Touring Texoma: Cynthia Ann Parker

In the last quarter century of the 1800's, Fort Sill was the center of activities for the southern plains.

The 1874 Red River War, or Buffalo War as it was called by many indians, was full of conflict over thousands of miles.

And, Fort Sill was the hub of that war.

One of the last great warriors to surrender his tribe in June, 1875 was Quanah Parker.

He was a half- white / half- Comanche Indian born in the Wichita Mountain area, south of Elk Mountain.

We're going to look in- depth at the story of Quanah Parker over the next two Thursdays.

First though, we're taking a tour of Texoma, to start closer to the beginning.

To tell Quanah Parker's story, you really have to start with his mother's.

The story of Cynthia Ann Parker, and really so many others kidnapped by an indian nation at war, has captivated the entire world's imagination and hearts for well over a 150- years.

Much of what the world knows about Cynthia Ann Parker and others taken captive by indians as children is fiction.

John Ford's 1956 classic, "The Searchers" starring John Wayne, was loosely based on other accounts, but Cynthia's was no doubt similar to those in many ways.

Towana Spivey: "It's a tragic story, but it's a story about life, about life in these southern plaines with these particular people and the environment they lived in."

Cynthia Ann Parker was born in 1827 in Illinois.

And as a little girl, her family joined a wagon train that brought them to East Texas, where in 1836, their settlement was attacked by tribes of indians.

"She was among several children who were captured at Fort Parker, and some of her family members were killed in that battle."

Spivey is the director and curator of Fort Sill's National Historic Landmark Museum.

"When indians left here going to Texas on raids, they often had objectives of taking captives."

"If they weren't lucky, they would become slaves. And, very often those slaves were killed, or they were sold, or traded."

But, Cynthia was one of the lucky ones.

"Raised Comanche, married a Comanche warrior named Peta Nocona, had 3- children. Quanah was the elder of the 3, and Pecos and Prairie Flower were the children."

Spivey says it was a classic example of stockholm syndrome, where the captive eventually identifies with the kidnappers.

That was most definitely the case here, even after Cynthia's recapture near Crowell.

"Texas Rangers hit it pretty hard. A lot of confusion. A lot of chaos. People running trying to get away. Tents, teepees knocked down. People shot. And, her running away. Finally was cornered. And, she turns and said................... think it was...... me Cynthia, or something like that."

A marker about 9- and- a- half miles northeast of Crowell off FM 98 commemorates the Pease River Battlefield. Erected in 1936 by the state of Texas, 100- years after the capture of Cynthia Ann Parker, it says nothing about the depression that followed her recapture at this sight.

Duane Johnson: "By accident they found this indian village out here on the Pease River in 1860, and she was recaptured back to the white people, which was a very unfortunate thing for her."

Scarlett Daugherty: "She was indian through and through when they captured her."

Both Duane Johnson, the Chairman of Foard County's Historical Committee, and the curator of Quanah's museum, Scarlett Daugherty agree with Towana Spivey.

Spivey: "She was part of a family, part of a tribe, part of a people, who was then taken away from those people in 1860 and returned to white relatives near the Dallas area. And, that situation, she had no role to play. She was a stranger. She did not relate to these people any longer."

"It was very hard, and she worried a lot about Quanah, her son, out there on the prairie, still roaming, still fighting, still trying to survive."

Cynthia would never see Quanah or Nocona again, and Pecos died when he was young.

Then, Cynthia stopped eating and drinking about the time Prairie Flower died possibly from pneumonia.

"Obviously, she was very emotionally upset and unhappy in her present circumstance, and she died, and it was often said she died from a broken heart. As to her real cause of death, I don't think anyone knows."

"The hair pin as far as we know is the only surviving artifact that belonged to Cynthia Ann."

And, there's the original marker for Cynthia's grave, before Quanah brought her remains along with his sister's, to the Fort Sill area for reburial.

While Cynthia Ann Parker's tragic story had far from a Hollywood happily ever after ending, it's a part of our Texoma heritage, and a story that in so many different ways should never be forgotten.

Quanah Parker took the news of what happened to his mother and sister very hard.

But that too may have only strengthened his resolve.

He became an extremely successful businessman and rancher, and even friend to American presidents.

Next Thursday, we'll begin spotlighting the last Comanche Chief, who even has a Texoma town in Hardeman County named for him.

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