By Caroline Jones, Library Assistant
On May 19, 1836, a young Cynthia Ann Parker was taken captive during the Comanche raid of Fort Parker. She lived as a Comanche woman for 25 years, marrying a Comanche warrior and having three children, until she was recaptured by Texas Rangers on December 19, 1860 in the Pease River Battle (also referred to as the Pease River Massacre by some scholars). In researching Parker I not only found her life story compelling, but both the variety and the credibility of the sources of her story intriguing and at times conflicting.
Cynthia Ann Parker was born to Lucy and Silas Parker in Crawford County, Illinois. The Parker clan made the journey to Texas and constructed Fort Parker along the Navasota River around 1835. According to Grace Jackson’s biography Cynthia Ann Parker, three generations of Parker’s lived at Fort Parker, along with several other families who followed them to Texas from Illinois. Having left the fort during the Battle of San Jacinto, all returned on April 25, 1836 after the Texan victory. On May 18th, Texas Rangers protecting the fort were disbanded and sent home to their families. The next day, Fort Parker was raided by the Comanche, killing many and taking five captive, including Cynthia Ann and her younger brother John.
Renamed Naudah, Parker grew up as a Comanche. The Handbook of Texas Online notes that Parker resisted attempts made by white traders to ransom her back, but was eventually recaptured at Pease River on December 19, 1860. Parker was forced to leave her husband and two sons behind, never knowing if they survived the attack. Her young daughter, Prairie Flower (or Topsannah) was captured with her. Together, they made the journey to Fort Cooper where the surviving members of the Parker family identified and claimed them. Living again with her biological family was a struggle and she made many escape attempts. She moved from her uncle’s home in Birdville to her brother’s in Van Zandt County where she and Prairie Flower lived the rest of their lives. Prairie Flower died of pneumonia in 1864, but it is unclear exactly when Cynthia Ann died. Unfortunately Parker never knew that her surviving son, Quanah Parker, became known as the “last great Comanche Chief.”
Cynthia Ann Parker’s story is fascinating for its place in women’s history, Texas frontier stories, and the narratives of “Indian captives.” But its sources, their political leanings, and revisions are of equal interest to historians and curious readers alike.
Books mentioned in this post:
- Tracking the Texas Rangers: The Nineteenth Century, ZN745.81 G463tr
- Comanche moon: a picture narrative about Cynthia Ann Parker, her twenty-five year captivity among the Comanche Indians, and her son Quanah Parker, the last chief of the Comanches, 970.3 P223JA1 1979