STAR HOUSE

HERBERT WOESNER, JUNE 23, 2000, PARKER REUNION

 

The history of this house actually goes back to about 1802 when Ben Franklin went to France and made the Louisiana Purchase. After the Louisiana Purchase, this so called Louisiana Territory was opened for settlement to American citizens.

The Parkers were from mostly North Carolina and Tennessee. They came into what was supposed to be Louisiana Territory but for some unknown reason they crossed the river and got into Texas. I've talked to various people and it seems like the consensus is they were from a hilly country and they didn't like the flat level swampy land in the area where they could come into Western Louisiana.

The Comanches and Texans both claimed that territory. So of course that's when the Comanches raided the Parker settlement. Cynthia Ann, an 8 year old child and 2 others were taken to be raised by the Comanches as foster children. They were adopted into the tribe, raised and became in effect Comanches. Cynthia Ann was the wife of Peta Nocona. She had children by Peta one of which was Quanah.

The federal government had declared this country as Comanche territory. They had established the ring of frontier force across North Texas at Fort Gibson, Fort Townsend and Fort Belknap (oh there was 5 of them). And these forts were North of that was supposed to be Comanches, South of that was supposed to be Texans. The Comanches were settled in camp down there well inside their territory. They were then attacked by Texans, what they called at that time irregulars. We would call them a militia. Quanah was not in the camp at that time as were most of his warriors. But they attacked this camp and attempted to exterminate all the Indians.

I went to Texas one time to Dallas and did some research down there in the library. I found an account of that raid written by one of the participants and in the raid he said that they attempted to exterminate, that was his exact words, the tribe. That they called everybody. They shot the fleeing women off of their horses. The children they stabbed in the back with a knife. The babies they didn't waste powder on them, they held them by the heels and bashed their heads against the tree. Now we have heard about cruelty but this was white people being cruel to the Indians. This was not the way we usually read history. Now incidentally, one of Quanah's wives, irtiqua, who was Mrs. Birdsong's mother was presumed to have been a survivor of that raid. She would have been at the right age. She was given the Indian name, arrow attach them, "stabbed in the back with a knife."

After this raid Quanah of course went to war against the white people again. They went as far South as Blanco Canyon, nearly to San Antonio. As far North as Adobe Walls and as far West as out in the Staked Plains. But they were being starved because the buffalo had been more or less exterminated.

General Ranald Mackenzie was sent by the U.S. government to catch Quanah and do away with him. Mackenzie himself said that Indians were better soldiers than they were. They were the only troops that he could not catch. But he did meet with Quanah under a flag of truce, persuaded Quanah to come back into this territory, guaranteeing him free conduct, the right to bring his saddle, his horses, his camps, his side arms and to be a permanent residence in this area as a sovereign nation.

Quanah then came in down this trail, we now call it the Quanah Parker Trailway. Back in those days it was called Navajo Trail because it was the one used by the early explorers to go across New Mexico and West. Quanah came into this territory and camped right here on this creek. He was supposed to have gone to Fort Sill for a council but he still did not trust the soldiers at Fort Sill. So they had the council on the creek halfway between Cache and Fort Sill which is probably Blue Beaver Creek. At that council they were guaranteed all of the rights and privileges which they expected. They settled here. This became the Comanche Nation. Quanah then as spokesman for the Comanches, made the deal with the Texas Cattlemen who had been using this land free of charge to drive their cattle to Dodge City. Quanah made a deal with them for the so called "grass money." The money was paid to the Comanches but the federal government again intervened. They were afraid the Indians would not spend it wisely. So most of the cash was put in trust.

