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 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

People

The Parker Family

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
In the same decade that established Cynthia Ann Parker and her son, Indian Chief Quanah Parker, as living legends, another clan of Parkers wrote their own chapter of history in East Texas.

In the 1820s, Daniel Parker, an anti-missionary Baptist leader and member of the Parker clan that produced Cynthia Ann, stirred up Baptists in Illinois with his separatist beliefs and eventually led his family and neighbors to East Texas to write a new religious chapter in Texas history.

Parker, who had a limited education, was ordained to preach in 1806 by Turnbull Baptist Church of Dickson County, Tennessee. He was an advocate of "Two Seedism," the doctrine that believes since the time of Adam mankind has been the bearer of two seeds, divine and diabolical.

Parker's beliefs separated him from most Primitive Baptists, but he retained their opposition to Missionary Baptists, with whom his conflict began in 1815. Primitive Baptists do not support missionary or Bible societies, Sunday schools or theological seminaries.

Parker served as a state senator in Illinois in 1822. In the l830s, looking for a new religious frontier, he came to Texas to apply for a land grant with the Mexican government with the hopes of organizing a Baptist church in Texas.

Realizing he could not organize a protestant church without breaking Mexican law and defying the government's Catholic leanings, Parker returned to his home in Lamote, Illinois, where he and eight other men organized the Pilgrim Predestinarian Regular Baptist Church on July 26, 1833.

The church members traveled as a body to Texas, arriving at Stephen F. Austin's colony in Grimes County on November 12, 1833. They held their first church meeting in 1834. When General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna began his march into Texas from Mexico to put down the Texas rebellion, Pilgrim Church voted on April 2, 1836, to give the church minute book to a group of church leaders with hopes that the church could be relocated and reorganized if Santa Anna was successful in squashing the revolution.

The church did not meet again until 1837, after Texas had won its independence from Mexico. It convened at different locations until 1848, when the members decided to build a church near the cemetery where Daniel Parker was buried when he died in 1844. On the site near Elkhart, in Anderson County, they constructed a one-room log church.

The Pilgrim Church that stands today on the site is the fourth church to serve the Parker family and its neighbors. A replica of the original log church also stands on the site.

As the oldest continuous Protestant church in Texas, Pilgrim was responsible for spawning a host of other Baptist churches in East Texas, including Hopewell in Nacogdoches County during 1837. Fort Houston of Houston County in 1840, Bethel (Sabine County) and Bethlehem (Shelby County) in 1841, Mustang Prairie in 1842, Liberty County in 1843, San Jacinto of Montgomery County in 1844, and Mound Prairie in Anderson County during 1845.

Cynthia Ann Parker, the daughter of Lucy and Silas Parker, who came from Illinois to Texas with Daniel Parker, was taken by Commanche warriors in 1836 from Fort Parker in what is now Limestone County. A group of soldiers found her living with the Commanches on the Canadian River in 1846.

After repeated refusals, she was reunited with the Parkers, but she was never happy living in a white society. She died around 1870 and was buried in Anderson County, but her son, the great Commanche chief, Quanah Parker, moved her body to Cache, Oklahoma. She was later reinterred beside Quanah at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
All Things Historical
April 17, 2006 Column
Published with permission
(Provided as a public service by the East Texas Historical Association. Bob Bowman is a former president of the Association and the author of more than 30 books about East Texas.)

Related Articles, See:
The Half-breed Savage by Murray Montgomery ("Lone Star Diary")
Quanah Parker

The Savage Life of Herman Lehmann by Brewster Hudspeth ("They Shoe Horses, Don't They?)

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