"QUANAH PARKER"

by

VINCENT L. PARKER

(1956-1992)

 

 

For three centuries the Comanches ruled as “Lords of the Southern Plains.”  With the coming of white settlers and the might of the U.S. Army, the land was being wrested for its Indian masters.  The Comanches resented this appropriation of their ancestral home and say only one recourse - WAR.  The Comanches were the finest horsemen of the plains and they fought with the ferocity and desperation of any man who battles to save his home and his land.

In 1836, during a Comanche raid on Fort Parker, near the present city of Groesbeck, Texas, nine year old Cynthia Ann Parker was captured.  She grew up among the Comanches whom she learned to love dearly.  Ultimately, she married the famed chief Peta Noconi (Peautachnoconne) for whom she bore 3 children.  Quanah (the name means “fragrant”) was born to the couple in 1845 and was the only one of the 3 children to survive. 

When Quanah was still a young boy, his mother was recaptured in 1860 by Texas Rangers who returned her and her baby Prairie Flower to her white relatives.  Cynthia Ann begged to be allowed to return to her Comanche family and made several attempts to escape; but to no avail.  Prairie Flower died during this time.  Broken hearted, Cynthia Ann sickened and died in 1864.  For the rest of his life, Quanah revered the memory of his mother.  He added her maiden name “Parker” to his own name.

Sharp of mind and an intrepid warrior, Quanah emerged as a vigorous and enlightened protector of Comanche interests.  The Quahada band of Comanches, fiercest of all bands, was under his leadership.  Quanah led Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Comanches, Kiowas and Apaches in their last great surge against white encroachment - known as Battle of Adobe Walls.  A military strategist of the first order, he became one of the most feared Indians on the Southern Plains.  But the white man was superior in weapons and numbers.  The day came when Quanah knew that further resistance would lead only to the annihilation of the Comanches.  He counseled his people to lay down their arms and “take the white man’s road.”  On June 2, 1875, Quanah and his followers surrendered at Fort Sill.  By an ironic twist of fate, it was Quanah who led the Comanches in their final struggle against white encroachment - his mother’s own people - and once again the fighting was over, it was he - as last Chief of the Comanches - who was to lead them up from the bitter ashes of defeat to walk “the white man’s road.”  Quanah dedicated himself to the strenuous task of guiding the Comanches into civilization.

Courageous and strong-willed, he was also a natural diplomat.  Traveling numerous times to Washington D.C. to represent the Comanches, he became a familiar figure in Congress.  He became a successful farmer and rancher and became a major stockholder in the Quanah, Acme and Pacific Railway.  His beautiful two story home, complete with veranda and star emblazoned roof, was built at the foothills of the Wichita Mountains.  He had vital interest in educating the young and became president of his local school board.  He was appointed presiding judge in the Court of Indian Offenses and numbered statesmen and ambassadors among his friends.  In 1905 Quanah rode in Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade.  In a special report to the President, it was stated of Quanah “If ever Nature stamped a man with the seal of headship, she did it in his case.  Quanah would have been a leader and a governor in any circle where fate may have cast him.”

As a result of Quanah’s shrewd business negotiations the Comanches and affiliated tribes, by 1900, generated an aggregate annual income of $232,000 per year through grazing leases.  Comanche prosperity flourished during this period with investments in tribal herds, houses, schools, and other ranching activities.  Quanah proved himself as a great leader in peace as he had been in war.

Quanah initiated change whenever it promised to benefit the Comanches and fought unfavorable change as loyally and strenuously as he formerly practiced war.  He adamantly opposed the Jerome Agreement to open the reservation for settlement and through his persistent efforts the transaction failed to be ratified for nearly a decade.  An influential religious leader and medicine man, he adamantly fought for Indians’ right for freedom of worship and was instrumental in the establishment of the Native American Church.

On December 4, 1910, Quanah had his mother’s remains exhumed and reburied near his home where, as he said, “I might lie beside her.”  At Quanah’s request Congress erected a monument at her grave site.  Just 3 months after her reburial, Chief Quanah died on February 23, 1911.  Quanah, who was responsible for the Comanches’ transition into the “white man’s road” and who perhaps did more than any other man to reconcile these two great races was mourned by whites and Indians alike.  Approximately 1500 people formed a funeral possession over 2 miles long.  Although his remarkable adaptation to white ways brought him honor, wealth, and a show-place home for his family, he never did forsake his Comanche heritage - he loved his culture heritage, he was proud of it, and strove to preserve it.  When he was buried beside his white mother, it was in the full regalia of a Comanche chief.  An 18-foot red granite monument, fashioned after the Washington monument, was erected by Act of Congress to mark the Chief’s grave.

Quanah had 7 Comanche wives and begat 24 children.  Every year the descendants of Quanah and the Parker relatives of Texas gather to honor the memory of Cynthia Ann and her remarkable son.

 

 
VINCENT L. PARKER COPYRIGHT
 

 

         
   

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