This website contains a biography of Cynthia Ann Parker, an early day Texas settler at Parker's Fort that was captured and raised by the Comanche Indians. Her son, Quanah Parker grew up to become the feared leader of a band of Comanches. This website also contains many photos of Cynthia Parker and her family.


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The Biography of Cynthia Ann Parker

Photo of Cynthia Ann Parker

On May 19, 1836, Cynthia Ann Parker was captured by a band of Comanche and Kiowa Indians. Later, she Married Chief Peta Nocoma and had a son,Quanah who became a feared leader of the Comanches.


Cynthia Ann Parker was born in 1825 to Silas M. and Lucy (Duty)Parker in Crawford County, Illinois. As a young girl, she and her family joined a wagon train and travelled to east Texas where the settlers built Fort Parker on the headwaters of the Navasota River near the area that would later become Groesbeck. Cynthia's uncle, John Parker organized the Texas branch of the Primitive Baptist Church.

Fort Parker Built in 1836

The Parker families built a fort around their community that was known as Fort Parker and created a company of Texas Rangers for protection against the Indians.

On May 19, 1836, Fort Parker was attacked by several hundred Caddo, Comanche and Kiowa Indians who killed several of the settlers and took five captives, including Cynthia Ann.

While in captivity with the Comanches, Cynthia Parker Marries Chief Peta Nocoma

In a period of a few years, all the captives had been returned to their white families, except for Cynthia Ann who remained with the Indians for almost twenty-five years.Cynthia married Indian Chief Peta Nocoma and had a son, Quanah.

Although Cynthia was beaten and abused at first, Cynthia was adopted by a Comanche couple who raised her like their own daughter. She trained in Native customs and loved her parents. The memories of life at Fort Parker faded, and she refused all attemps to reunite her with her white parents.

A newspaper account of April 29, 1846, describes an encounter of Col. Leonard G. Williams's trading party with Cynthia Ann, who was camped with Comanches on the Canadian River. Despite Williams's ransom offers, tribal elders refused to release her. Later, federal officials P. M. Butler and M. G. Lewis encountered Cynthia Ann with the Yamparika Comanches on the Washita River; by then she was a full-fledged member of the tribe and married to a Comanche warrior. She never voluntarily returned to white society.


Cynthia married Peta Nocoma, the young chief and bore three children: Quanah, Pecos and Topsannah. Pecos and Topsannah died at an early age but son Quanah Parker (born about 1845 near the Wichita Mountains in what is now Oklahoma) grew up to become a fierce and respected leader of the Comanches. The name Quanah means "smell" or "odor." Quanah's father, a war chief of the Nocone band of the Comanches,was killed in 1860 defending an encampment on the Pease River against the Texas Rangers led by Lawrence Sullivan Ross.

The raid, which resulted in the capture of Cynthia Ann and Quanah's sister Topasannah, also decimated the Nocones and forced Quanah, now an orphan, to take refuge with the Quahadi Comanches of the Llano Estacado.

In 1860, Texas Rangers under Lawrence Sullivan Ross attacked a hunting camp at Mule Creek and captured three Comanches. Nocoma was wounded, but managed to escape with their two sons, Quanah and Pecos. The Rangers were surprised to find that one of the Commanche captives had blue eyes and was actually a white woman with an infant daughter.

Col. Isaac Parker later identified the captured Comanche woman as his niece, Cynthia Ann. Cynthia accompanied her uncle to Birdville on the condition that a military interpreter, Horace P. Jones, would send along her sons if they were found. While traveling through Fort Worth she was photographed with her daughter at her breast and her hair cut short, a Comanche sign of mourning. She thought that Peta Nocona was dead and feared that she would never see her sons again.

Photo of Cynthia Ann Parker and her Daughter, Topsannah
Cynthia Ann Parker and her Daughter, Topsannah.

On April 8, 1861, a sympathetic Texas legislature voted her a grant of $100 annually for five years and a league of land and appointed Isaac D. and Benjamin F. Parker her guardians. But she was never reconciled to living in white society and made several unsuccessful attempts to flee to her Comanche family. After three months at Birdville, her brother Silas took her to his Van Zandt County home. She afterward moved to her sister's place near the boundary of Anderson and Henderson counties. Cynthia Ann's every attempt to return to her people failed, and she was repeatedly caught and returned.

Even though she refused to speak of her Comanche life, many fanciful and fictitious stories were written about this strange and mysterious woman. "Historical fiction" was used to incite anti-Indian feelings, and these tall tales eventually became accepted as truth and fact. Never satisfied, and never at home in a society that was foreign to her, Cynthia was shuttled from one family member to another. Her grief and longing for her lost family never left her.

