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Refugio Historical Commission will dedicate Sally Skull marker Sunday
by Kenda Nelson
Jan 29, 2009 | 1837 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
James Kelley, historical commission chair, reviews the history behind the Sally Skull marker Tuesday the the commissioner court.
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The legend of Sally Skull looms large in the history of Refugio County. On Sunday, the Refugio Historical Commission will dedicate a Texas Historical Marker at 2 p.m. on the courthouse lawn. The marker will be the fourth one erected.

The original marker summarized her life: “Woman rancher, horse trader, champion “Cusser.” Ranches NW of here. In Civil War Texas, Sally Scull (or Skull) freight wagons took cotton to Mexico to swap for guns, ammunition, medicines, coffee, shoes, clothing and other goods vital to the Confederacy. Dressed in trousers, Mrs. Scull bossed armed employees. Was sure shot with the rifle, carried on her saddle or the two pistols strapped to her waist. Of good family, she had children cared for in New Orleans school. Often visited them. Loved dancing. Yet during the war, did extremely hazardous “man’s work.”

Sally reportedly had piercing, steel-blue eyes, a hawk-like nose, and two cap-and-ball revolvers strapped at her waist. She could use a blacksnake whip to pick flowers, and delighted in a game of draw poker or an evening of dancing.

Sally arrived in Texas in 1820 with her family who came with Moses Austin’s original colony of 300. Her grandfather William Rabb, fought in the American Revolution and helped open the American frontier.

“She was certainly a colorful figure,” said Rosemary Kelley, commission member.

As described in Lucille Fagan’s “History of Refugio County” Sally was “a horse trader, cotton hauler, superb horsewoman, who defied convention by wearing men’s clothing and riding astride, and a sure shot with either a rifle or a pistol...she could ride a horse all day and dance all night.”

As with all legends, some controversy exists concerning how many times Sally was married, how many children she had, and even when and where she died.

Some accounts say Sally was married six times, if her marriage at 13 counts. That marriage was annulled. When she was 20, she married Jesse Robinson and the couple had two children. When the marriage failed, Robinson took the children with him. In the divorce, he called her “a great scold and termagant,” and charged her with adultery.

Two weeks later, Sally married George A. Scull and they had two daughters. Scull was supposedly killed by Indians, but some accounts say he went back to his first wife in New Orleans. Sally kept his name but changed it to Skull.

Two months later, Sally married John Doyle who drowned in the San Antonio River. Sally was said to be more concerned about the $40 floating down the river in Doyle’s pockets than the loss of her husband.

Her next husband, Isaiah Watkins, reportedly threw a bucket of water on a sleeping Sally. She came up shooting and when the smoke cleared, she was widowed again. Her final marriage was to a man half her age.

According to Fagan’s book, Sally made stops at her children’s homes along the route to Mexico. Her daughter Nancy lived in “Dark Corners” near Blanconia. Her son Alfred was a rancher at San Patricio near the Nueces River.

Legend has it that Sally and her young husband got into an argument along the trail to Mexico and he shot and killed the feisty horse trader.

But according to Roberta Mueller, Skull-descendant and researcher, she was last seen by Texas Rangers Alex and Tom Ross in West Texas in the late 1800s.

Mueller will be the guest speaker at the Refugio Historical Society’s annual meeting Monday night at 7 p.m. in the museum.

The first marker was erected in 1966 at the junction of State Highways 202 and 183, where the road forks to Beeville and Goliad. The tribute disappeared as mysteriously as the mext three. The commission gave up replacing the marker until now.

The local commission believe the more conspicuous setting on the courthouse lawn will deter thieves from stealing the memorial to one of the county’s most notorious figures.
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