Frontierado is Friday, August 5th! 

Sally SkullSALLY SKULL – Sara Jane Newman, the future Sally Skull, was born in Illinois in 1817. In 1823 her family moved to Fayette County in Texas, which was then part of the area that Mexico had seized from Native Americans. 

Like all the other ranch families in the area, whether from Mexico or the U.S., Sally and her family lived a rough life managing their land and surviving periodic assaults from the American Indians in the area. Sally killed her first man – an attacking Indian, when she was 11, using a rifle. At age 12 Sally was proficient with all firearms and provided plenty of food for the family table by hunting. 

In 1831 Sally’s father died and she began running the ranch for her grieving mother, even registering her father’s old brand in her own name. 1833 saw the 16 year old married to a Texas Ranger named Jess Robinson and settled in Gonzalez, TX, still part of Mexico.   

Over the next 10 years, as Texans rebelled against the tyrannical Mexican government and broke away to form their own Republic, Sally and Jess had 2 children who survived – a son and daughter. In 1843 the couple divorced and 11 days later Sally married a gunsmith named George Skull (or Scull), whose last name she would keep throughout all her future marriages. 

In 1849 George and Sally supposedly drew their guns on each other during one of their many arguments and George wound up dead. Sally Skull’s reputation would grow throughout the next few years as she developed a lucrative but risky horse-trading business working both sides of the border. Texas was by now part of the United States and after the 1846 to 1848 war between the U.S. and Mexico the borderlands were extremely unsettled and dangerous. 

Sally spoke English and Spanish, was renowned for her skill with guns and always drove with a Bowie knife, a pistol, a rifle and a shotgun in easy reach. She proved equally deadly against Comanches, anti-Anglo Mexicans and outright bandits. Anyone who tried to steal from Sally Skull was soon dead while she just ambled on her way with her goods.

By 1852 Sally had moved her operation to a ranch in Banquette, TX, much closer to the border. Her horse-trading business was thriving and in October she married John Doyle, one of her employees. Doyle drowned in high water while moving horses across the Rio Grande. Sally said she never missed John but DID miss the gold in his money belt. 

On December 26th, 1855 the gunslinging Sally married again, this time to Isaiah Wadkins. Isaiah not only beat Sally (reckless move given her history) but he so openly consorted with a prostitute named Juanita that Sally successfully sued him for divorce on grounds of infidelity.  

By the time the Civil War started the 40-something Sally Skull was married to 20-something Christopher “Horse Trough” Horsdorff. The war caused Sally to switch from horse-trading to running guns, cotton and other supplies for the Confederacy. With the South’s main seaports blockaded by the Union Navy, trade in and out of Mexico – both legit and black market – thrived. 

Feisty as ever, Sally never avoided risks, riding and guiding smuggling runs while shooting down anyone who got in her way. As always Skull wore a black sundress, a sunbonnet and a gunbelt. By the end of the war she had compiled a fortune from black market trading.   

In 1868 Sally’s husband “Horse Trough” Horsdorff killed her for her mound of loot, bringing an end to the wild woman’s legend. Her son, who had served in the Confederate Cavalry during the war, re-registered the family brand in his own name.


© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.




  1. My little brother loves American gunfighter stories and this one appealed even to me!

  2. Sally was quite a figure!

  3. I would throw Huma out in a minute for a tasty lady like Sally Skull!

  4. Such an awesome western heroine!

  5. Jonthy Williams

    I am a distant cousin of Sally Skull. Is that an actual picture of her? I thought there were no pictures of Sally.

  6. Craig

    Too bad she was a Confederate.

  7. Dave

    Sally was my aunt 4 gen’s removed, my mom, D Newman told me of the relatives setting up a large picture of sally at family reunions showing Sally on one of her freight wagons wearing her pistols.

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