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The Fort Parker massacre was an event in 1836 in which members of the pioneer Parker family were killed in a raid by Native Americans. In this raid, an 8-year old girl, Cynthia Ann Parker, was captured and spent most of the rest of her life with the Comanche, marrying a Chief, Peta Nocona, and giving birth to a son, Quanah Parker, who would become the last Chief of the Comanches. Her brother, John Richard Parker, who was also captured, was ransomed back after six years, but unable to adapt to white society, ran back to the Comanches.

History

Fort Parker was made about two miles (3 km) west of present-day Groesbeckmarker, Limestone Countymarker, Texasmarker, USAmarker by Elder John Parker (1758–1836), his sons, Benjamin, Silas and James, plus other members of the Pilgrim Predestinarian Baptist Church of Crawford Countymarker, Illinoismarker. Led by John and Daniel Parker, they came to Texasmarker in 1833. Daniel's party first settled in Grimes Countymarker, then later moved to Anderson Countymarker near present-day Elkhartmarker. Elder John Parker's group settled near the headwaters of the Navasota River, and built a fort for protection against Native Americans. It was completed in March 1834. Fort Parker's 12 foot (4 m) high log walls enclosed four acres (16,000 m²). Blockhouses were placed on two corners for lookouts, and six cabins were attached to the inside walls. The fort had two entrances, a large double gate facing south, and a small gate for easy access to the spring. Most of the residents of the fort were part of the extended family of John and Sarah Parker.

The Massacre

Soon, the settlers were making their homes and farming the land. Several had built cabins on their farms, and used the fort for protection. Peace treaties were made with surrounding Native American chiefs. Perhaps, the Fort Parker inhabitants expected that other tribes would honor the treaties as well. The Fort Parker inhabitants had also allowed a Texas Ranger company to use the Fort, perhaps not understanding that many Native Americans regarded the Rangers with hatred for their Indian Fighting.

On May 19, 1836, a large party of Native Americans, including Comanches, Kiowas, Caddos, and Wichita, attacked the inhabitants of Fort Parker. In her memoir, Rachel Plummer wrote that "one minute the fields (in front of the fort) were clear, and the next moment, more indians than I dreamed possible were in front of the fort."

One of the Indians approached the fort with a white flag. No one believed the flag was genuine. Silas Parker wanted the five men present to man the walls and fight as best they could. Benjamin Parker felt that by going out he could buy time for the majority of the women and children to flee out the back (small) gate. He felt that there was simply no way that five men would be able to hold the Indians out more than a second or two, as they could use ropes to scale the walls. He felt that the war party would then kill everyone in the fort, and the unsuspecting men in the fields. He argued with Silas that they had to barter their lives for time for everyone else. Their father agreed with Benjamin.

Benjamin knew he was going to be killed. According to Rachel Plummer's account, Benjamin returned to the fort, after his first talk with the war party, and told his brother and father that he believed they would all be killed, and that they should run swiftly to the woods. Silas again argued with him, telling him they should push the big gate shut, and man the walls. Ben pointed out, rightly, Rachel said, that there was no time, and their "course was decided." He told her, "run little Rachel, for your life and your unborn child, run now and fast!" She said he then straightened up and went back outside. She recounted how Silas told her to watch the front gate, after Benjamin had gone out to talk to the Indians the second time, when she herself wanted to flee, while he ran for his musket and powder pouch. “They will kill Benjamin,” she reported her Uncle Silas saying, “and then me, but I will do for at least one of them, by God.” At that moment, she said she heard whooping outside the fort, and then Indians were inside.

The 3-5 minutes bought enough time that the majority of the women and children did get away. Rachel Plummer, who was pregnant, was afraid she would not be able to keep up while carrying her two year old son, and so she stayed in the fort. She began running after seeing the Indians come into the fort, holding her little boy's hand, while behind her she said she saw Indians stabbing Benjamin with their lances, and then she heard “Uncle Silas shout defiance as though he had a thousand men with him. Alas, he was alone, and soon dead.” Lucy Parker, who also had a small child, stopped to argue with her husband Silas, begging him to come with her. Elizabeth Duty Kellogg stopped to gather up their savings, $100 in coins, before she attempted to escape.

Benjamin Parker was killed, and before the fort's gates could be closed, the raiders rushed inside. Silas Parker, who was outside with his brother, was killed before he was able to get back inside the gate. The Frost Brothers were killed inside the gate, as they attempted to flee. John Parker's genitals were cut off and he was then scalped. His wife came out of the woods when she saw his torture and was captured. Lucy Parker and her youngest two children were captured but were rescued by Luther Plummer as he ran up to the fort from the fields. But his wife, his son, and their cousins were all lost.
Cynthia Ann Parker with her daughter, Prairie Flower, about 1861
In all, five were killed, some were left for dead, two women and three children were captured, and the rest escaped into the wilderness.

