A collection of histories and first hand narratives
There are few more famous or evocative characters in the history of the American south-west frontier period than the Comanche war chief, Quanah Parker. Every student of the period knows that Quanah was the son of an abducted American pioneer girl, Cynthia Parker. This book collects into a single, good value, Leonaur edition six contemporary perspectives on the events that led to the birth and life of Quanah Parker, each of which is too short to be individually published today. Included are two histories as well as personal accounts by James Parker, Rachel Plummer, Cynthia Parker and Robert Carter. The text covers the period from the raid on Fort Parker which brought about the abduction of the nine-year-old, Cynthia Parker to when the adult Quanah was at the zenith of his power and at war with U. S. Army. These accounts, available together for the first time, are primary source material and are thus essential reading for any serious or casual student interested in the subject.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
On the 19th of May, 1836, I was living in Fort Parker, on the headwaters of the river Navasott. My father, (James W. Parker,) and my husband and brother-in-law were cultivating my father’s farm, which was about a mile from the fort. In the morning, say 9 o’clock, my father, husband, brother-in-law, and brother, went to the farm to work. I do not think they had left the fort more than an hour before some one of the fort cried out, “Indians!” The inmates of the fort had retired to their farms in the neighbourhood, and there were only six men in it, viz: my grandfather, Elder John Parker, my two uncles, Benjamin and Silas Parker, Samuel Frost and his son Robert, and Frost’s son-in-law, G. E. Dwight. All appeared in a state of confusion, for the Indians (numbering something not far from eight hundred) had raised a white flag.
On the first sight of the Indians, my sister (Mrs. Nixon,) started to alarm my father and his company at the farm, whilst the Indians were yet more than a quarter of a mile from the fort, and I saw her no more. I was in the act of starting to the farm, but I knew I was not able to take my little son, (James Pratt Plummer.) The women were all soon gone from the fort, whither I did not know; but I expected towards the farm. My old grandfather and grandmother, and several others, started through the farm, which was immediately adjoining the fort. Dwight started with his family and Mrs. Frost and her little children. As he started, uncle Silas said, “Good Lord, Dwight, you are not going to run? He said, “No, I am only going to try to hide the women and children in the woods.” Uncle said, “Stand and fight like a man, and if we have to die we will sell our lives as dearly as we can.
The Indians halted; and two Indians came up to the fort to inform the inmates that they were friendly, and had come for the purpose of making a treaty with the Americans. This instantly threw the people off their guard, and uncle Benjamin went to the Indians, who had now got within a few hundred yards of the fort. In a few minutes he returned, and told Frost and his son and uncle Silas that he believed the Indians intended to fight, and told them to put everything in the best order for defence. He said he would go back to the Indians and see if the fight could be avoided.
Uncle Silas told him not to go, but to try to defend the place as well as they could; but he started off again to the Indians, and appeared to pay but little attention to what Silas said. Uncle Silas said, “I know they will kill Benjamin;” and said to me, “do you stand here and watch the Indians’ motions until I run into my house”—I think he said for his shot pouch. I suppose he had got a wrong shot-pouch as he had four or five rifles. When Uncle Benjamin reached the body of Indians they turned to the right and left and surrounded him. I was now satisfied they intended killing him. I took up my little James Pratt, and thought I would try to make my escape. As I ran across the fort, I met Silas returning to the place where he left me. He asked me if they had killed Benjamin. I told him, “No; but they have surrounded him.”
He said, “I know they will kill him, but I will be good for one of them at least.” These were the last words I heard him utter.
I ran out of the fort, and passing the corner I saw the Indians drive their spears into Benjamin. The work of death had already commenced. I shall not attempt to describe their terrific yells, their united voices that seemed to reach the very skies, whilst they were dealing death to the inmates of the fort. It can scarcely be comprehended in the wide field of imagination. I know it is utterly impossible for me to give every particular in detail, for I was much alarmed.
