Elizabeth Ann Carter Clifton. Her Story Should Be A Movie.

Life in early Texas was perilous for the white settlers who swarmed here. Though the dangers of the frontier were many, what people feared the most (at least in North Texas) was attacks by Comanche and Kiowa. The Native People were angry, and rightfully so. They were being pushed from their land and they pushed right back. Quite often women and children were kidnapped for ransom and rarely treated kindly while in captivity.

Cynthia Ann ParkerPerhaps you have heard the tragic story of Cynthia Ann Parker, who was abducted from her family by the Comanche when she was about nine years old. She was one of the lucky ones. Cynthia Ann was adopted into the tribe and treated like a daughter. She married Chief Peta Nocona (who loved her so much he didn’t take any other wives) and had three children with him.

Later, her white family abducted her again (VERY much against her will) to take her back to her “people.” But, she was thoroughly Comanche. She tried repeatedly to escape and return to her Comanche family. For this picture, taken with her daughter Topsannah, she had chopped her hair short in mourning, and some say she died of a broken heart. I know you have heard of her. Heck, if you have Texas ancestry, you probably claim kinship with her, because her son, Quanah, had forty-eleven wives at one time (technically eight or maybe thirteen, but I’m a storyteller, and I am prone to exaggeration).

While Cynthia Ann, who preferred her Comanche name of Naduah, thank you very much, has a sorrowful story, I think that another frontier woman had an even more heartbreaking life.

Her full name was Elizabeth Ann Bishop Carter Sprague FitzPatrick Clifton.

I’ll just call her Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Ann Carter Clifton Elizabeth Ann Bishop was the name pinned on her when she was born in Alabama in 1825, the child of Joseph Bishop and Millie Simpson. By the time she was sixteen, in 1841, the family was living in The Republic of Texas (it would be another four years before Texas became the 28th state).

Although it is difficult to tell in this picture, she must have been an attractive woman. She had four husbands, and outlived them all (well, one of them might have “R-U-N-N-O-F-T”). Despite the fact that she was illiterate and had epilepsy, she was one of the most successful businesswomen on the Texas Plains. She was kidnapped in a raid by Comanche and Kiowa, rescued a year later … well, let me get to all of that.

Elizabeth married Alexander Joseph Carter, who was a free black man, in 1841 when she was sixteen years old. That must have raised some eyebrows in those days among her white neighbors and family. They had two children, Mildred Susannah “Milly” (in 1843) and Elijah “Joe”(1850) and they lived with Alexander’s parents near Fort Belknap in Young County. His Daddy had a farm, a ranch, and a cargo transport business. Elizabeth managed the ranch and ran a boarding house.

Life was good until the Wheel of Fate turned: Alexander and his father were mysteriously murdered in 1857. All of her father-in-law’s assets were given to his grandchildren, leaving Elizabeth nothing except a lot of hard work ahead to run the ranch and Carter Trading House. After all, Milly was only fourteen and Joe was only seven. They couldn’t be expected to run it by themselves.

Fourteen-year-old Milly got married, the same year her Daddy died, to a man named Durkin. The following year (1858) Elizabeth Carter married Lt. Owen A. Sprague. The Wheel of Fate turned again, and after eight months of marriage he disappeared, never to be seen again. Some say he was ambushed by Indians, others say he was dissatisfied with his living arrangements and moved on down the road. At any rate, Elizabeth had her hands full taking care of the Trading House and the ranch.

In 1862, Elizabeth Sprague married a ranch cowhand named Thomas FitzPatrick … and eight months later he was murdered. That Wheel of Fate was doing a number on Elizabeth, but the worst was ahead as she continued her success with the ranch and trading house near Fort Belknap.

Fort Belknap

The worst was later called The Elm Creek Raid. Several hundred Comanche and Kiowa raided the valley near Fort Belknap in October of 1864. No men were at home at the FitzPatrick household. The people there were Elizabeth, her 13-year-old son Joe, her 21-year-old (widowed) daughter Milly Durkin, Milly’s children Lottie (5 years) and Milly (2 years) and her newborn infant, and a 24-year-old black woman named Mary Johnson(who was pregnant) and her three children (ages 4-7). What chance did they have?

None at all. Brave Milly Durkin tried to fend the attackers off with a shotgun. For her trouble, she was tomahawked, gang-raped, and beaten to death while her mother was made to watch. One of Mary Johnson’s boys was killed when he tried to escape. Milly’s newborn son was slammed against the wall to kill him. Everyone else was tied onto ponies and dragged away when the Kiowa warrior, Satanta, blew the bugle.

When they camped, the attackers noticed that Elizabeth’s son was too ill to sit up. They tied Joe to a bush and burned him alive while his Momma was forced to watch. Her granddaughters were taken from her and taken to different camps. Elizabeth spent a year in captivity, during which time (according to a book called Circle The Wagons by Gregory and Susan Michno) she worked as a slave and was repeatedly raped, starved, and beaten. Though I don’t find reference elsewhere, that book claims that forty-year-old Elizabeth was pregnant when she was rescued and the baby was “apparently stillborn.”

