Cynthia Ann Parker was born in 1825 to Lucy (Duty) and Silas M. Parker in Crawford County, Illinois. As a young child she moved with her family to central Texas. The Parker family founded a community on the headwaters of the Navasota River in what is now known as Limestone County.
The community was formed around the church of Cynthia’s uncle, Elder John Parker, who headed the Texas branch of the Primitive Baptist Church. The settlers erected a fort surrounded by high sturdy walls as protection and created a company of Texas Rangers to ensure the safety of the fort and the surrounding area.
On May 19, 1836, several hundred Comanche, Caddo, and Kiowa Indians attacked Fort Parker. Many of the white settlers were killed, and five were kidnapped. Among those kidnapped were Cynthia Ann and her brother, John.
Kidnapping of women and children was prevalent among the Comanche Indians. Often they would make slaves of those whom they kidnapped, but more often they would hold them for ransom eventually selling them back to their families. Within six years after the attack on Fort Parker all those who had been kidnapped were returned to their families, except for Cynthia Ann Parker.
Cynthia Ann was given to a Tenowish Comanche couple that raised her as their own daughter. She was beaten and abused at first, but she adapted to the Indian ways quickly and soon forgot the life she had left behind. Before long she became an accepted member of the tribe. In the mid 1840’s, her brother, John, tried to gain her release. Cynthia Ann refused to leave the tribe. She also refused to go with the Indian trader Victor Rose a few years later when he attempted to return her to her family.
Sometime after that, Col. Leonard G. William’s trading party also tried in vain to bargain for her release. Federal Officials P. M. Butler and M. G. Lewis also tried and failed. With each attempt to rescue Cynthia Ann the proposals were refused. She was happy living with the Comanche and did not want to leave them. She would never voluntarily return to white society.
As a young woman Cynthia Ann married a young Comanche warrior, Peta Nacona. Peta later became a respected chief. Although it was common for Comanche chiefs to take several wives, Cynthia Ann was the only wife of Peta. She became a respected and important member of her tribe. Cynthia Ann and Peta had three children. The two sons were Pecos and Quanah (later known as Quanah Parker) and a daughter Topsannah.
Even into her adulthood rescuers bargained for her release, and Cynthia steadfastly refused to leave her tribe. She was happily married and would not leave her family. Then on December 18, 1860, Texas Rangers under the command of Lawrence Sullivan Ross attacked a Comanche hunting camp at Mule Creek, a tributary of the Pease River. As a result of the raid the Texas Rangers captured three Indians. One of these Indians had blue eyes.
She was a white woman with an infant daughter. Col. Isaac Parker identified her as his niece, Cynthia Ann. Cynthia Ann had lived with the Indians almost 25 years. Now she was returned, against her will, to white society. Cynthia accompanied her uncle to his ranch in Birdville. It was agreed that her sons would be returned to her if they were ever found. When traveling through Fort Worth a picture was taken of her with her infant daughter at her breast, and her hair cut short, a symbol of mourning among the Comanche. She thought her husband, Peta, was dead, and feared she would never see her sons again.
On April 8, 1861 the Texas legislature voted her a grant of $100 annually for five years and a league of land out of sympathy for all she had endured. Isaac D. and Benjamin F. Parker were appointed as her guardians. But Cynthia Ann never adapted to the white ways. She grieved for her lost family. Held against her will, she was unable to escape to return to the Comanche Indians. After three months in Birdville, her brother, Silas, took her and Topsannah to his home in Van Zandt County and later still they were taken to her sister’s home. However, at each place she continued to attempt escape and was often locked in her room to prevent this.
It is unclear whether Peta Nacona survived the raid in which Cynthia Ann was reclaimed from the Comanche. It is generally accepted that he was wounded but managed to escape with his two sons, Pecos and Quanah. Some accounts claim Peta died some time later from wounds he encountered in another raid when he was picking plums on the Canadian River. In 1863, Cynthia Ann received word that Pecos had died of small pox. Three months later Topsannah died of influenza. The grief she felt from these deaths would prove to be her undoing. She died only a few years later of a broken heart. She refused all food and starved herself to death in 1870 at the age of 43. She was buried in Fosterville Cemetery in Anderson County.
Quanah Parker became the last great Comanche chief. He tried for ten years to prevent the further spread of white settlements in the territories of Texas and Oklahoma. When this fight became futile, he adapted to life living among the whites and became a popular lecturer and diplomat. With his aid the Comanche people and the white settlers finally achieved a peaceful co-existence.
Quanah never forgot his mother. He had been nearly 20 years old when she was returned to her white family. In 1910 he had her and his sister’s remains moved to Post Oak Cemetery near Cache, Oklahoma where he lived at the time. Later, she was moved to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and reinterred beside Quanah.