She Rode Away On Sam Sappington’s Mule


203 Fireside, College Station, Texas 77840.

My great grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Cato, did not know much about his family. His father Amos Cato died when the kids were real young. His mother Mary Elizabeth Stracener went out of her mind after the death of her husband and possibly also right after the death of her son and was put in an insane asylum (as far as I can tell, sometime in her mid to late 30s). The children were left to fend for themselves, scattered like leaves in the wind, and had to depend on neighbors and relatives. Thomas, the third child, was born in 1873. He had several brothers and sisters: Sara "Jenny" Cato, born 1869 and married to Lum Moore; Ann E. "Lizzy" Cato, born 1872 and married to Andous Cohorn; Margret or Margit B. Cato, born 1877; Johnny Cato, born 1879 and died at age 12.

Thomas' sister Margaret disappeared at the age of 12. She was last seen at Floyd, Arkansas, riding behind Sam Sappington on a mule. The family story also says that the man who stole her had been staying with them beforehand. Neither she nor the man were ever seen or heard from again and she was presumed to have been killed. I've spotted Sam's name on other research. (White Co. Census showed Sappington, Samuel, 27, - would have been about 36 at the time of her disappearance - farmer,$200.00, from Ga. Farlenia, 25, from Miss.; Elizabeth ,8, Ark.; Francis, 1/12,f.) I have never found her name ever attached to his afterwards. Many years after the fact, I would like to find out what really happened to her. If Sam was staying with the family at the time of the disappearance of Margaret, that might possibly mean that his own family threw him out for some reason. I am in the process of tracking him down to … substantiate this story.

Thomas' mother went insane sometime around the disappearance of Margaret or after the death of the youngest son, Johnny, from what I can tell. We don't know if that was a contributing factor or not. After she committed, Thomas was taken in by a neighbor but supposedly because he had a lot of Indian blood he was thought of as a "heathen" and kept locked in an outbuilding after he had finished his daily chores. He stored up a lot of food and in the middle of a snowstorm, when the people he was living with thought it was unnecessary to lock him in, he ran away. He went to an uncle's home and stayed with him after that. Thomas was born October 4, 1873 in Woodruff County, Arkansas, and married Martha Jane Quattlebaum, July 21, 1895, in White County, Arkansas. Their children were: William Fletcher Cato, born July 15,1896; Millie E. Cato, born March,1898; Francis C. "Duel" Cato, born July, 1987; Arlee Cato ("Aunt Arlee"); Leonard Cato; Louvenie Cato; Bedford Cato; Johnny Cato; Annie Roni Cato (my Ma Baker). William F. and Bedford are buried in Gray Cemetery at Gravel Hill. Thomas died October 27, 1962 when he was 89 years old and was buried in Quattlebaum Cemetery in White County, Arkansas.

(This article originally appeared on the Internet at which is the site managed by the author until 1998. White County Historical Society member Kara Spence said in July 2000 that Sam Sappington was the half-brother of her husband’s g-g-grandmother, Rebecca Sappington Aunspaugh: "I've read this story before and interestingly enough, there is a girl on my grandfather's side of the family who jumped on the back of a horse with a man and was never seen again either. However, it wasn't these people.")