Today in Texas History – May 19

From the Annals of Depredations –  In 1836, Commanche, Kiowa, and Caddo Indians in kidnapped nine-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker and killed her family near present day Mexia.  Silas and Lucy Parker had moved to Texas from Illinois in 1832.   Their homestead included a civilian stockade called Parker’s Fort intended to protect the family and others from Indian raids. The wooden stockade probably was capable of holding off an Indian raiding party if properly manned and defended.  However, a long lull in Indian raids induced the Parker family to drop their guard and they were caught by surprise on the fateful day Cynthia Ann was kidnapped. The more than one hundred raiders killed five of the Parkers and abducted five women and children.  Cynthia Ann was taken by the Comanche. The tribe routinely kidnapped their enemy’s women and children for either enslavement or adoption into the tribe – typically in the case of young children. That was Parker’s fate as she lived happily with the Comanche for 25 years.

But her story does not end there.  Four years after the Fort Parker raid, her relatives learned that she was still alive.  A trader named WIlliams reported seeing her with a band of Comanche in north Texas.  He tried to bargain for her, but it was obvious that the girl was happy with her life as a Comanche. The Commanche Chief Pahauka allowed Williams to speak to the girl, but she stared at the ground and refused to answer his questions. After four years, Parker apparently had become accustomed to Commanche ways and did not want to leave. In 1845, two other traders saw Parker, who was 17 years old.   They were told that she was now married to a Comanche warrior Peta Nocona and the men reported “she is unwilling to leave” and “she would run off and hide herself to avoid those who went to ransom her.” She stayed happily married to Nocona and gave birth to 3 children including Quanah Parker who would become a famous leader of the last of the free-roaming Comanche bands.

In December 1860, a Texas Ranger force surprised Nocona’s camp on the Pease River in present day Foard County.  Nocona was killed and the Rangers captured Parker and her daughter, Prairie Flower.  Parker was unwilling to adapt to Anglo and tried to run away several times.  But as it became clear that her adopted people were fighting a losing battle, she accepted her place as a stranger among her relatives. After her daughter, Prairie Flower died of influenza and pneumonia in 1863, Parker struggled on for seven more years. Weakened by self-imposed starvation, she died of influenza in 1870

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