The Indians were given commodities, cattle, horses, script and tokens. The script and tokens could only be spent at the Indian store. The cattle and horses of course they could use as they will. After a couple of years Quanah told them that he had all the cattle and horses he needed and he could provide his own commodities. But what he needed was a house like the general had at Fort Sill. So these cattlemen under the direction of Tom Burnett hired a contractor from the little town of Navajo which was located on this trail. He came in here, copied the Sherman house at Fort Sill, built this house for Quanah. It was on the hillside 2 miles North of here, facing South, overlooking the Comanche Nation. The house was originally, the front entrance right here where the double windows are and it has a 1 story porch across the front. The front entrance here went into a little hall. This double room was a living room. Then there was a dining room parlor and where the entrance is now was the kitchen. Quanah after he moved in said he needed sleeping rooms more than he needed playing rooms. So the living room was divided into two bedrooms and the parlor was appropriated for his bedroom. The dining room became what we would call the family room and was also the bedroom for the wife called Toncey. The kitchen door became the front door. At the time that the Indians were settled here the government built dog trot, as they were called in those days, houses for several of the leading Indians including Quanah. After they relocated the front entrance, according to Mrs. Birdsong, this dog trot house was moved up to the West side where it became the new kitchen and dining room. It was originally made out of 1 by 12 boards, batter boards (up & down), had wallpaper on the inside on those single boards and so siding on the outside. After it was moved up here Quanah had the siding put on the outside and had the inside covered with beaded ceiling to match the rest of the house. That became the new dining room and kitchen. After Quanah lived here they relocated the front entrance. Thatís when they built the 2 story porch on this side. Quanah enjoyed the 2 story porch, said that upstairs you could sleep and there was no mosquitoes. And he like the idea of the up upstairs sleeping porches so they were added all the way around. And the house achieved its present appearance, probably about 4 years after it was built. There's a dated photograph at the Fort Sill Museum dated 1892 which shows the house in its present form with the upstairs porches, stars on the room, new front entrance and extension on the back. Quanah lived here of course up until he died in 1911. At that time Quanah had a number of dependents and several wives. The federal government came in and they said in order to settle the estate we will divide the furnishings and we will sell the house. Mrs. Birdsong, Quanah's daughter, who was still living at the home and who was working in the bank in Cache made arrangements and purchased the house to keep it in the family. Mrs. Birdsong then lived in house, raised her daughter and granddaughter here until 1956.

In the early 1950s, Russia blockaded Berlin, invaded Checkosovalika and was making threats to the rest of the world. Our federal government after World War II had sent most of the soldiers home, had done away with a lot of the armed forces. So in order to be strong and put out a threat to Russia they brought the atomic cannon out of mothballs. This cannon had been developed during World War II at the arsenal in Philadelphia and was moth balled. They sent it to Fort Sill but in order to train with it they needed to extend the firing range at Fort Sill. To do so they took without much grace, they took 7 miles on the West side of Fort Sill which included where the house was, Post Oak Church, Post Oak Cemetery, a number of ranches & Craterville Park and without much regard for preservation or for history or anything. This house was going to be torn down.

Mrs. Birdsong's daughter, Nona, was married to Don Wilkinson who was a Post Exchange Officer at Fort Sill. He was acquainted or had done business with General Deshazzo. So he went to General Deschazzo and got the general to put a hold on this house so it wouldn't be destroyed. The Army then was anxious to get it out of their way; they jacked it up and moved it down on the section line, parked it and forgot about it. The house set there for the first winter, nothing was ever done to preserve or to save it. Finally then in order to get rid of it the Army moved it up to a vacant lot in Cache. It set there. Nobody had any idea what to do. And on Easter Sunday 1958, Mrs. Birdsong who I had known of course for years, had gone to school with her granddaughter, my father and mother had known Nona and Don Wilkinson so they were no strangers. But anyway on Easter Sunday 1958, Mrs. Birdsong came to our house, knocked on the door and asked if I didn't think this house should be saved. I said surely I do, everybody thinks so. She said well apparently not and if you don't do it, it doesn't look like anybody else will. So we made the arrangements, got a hold of the mover, moved it down here and its been here now for 42 years. We tried to keep it, people say are you going to restore the house. I don't believe in restoring. If your going to restore, you might as well just build new. I believe in preserving. I want to keep the house the way it was when it was occupied. Try to keep it forever in as good of shape as possible and make it available for the Parker's or anybody else who is really genuinely interested.

Sound:  Native American Church "Sunrise Song" by Baldwin Parker Jr., Grandson of Quanah Parker

 

RETURN TO:  HERBERT W. WOESNER JR.

 

RETURN TO:  QUANAH PARKER WEBSITE