The story about 5-year-old Mary Hamleton's abduction by Indians in 1867 is a tale stranger than fiction.
The mystery of what became of the lost child is revealed in the book, Good Medicine and Bad, a collection of Kiowa oral history compiled by historian Wilbur Nye. George Hunt, a Kiowa historian and interpreter assisted with the stories.
Nye's book related that, of three children taken during a Kiowa attack southeast of Graham, only two were returned to their father. When Sarina Myres returned from captivity, she said that the Kiowas murdered her half-sister. A Kiowa chief later confirmed that Mary was dead.
Myres shared a detailed account of how her baby brother, Gus, Mary and she were abducted from their log cabin somewhere along the Brazos River. A large party of 60 Kiowas burst into the Hamleton cabin and killed her mother, who was alone with her three youngest children. Kiowas snatched the children who suffered greatly from the long ride north to the Kiowa camp.
Already sick with fever and chills when she was taken, Mary cried on and off throughout the night after the Indians made camp. In similar cases, a sick or crying child was killed or left behind. Sure enough, when the Indians continued their ride north, they left the little girl under an oak tree. Sarina Myres never saw her half-sister again and thought the Indians had killed Mary.
However, the Kiowa version of what happened to Hamleton is very different. When a warrior learned that Mary was left alive, he returned to the oak tree, "rescued" her and took her to camp for his childless daughter. Kiowas and Comanches frequently abducted young children so they could be raised by Indian mothers with no children. If they adjusted to Indian life, the children were adopted into the tribe. The Kiowas lied to the military because they wanted them to quit searching for her.
As To-goam, Mary's Kiowa name, was growing up, she possessed the qualities that Native Americans most admired in captive white girls.
She proved she was athletic, tough and a fighter. She lassoed and rode wild mustangs as well as any Indian brave and was given the task of raising, training and doctoring animals.
The storyteller said that she risked her life rescuing a horse left tied to a tree in a flooded creek. A sudden cloudburst in the mountains turned a normally calm creek into swirling flood waters. To-goam swam with a butcher knife in her mouth, rescued the terrified pony and managed to swim through a whirlpool to safety. The Kiowa braves were ashamed that a captive white girl succeeded in something they wouldn't attempt.
To-goam grew into a big-boned, tall woman who the Indians said was as strong as a man. Although she was deeply tanned, her hair stayed light brown and her face still showed that she was white. To-goam hid her identify to white people her entire life. After the Kiowas were forced on a reservation near Mountain View in Indian Territory, she continued to keep her face painted and kept her eyes down when she went to the trading post at Mountain View.
To-goam was brought up in the Kiowa religion, but she became a Christian when Baptist missionaries came to Rainy Mountain. Indian agents realized later that she was a white woman, but they didn't attempt to return her to her relatives. They knew she considered herself a Kiowa and that she had a family. Like Cynthia Ann Parker, a Comanche captive returned to her white relatives, To-goam stood little chance of adjusting to life in a white society.
To-goam lived and died among the Kiowas her entire life. She never spoke her native language, never knew her birth name, whether or not she had living relatives nor discovered what part of Texas she had lived. As free-spirited and athletic as To-goam was, one wonders if she could have adjusted to the confined life of a frontier woman. Women like Molly Goodnight and Anna Slaughter went on cattle drives with their famous husbands, but many Texas pioneer women suffered premature deaths from bearing so many children and working from sunup to sundown. To-goam lived a life of freedom and adventure compared to them. But at the same time, she and her relatives were cheated out of a relationship.
To-goam died of a heart attack in 1924 and was buried in the Rainy Mountain Baptist Mission Cemetery. Her surviving two sons, five daughters and many grandchildren considered themselves to be Kiowa.