The Story of Cynthia Ann Parker

The Story of Cynthia Ann Parker

One of the most fascinating stories that ever occurred in the history of the old west was that of Cynthia Ann Parker.

The Parker family, originally from Virginia, moved from Kentucky to Texas in the early 1830s and established Parker's Fort on the fringes of the Comanche frontier. On May 19, 1836, the Comanche and Kiowa attacked the fort killing most of the residents and capturing several women and children.

The captives were Mrs. Rachel Plummer, her fifteen-month-old son James, Mrs. Elizabeth Kellogg and the Parker children, Cynthia Ann, nine-years old and John, children of Silas Parker. The captives were scattered among the various bands of the two tribes. Later, the two women and the Plummer child were ransomed to friendly Indians and returned them to their families.

The Quohada band of Comanche who were the most war-like of all the Comanche bands took the two Parker children. In 1840, a trader named Col. Len Williams with another trader named Stoal and a Delaware Indian scout named Jack Henry came upon a Comanche camp on the Canadian River. They noticed a captive white girl and proposed a trade for her, which the Comanche flatly refused but gave Williams permission to speak to her.

The girl refused to speak to the trader either because she was afraid, had forgotten her mother tongue or did not care to talk. Williams believed that she was the Parker girl as she had blond hair and blue eyes and was about thirteen years old.

An interesting sidelight of this story is what became of Cynthia's younger brother John. John Parker adapted well to the wild Comanche life where one was free to roam the Llano Estacado from the Wichitas to Mexico. John became a Comanche through and through and went on many raids into Mexico. On one of these raids, John contracted smallpox. The Comanche so dreaded this disease that is set the entire band into a panic. The Comanche raiders abandoned John and left a Mexican captive girl to take care of him. John eventually recovered from the disease and returned to Mexico with the girl whom he later married.

John returned to the United States during the civil war and served with Confederate troops in Texas. After the war, he returned to Mexico where he died on his farm an old man.

Not long after the visit by Col. Williams in 1840, Cynthia married the Comanche war chief Peta Nakoni (Lone Camper). Most Comanche men married several wives but Peta had only one wife, Cynthia Ann.

In 1855, a party of white hunters came upon the village of Peta Nakoni and met Cynthia Parker. A member of the hunting party named Victor Rose spoke to Cynthia and asked her if she wanted to return to her family. Cynthia told Rose that she loved her husband who was kind and good to her and that she could not forsake her husband and children. Her oldest son was named Quanah Parker, the last great war chief of the Comanche.

Quanah Parker was the leader of the 700 Comanche and Kiowa braves who attacked the buffalo hunters at the famous fight of Adobe Walls, in June of 1874, in the Texas panhandle. This is the battle where buffalo hunter Billy Dixon made the famous "mile long shot".

On the second day of the battle, the Comanches had retreated to a camp some distance from Adobe Walls. A scouting party was sent to see what the Indians next move should be. The buffalo hunters saw about a dozen warriors on a ridge observing them about a mile away. Billy Dixon was know as the best shot in the West. At the urging of the other hunters he was compelled to take a shot at the Indians. He took aim at one of them and shot the brave off his horse. This immediately ended the battle and the Comanches withdrew.

Two weeks after the battle, Gen. Nelson A. Miles ordered a U. S. Army survey crew to measure the shot. It was 1,538 yards or 9/10ths of a mile. Billy Dixon never acknowledged the shot as anything but sheer luck.

Time passed and in 1861 Cynthia Ann and a group of Comanche women and Mexican slaves were at a "meat camp" killing and preserving meat for the winter when attacked by Texas Rangers led by Captain Sull Ross. It has been widely written that Peta Nakoni was killed at the raid but this is untrue. The personal servant of Cynthia who was a Mexican slave was known as Jose or "Joe" Nakoni taking his masters last name. When the rangers asked Cynthia who was the man killed she answered truthfully, Jose Nakoni.

Peta Nakoni was not killed by the Texas Rangers or Sull Ross that day as he was leading a raiding party hundreds of miles away. The camp raided by the rangers was a temporary meat camp populated by women, Mexican slaves and old people. The Rangers managed to kill a lot of women and old people in that "battle". But, like so many other stories in Texas history, the legend took a life of it's own and the truth is often difficult to discern.

Years later, Mrs. Nelda Parker Birdsong of Cache, OK and daughter of Quanah Parker related the story why the Comanche never tried to correct the story. Mrs. Birdsong said that her father, as chief of the Comanche, forbid the relating of the true details of the killing of Peta Nakoni for the following reason: "Out of respect to the family of General Ross, do not deny that he killed Peta Nakoni. If it is any credit to him to have killed my father, let his people continue to believe that he did so." In reality, Peta Nakoni died of an infected battle wound years later. The exact burial place of Nakoni is not known.

Along that day with Sull Ross was the noted Ft. Arbuckle scout and interpreter Horace Jones who served as interpreter. After Cynthia Ann and her infant daughter were taken back to an army post, the participants were discussing whom the white woman might be. They mentioned the name Cynthia Parker as a possibility when suddenly Cynthia poked her finger in her chest and said "Me Cynthia Ann, Me Cynthia Ann".

Cynthia Ann was returned with her daughter to her uncle Isaac Parker (no relation to the judge) where she made several escapes attempts to return to her Comanche family. She was returned to her family each time. Slowly the loss of her Comanche family and husband and the free ways of the Comanche took their toll on her. She repeatedly asked to be allowed to return to the Comanche but her family refused. The Texas legislature did vote to give her a pension of $100 a year for five years.

Cynthia learned to speak English and the ways of the white woman learning to weave and cook all the while longing to be in her home teepee. The unaccustomed life style she now faced caused her to begin to loose her health as well as that of her daughter Topsannah (Prairie Flower). Civilization did not agree with Topsannah and the child died in 1864. Now broken in spirit and a mis-fit among whites, Cynthia refused to eat and starved herself to death in 1870.

Cynthia was buried in Henderson County, Texas in the Fosterville cemetery. As the years passed Quannah Parker tried in vain to get his mother's remains removed to the Comanche lands near Ft. Sill. Finally in December of 1910, the remains of Cynthia were removed to Post Oak Cemetery at Ft. Sill. When Quannah Parker died, aged 64 years, on February 21, 1911, he was buried, according to his last request, next to his mother.

Contributed by Dennis Muncrief - January, 2004.