Quanah Parker: The last Comanche chief and his family

Quanah Parker: The last Comanche chief and his family

Hello all!

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 Parker

Quanah Parker

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.

Cynthia Ann Parker

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.

Quanah Parker

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 comanche chief Quanah Parkeras 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 wives

Quanah and 3 of his wives-1892

Quanah, aka Fragrance-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

Born: 1845

Died: February 23, 1911

 

Quanah Parker

Quanah standing proud

Quanah-1911

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. 🙂

All my Relations

 

 

 

 

 

32 thoughts on “Quanah Parker: The last Comanche chief and his family

  1. renelyn

    Another great review, after I read the other post about the Cheyenne dog soldier it’s really good and I admired the way you deliver their story.
    Thank you for the video so wonderful I subscribe already.

    Reply
  2. May

    Well I’d never heard of this chief so you sent me on a research spree and he seems like he was the embodiment of wisdom for that community. If I’m being honest, I come from a part of the world where all we know about native living is from movies and books. But you really make it come to life. And you were right…handsome right? In that stern kinda way….hihihihi

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi May
      he sure was a handsome man 🙂 And you are right, unfortunately, knowledge about the Native culture comes from TV and movies for many. And we all know that what is portrayed is often inaccurate or a romanticized version of what happened…

      Reply
  3. David J

    Very interesting coverage. The story is well delivered and capturing. I felt especially connected to his mother who obviously longed to be returned to her adopted family. I am so glad to see the memories of those who came and went before us preserved. You honour the life a a once great man. Nicely done.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi David
      Cynthia Ann’s story is a touching one for sure. For all intended purposes, she was Comanche. They were her family. And as with every mother, I am sure, all she wanted is to be reunited with her own children and husband.

      Reply
  4. Chris

    Quanah was one incredible person. He fought for his people and their land but when he realized that all of them would be exterminated if they did not surrender he agreed to peace.
    He then went on to become a successful business man and investor while still serving his people.
    Like Susan LaFlesche Picotte I find both of their story’s very inspiring. I really enjoy reading your articles Emily as it’s such a privilege to read about the lives on indigenous people who I probably wouldn’t have come across had it not been for this website.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Chris
      always a pleasure to have you here. Quanah and Cynthia’s stories are fascinating and inspiring for sure. Quanah did what was best for his people, for his people to survive. He did not give up, he surrendered so his people would still live. And he then helped them for another 30 years, help them be more independent and successful.

      Reply
  5. Ed Lange

    Seems like a great movie score. Well told and invigorating to the end. I am a South African and probably do not understand much of the lives of the Comanche. But I loved the story. Would you kindly let me have any further material if you have.
    Thanks
    Ed lange

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      Hi Ed
      you are right it would make for one heck of a movie! As for more material, well continue to look through my site. I have told the story of many great chiefs and warriors including Sitting Bull and Chief Joseph.

      Reply
  6. ido

    Hi Emily.

    I really enjoyed the story.
    Its really nice you give life to the pictures and to all these people.

    How did Quanah died? Was it natural causes?

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Ido!
      thanks for visiting. I do believe that Quanah died of natural causes at age 59. Back then, illnesses were not as well treated and people often died from them.

      Reply
  7. Hindy Pearson

    Hi Emily, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this fascinating story. You are really educating me that’s for sure!! You can’t help but feel for Cynthia. Although she may have been kidnapped as a child, her story after being re-united with her white family seems so much more tragic than actually being taken from them in the first place. It’s obvious how much she loved and embraced her adopted Indian culture, and truly felt at home among them.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Hindy!
      I feel for Cynthia too. I really feel for her. She lived her life the Indian way and she absolutely adopted the culture. She embraced it with her children and her husband. And I absolutely respect that.

      Reply
  8. Stephanie

    This was a terrific story about Quanah Parker and his mother Cynthia Ann. It is an interesting paradox how she was taken from her White family at the age of 9 by the Comanche and then learned to have a sense of belonging and felt that the Comanche was more of her home than her own White family. I can imagine how difficult it must have been not only for Cynthia Ann, but also for her White family to have love their beloved children when she was so young at the age of 9 and then to see her not wanting to be with them so many years later after she married and had a family of her own with the Comanche. So many controversial conversations and much debate can be had about that story. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      Oh absolutely Stephanie!!
      If we look at it with modern eyes, we might say that she was identifying with her captor and that her white family was right to stop her from returning. But I do not think it is as black and white as that. I can put myself in both sides’ shoes and it must have been a difficult choice no matter what.

      Reply
  9. Peter

    Truly a great Chief and a wonderful complete story as told by you. Your site is such a wealth of information on this most important part of history. Keep it coming, you are doing a fantastic job:)

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Peter!
      Thanks for the compliment! I have always loved Quanah Parker, as a man and as a leader. It was a pleasure writing about him 🙂

      Reply
  10. Christian

    Hi Emily, I love reading history like this. It amazes me what these people were put through and it is a testament to their fortitude at how hard they work to preserve their history, heritage and culture. Thank you for sharing this. I had never read about Quanah or his family before.

    If you’re interested in Native American fiction, my uncle is an author who wrote a fictional account of the persecution of a Native American in Minesota. The book is titled “The Last Race”. I don’t share links on other people’s blog posts but if you are interested in finding it you can google “jim fletcher the last race” and the first result should be his web page about the book.

    Reply
  11. Johnathan Tarter

    This is another fantastic review of another amazing and inspiring Native American person! Quanah Park is definitely someone worth reading about it since he is extremely interesting and great! Thank you for sharing this information about this amazing individual! Keep up the great work.

    Reply
  12. Craig

    I’m loving this site. I live in Seneca Country. In fact, about 1/2 a mile from my house is the traditional seat of the Seneca Nation. Ganondagan has been absorbed into the New York State parks system but is maintained by the friends of Ganondagan (a tribal organization).
    The current Cheif of the Seneca Nation is Peter Jemison a direct descendent of Mary Jemison (The White Witch of the Senecas).

    Similar to Quanah’s mother Cynthia, Mary Jemison was absorbed into the Seneca Nation through abduction from her white family. After marrying 2 Seneca Braves (killed in battle) and while pregnant, she travelled from the Ohio river to the Genesee country to join the tribe in their home. Eventually, she became a very powerful medicine woman and was instrumental in the initial contacts with the Jesuits that chronicled the early 1800’s in New York State.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Craig
      thank you so much for this information! I had no idea there was another woman with the same story as Cynthia Ann Parker! I will certainly read more about Mary Jemison as her story is such a fantastic one. I can certainly relate to both women in terms of their pull and feeling at home within the Native community.

      Reply
  13. Star snively dingle

    Wonderful story! I enjoy true history, whether good or bad, it enriches us. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Star
      so glad you stopped by and you read Quanah’s story. His story is a story of survival, strength and heartache but so powerful.

      Reply
      1. Ann Hollinger

        Hello.I hope you are doing well with therapy.Thank you for share ing another great story.I enjoyed this so much I’m going to see what they have at the library. Thank you keep getting better.

        Reply
  14. Dorothy M Moreau

    Love the story. Come to find out, they are one of my Ancestors. My fourth GREAT Grandmother Celeste M. Smith Thibodeaux are in this family tree. I was so happy to be a blood related to this family. Ty & God Bless.

    Reply

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