Hardships of Boy Captured by Indians

Taken from Loose Leaves of the History of Lamar County
Article appeared in The Paris News on Saturday, June 11, 1921

There was a wedding in old Jonesboro during the year 1825 that attracted somewhat more than passing notice. No date is given, nor are we furnished with other details which would enable us to more accurately depict the occurrence of this pleasant and important occasion. The nuptial festivities occurred at the home of Claiborne Wright, the first sheriff of Red River county. The principals were Miss Henrietta Wright, daughter of the sheriff, and Judge Gabriel Martin. The bride was just 18 and enjoyed a wealth of simple frontier beauty that rendered her popular among all her friends and acquaintances. Judge Martin was the owner of a considerable plantation situated near the forks of what was then called the False Washita. These young people entered upon a promising career in life and for nine years were happy. Into their home came several children. The judge prospered financially and the family gave every promise of a permanent and practical success in life.

During the year 1834, Judge Martin together with a negro slave Hardy, his son Matthew, aged seven, and a little negro boy of the same age, went out hunting. Bear were plentiful and Judge Martin was inordinately fond of bear hunting as a sport. They were camped some twenty miles west of the Kiomatia, and during the night unexpectedly they were beset by Indians, who overcame the camp and killed the judge and scalped him, decided to carry the two little boys away, but the negro man escaped. The little negro man escaped. The little negro boy was so terrified by this awful experience that he refused to be comforted and continued to cry lustily and will his might. His captors soon became angered and dashed his brains out upon a rock and left him dying at the camp with his dead master. The negro man eluded his pursuers by hiding in a log. Traveling by easy stages at night he succeeded in making his way back to his master's home and reported the occurrence. Little Matthew was carried away by the Indians, who imposed upon him all the hardships incidental to their own lives. He was stripped of his clothing in order that he might learn to endure as they were accustomed to do. His tender skin was horribly sunburned, and during the journey back to their native haunts he suffered many hardships. Upon one occasion he was so long without water that his tongue swelled until he was practically unable to speak. By accident the chief discovered his condition and took a cloth or handkerchief and dragged in the dew be-sprinkled grass, then permitted Matthew to suck it, thus relieving his torture and probably saving his life. For more than six months he was their captive and became somewhat a favorite among them.

Among others whom they carried away in captivity was a negro man who spoke English, and had no doubt been carried away from some of the Red River valley settlements. This kind hearted slave took Matthew particularly under his care and was the means through which he could communicate to the Indians, and on several occasions tried hard to make his escape, carrying the child with him. Each time, however, he found himself carefully watched and thoroughly forestalled that he was compelled to give up the undertaking.

Capt. Travis Wright finally located the child, and in company with two hundred dragoons, who were under the command of Colonel Dodge from Ft. Gibson, and who belonged to General Leavenworth's garrison, succeeded in penetrating into the heart of the Indian country then located on the headwaters of Red River, and secured the release of the child and restored him to the arms of his mother. Captain Wright managed to get hold of some Pawnee prisoners taken from other tribes who had taken them captives and with these he succeeded not only in finding the Pawnee villages but by offering them in exchange, secured the release of the boy and faithful old negro, who had so signally and unselfishly befriended him. The Indians in whose possession they were found were Pawnees and there were probably four or five thousand of them in their tepees upon the upper Red River.

Matt Martin lived until 1868 and was never married. Many old people are now living who have heard him personally relate the hardship incident to his captivity and the tortures he suffered on their hurried forced march from the place where his father was killed, back to their village, in the Pawnee country.

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