PARKER, CYNTHIA ANN (ca. 1825-ca. 1871).
Cynthia Ann Parker, a captive of the Comanches,
was born to Lucy (Duty) and Silas M. Parkerqv in
Crawford County, Illinois. According to the 1870
census of Anderson County she would have been
born between June 2, 1824, and May 31, 1825.
When she was nine or ten her family moved to
Central Texas and built Fort Parker on the
headwaters of the Navasota River in what is now
Limestone County. On May 19, 1836, a large force
of Comanche warriors accompanied by Kiowa and
Kichai allies attacked the fort and killed several
of its inhabitants. During the raid the Comanches
seized five captives, including Cynthia Ann. The
other four were eventually released, but Cynthia
remained with the Indians for almost twenty-five
years, forgot white ways, and became thoroughly
Comanche. It is said that in the mid-1840s her
brother, John Parker,qv who had been captured
with her, asked her to return to their white
family, but she refused, explaining that she loved
her husband and children too much to leave them.
She is also said to have rejected Indian trader
Victor Rose's invitation to accompany him back to
white settlements a few years later, though the
story of the invitation may be apocryphal.
A newspaper account of April 29, 1846, describes
an encounter of Col. Leonard G. Williams'sqv
trading party with Cynthia, who was camped with
Comanches on the Canadian River. Despite
Williams's ransom offers, tribal elders refused to
release her. Later, federal officials P. M. Butler
and M. G. Lewis encountered Cynthia Ann with
the Yamparika Comanches on the Washita River;
by then she was a full-fledged member of the
tribe and married to a Comanche warrior. She
never voluntarily returned to white society. Indian
agent Robert S. Neighborsqv learned, probably in
1848, that she was among the Tenawa
Comanches. He was told by other Comanches that
only force would induce her captors to release
her. She had married Peta Noconaqv and
eventually had two sons, Quanah Parkerqv and
Pecos, and a daughter, Topsannah.
On December 18, 1860, Texas Rangersqv under
Lawrence Sullivan Rossqv attacked a Comanche
hunting camp at Mule Creek, a tributary of the
Pease River. During this raid the rangers captured
three of the supposed Indians. They were
surprised to find that one of them had blue eyes;
it was a non-English-speaking white woman with
her infant daughter. Col. Isaac Parkerqv later
identified her as his niece, Cynthia Ann. Cynthia
accompanied her uncle to Birdville on the
condition that military interpreter Horace P. Jones
would send along her sons if they were found.
While traveling through Fort Worth she was
photographed with her daughter at her breast and
her hair cut short-a Comanche sign of mourning.
She thought that Peta Nocona was dead and
feared that she would never see her sons again.
On April 8, 1861, a sympathetic Texas legislature
voted her a grant of $100 annually for five years
and a league of land and appointed Isaac D. and
Benjamin F. Parkerqv her guardians. But she was
never reconciled to living in white society and
made several unsuccessful attempts to flee to her
Comanche family. After three months at Birdville,
her brother Silas took her to his Van Zandt
County home. She afterward moved to her sister's
place near the boundary of Anderson and
Henderson counties. Though she is said in some
sources to have died in 1864, the 1870 census
enrolled her and gave her age as forty-five. At her
death she was buried in Fosterville Cemetery in
Anderson County. In 1910 her son Quanah moved
her body to the Post Oak Cemetery near Cache,
Oklahoma. She was later moved to Fort Sill,
Oklahoma, and reinterred beside Quanah. In the
last years of Cynthia Ann's life she never saw her
Indian family, the only family she really knew.
But she was a true pioneer of the American West,
whose legacy was carried on by her son Quanah.
Serving as a link between whites and Comanches,
Quanah Parker became the most influential
Comanche leader of the reservation era.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: James T. DeShields, Cynthia Ann
Parker: The Story of Her Capture (St. Louis, 1886;
rpts.: The Garland Library of Narratives of North
American Indian Captivities, Vol. 95, New York:
Garland, 1976; Dallas: Chama Press, 1991).
Margaret S. Hacker, Cynthia Ann Parker: The Life
and the Legend (El Paso: Texas Western Press,
1990). Grace Jackson, Cynthia Ann Parker (San
Antonio: Naylor, 1959). Paul I. Wellman, "Cynthia
Ann Parker," Chronicles of Oklahoma 12 (June
1934). Women of Texas (Waco: Texian Press,
Margaret Schmidt Hacker