I tried to make my escape, but alas, alas, it was too late, as a party of the Indians had got ahead of me. Oh! how vain were my feeble efforts to try to run to save myself and little James Pratt. A large sulky looking Indian picked up a hoe and knocked me down. I well recollect of their taking my child out of my arms, but whether they hit me any more I do not know, for I swooned away. The first I recollect, they were dragging me along by the hair. I made several unsuccessful attempts to raise to my feet before I could do it. As they took me past the fort, I heard an awful screaming near the place where they had first seized me. (I think Uncle Silas was trying to release me, and in doing this he lost his life; but not until he had killed four Indians). I heard some shots. I then heard Uncle Silas shout a triumphant huzza! I did, for one moment, hope the men had gathered from the neighbouring farms, and might release me.
I was soon dragged to the main body of the Indians, where they had killed Uncle Benjamin. His face was much mutilated, and many arrows were sticking in his body. As the savages passed by, they thrust their spears through him. I was covered with blood, for my wound was bleeding freely. I looked for my child but could not see him, and was convinced they had killed him, and every moment expected to share the same fate myself. At length I saw him. An Indian had him on his horse; he was calling, mother, oh, mother! He was just able to lisp the name of mother, being only about 18 months old. There were two Comanche women with them, (their battles are always brought on by a woman), one of whom came to me and struck me several times with a whip. I suppose it was to make me quit crying.
I now expected my father and husband, and all the rest of the men were killed. I soon saw a party of the Indians bringing my aunt Elizabeth Kellogg and Uncle Silas’ two oldest children, Cynthia Ann, and John; also some bloody scalps; among them I could distinguish that of my grandfather by the grey hairs, but could not discriminate the balance.
Most of the Indians were engaged in plundering the fort. They cut open our bed ticks and threw the feathers in the air, which was literally thick with them. They brought out a great number of my father’s books and medicines. Some of the books were torn up, and most of the bottles of medicine were broken; though they took on some for several days.
Among them was a bottle of pulverized arsenic, which the Indians mistook for a kind of white paint, with which they painted their faces and bodies all over, after dissolving it in their saliva. The bottle was brought to me to tell them what it was. I did not do it, though I knew it, for the bottle was labelled. Four of the Indians painted themselves with it as above described, and it did not fail to kill them.
I had few minutes to reflect, for they soon started back the same way they came up. As I was leaving, I looked back at the place where I was one hour before, happy and free, and now in the hands of a ruthless, savage enemy.
They killed a great many of our cattle as they went along. They soon convinced me that I had no time to reflect upon the past, for they commenced whipping and beating me with clubs, &c, so that my flesh was never well from bruises and wounds during my captivity. To undertake to narrate their barbarous treatment would only add to my present distress, for it is with feelings of the deepest mortification that’ I think of it, much less to speak or write of it; for while I record this painful part of my narrative; I can almost fell the same heart-rending pains of body and mind that I then endured, my very soul becomes sick at the dreadful thought.
About midnight they stopped. They now tied a plaited thong around my arms, and drew my hands behind me. They tied them so tight that the scars can be easily seen to this day. They then tied a similar thong around my ankles, and drew my feet and hands together. They now turned me on my face and I was unable to tun over, when they commenced beating me over the head with their bows, and it was with great difficulty I could keep from smothering in my blood; for the wound they gave me with the hoe, and many others, were bleeding freely.
I suppose it was to add to my misery that they brought my little James Pratt so near me that I could hear him cry. He would call for mother; and often was his voice weakened by the blows they would give him. I could hear the blows. I could hear his cries; but oh, alas, could offer him no relief. The rest of the prisoners were brought near me, but we were not allowed to speak one word together. My aunt called me once, and I answered her; but, indeed, I thought she would never call or I answer again, for they jumped with their feet upon us, which nearly took our lives. Often did the children cry, but were soon hushed by such blows that I had no idea they could survive. They commenced screaming and dancing around the scalps; kicking and stamping the prisoners.