Parker, Cynthia Ann (c. 1827–c. 1864)

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Parker, Cynthia Ann (c. 1827–c. 1864)

Indian captive who married a Comanche chief and became the mother of Chief Quanah Parker. Born around 1827 in either Clark County or Crawford County, Illinois; died of self-inflicted starvation following the deaths of two of her children around 1864 (some sources cite 1870); daughter of Silas M. Parker (a farmer) and Lucy (Duty) Parker; married Peta Nocoma (a Quahadi Comanche chief), in 1845; children: sons Quanah and Pecos; daughter Topsannah.

Taken captive by Native Americans after attack on Texas settlement where she lived (1836); refused attempt to ransom her (1840s); captured with her daughter during attack on Nocoma's camp by Texas Rangers and reunited with her white family (1860); died of self-inflicted starvation after learning of her son's death and after her daughter's death (1864 or 1870).

Cynthia Ann Parker was born in Illinois, probably in 1827, the eldest child of Silas and Lucy Parker . Accounts vary as to whether Baptist Elder John Parker was her paternal grandfather or her uncle, but either way he was responsible for leading his extended family to Texas, where Cynthia Ann and her parents and siblings settled in 1834, in what is now the town of Groesbeck. The group built a settlement called Fort Parker and created a company of Texas Rangers. On May 19, 1836, hundreds of Caddo, Comanche, and Kiowa Indians attacked their settlement. Five settlers were killed and five were taken captive, among them nine-year-old Cynthia Ann. Within months, all the captives were located except Cynthia Ann, who had been sent to Chatua and Tabbi-nocca , a Tenowish Comanche couple who raised her as a daughter. She adapted to Native American culture and ways, and in the 1840s, when attempts were made to ransom her, she chose to stay with her tribe. In 1845, she married Peta Nocoma, a fierce Comanche chief who was famous for leading raids (including the Fort Parker attack at which she had been taken captive). They had three children, two sons, Quanah and Pecos, and a daughter, Topsannah , and Peta Nocoma refrained from taking another wife as was accepted for prominent warriors. Gradually, Parker became a legend among local white settlers, who called her the "White Comanche."

On December 18, 1860, a band of Texas Rangers and local volunteers led by Captain Lawrence Sullivan Ross attacked Nocoma's camp on the Pease River, possibly mistaking it for a hostile village. Women were shot down as they fled, and Nocoma was wounded in the battle. Quanah and Pecos managed to escape, but Parker and Topsannah were captured and taken to Camp Cooper. Parker was identified by her uncle Isaac Parker in January 1861 and sent to live with her white relatives. She relearned English but showed no desire to remain in white society, unsuccessfully attempting to escape several times and continuing to mourn for her absent husband and sons. While she never recounted her experiences among the Comanche, many whites took advantage of her name and published fictional memoirs, letters, and articles aimed at inflaming anger at Native Americans. In the fall of 1864, Parker learned that her son Pecos had died of smallpox, and a few months later Topsannah died of influenza. Heartbroken, Parker starved herself to death in either in 1864 or 1870. She was buried in the Fosterville Cemetery in Henderson County, Texas. Peta Nocoma never remarried, and continued to raid settlements until his death from a wound that became infected. Their surviving son Quanah Parker grew up to be a famous Comanche war chief, the last to surrender in 1875. Years later, when he learned of his mother's death, he questioned everyone he could find who had known her after she had returned to white society. He hung a painting of her in his parlor, and adopted her name as the surname of his family. In 1910, Congress granted him $1,000 to have her body brought from Texas and reinterred in a cemetery near his home in Oklahoma. He was buried next to her after he died the following year. In 1957, their burial site was acquired as part of a government missile range, and the two bodies were removed to a post cemetery. Eight years later, Topsannah's grave in Texas was located, and her remains were reburied beside her mother.


Bataille, Gretchen M., ed. Native American Women. NY: Garland, 1993.

James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.

suggested reading:

Becker, Daniel A. "Comanche Civilization with History of Quanah Parker," in Chronicles of Oklahoma. June 1923.

Hacker, Margaret Schmidt. Cynthia Ann Parker: The Life and the Legend. El Paso, TX: Texas Western Press, 1990.

Haley, J. Evetts. Charles Goodnight: Cowman & Plainsman, 1936.

Jackson, Grace. Cynthia Ann Parker. San Antonio: 1959.

Jones, William Moses. Texas History Carved in Stone, 1958.

Peckham, Howard H. Captured by Indians, 1954.

Waldraven-Johnson, Margaret. White Comanche: The Story of Cynthia Ann Parker and Her Son, Quanah. NY: Comet Press, 1956.

Waltrip, Lela, and Rufus Waltrip. Indian Women. NY: David McKay, 1964.

Wellman, Paul I. "Cynthia Ann Parker," in Chronicles of Oklahoma. June 1934.

Wood, Norman B. Lives of Famous Indian Chiefs, 1906.


Parker family documents at the Eugene C. Barker History Center, University of Texas, Austin; Quanah Parker files at the Fort Sill archives, Lawton, Oklahoma.

Jo Anne Anne , freelance writer, Brookfield, Vermont

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Parker, Cynthia Ann (c. 1827–c. 1864)

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