Nocona, Texas (coordinates: 33°47′18″N 97°43′35″W) is located in Montague County and was named for Peta Nocona, a famous Comanche warrior and chief. It was founded about 1887 and was the last stop on the Chisolm Trail before its the cattle drives came to the Red River on their way from Texas ranches to railheads in Kansas.
I first heard of Nocona when my father and grandfather took me there to the factory of the old Nocona Boot Company. Grandpa was born in 1892 and it was about the nearest store to Wichita County where he could still buy the low topped lace-up pointy-toed western-styled boots that he loved so much. I called them his “boot shoes.” When he would take me there in the 1950s, he would usually come back with a new pair. Sometimes, he might also buy a belt or some other leather item that he needed. I think one time my father bought me a baseball glove there. I remember sleeping with it next to my pillow, because the leather smelled so good.
The dates of birth and death of Nocona’s namesake, Peta Nocona, are unknown. It has been said that he did not know where or when he was born. Nocona was the leader of the Comanche tribe from about the 1840s to the 1860s, was large in stature and a natural leader. It is speculated that he may have led the May 19, 1836 raid on Fort Parker that resulted in the death of most of the fort’s residents and the capture of 9 year old Cynthia Parker, but the actual name of the chief who led the raid is unknown. While it was not uncommon for Comanche males to have had more than one wife, Nocona took only Cynthia Parker as his wife and together they had three children, including Pecos Parker (1851-1862), Quanah Parker (1852-1911) and Topsannah Prairie Nocona (1859-1863), known as Prairie Flower.
L. S. “Sul” Ross maintained that Nocona had been killed at the battle of Pease River in Foard County between the current towns of Crowell and Vernon on December 18, 1860. This account was disavowed by Peta’s son Quanah and others, who claimed that it was another chief who’d been killed and that Nocona had escaped. Some other parts of the account are disputed. Ross was commissioned as a Captain in the Texas Rangers by Sam Houston. He and 40 other Rangers were joined by Captain Jack Crueton of Bosque County and a Sergeant and 20 soldiers from the U. S. Second Cavalry. Ross maintained that it was a significant battle that broke the Comanche confederacy while others minimized it as a minor skirmish. In any event, it was a springboard to Ross’ later political career.
Facts in support of it being Peta Nocona who died at Pease River included the following. Ross’ Mexican interpreter claimed that Nocona had previously taken him as a slave when he was young. The interpreter is said to have identified the chief. Cynthia Parker who was at the Pease River location reportedly wept over the fallen chief.
Though Cynthia Parker had been taken captive in the 1836 Fort Parker massacre, she had been fully assimilated into the Comanche culture and viewed her “rescue” as a tragic event. Cynthia was 34 years old at the time of the Pease River Battle and appeared to speak no English. Gradually she began to recognize some of her former friends and relatives, though she tried several times to escape and return to her Indian family. She was separated from her sons, never was fully comfortable in the white culture and was by all accounts miserable and heartbroken. Pecos died from smallpox about two years after the battle and was followed shortly by the death from influenza of his sister, Prairie Flower. Cynthia died of influenza in 1864 in Anderson County, survived only by her son Quanah, who lived well into his senior years and had many wives and descendants.
The lives of Cynthia Parker and Peta Nocona have been the subject of several books, films and at least one other literary work. E. A. Nelson, Wichita Falls composer and violinist, composed the “Saga of Peta Nocona” which was a musical piece written to portray the death of the great chief. Its debut was held in Wichita Falls, Texas on April 17, 1951. In attendance were Mrs. Neda Birdson (daughter of Quanah Parker), Tom Parker (son of Quanah Parker), Cynthia Ann Parker III and other special guests. The part of Nocona was sung by Desire Ligeti, principal basso of the San Francisco Opera accompanied by Martha Ann Homes, vocalist from Wichita Falls. The chant and prayer were sung by a 140 member chorus from University of Oklahoma and the orchestra was the Oklahoma City Symphony. There are no known recordings of this work.
Cynthia and Quanah’s remains are buried at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. It’s believed that Peta Nocona had a non-cemetery burial and its location is still unknown.
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