Cynthia Ann Parker


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Cynthia Ann Parker
Researched by Dana Stubbs
Originally published in "The Navarro County Scroll",
Vol. XXI 1987
Reprinted with permission of
the Navarro County Historical Society

Spring, 1833, saw nine wagons winding a trail from Illinois to Texas, which was then Indian country. The occupants were seeking a new home in this rough, new land. There was Elder John Parker and his wife, with their sons James, Benjamin and Isaac and all of their families. Others aboard the wagon train included the Bates, the Kelloggs, the Plummers and the Frosts.

Together, these people lived and worked to build a Fort which they named Fort Parker, after one of the daring adventurers. It was hard work and each person had a job to do. The stockade, the two story blockhouse and two rows of log cabins were completed by March, 1834, and all of the families moved in. Fear of the Indians kept them alert to the necessity of tight security. Gates were kept locked at all times, and opened only to let people in or out of the Fort, then locked again.

May 19, 1836, was a pretty day and most of the men were out working in the fields. Texas had just recently won its' independence from Mexico and Indians had not been seen in months, so the pioneers had become relaxed and had left the fort gates open. Suddenly, hundreds of Indians were everywhere. Benjamin was killed and Indians were inside the Fort.

There was an an outburst of flying arrows, gunfire, Indian yells and terrifying screams of women and children. Then there was silence. Dead was Silas Parker, Elder John Parker, Benjamin Parker, Mr. Frost and his son. Taken by the Indians were Cynthia Ann Parker, 9; her brother, John, 6; Elizabeth Kellogg, Rachel Plummer, with child, and her son, James.

They rode miles and miles at night before making camp, dancing and torturing their captives. For many days they rode through country that, in 1846, was called Navarro County.

Elizabeth and Rachel were in their teens and were sold to other tribes for slaves. General Sam Houston paid a ransom of $150.00 for Elizabeth. Two years later Rachel was found half-crazed from the loss of her little boy, James, and she had seen the killing of her new born baby by the Indians for crying too much. She died not long after returning home. John Parker grew up with a band of Kiowas, raiding in Mexico. He fell in love with a Mexican captive, married her, and lived on a ranch in Mexico.

Cynthia Ann was taken to live with a band of Comanches called People. They dressed her after their fashion, fed her and considered her as someone's child. She did not know whether her family was alive or dead, but she prayed each night that someone would find her and take her back to her own people. The Comanches named her Naduah - meaning "keeps warm with us". She played with the Indian children, learning their ways, and as the years passed, the ways of her blood kin faded into a dream. At the age of 14 she began learning the ways of the Indian women. She soaked bark to tan leather, cooked, helped make tents and embroidered clothing with beads.

One day a white trader came from the east. He stared at her blue eyes as she lowered them. He wanted to trade for her, but a brave, Peta Nocona, told the trader that he would never trade anything for her, as she did not want to leave. She had grown to love the People, the land, these new ways, and she loved Peta Nacona (Wanderer), and he loved her.

Nocona became a War Chief. His band was called Nawkonnee, (Wanderers), and they raided the settlers in the east. When he came back from a big raid, he brought a string of many horses to Naduah's tent. He wanted her for his wife.

Naduah (Cynthia Ann) went on raids with her husband. She rode by his side on hunting trips. She carried his lance and shield very proudly, and soon she carried his child.

They named their first-born Quanah (Fragrance) after their land of flowers. She prayed that some day he would be a great Chief of the People.

As the years went by, the loving couple had another son and named him Pecos, after the river by which they sometimes camped. Haduah learned the medicine of the People and was so good at healing that her friends would come to her for treatment of their illnesses. But there was no cure for the disease the settlers had brought and she watched her friends die of smallpox.

Soldiers and more settlers continued to invade their beautiful land, so they continued to raid, burn the houses and fields, steal horses and fight desperately against the smallpox and the battle to take their land.

Naduah taught her boys well; telling the truth was an honor; never breaking a promise was law. Making good decisions in later life was to be very important to each of them, and this early teaching stood them in good stead.

