Quanah Parker: The last Comanche chief and his family
If you know me and this site’s Facebook page, you know that one of my favorite chief is Mr. Quanah Parker. Not only was he handsome (and he really was!), his story and his family story are amazing. A great character, a great person. So I thought it was about time that I write about him. Let’s explore together the life of Quanah Parker, the last Comanche chief.
Quanah’s early years and his mother’s story
Quanah was born in today’s Texas in 1845 (some report it was in 1852 but 1845 seems to be the correct year). His mother, Cynthia, and his father, chief Peta Nocona, had three children, including Quanah (he had a brother, Pecos and a sister, Topsannah). Before I go any further, it is important to mention that Quanah’s mother, Cynthia Ann, was a white woman who, in 1836, at the age of 9 was captured by the Comanches during one of their raids. From that moment on, Cynthia grew up among the Comanches and adopted their lifestyle, eventually marrying Quanah’s father, Chief Peta. She then had Quanah in 1845, at the age of 18. She was soon a young mother of 3. Some say that the name Quanah or Kwanah meant “Sweet smell” or “bed of flowers”, indicating a Spring birth.
Quanah was born during a time of raids, from the Comanches and against the Comanches. His father was a great chief who led some of those raids everywhere in Texas. In December of 1860, Texas Rangers were sent to find Peta. They soon found him on the banks of Pease River, where his camp was. Peta and his 2 sons managed to escape but numerous people living in the camp were killed, including sixteen women. Cynthia Ann was saved but captured. Cynthia and her daughter Topsannah were both taken to Camp Cooper where she was recognized as the young girl who had been kidnapped 24 years prior.
However, by then, Cynthia’s family was the Comanches, not the whites. Her sense of belonging was not with the Whites but rather with the Comanches who had adopted her. She pleaded with the white men to be returned to the Comanches, to no avail. A member of her white family, Isaac Parker, took her to his home and encouraged Cynthia Ann to live life the “white way”. But her heart was not in it. She eventually was locked up in the house so she would not escape. Some might say that she was identifying with her abductor but let’s not mix a modern way of thinking with Cynthia’s story. Which in fact was a touching story. She developed her own sense of belonging and was treated well by the Comanches. She was accepted and she became a member of the family.
The deaths of Cynthia and Peta
Although reports of Peta’s year of death vary, it is said that he mostly likely was killed in 1863. Soon after, Pecos died of small pox followed by Topsannah who succumbed to pneumonia. This was too much for Cynthia to bear and she tried frantically to be reunited with Quanah. She pleaded with the Parker family who remained firm and refused to let Cynthia leave. Desperate and heart broken, she stopped eating and drinking, eventually dying in 1870. Some say she died of a broken heart, missing her family and what had become her home.
After his father’s death, Quanah continued the raids his father had began and became known as a great courageous warrior. He fought for his land and his people against the buffalo hunters and the white settlers. Under his watch, entering the Comanche land was considered an act of war. Quanah joined the Kiowa at some point to obtain more power by joining forces. Quanah refused to sign treaties and made it clear that the white men would have to come take the land away from his people before he surrendered and agreed to live on a reservation. Quanah continued his fight against the Buffalo hunters who were getting cockier and killed numerous of the beautiful sacred beasts.
The last years of Quanah’s life
However, on June 2nd 1875, Quanah, in order to keep the peace (as he had received word that those who did not surrender would be automatically exterminated), led his people to surrender and agreed to live on a reservation in present day Oklahoma. From that day on until his death, Quanah encouraged his people to develop their agricultural skills and also served as a tribal court judge on his reserve. He was a respected chief who counted Theodore Roosevelt as a friend. He was a familiar face in Washington, DC, representing the Comanches at the congress. He tried more than most to reconcile the White and Comanche ways, maybe due to his own family history. He also married (some say he had more than one wife, up to 7) and had numerous beautiful children (up to 24).
Quanah and 3 of his wives-1892
Quanah, aka Fragrance in 1892
Nevertheless, Quanah had been left wondering what had happened to his mother. In 1875, he searched desperately for her only to be told that she had passed away 5 years earlier. Quanah continued to lead and support his people until the day of his death, February 23rd, 1911. He was buried next to his mother and sister (he had them re-burried on Comanche land in 1910). On his tombstone, one can read:
Resting here until day breaks
And shadows fall and darkness disappears
Is Quanah Parker
Last Chief of the Comanches
Died: February 23, 1911
Quanah standing proud
Quanah, slightly before his death in 1911
I leave you with a wonderful video illustrating Quanah Parker’s life, told by his great grandsons.
Do you love Quanah as much as I do? What did you think of his story? Comment below and I will answer. 🙂
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