Rescue came on November 2, 1865 when Colonel Jesse H. Leavenworth, with the help of Jesse Chisholm (of Chisholm Trail fame) and Britt Johnson, found Elizabeth Carter Clifton Fitzpatrick and traded for her. Those men had been searching for surviving captives the whole time, and that is another story with great drama (in fact it inspired a movie). When she got to safety, she discovered that her granddaughter, Lottie, had been returned to Texas four months before. Though they told her that her granddaughter Milly Jane had frozen to death, Elizabeth refused to believe it to her dying day.

It took nearly another year before Elizabeth was reunited with Lottie, who was living in Parker County. There, Elizabeth FitzPatrick met and married her fourth husband in 1869, a widower named Isaiah Clifton. They moved to Shackelford County near Fort Griffin. Elizabeth continually petitioned the government to search for her granddaughter Milly Jane, as she had heard rumors of her being sighted. When that Wheel of Fate turned again, and Isaiah died of a stroke in 1880, Elizabeth lost all her spunk.

They say she became depressed and morose (and who could blame her). She slowly deteriorated and died in 1882 at the age of 57. Elizabeth Ann Carter Clifton is buried in the oldest cemetery in Shackelford County next to Isaiah Clifton.

Although the saga of The Elm Creek Raid (or, rather, the search to find the captives) was the inspiration for The Searchers (Warner Brothers, 1956), featuring John Wayne, I think Elizabeth’s story would make an intriguing film. Yes, it is brutal, harsh, and sad but it gives the sense of what life was like for women on the plains. Elizabeth Ann Carter Clifton was a frontier woman who kept right on plugging when adversity got in her way — just like every woman who helped pioneer the West. Let’s make some movies that feature the women who braved the dangers.

Dream A Little Dream — Superstitions

Superstitions about dreams are not uncommon throughout the world. I don’t believe in superstitions, but I enjoy reading about them and collecting them. Lately, I have seen a plethora of folklore about our night time imaginings. Personally, I think my dreams are more a by-product of what I ate before I went to bed and what is on my mind, but many folks like to interpret those night visions. These days, fortunately, I don’t dream much … but I did when I was younger.

Was I the only child who ever dreamed that I could fly? Perhaps those thoughts were fueled by my voracious reading of the DC comics about the superhero Wonder Woman! In my mind, I wanted to be that warrior princess. The only problem, was that in my dreams I could never get off the ground when I needed to do so. I’d just flap around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Usually, someone was chasing me in those dreams when I couldn’t fly, and it was someone I knew (like my brothers or my pesky sister). However, once a giant bottle of Dr. Pepper chased me. Wonder how many snacks I had consumed that day? If you would like to read it, click this link to a site that interprets your dream of flying.

For this Thursday, I’m sharing some of the superstitions I have found. Please feel free to chime in with some of your own!


  1. If you dream of a turkey, you will shortly see a fool. This could be especially true if you dream of a turkey at Thanksgiving, when the family gathers.

  2. To dream of a lizard or a snake is a sign that you have a secret enemy. If the snake bites you in your dream, you have big trouble. If you kill the snake in your dream then you defeat your enemy. I wouldn’t suggest killing your “secret enemy” in real life, or you will be dreaming of freedom from jail!

  3. “Dream of fruit out of season, You’ll have trouble out of reason.” There seem to be several superstitions about fruit … A dream of perfect fruit is a forerunner of prosperity, but a dream of imperfect fruit is a sign of bad luck. Don’t look at the over-ripe bananas on the counter before you go to bed!

  4. To dream of fish means that you, or someone you know, is pregnant Since, according to the United States Census Bureau for 2010, there are an estimated 251 babies born each minute worldwide, it is a strong possibility that someone you know is pregnant no matter what manifests in your dreams!

  5. A dream of catching large fish is a harbinger of prosperity. That is, unless you are pregnant (see above). Having a baby these days is definitely not a path to prosperity. CNN Money claims: “It will cost an estimated $241,080 for a middle-income couple to raise a child born last year for 18 years, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released Wednesday. That’s up almost 3% from 2011 and doesn’t even include the cost of college.”

  6. While it is good luck to dream of paper money and of silver coins, some consider it bad luck to dream of small change. That just goes to show that you should dream BIG. However, in my case, dreaming about money is about the only time I see it! I’ll take whatever pittance I can get!

  7. A dream of running is a sign of big changes in your life. If I dream of running, it is certainly a change. I only run when racing for the last bowl of chocolate ice cream.

  8. If you dream of a letter, you will meet a stranger. Probably, he will be your computer repairman who will fix your e-mail… or it might be the mail carrier (I rarely see mine).

  9. If you dream of muddy water, your best friend is angry with you. Dreaming of walking through muddy water is a death sign.
  10. If you are just dreaming of water, it probably means you need to get up and step to the restroom.

  11. If you dream you lose a tooth, you will lose a friend. Or, you will wake up and start brushing your teeth more fastidiously so that dream doesn’t come true!

  12. To dream of a clean, white bed denotes the end of worries. If a woman dreams of making a bed, there will soon be a new lover in her life. Sorry, I don’t know what happens if a man dreams of making a bed.

