Cynthia Ann Parker, a captive of the Comanches, was born to Lucy (Duty) and Silas M. Parker 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 Native Americans for almost twenty-five years, forgot Anglo ways, and became thoroughly Comanche. It is said that in the mid-1840s her brother, John Parker, who had been captured with her, asked her to return to their Anglo family, but she refused, explaining that she loved her husband and children too much to leave them. She is also said to have rejected Native American trader Victor Rose's invitation to accompany him back to Anglo 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's 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 Anglo society. Indian agent Robert S. Neighbors 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 Nocona and eventually had two sons, Quanah Parker and Pecos, and a daughter, Topsannah.
On December 18, 1860, Texas Rangers under Lawrence Sullivan Ross attacked a Comanche hunting camp at Mule Creek, a tributary of the Pease River. During this raid the rangers captured three of the supposed Native Americans. They were surprised to find that one of them had blue eyes; it was a non-English-speaking Anglo woman with her infant daughter. Col. Isaac Parker 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. Parker her guardians. But she was never reconciled to living in Anglo 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 Mission Cemetery near Cache, Oklahoma. In 1957 her body and that of Quanah's were reinterred in the Fort Sill Post Cemetery at Lawton, Oklahoma. In the last years of Cynthia Ann's life she never saw her Native American 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 Anglos and Comanches, Quanah Parker became the most influential Comanche leader of the reservation era.
The Handbook of Texas Women project has its own dedicated website and resources.
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). Jo Ella Powell Exley, Frontier Blood: The Saga of the Parker Family (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2001). 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, 1972).
Captives and Victims of Attack
Native American Captives
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Margaret Schmidt Hacker,
“Parker, Cynthia Ann,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed October 17, 2021,
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