Sally Skull – The Scariest Siren in Texas

Freighter on the Plains

Freighter on the Plains

Another time, Sally ran into a freighter who owed her money. She grabbed an ax and said, “If you don’t pay me right now you son-of-a-bitch, I’ll chop the Goddam front wheels off every Goddam wagon you’ve got.” He did the only thing possible — he came up with the money, paid Sally, and lived to tell the tale. Presumably.

She could shoot equally skillfully left- or right-handed, and carried a black-leather-handled, tooled whip with which she could snap the heads off innocent flowers or the skin off the back of a man she believed did her wrong. Not only was she adept at using the six-shooters in the cartridge belt on her hips (French pistols hidden beneath her skirts, when she wore skirts), she carried a rifle and was as good a sharpshooter as Annie Oakley, long before Annie was born.

Jesse divorced Sally in 1843 calling her “a great scold, a termagant, and an adulterer,” naming as her lover a man called Brown, a fellow who, according to court records, Sally had been harboring in an outbuilding. Gossip suggests “Brown” might have actually been Sally’s next husband, George Scull.

Jesse also claimed Sally abandoned him in December 1841 and Sally countersued, charging that she was the victim of his excessively cruel treatment, claiming he wasted her inheritance and demanding he pay back her dowry. Eventually, she left town with her two kids in tow, planning to earn her living by trading horses, leaving Jesse to continue raising race horses in Live Oak County. (By some accounts, Sally was able to leave with only one child, 6-year-old Alfred, after a bitter, unresolved custody battle with Jesse.)

That same year, 1843, Sally married George H. Scull (the ubiquitous Mr. Brown?), a mild-mannered gunsmith known for his “gentle nature.” Poor George was a law enforcement volunteer serving residents of Austin County, and the Sculls lived on land near Egypt that Sally had inherited from her father. A year and a half later, George and Sally left town in a hurry, reportedly due to rising heated hostilities between Jesse and Sally concerning custody of the children.

When they moved, George and Sally sold the last 400 acres of her inheritance, George’s prized gun maker’s tools, and all the farm equipment. On December 30, 1844, she petitioned for custody of 9-year-old Nancy. Custody was refused, so George and Sally did what they thought best at the time. They kidnapped Nancy and headed for New Orleans. There, Sally placed both children in a convent.

“In a rage, Jesse sniffed out their trail and followed their tracks…” He pulled them out of the convent and placed them in a different New Orleans convent but he didn’t reckon on Sally’s tenacity. She abducted them yet again and placed them in a third school.

Scull vanished around 1849 and, when asked about him, Sally answered tersely, “He’s dead.” People were more afraid of Sally than inquisitive about George, and stopped asking. However, records in northeast Texas indicate that around 1853, someone made George’s mark on legal papers, leaving a question about his death. We can speculate that he possibly ran off as far as he could from his screaming spouse, or that he was six feet under and that the mark was a forgery. If Jesse were pushing up daisies, we can rest assured that they would’ve had their sweet little daisy heads snapped off by a black widow wielding a long black-handled whip. In 1852, Sally Skull (Sally herself changed the spelling from Scull to Skull because she liked it better) bought a 150-acre ranch in Banquete, Nueces County, and married John Doyle who helped her turn Banquete into a trade and ranching center. One of their friends was a practical joker named W.W. Wright, who loved to engage Sally in a game of one-upmanship. The following excerpt is from Outlaws in Petticoats:

Once Sally sold WW a horse with a blind eye, a feature John missed when examining the animal. That afternoon, the nag was meandering behind Wright’s house when the poor creature stumbled on the underground cistern. The horse plummeted headfirst into he ranch drinking water, where it met a watery death. Wright was left with the huge task of trying to remove the carcass that lay deep down in the cistern, out of reach of normal ranch equipment.’

Wright thirsted for revenge. He challenged Sally to a race, a favorite diversion in Banquete. In clear view, Wright paraded his newly acquired horse, Lunanca. Sally knew that the name was Spanish for a horse that is “hipped,” or with one hip raised above the other. No fool, she saw this as a chance to take her friend once again. She knew there was no way Lunanca could outrun her mare. She laid down $500, high stakes at the time, and Wright eagerly covered. The town watched as the sad-looking horse hobbled to the starting line. When the shot fired, Lunanca, crazy with excitement, took off like a bullet, leaving Sally’s horse in a cloud of dust. A seasoned horse trader, Sally had been taken by a mischievous cohort and a second rate horse with bad hips who loved to run.’

Like husband Scull, husband Doyle disappeared leaving behind two speculative and colorful versions of his demise. 1) He ambushed and tried to kill his viper-tongued wife but she got to him first. 2) Sally and Doyle were doing a drunken fandango in Corpus Christi and stayed overnight in a hotel. Unable to awaken her next morning, Doyle resorted to pouring a pitcher of cold water on her head. Waking up instantly but still hung over, she grabbed a pistol and plugged him deader’n a doornail. By accident, she said.

Yet a third version for those who don’t believe either of the aforementioned, is that one night, Sally caught her drunken husband swilling whiskey from an open barrel; she pushed his head down and shouted, “There! Drink your fill!” This, it is said, is how he really died.

If you don’t like any of those theories, how about the one where Sally, Doyle and a group of vaqueros on a freighting trip, came upon a swollen river. Doyle walked down to stop the oxen and wagon from sliding down the deep bank and into the surging water, except the team was unable to stop, and slid down taking Doyle with them. They fought a losing battle with the raging river and all drowned. For this story, Sally is alleged to have said “I would rather have seen my best yoke of oxen lost than my man.” Some say Doyle could have swum free but was too frightened of arousing his wife’s ire at his having lost the team of oxen.

1 thought on “Sally Skull – The Scariest Siren in Texas”

  1. I am a descendant of hers and have always been told that she is where I get my attitude and personality from. Lol now I see why.

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