Cynthia was about eleven years old when she was captured by Comanches, and here is how it came about.
She was born about 1825, in Illinois. Her parents moved to central Texas when she was nine or ten years old. Her father, John Parker, headed the move and took a large number of people from his extended family with them. They built a stockade, Fort Parker, on the headwaters of the Navasota River, in what is now Limestone County.
The fort was built on a hill, giving the inhabitants a good view of anyone approaching. The settlers lived in log cabins inside the walls. Each day, they went outside the walls to farm. At night, they would drive their grazing animals inside the fort and bar the gate.
|Source of this picture of Fort Parker unknown, public domain
On May 19, 1836, several of the Parker men went out to tend their fields. They left the gate open. A short time later, a child looking out the gate saw about 150 mounted warriors (some accounts estimate up to 500) outside.
The Indians, mostly Comanche, claimed to be friendly at first. Benjamin Parker went out to talk to them. They asked for some beef and directions to the nearest water—and yet, the river ran nearby. Parker went inside the gate told the others he would go and talk to them some more. Still those inside did not close the gate, not wanting to shut out the men in the fields.
The warriors killed Benjamin Parker and attacked the fort. They killed several of the settlers and captured five people, including Cynthia and her younger brother, John Parker. Then they chased the men who had been working outside the fort. Some were killed, and others managed to hide and escape.
|Comanche chief Quanah Parker on horseback, late 1800s. Public Domain
The other captives were released in a relatively short time, but not Cynthia Ann. She grew up among the Comanche people and became one of them. They gave her the name Nadua, and she darkened her hair to make her look more like her adopted people. She became the wife of Peta Nocona, a leader among the Comanche. They had two sons, Quanah and Pecos, and a daughter, Topsannah.
Her brother, John, who had been ransomed, reportedly asked Cynthia to return to their family in the mid-1840s, but she refused. She told him she loved her husband and children too much to leave them. Another undocumented report tells of an Indian trader inviting her to return to the white settlements with him a few years later, again without success.
Several federal officials and military officers reported seeing her over the years and attempting to ransom her and being refused by the Comanche elders, who said she was a member of the tribe.
|Cynthia with her daughter, Topsannah
Cynthia at the time thought her husband was dead and cut her hair short, a Comanche tradition of mourning. She begged to be allowed to return with her daughter to the Comanche, but was refused. She agreed to accompany Col. Parker on the condition that her sons would be sent to her if they were found. This did not happen. She returned to the Parker family. She had lived with the Comanche for more than twenty-four years. By now, Cynthia Ann had disappeared. She considered herself Nadua, a Comanche woman.
|Cynthia's son Quanah
When Topsannah died within three years of coming to the white community, Nadua grieved as a Comanche woman would, horrifying her relatives. She howled and slashed her arms and breasts with a knife. She refused to eat and died mourning at the home of one of her brothers, having never seen her Comanche family again. She was approximately forty-three years old.
Her son Quanah became the most influential Comanche leader of the reservation era and took his mother’s last name, Parker. He moved her body in 1910 to the Post Oak Mission Cemetery near Cache, Oklahoma. Later, Cynthia Ann’s remains and Quanah Parker’s were reinterred at the Fort Sill Post Cemetery in Lawton, Oklahoma.
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Susan Page Davis is the author of more than sixty published novels. She’s always interested in the unusual happenings of the past. She’s a two-time winner of the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award, and also a winner of the Carol Award and the Will Rogers Medallion, and a finalist in the WILLA Awards and the More Than Magic Contest. Visit her website at: www.susanpagedavis.com .
All photos on this post are in the public domain.