  13. Seeing a crow in your dream means disappointment in everything you do; grief and misfortune will come to you.

  14. If you do not wish to dream, put both shoes under the foot of your bed at night. If you don’t wish to trip on them in the dark and break your toe, be sure to put them all the way under … just in case it doesn’t work and you dream of water.

Those are my superstitions for today. Do you have any to add to the list?

The photo of Wonder Woman is promotional art for the cover of Wonder Woman vol. 3, #5 (May, 2007). Art by Terry Dodson (penciler) and Rachel Dodson (inker)

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not. Superstitions About Love and Marriage.

Was it just girls who did the old superstitious trick of plucking the petals from daisies to see if a boy loved them or did boys do this, too?


You know the drill: You pull a daisy by the stem and pluck the petals one-by-one. As you pluck, you count — not with numbers, but by by saying, “He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, etc.” Whatever phrase you utter when you pull the last petal from the daisy is the truth of the matter.

I’m a slow study, so it took me awhile to figure out that in order to get the “correct outcome,” I should count the petals on the flower before I pulled it. If the number of petals was odd, then he would love me! Keep that in mind, if you decide to place your faith in that superstition.

It seems that romantic young people (or desperate young people) have had superstitions since the dawn of civilization about how to find true love. For this Thursday, I pulled together some of them for you (most of them dating to earlier than the 1800s)… just in case you are in the market and need them. Please keep in mind that I don’t guarantee any of them to work.


  1. Count fifty white horses, and the first unmarried man that you shake hands with after counting the fiftieth is the man you will marry.

    white-mustang-cobra-svtThis one is pretty quaint and you could be waiting a long time unless you live in a rural area. I suggest that we update this superstition: Count 50 Mustangs! If you are in a hurry, just find one Mustang, and drive around the block fifty times. That works for me.

  2. If you sleep with a piece of wedding cake under your pillow, you will dream of the one you will marry. This works with mirrors under the pillow, as well. Personally, I would go with a mirror on this one (as long as it is a tiny one so it doesn’t break and give you seven years of bad luck). Wedding cake under the pillow could make a terrible mess, if you toss and turn as much as I do.

  3. When you go fishing, name your fish hook after your sweetheart. If a fish swallows it, your sweetheart loves you and will swallow anything you say. Ahem! Sound pretty fishy to me.

  4. If you swallow whole the heart of a chicken you can marry the man or woman of your choice. If you don’t choke to death trying to do it. The very thought makes me gag. If this was my only option, I would wait and take my chances.

  5. Write the names of several people in whom you are interested on slips of paper and place them under your pillow. Every time you wake during the night, throw one of the slips away. The last one remaining will have on it the name of the person you will marry. That’s all well and good, unless you are a sound sleeper … in which case you might want to consult Wikipedia for the countries in which polygamous marriages are legal and hope that Wikipedia is right.

  6. Name two nuts and pitch them into the fire; the nut that pops open first will bear the name of your future spouse.Nut,” in this case refers to “a seed borne within a fruit having a hard shell” … just so there is no confusion.

  7. Twist the stem of an apple till it comes out, saying a letter of the alphabet every time you give the stem a twist. The letter that you are saying when the stem comes out will be the first letter of your future husband’s name.Of course, if the object of your heart’s desire has a name beginning with “W” (as in William) you might have to fake it a little bit to get a good outcome.

  8. horseshoe

  9. If a girl will hang a horseshoe over her door, she can marry the first unmarried man who walks under it. If you hang the horseshoe with the ends up, it will catch good luck. Hanging it ends down will let the good luck spill over the door and stop evil from entering. Hopefully it will keep any evil suitor from entering as well!

  10. Steal the hatband of the man you desire and wear it as a garter. I don’t know how to update this one. Who wears hatbands or garters? And if you stole his hatband, would there ever be trust in the relationship?

  11. Build a fire and give it the name of the person who attracts you. If the wood catches and burns, then the person you pine for, so to speak, loves you. If it goes out … that person doesn’t have a “burning love” for you.

  12. A girl can find out the occupation of her future husband by counting the buttons on her dress. Instead of counting with numbers, count with this chant:
    “Rich man, poor man, beggar-man, thief,
    Doctor, lawyer, Indian chief.”

    If it didn’t work out as planned, I suggest you add or remove buttons until you get what you want. Personally, this one doesn’t appeal to me. First of all, the rhyme leaves out too many options. Second, a young girl should be worrying more about her own options for employment.

  13. On Halloween night, take a comb and go to a vacant house. Look into a mirror as you comb your hair, and you will see the face of the person you will marry looking over your shoulder. Or, you might see a ghost.

  14. If a girl stumbles near the top of a stairway, she will marry soon, but if she stumbles near the bottom, many a day will pass before she marries. That one seems backwards to me, because if you stumble at the top of the stairs you could fall and break your neck. Oh, well. It is what it is.

If you are feeling lovesick, you can try any of these that you would like. If you have other superstitions to suggest, go ahead and leave them in comments … just in case yours will give the definitive answer on how to find true love.