Documenting the Parker Family Story at The Texas Collection (Part 1)

The Texas Collection recently acquired a group of historic documents on the Parker family, including Cynthia Ann Parker and her son Quanah Parker. This amazing collection is one of several record groups on the Parker family already at The Texas Collection. In anticipation of Jack Selden’s February 18 lecture, “Return: the Parker Story,” this blog post will be the first in a series of posts that tell the story of the Parker family in Texas.

Cynthia Ann Parker came to Texas with 38 family members from Illinois in 1833, and the family settled near Groesbeck. By the summer of 1835, the Parkers had a rough wooden fort built that was called Parker’s Fort or Fort Parker. The family tended crops on about 12 miles along the Navasota River, returning as needed to the fort.

Old Fort Parker postcard aerial view
Aerial view of replica Parker’s Fort, also known as Old Fort Parker. This historic site, open to the public, is on the same site the original fort was on in 1836.

By 1835-1836, situations in Texas had changed drastically from when the Parkers first came to Texas. Good relations with local American Indian groups had given way to open hostility, as Texans attacked a Kichai village to recover horses thought to have been stolen. For several weeks, this group of Texans used Parker’s Fort as a base to search surrounding areas for Indian groups that they believed had stolen their horses.

Working relationships with the Mexican government had also deteriorated. Military hero Antonio López de Santa Anna overthrew the previous government, put down rebellions that broke out in various Mexican states, and sent military units to Texas to enforce Mexican law. By 1836, Santa Anna himself was in Texas at the head of a Mexican army to put down a brewing rebellion among the colonists, who spoke openly of independence from Mexico. After a string of Mexican victories, Sam Houston led a Texian army to win the Battle of San Jacinto in April 1836, and the Texas Revolution was over.

John Parker killed at Navasota, TX, May 1836, bible entry
Notation in Daniel Parker’s Bible that states “John Parker…was killed by the Indians at Navasot on Parker’s Fort in Texas on the 19th day of May 1836.” Jack and Gloria Parker Selden papers, Accession 3954, box 34, folder 1, at The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

Just one month after the Battle of San Jacinto, on May 19, 1836, Parker’s Fort was attacked by an American Indian force of several hundred warriors, long understood by eyewitnesses to be predominantly Comanche. With many of the Parker men out working in the fields, the 30 people in the fort were quickly overwhelmed. Five Parker family members were killed and five others were captured, but the rest escaped. One group of Parker family members, traveling only at night for safety, trekked 90 miles in six nights to the safety of Tinnenville.

#39box20folder10
Photograph of Cynthia Ann Parker and her daughter Prairie Flower (Topsannah) after their return to Anglo Texan society in the 1860s.

One of those captured was Cynthia Ann Parker. Just twelve or thirteen when taken captive, she was adopted into the tribe and became thoroughly Comanche. She became the wife of Peta Nocona, a noted leader in the Naconi band of the Comanche. They had three children, two boys and a girl: Quanah, Pecos, and Topsannah. Peta Nocona was probably killed in the Battle of the Pease River in 1860. Cynthia Ann was captured by Texas Rangers in this battle, and was identified as the Parker’s Cynthia Ann, who had been with the Comanche for almost 25 years. Though she was returned to Texan society, Cynthia Ann never recovered from her capture and made several attempts to escape back to her life on the plains. She died in 1870, and was originally buried in Fosterville Cemetery, Anderson County, but was reinterred in the Post Oak Mission Cemetery near Cache, Oklahoma, in 1910. Cynthia Ann was reburied a final time in 1957 in the Fort Sill Post Cemetery, Lawton, Oklahoma.

Cynthia Ann’s son Quanah Parker became the last major Comanche chief to surrender to United States authorities. A leader in the Quahada subtribe of the Comanche, Quanah for years frustrated the efforts of the United States army to capture his people. After the Comanche defeat in the Battle of Adobe Walls in 1875, Quanah and his people were pursued by the United States army during the Red River War, the last major military campaign in Texas. After their supplies were destroyed, Quanah and his people were forced to surrender, and were taken to the reservation designated for the Comanche and Kiowa in southwestern Oklahoma.

Over time, Quanah adjusted to reservation life and became a very wealthy and influential man. Though increasingly powerful in Indian-government relations, he could not stop the movement to break up the reservations and distribute the land among the individual Indians, who were then forced to sell much of their land by unscrupulous land dealers. Quanah continued his efforts to help his people however he could, including negotiating leases of land to ranchers, which brought in much-needed income for the tribe. After a visit to the Cheyenne Reservation, Quanah became ill and died twelve days later, in 1911. His remains have been moved once, from Post Oak Mission Cemetery in Oklahoma to Fort Sill Post Cemetery, Lawton, Oklahoma.

