Plummer, Rachel Parker (1819–1839)

By: Jo Ella Powell Exley

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1996

Rachel Parker Plummer, Indian captive, daughter of Martha Patsy (Duty) and James W. Parker, was born in Illinois on March 22, 1819. The family lived in what was then Clark County, Illinois, for about eleven years. After three of his children died from disease, Parker decided to leave Illinois. The Parkers stayed a short while in Arkansas before moving with other members of their family to Texas in the winter of 1832 or 1833. Parker was a Baptist minister, and most of the members in the group were Baptists. The family lived for short periods on the Angelina, Colorado, and Brazos rivers, then settled on the Navasota River in the fall of 1833. On May 28, 1833, Rachel married Luther Thomas Martin Plummer. On January 6, 1835, they had a son, James Pratt. On April 1, 1835, Luther Plummer received a large grant of land now in Limestone County. Two other members of the Parker family received grants at the same time.

Fort Parker, built the same year, was attacked on May 19, 1836, by a large group of Indians, mainly Comanches. Five inhabitants of the fort were massacred, one was wounded, and five others were taken captive: Rachel and James Pratt Plummer, Cynthia Ann and John Parker, and Mrs. Elizabeth Kellogg. Cynthia Ann and John Parker were Rachel's cousins, and Elizabeth Kellogg was her aunt. Soon after their abduction, the captives were separated. Mrs. Kellogg was taken by a band of Kichai Indians, and John and Cynthia Ann were taken by a band of Comanches. When the Comanches learned that James Pratt had been weaned, he was taken from Rachel, and she never saw him again. Rachel, who became a slave to the Comanches, was beaten, burned, and deprived of sufficient clothing. In order to finish her assigned tasks she often had to work all day and most of the night. The Comanche band never stayed more than three or four days in one place except in extremely cold weather, when they would stay until the weather changed. Rachel traveled thousands of miles with the Comanches as they wandered from the headwaters of the Arkansas River to the Wichita Mountains. She was pregnant at the time of her capture; she bore a second son about October 1836 and named him Luther. The Indians thought that the baby was interfering with Rachel's work, so they killed him when he was about six weeks old. Rachel was held captive by the Comanches for thirteen months. The Comanches were camped north of Santa Fe when they were approached by Mexican traders who wanted to ransom Rachel. She was sold to them on June 19, 1837. Her rescue had been arranged by Col. and Mrs. William Donaho, to whom she was delivered in Santa Fe after a journey of seventeen days. Several weeks after her arrival, the Donahos, fearing trouble with the Mexicans, fled some 800 miles to Independence, Missouri, taking Rachel with them. Several months later, Rachel's brother-in-law, Lorenzo D. Nixon, escorted her back to Texas, where she was reunited with her husband on February 19, 1838. She was emaciated, covered with scars, and in very poor health.

She wrote an account of her captivity entitled Rachael Plummer's Narrative of Twenty One Months Servitude as a Prisoner Among the Commanchee Indians, which was issued in Houston in 1838. This was the first narrative about a captive of Texas Indians published in Texas. In 1844 James W. Parker published a revised edition as an appendix to his Narrative of the Perilous Adventures, Miraculous Escapes and Sufferings of Rev. James W. Parker. Rachel bore a third child on January 4, 1839, and died in Houston shortly thereafter, on March 19, 1839; the child died two days later. Late in 1842 James Pratt Plummer was ransomed, and in 1843 he was reunited with his family. He married twice and fathered four children. While serving in the Confederate Army he died, on November 17, 1862, at Little Rock, Arkansas, of pneumonia brought on by typhoid fever.

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Eugene C. Barker, ed., The Austin Papers (3 vols., Washington: GPO, 1924–28). 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). William S. Speer and John H. Brown, eds., Encyclopedia of the New West (Marshall, Texas: United States Biographical Publishing, 1881; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978).
  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Captives and Victims of Attack
  • Women
  • Native American Captives

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Jo Ella Powell Exley, “Plummer, Rachel Parker,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1996

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