May of 1836, less than two months after Mexican troops killed every defender of
the Alamo, another massacre at a
frontier garrison bloodied the Texas landscape. The incident left Texas
with a slice of history almost as riveting as the Alamo.|
The murder, wounding and kidnapping of settlers by Indians at Fort Parker
became the catalyst for the remarkable story of Cynthia Ann Parker, a child
taken from the fort and raised as an Indian.
Parker was founded by Elder John Parker and his three sons, Benjamin,
Silas and James, and other families from the Predestinarian Baptist Church
of Crawford County, Illinois. Traveling by ox-drawn wagons, they came to Texas
in 1833, settled along the Navasota River, and built Fort Parker for protection
Completed in March of 1834, the stockade's walls were
constructed of split cedar logs buried in the ground and extending up 12 feet
with sharp points. Inside the walls were two-story blockhouses, rows of log cabins
for living quarters, and a livestock corral.
and other families moved inside the compound and began farming outside the walls.
Since there had been no Indian troubles, they felt so secure they left the fort's
gates open so workers could come and go with ease.
on May 19, 1836, while the men worked in the fields and the children played inside
the fort, more than 100 Indians -- Comanche, Kiowa, Caddo and Wichita -- appeared
at the gates with a white flag of peace.
Benjamin Parker left the fort
to talk to the warriors, who told him they wanted a safe place to camp and some
beef. As Parker returned with beef, the riders surrounded him and killed him with
Before the gates could be closed, the raiders rushed inside
the fort, and killed Elder John Parker and his son Silas. As the men in the fields
rushed to the fort, the Indians escaped with two women and three children. Behind
them, five settlers lay dead and others were wounded, some of whom died later.
The next morning the 21 survivors, led by James Parker, started for Fort
Houston near present-day Palestine.
It took six days to travel the 60 miles. The two captured women and one of the
children were soon ransomed and returned to the Parker family. But Cynthia Ann
Parker, 9, and her brother John 6, both children of Silas and Lucy Parker, were
kept by the Comanches. John became a Comanche warrior, married a Mexican captive,
and settled on a ranch in Mexico.
Ann became the most famous of the captives. She was adopted by a Comanche family,
her named changed to Naduah, and resisted ransom several times. In her
teens she married Comanche chief Pete
Nocona and had three children, one of whom became Chief Quanah
In the winter of 1860, a group of Texas Rangers led by Captain
Sul Ross attacked an Indian camp along the Pease River in the Texas
Panhandle. Cynthia Ann Parker and her daughter Prairie Flower were caught
trying to escape.
Noticing her blue eyes, Ross knew Cynthia Ann was not
an Indian and sent for her uncle Isaac Parker, who identified her.
former hostage was returned to her family in East
Texas, but could not adjust to the white man's ways. She died in 1864 at the
age of 37, six months after the death of Prairie Flower. Both were buried in Fosterville
Cemetery near Poynor.
Cynthia Ann's son, Quanah
died in Oklahoma in 1911. In 1957 the bodies of Cynthia Ann and Prairie Flower
were exhumed and reburied at Fort Sill, Oklahoma
Old Fort Parker --
where the Cynthia Ann Parker saga began -- was reconstructed and is now operated
as a state historic site.
Things Historical Dec.
1-7, 2002 column
A syndicated column in over 70 East Texas newspapers
Published with permission
(Bob Bowman is a former president of the East Texas
Historical Association and the author of nearly 30 books on East Texas history
Texas State Parks and Historic Sites