, cruelties, and sufferings inflicted at the hands of her Comanche captors, Mrs. Horn’s account is nevertheless highly unusual because of the brooding, dark vision she has of Texas, forebodings that she recounts beginning as soon as the trip was planned in England. Afflicted from the beginning by gruesome nightmares about calamities befalling her children, Mrs. Horn is quickly overtaken by genuine disasters. She has nothing good to say about Texas; in fact, her story is portrays it as a dystopic landscape in which dire presentiments continually come true.

     The overland expedition recounted here crossed southwestern Texas from Copano, where Mrs. Horn’s group landed, through Austin’s Colony, past Bexar and Presidio Rio Grande, to Dolores, the capital of Beales’ Rio Grande Colony. Her account of the journey is filled with misadventures, catastrophes, and tragedies. One particular series of accidents on the way inland seems representative of the entire experience for Mrs. Horn. Wagon wheels broke on three successive vehicles, all in the course of a single hour. Forced to move farther inland because of Beales’ plans for his colony, the party was sent to an exposed position. After the start of the Texas Revolution and a series of Native American attacks, the vulnerable group decided to head for the safety of Matamoros and thence back to England. “At this time the bloody Santa-Anna was ravaging the country with fire and sword, and was no less a terror to us than the Indians. He was carrying on a war of extermination against the Americans” (p. 15). The bulk of the narrative occurs after they are captured on that trip. As she remarks in one sentence that seems to sum up her entire experience: “Little else but a series of misfortunes and disappointments had attended us from the moment we set out for this strange land” (p. 14).

     Mrs. Horn (ca. 1809-ca. 1839), who is notably absent in the standard sources on women in Texas and the West, was born in England. After her marriage to John Horn and the birth of their two sons, the family set out for Beales’ Rio Grande Colony in July of 1833. After a difficult two years on the far southwestern Texas frontier, the family decided to return to England, but the plan was interrupted by the aforementioned attacks and by her captivity. Mrs. Horn was eventually ransomed by American traders in New Mexico. After spending some time there, she went to Missouri and stayed with William Donoho. She apparently died shortly thereafter, and her two sons were never heard from again. A notice on the lower board attests to the authenticity of this narrative, which, according to its editor, House, was published to raise money so that Mrs. Horn could return to England. Little is known of the fate of her fellow captive, Mrs. Harris, except that she was “redeemed” before Mrs. Horn.

     Between 1830 and 1832, John Charles Beales (1804-1878), along with several partners, received a group of large land grants from the Mexican government totalling more than fifty million acres, with the proviso that they settle eight hundred families in the region. The expedition described in Mrs. Horn’s narrative was the first to arrive on the grant. Despite some progress and the arrival of other colonists, the enterprise never prospered because of poor crops, Native American incursions and drought. The beginning of the Texas Revolution and Santa-Anna’s invasion signaled the end of the venture. Dolores, the place where Mrs. Horn and her fellow emigrants settled, was located about thirty miles up the Rio Grande from Eagle Pass.

     Streeter comments in his introduction: “What are known as ‘Indian Captivities’ have a fascination for many, especially if they are fact rather than fiction…. A Narrative of the Captivity of Mrs. Horn, and Her Two Children, St. Louis, 1839 (No. 1347), a book sought after by collectors of Western Americana, is in part an account of an actual journey across south Texas to the Beales colony.”


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