On This Day

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Cynthia Ann Parker with her daughter

On This Day: Cynthia Ann Parker Kidnapped by the Comanche

May 19, 2011 05:00 AM
by Haley A. Lovett
On May 19, 1836, a group of Native Americans attacked Fort Parker and took five captives, one of whom, Cynthia Parker, would live among the Comanche for 25 years.

Fort Parker Attacked, Cynthia Ann Parker Kidnapped

In 1832, members of the Parker family, including Lucy and Silas Parker and their children, moved from Illinois to an area in Texas near the Navasota River. The group built large walls around the settlement as protection from the nearby tribes of Native Americans, and the settlement became known as Fort Parker.

On May 19, 1836, members of the Kiowa, Comanche and Caddo tribes attacked Fort Parker. According to historian John Henry Brown, the attack killed or seriously wounded seven of the residents of the fort, including the Elder John Parker and Silas Parker, the father of Cynthia Ann. Five captives were taken during the attack including Cynthia Ann and her brother John.

History.com explains that kidnapping was not uncommon during attacks in this time period, and also not uncommon was the use of ransom for return. After the Fort Parker kidnappings, most of the captives were eventually returned for ransom, but Cynthia Parker, who was 9 at the time, remained with the Comanche. She was given to a Tenowish Comanche couple and was raised as a Comanche.

As for John Parker, some accounts say that he was also raised by Native Americans and that he became a warrior. However, when he was stricken with smallpox, his tribe abandoned him in Mexico, where he regained his health and began living with people there. It is thought that he later returned to Texas and fought in the Civil War.

Cynthia Parker’s “Rescue”

Cynthia Parker was spotted with her Comanche tribe a handful of times during her life, and a few people who encountered her attempted to pay a ransom to return her to white society. Once, only four years after her capture, a trader named Leonard Williams may have even attempted to speak with her, but Parker did not seem to want to leave the Comanche tribe.

As time passed, Cynthia Parker married a warrior of the Comanche tribe, Peta Nocona (also spelled Nocoma and Nakoni), and together they had three children—two boys named Quanah and Pecos, and one girl named Topsannah, also known as Prairie Flower. 

Accounts differ as to exactly how Cynthia Parker was “rescued.” Most sources say that Texas Ranger Captain Lawrence Sullivan Ross led the attack that captured Parker in 1860, but the reasons for his attack differ. John Henry Brown says Ross’ attack was provoked by attacks from Peta Nocona and the other Comanche warriors on white settlements.

Cynthia Parker and her daughter Topsannah were captured. The fate of Peta Nocona is disputed; some say he was wounded or killed in the attack, while others say he was not present.

Cynthia Parker was sent to live on a farm with her uncle, but she attempted to escape multiple times during the remainder of her life. Her daughter died of influenza a few years after their return to white society, and Cynthia died in 1870 from a combination of self-imposed starvation and the flu.

Key Player: Quanah Parker

Cynthia Parker’s son Quanah was not captured during the 1860 raid and grew up to be a famed warrior and the last chief of the Quahada Comanche. In his early years as a warrior, Quanah Parker was known to attack and raid white buffalo hunters and settlers.

After a year-long battle with the U.S. military that followed a 700-man-strong attack by Parker on 30 buffalo hunters, Parker surrendered and was made to live on a reservation in Oklahoma. He later worked to encourage peace between white settlers and Native Americans.

Reference: About the Comanche


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