Cynthia Ann Parker

One of the captives was a nine-year-old girl, Cynthia Ann Parker, daughter of Silas and Lucinda (Duty) Parker. Cynthia Ann lived with the Comanches for nearly 25 years. She married Comanche chief Peta Nocona and was the mother of three children, including Quanah Parker. In 1860, she was among a Native American party captured by Texas Rangers at the Battle of Pease Rivermarker. Ironically, Cynthia Parker was the victim of two massacres which destroyed her life. The first, the attack on Fort Parker in 1836, killed her parents and left her among the Comanche for nearly 25 years. The second, a massacre of the Comanche Band of her husband, the Noconis, at the Battle of Pease Rivermarker left her a prisoner among the whites. She was identified by her uncle, Isaac Parker, and returned to her family. Cynthia Ann never readjusted to the Anglo society, and died at the age of 43 in 1870 after starving herself to death after her daughter, Prairie Flower, had caught influenza and died from pneumonia. She was originally buried with her daughter in Fosterville Cemetery in Anderson County near Frankstonmarker, but her son, Quanah, had her re-interred, and reburied next to him at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

John Richard Parker

Her brother John Richard Parker, who was also captured, was later ransomed back, but unable to adapt to white society, ran back to the Comanche. He later was left to die after he contracted smallpox during a Comanche raid into Mexico. The war party left a captive Mexican girl to care for him, and he restored her to her family after recovering, and spent the remainder of his life in Old Mexico after marrying her.

Rachel Plummer

Rachel Plummer, the 17 year old wife of Luther Plummer, daughter of James Parker, and cousin to Cynthia Parker and her brother John, was held captive by the Comanche for two years before being ransomed by her father. Her book on her captivity, Rachael Plummer's Narrative of Twenty One Months Servitude as a Prisoner Among the Commanchee Indians, was issued in Houston in 1838. This was the first narrative about a captive of Texas Indians published in the Republic of Texas, and it was a sensation not just there, but throughout the United States and even abroad. Rachel died in 1840, in childbirth, a year after being ransomed.

Quanah Parker

Quanah Parker became a leader among the Quahadi Comanches. After most of the Comanches and other tribes on the Staked Plainsmarker were defeated, Parker and his group surrendered to authorities and were forced to an Indian reservation in Oklahoma territory. The Quahadis were the very last tribe left on the Staked Plains. Quanah Parker was made chief of all the Comanche tribes on the reservation. Shortly before his own death in 1911, he arranged for the disinterment of his mother and sister and had them reburied in a plot next to his own at the Post Oak Cemetery near Cache, Oklahomamarker. Congress passed a special allotment to fund the reburial. The three were moved in 1957 to the Fort Sillmarker military cemetery in Oklahomamarker.

Fort Parker inhabitants on May 19, 1836

  • Elder John Parker (aged 77) and 2nd wife, Sarah (Pinson) Duty "Granny" Parker
    • Benjamin Parker
    • James W. Parker and wife, Martha "Patsey" Duty
      • Rachel Plummer (aged 17) and husband, L. T. M. Plummer
        • James Pratt Plummer (aged 1)
      • Sarah Parker (aged 18) and husband, Lorenzo Dow Nixon
      • James Wilson Parker (aged 5)
      • Francis Marion Parker (aged 4)
    • Silas Parker and wife, Lucinda Duty
  • Elisha Anglin
    • Abram Anglin
  • Seth Bates
    • Silas Bates
  • George E.Dwight and wife Malinda Frost
    • Dwight child Elizabeth Dwight
  • David Faulkenberry
    • Evan Faulkenberry
  • Samuel Frost and wife
    • Robert Frost
    • other Frost children
  • Elizabeth Duty Kellogg (dau. of Sarah Duty Parker)
  • Oliver Lund


James W. Parker

James W. Parker, who was working in the fields when the raid began, spent much of the rest of his life, and most of his fortune, searching for his daughter Rachel, his grandson James, his niece Cynthia, and his nephew John Richard. After many near death escapes, he finally settled with his family. John Wayne's character Ethan Edwards, in the John Ford Western "The Searchers", was modeled by author Alan Le May after Parker and others affected by child abductions.

See also



External links





References

  • Frontier Blood: The Saga of the Parker Family, by Jo Ella Powell Exley
  • Ray Miller's Texas Forts, by Ray Miller


Footnotes

  1. Today these peoples are variously denominated Native Americans, First Americans, First Nation, and American Indians. On the Texas frontier in 1836, they would have simply been designated Indians.
  2. Elder - an ordained Baptist minister
  3. "The descendants of Elder John Parker were a strange and often brilliant family who may have changed the course of Texas and western history. Their obsession with religion and their desire for land took them from Virginia to Georgia, Tennessee, Illinois and finally Texas...From their line...came...Quanah Parker, last of the great Comanche war chiefs - and first of their great peace leaders." - Jo Ann Powell Exley
  4. Fort Parker State Park was created in 1935, and a replica of the fort was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936
  5. various stories relate differences in the size of the raiding party and the makeup of the tribes
  6. Exley, J.A.. “Frontier Blood: The Saga of the Parker Family
  7. Exley, J.A.. “Frontier Blood: The Saga of the Parker Family
  8. killed were Samuel Frost, Robert Frost, Benjamin Parker, John Parker, and Silas Parker; captured were Elizabeth Kellogg, Cynthia Ann Parker, John R. Parker, Rachel Plummer, and James Pratt Plummer



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