Quanah Parker was the most feared of the Comanche chiefs on the Texas frontier. He was half white and half Comanche. He was taller and stronger and faster and more clever than any other chief of his time.

The fact that he never lost a battle to soldiers who relentlessly pursued him …

The fact that he was a ghost on the high plains and disappeared into thin air, even as he was chased in the bright Panhandle sun …

The fact that he was devastatingly handsome and could have graced the cover of one of those steamy Western romance novels …

The fact that he was the last Comanche chief to decide on his own, without being defeated militarily, to move to the reservation…

… is not the point of this commentary.

This is a love story, but not a love story for Valentine’s Day. This is a love story more appropriate for Mother’s Day.

Quanah’s mother, Cynthia Ann Parker, was abducted by Comanche raiders on the Texas frontier when she was 9. She was raised as a Comanche and married Chief Nocona. She had three children, the oldest of whom was Quanah. Cynthia Ann was eventually “discovered” by white men who traded with the Comanches. Her family, having searched for her for years, quickly organized a ransom offer. The Comanches would not sell her. No matter how much they were offered, tribal elders would not sell her. This was because Cynthia Ann did not want to go. Though born white, she was now culturally Comanche, the wife of a chief, with three children she loved.

Many years later, her camp along a tributary of the Pease River was attacked by Texas Rangers. Her husband was killed but her boys escaped. Cynthia Ann was finally freed from captivity, but she saw it as being abducted again. She was now 34. While being escorted to Tarrant County after the battle, she was photographed in Fort Worth with her daughter, Prairie Flower, at her chest and her hair cut short – a Comanche sign of mourning.

She never readjusted to white culture and tried many times to escape and return to her tribe. She begged to go back to her people. As S.C. Gwynne reported in his masterpiece, “Empire of the Summer Moon,” Cynthia Ann knew Spanish better than English. She told a translator: “Mi corazón llorando todo el tiempo por mi dos hijos.” “My heart cries all the time for my two boys” – Quanah and Pecos. But they wouldn’t give her her wish. Her relatives believed she would readjust in time. In truth, she was being held captive a second time.

She never gave up her Comanche ways. She often sat outside with a small fire and worshiped the Great Spirit according to the customs she knew. Sadly, Prairie Flower died of the flu a few years after they were returned to white society. And Cynthia herself died seven years after that, relatively young, essentially of a broken heart.

Gwynne eulogized her this way: “She was a white woman by birth, yes, but also a relic of the Comancheria, the fading empire of high grass and fat summer moons and buffalo herds that blackened the horizon. She had seen all of that death and glory. She had been a chief’s wife. She had lived free on the high infinite plains as her adopted race had in the very last place in the North American Continent where anyone would ever live or run free. She had died in the deep pine woods where there was no horizon…”

Quanah lost his mother when he was just 12 and longed for her all his life. When he surrendered to life on the reservation he searched for her and was sad to learn that she had died and was buried far away in Texas. All he had of her was a photograph someone gave him, which he kept over his bed always.

He jumped through elaborate legal hoops for many years to get her body moved and buried on Comanche soil. When he was successful, he felt his mother was finally home. When Quanah died, he was buried next to her. He believed that though separated for so long in life, they would certainly be together forever with the Great Spirit in the Sky.

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  • ron thompson May 14, 2017 at 9:42 am

    great love it, mjy Mother was a Parker, trying to cone

    ct, There is a resemblance and with the big hands thanks

  • Dani Dunavin May 14, 2017 at 2:04 am

    Bonnie Turner, we are somehow related.

  • Eula Lea Frisby May 10, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    Very sad story. I visited Prairie Flower’s grave near Odom in the late 1960’s. I read later they had moved her body to Okla. also. I had a great great aunt that was captured by three ( foot prints determined this ) Indians when she was 13 years old at the creek/homeplace near Rusk, Cherokee Co., Tx. She was never heard from…I pray she had a safe and happy life.

  • Bonnie Turner May 8, 2017 at 11:49 pm

    All very interesting history. I been doing a lot of researching on Quanah Parker. I found out that Quanah Parker is my Great great great great Grandfather on my dad’s side of family history. I would like to learn more about Quanah and his family. My sister , who is couple years younger than me, has the face features of Quanah.

    • Laura Rice May 9, 2017 at 10:43 am

      How interesting! Very neat to know your connections to Texas history!

  • Elizabeth Wilson May 8, 2017 at 10:09 pm

    My late husband shared that story with me on our first date. He was from Groesbeck ,Texas . We went to the park for a picnic; I always found as my husband did ,that she would have rather stayed with the Indians than return to family. I found the story sad and haunting. George Wilson was my husband and he passed away in 2013 . Every time we went to Grosbeck we would go to the park . Thank you, Mrs George H Wilson

  • Anonymous May 7, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    Lots of mistakes in this article

  • Harriet Gilman May 5, 2017 at 9:16 pm

    Harriet Gilman. That story had me in tears. I read it as a child learning Texas history, then a few years ago visited the Quanah, Acme and Pacific Railroad Depot Museum in Quanah, Texas. (Go there!) WF Strong did a beautiful job bringing this powerful story to a new audience.

  • Anonymous May 4, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    Sad she was taken from her kids.

  • Bobby Wright May 4, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    I also have read that she was captured by a mixed band of Caddo, blacks, Kiowas and others and later traded to the Comanches. I’ve read that she died near Elkhart, Tx. and was buried in Fosterville Cemetery near LaPoyner or Montalba, Tx. until Quanah took her to Cache, Ok. It’s a tragic story- a sad story like Ishi’s life.

  • John Gravitt May 4, 2017 at 8:32 am

    Sad story of love and loss.