Women Of the Wild West

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Cynthia Parker

 

Born in either 1824 or 1825 somewhere in Crawford County Illinois, there is limited information known about her family due to poor records.  It is known that she moved to Fort Parker, in North-Central Texas, after her Grand Father and family patriarch John Parker was recruited to establish a Fort at the headwaters of the Navasota River.  Her parents Silas and Lucy Parker worked with the family to build a safe fortress that would withstand Comanche Raids and provide a place for peaceful treaty talks with the Natives.  It was thought during the time that if relations were successful with one tribe that all others would follow suit, a fact that John Parker took for granted, which would be a dire mistake for all at Fort Parker.

 
On May 19, 1836, a force of anywhere from 100 to 600 Indian warriors composed of Comanches accompanied by Kiowa and Kichai allies, attacked the community. John Parker and his men, who lacked sufficient knowledge of the Comanches' military prowess, were caught in the open and unprepared for the ferocity and speed of the Indian warriors. They managed to fight a rearguard action to protect some of the escaping women and children, but soon all of the settlers retreated into the fort. The Indians attacked the fort and quickly overpowered the outnumbered defenders. Cynthia and five other captives were led away into Comanche territory. She may have been as young as 8, or just older than 11, when she was captured.
The Texans quickly mounted a rescue force. During the Texans' pursuit of the Indians, one of the captives, a young teenage girl, escaped. All of the other captives were released over a period of years as ransom was paid, but Cynthia remained with the Indians for nearly twenty-five years.  


Cynthia was soon integrated into the tribe. She was given to a Tenowish Comanche couple, who adopted her and raised her as their own daughter. She forgot her original ways and became Comanche in every sense. She married Peta Nocona, a chieftain. They enjoyed a happy marriage, and as a tribute to his great affection to her, he never took another wife, although it was traditional for chieftains to have several wives. They had three children, famed Comanche chief, Quanah another son named Pecos (Pecan), and a daughter named Topʉsana (Prairie Flower).


n December 1860, after years of searching at the behest of Cynthia's father and various scouts, in a surprise raid, the small band of Rangers attacked a group of Comanches in the Battle of Pease River. After limited fighting, the Comanches realized they were losing and attempted to flee. Ranger Ross and several of his men pursued the man whom they had seen giving orders. The chief was fleeing alongside a woman rider. As Ross and his men neared, she held a child over her head. The men did not shoot, but instead surrounded and stopped her. The Rangers began questioning the woman fleeing with Nocona and other surviving Comanches for signs that she was Cynthia. When Ross arrived back at the campground, he discovered that she had blue eyes. He assured her that no young boys had been killed in the battle, so her sons, Quanah and Pecos, were safe. At last, clutching her two-year-old daughter, Topʉsana, in broken English she identified herself and her family name. Her information matched what Ross knew of the 1836 Fort Parker Massacre. 


Re-integration was hard on Cynthia, she nether liked nor appreciated the attention that her return generated throughout Texas.  Her brother, Silas Jr, was appointed her guardian and she lived with hm until he joined the confederate army.  She was then moved to live with her sister Orleana Parker O’Quinn.  Tormented with worry about the welfare of her children, her people and over the loss of her husband, she never really embraced life except for time with her daughter, who would tragically die in 1864 from influenza.  The despair was more than she could bear and she began to refuse food and eventually water.  Although there is confusion about where and when she was born, she died in March 1871 at the O’Quinn home.  

 

While writing a story bout her life in 1909, Tom Champion opined, "I am convinced that the white people did more harm by keeping her away from them than the Indians did by taking her at first.”
 

She is memorialized through out Texas with many books, plays and poems written about her, she would even have a Houston School named after her.