When Naduah had her daughter they called her Tehtseeah (Flower), because of her bright eyes. Indian women did not have many children and Naduah had given birth to three, making her a prized woman among the People. She was a happy woman, living with her family in their strange yet poetic and spiritual world on the land of their ancestors. But the end to this world was drawing near and, for Cynthia Ann Parker, history was to repeat itself.

December 18, 1869, was a pretty day and the men and boys were away on a hunting trip. It was the Texas Rangers and soldiers that came riding into the Indian camp. There were screams from the women and children, the sounds of horses and gunfire. Naduah managed to jump on her pony with two year old "Flower" and gallop off to seek Nacona and her two sons, but she was overtaken and then taken to Fort Cooper. At the Fort efforts were made to communicate with her. She told them she was the wife of a Chief and the mother of two sons, and asked to be set free. The interpreter understood some of her words but possibly none of the deep feelings from her heart. She was held captive.

Captain Sul Ross of the Texas Rangers saw her blue eyes and remembered the story of Cynthia Ann Parker. He wrote to the Parker family in East Texas, and several days later Colonel Isaac Parker rode into Fort Cooper seeking the missing child. He talked with her.

"Can it be? Are you the one we looked for for so long? Your mother is dead now, but I can take you to where I live. If you are my niece you will want to see your sister, Arlene, and your brother, Silas, Cynthia Ann."

She looked at him, pointed to herself and replied, "Me Cynthia Ann. Me Cynthia Ann."

Cynthia Ann was taken to East Texas, the pioneer women taking her Indian clothing and dressing her in pioneer style. She and "Flower" were considered Parkers. She did not know whether Nocona would find her, or whether her sons were dead or alive, but she prayed every night that they would come and get her.

Days turned into years and she learned again they ways of her blood kin. She chopped wood, braided whips, spun thread, but she was not happy. She missed her family. In 1863 her daughter, little Prairie Flower, as her white family called her, became very ill. Cynthia could not heal her, as the medicines that she knew were far away, and she could not fight the white man's fever. Her daughter died. This loss, plus the separation from her husband and sons, grieved Cynthia Ann. She must have thought many times: "Are my sons laughing ... riding their ponies ... is Nocona telling them stories of me as only he could tell ... where the land is open as the blue sky and home is as far as anyone can see ... and my people ... all my people ... will ride together ... proud and free."

Cynthia Ann died at her sister's home in East Texas in 1864. Nocona did not die in the Pease River Fight but lived four years after Cynthia Ann's capture. According to his son, Quanah, he died of grief over the loss of his wife and daughter.

Pecos died in his youth of smallpox. Quanah became a great war Chief, but in 1875, when the last of the wandering buffalo had been killed, the Chief of the Kwahadi Comanches, the last of the Great Plains Indians, surrendered. He led his tribe out of Palo Duro Canyon to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and was taken into the reservation, where he was treated with courtesy and respect.

Chief Quanah never signed a treaty. He would not make a promise he could not keep. He had learned the ways of the People and he learned the way of the white man. He made good decisions, and became a rancher, judge, and part-owner of a railroad. Quanah founded the Native American Church in Cache, Oklahoma.

When he learned of his Parker relatives he took the name of Quanah Parker, and sent for his mother's body, which had been buried in Fosterville Cemetery near Poyner, Texas. Cynthia Ann was reburied at Post Oak Mission Cemetery near Cache, Oklahoma, on December 3, 1910. Two months later Quanah was buried next to her. In 1930 a reburial service was held for Prairie Flower, and in 1957 all three were moved to Chief's Knoll, Fort Sill Military Post Cemetery.

At Cynthia Ann's reburial service in 1910, Chief Quanah Parker said: "Forty years ago my mother died. She was captured by Comanches at nine years old. Loved Indian and wild live so well she not want to go back to white folks. All same people anyway, God says. I love my mother. I like white people ... when end comes, then they all be together again."

 


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Edward L. Williams & Barbara Knox