The next post in this series will focus on the restoration of the Fort Parker historic site, and the final post will examine the various creators of the Selden collection. Mark your calendar for Selden’s lecture: Thursday, February 18, at 3:30 pm in the Guy B. Harrison Reading Room of The Texas Collection, located in Carroll Library at Baylor University.

 

Sources:

Gwynne, S.C. Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches. New York: Scribner, 2010.

“Fort Parker Massacre.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Parker_massacre. Accessed 27 January 2016.

Handbook of Texas Online. https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook. Accessed 27 January 2016.

Jack and Gloria Parker Selden papers, Accession #3954, Box #, Folder #, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

Selden, Jack. Return: the Parker Story. Palestine: Clacton Press, 2006.

Joseph E. Taulman Collection, 1783-1994, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

“The History.” Old Fort Parker. http://www.oldfortparker.org/The_History_1DLU.html. Accessed 27 January 2016.

Vernon, Cheril. “Selden to be Honored by Library.” Palestine Herald-Press. November 8, 2008. Accessed September 25, 2015.

8 Comments

  • Charles Guittard

    January 29, 2016 at 1:02 pm Reply

    Interesting post. Wonder what the story was behind Cynthia Ann Parker’s three burials in three different cemeteries.

    • Amanda Norman

      January 29, 2016 at 4:22 pm Reply

      Hi Charles,

      Paul consulted Selden’s book–here’s the rundown:

      1st burial: Cynthia Ann died in circa 1870-1873 and was buried beside her daughter, Prairie Flower, in Foster Cemetery, Anderson County, Texas. She had lived with her family since she had been recaptured, so she was buried in a cemetery close to them.

      2nd burial: Quanah Parker had searched for years to find where his mother had been buried. After finding it, he arranged for her to be moved to Post Oak Cemetery, Lawton, Oklahoma. She was reburied there with Prairie Flower in 1910. Quanah lived about three miles away from the cemetery. When Quanah died, he was buried in the same cemetery.

      3rd burial: Due to the expansion of a missile base into the Post Oak Cemetery, the US Army purchased Quanah’s ranch and reburied all three–Quanah, Cynthia Ann, and Prairie Flower–in the Fort Sill cemetery in 1956. There they have stayed since then.

  • Cynthia Duchatschek

    January 29, 2016 at 2:48 pm Reply

    Who were the 38 members of the Parker family and the relationship to Cynthia Ann?

    • Amanda Norman

      January 29, 2016 at 4:28 pm Reply

      Hi Cynthia, this is a good place for us to plug Selden’s book, which can help you with this question! The long answer is that it is really tough to tell exactly who ended up where in Texas, because the Parker family had two main areas that a lot of family members went to–Elkhart and Fort Parker. People traveled between the groups as well. In addition, it is tough to tell exactly who is family sometimes and who is not. Since elements of Daniel Parker’s congregation (he was a Baptist pastor) also came with them to Texas, and settled in the same areas, sometimes people get confused and count people as family who probably were like family, but were not. Selden’s book definitely has a list of the 30 people who were in the fort at the time of the attack.

      • Anthony parker

        March 24, 2018 at 5:48 am Reply

        We all can be found in the hurst euless Bedford and grapevine area also Mosier valley Texas …. we have 4cemeteries one in hurst one in grapevine John Calhoun and his bunch are buried in Mosier valley issac and the others buried in hurst down the road

  • Diana Williams

    January 27, 2018 at 5:09 pm Reply

    Are the grandchildren of Quanah Parker still living? He has always been my favorite historical person, I’m am Apache and Cherokee.

    • leanna_barcelona

      February 2, 2018 at 1:16 pm Reply

      Hi Diana,
      Thank you for your comment and interest in our blog. We have looked into your question, and to the best of our knowledge it appears that Quanah Parker’s grandchildren have all passed away. Most of his grandchildren were born in the early half of the 20th century. One of his grandson’s passed away last month, Henry Leon Parker. I believe this was the last grandchild, but he had several grandchildren and it can be a bit hard to track down information on all of them. I would guess he has several great-grandchildren alive. There are quite a number of Parker ancestors, and this would be a good question for their family historians! If you look at Quanah Parker’s Find A Grave page, there is quite a bit of information on his children, which can take you to his grandchildren as well.

      • Diana Williams

        February 2, 2018 at 7:53 pm Reply

        Thank you so much for the information, I think I meant great grandchildren. But thank you just the same and yes I guess it would be hard to track them down.

        Diana Williams
        PAC Vice Chair
        SDUSD Title VI/JOM
        Indian Education Program
        (PAC, Parent Advisory Committee)

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