Cynthia Parker (c. 1825-1871)

Cynthia Parker
Cynthia Ann Parker and child, 1860-61

Born in Clark County, Illinois, Cynthia Ann Parker moved with her family to central Texas when she was about nine. Her family built a settlement called Fort Parker in what became Limestone County, where they put up walls and created a group of Texas Rangers. In 1837, a Comanche war party attacked Fort Parker, killing most of the residents and capturing Cynthia Ann along with several other women and children.

The captives were taken several hundred miles north to Comanche territory in what now is southwest Oklahoma.  During the next six years, all were ransomed and returned home -- except for Cynthia Ann, who refused to go back. She had adapted to the tribe and did not want to return to her white family. During her time in the Comanche tribe, Cynthia Ann was given to a Comanche couple who raised her like their own. She was raised and trained with Native American customs and traditions, causing her to forget memories of her biological family. Many people, including her brother, John Parker, asked her to return, but Cynthia Ann never gave in. She ended up marrying Peta Nocoma, a Comanche warrior, had three children (two boys and one girl) and became an official member of the tribe.

In December 1860, Texas Rangers attacked her husband’s hunting camp, but Peta managed to escape with their two sons. She then returned to Texas with her biological uncle, on the condition that if her sons were found, they would be returned to her. Back in white society, she was constantly moved from one family member to another. On several occasions, Cynthia Ann tried to go back to her Comanche family, but she was always caught and forced to return. In fact, she was often locked in her room to keep her from running away.

Years later, Cynthia Ann found out that her daughter  and one of her sons, Pecos, had died from horrible diseases. Cynthia already dreaded the fact that she had lost her entire family, including her husband, and the free ways of the Comanche, so the deaths of two of her children compelled her to stop speaking and eating. She spent the last years of her life alone.  She never reconnected with her true family, the Comanche.

Cynthia Ann Parker still was in her forties when she chose to starve herself to death. She was buried in Fosterville Cemetery in Anderson County, Texas.  For many years, her older son, Quanah, tried to move his mother’s remains to the Comanche land in what then was Indian Territory.  In 1910, Cynthia was finally moved to Post Oak Cemetery at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Like most Native Americans, her children used their mother’s name, and Quanah Parker carried on his mother’s legacy.   He became a link between Native Americans and white people, and he was the last great chief and the most influential leader of the Comanche people. When Quanah died at age 64, he was buried next to his mother, as he requested.

Taken from Young and Brave: Girls Changing History

Works Cited:

  • DeShields, James T.  Cynthia Ann Parker:  The Story of her Capture.  St. Louis, 1886; reprinted New York:  Garland, 1976.
  • Exley, Jo Ella Powell.  Frontier Blood:  The Saga of the Parker Family.  College Station:  Texas A&M University, 2001.
  • Jackson, Grace.  Cynthia Ann Parker.  San Antonio:  Naylor, 1959.
  • Meyer, Carolyn.  Where the Broken Heart Still Beats:  The Story of Cynthia Ann Parker.  San Diego:  Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992.