Photo of Cynthia Ann Parker's Grandson, Baldwin Parker, son of Quanah Parker

Cynthia's Grandson, Baldwin Parker, son of Quanah Parker

Cynthia never quite adjusted to white life and was often locked in her room to keep her from running away. In 1863, Cynthia received word that her son Pecos had died of smallpox, and only a few months later, the her daughter died of influenza. Topsannah's death from fever in 1863 was the final blow for Cynthia Ann. Often refusing to speak or eat, she died in 1870 of influenza at the age of 43.

Cynthia was buried in Fosterville Cemetery in Anderson County. In 1910 her son Quanah moved her body to the Post Oak Cemetery near Cache, Oklahoma. She was later moved to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and reinterred beside Quanah. In the last years of Cynthia Ann's life she never saw her Indian family, the only family she really knew.


By the 1860s, the Quahadis ("Antelopes") had became the most warlike of the various Comanche bands. Among them Quanah became an accomplished horseman and proved himself to be an able leader. These qualities were increasingly in demand when, as a consequence of their refusal to attend the Medicine Lodge Treaty Council or to move to a reservation as provided by the treaty, the Quahadis became fugitives on the Staked Plains. There, beyond the effective range of the military, they continued to hunt buffalo in the traditional way while raiding settlements.

Photo of Quanah Parker who Became Chief of the Quahadis (

Quanah Parker Became Chief of the Quahadis ("Antelopes"),the most warlike of the various Comanche bands.

Quanah became an accomplished horseman and an able leader.

For the next seven years, Quanah Parker and his band of Quahadis Comanches held the Texas plains virtually uncontested. Attempts of the Fourth United States Cavalry under Col. Ronald S. Mackenzie to track and subdue the Indians in 1871 and 1872 failed. Not only was the army unable to find the Indians but, at Blanco Canyon on the morning of October 9, 1871, the troopers lost a number of horses when Quanah and his followers raided the cavalry campsite. Afterward, the Indians seemingly disappeared onto the plains, only to reappear and attack again. Mackenzie gave up the search in mid-1872.


Time was on the side of the army. As buffalo hunters poured onto the plains, destroying the Indians' chief source of food, the Comanches under the leadership of Quanah Parker were forced to take decisive action. Determined to maintain their independence, or at least their survival as a people, the Quahadis, under the guidance of Quanah and a medicine man named Isa-tai, formed a multitribal alliance dedicated to killing the hunters from the plains. On the morning of June 27, 1874, this alliance of some 700 warriors-Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Kiowas, and Comanches-attacked the twenty-eight hunters and one woman housed at Adobe Walls. However the Indian attack of some 700 Indians was beat back by 15 hunters with superior weapons. The hunters suffered just one casualty, while fifteen Indians died and numerous others, including Parker, were wounded. Defeated and disorganized, the Indians retreated and the alliance crumbled. Within a year, Parker and the Quahadis, under relentless pressure from the army and suffering from hunger, surrendered their independence and moved to the Kiowa-Comanche reservation in southwestern Oklahoma.

Despite Quanah's efforts to protect his people and their land base, by 1901 the movement to strip the Comanches of their lands had grown too powerful. The federal government voted to break up the Kiowa-Comanche reservation into individual holdings and open it to settlement by outsiders. For the remaining years of his life Parker operated his profitable ranch, continued to seek ties with whites, and maintained his position as the most influential person among the now-dispersed Comanches.


In 1902 his people honored their leader by naming him deputy sheriff of Lawton, Oklahoma. On February 11, 1911, while visiting the Cheyenne Reservation, he became ill with an undiagnosed ailment. After returning home he died, on February 23. At his funeral he was dressed in full Comanche regalia but, befitting his position as a man of two worlds, was reputedly buried with a large sum of money. After robbers plundered his grave four years later, his remains and those of his mother were reburied at Polk Oak Mission Cemetery. In 1957, expansion of a missile base forced the relocation of Post Oak Cemetery and the reburial of Quanah and Cynthia Ann Parker at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Cynthia Ann Parker: The Life and the Legend (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1990). Grace Jackson, Cynthia Ann Parker (San Antonio: Naylor, 1959). Paul I. Wellman, "Cynthia Ann Parker," Chronicles of Oklahoma 12 (June 1934). Women of Texas (Waco: Texian Press, 1972).



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The Story of Cynthia Ann Parker.
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