Quanah Parker is thought to have been born around 1850, although his exact date of birth is unrecorded, and he died in 1911. He was the son of Chief Peta Nocona and Cynthia Ann Parker, who was taken captive by the Comanche during the Fort Parker Massacre in 1836 when she was 9 years old. Cynthia lived most of her adult life with the tribe and at the time of her recapture in 1860 had become virtually assimilated into the culture and the tribe. The circumstances of the battle which resulted in her recapture are debated, with Texas Ranger Sul Ross having claimed to have killed Peta Nocona while others claimed that Nocona was not at the battle. However, it is agreed that Cynthia was recaptured at the battle and that Quanah escaped and was captured later, at another location.
Quanah (meaning fragrance) was the first born child of Peta Nocona, a member of the Comanche band Noconis (meaning wanderers or travelers) and Cynthia, given the Comanche name of Nadua. Quanah was a youth of about 10 at the time of the 1860 battle. Afterward, he was raised by another warrior by the name of Kobe of the Destanyuka (another name for Noconi) band. Quanah would eventually leave to join another tribe, the Quahadi (meaning antelope-eaters) where he was a warrior and an active leader. Quanah gained considerable stature with this tribe until he and the tribe surrendered at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in 1874.
(Image credit: Copper Breaks State Park Museum)
Following his surrender, Quanah was appointed chief by the Federal government. He enjoyed freedom, had many wives and children and became quite wealthy. He became close friends with a number of whites, including Samuel and Tom Burnett of the 6666 Ranch, Charles Goodnight of the J A Ranch, and others.
Although his mother died, as did Quanah’s brother Pecos and sister Topsana (meaning prairie flower) within a few years after Cynthia’s recapture. By all accounts, although Cynthia never was happy to be reunited with her white relatives, Quanah is known to have become well acquainted with them and and even stayed with them on occasion.
Quanah died in 1911 at his residence, Star House, in southern Oklahoma and was first interred at Post Oak Cemetery near Cache, Oklahoma. In 1957, his remains were reinterred at Fort Sill Post Cemetery, along with Cynthia, his two siblings and others in his family.
The town of Quanah in Hardeman County is named for him. When the town was founded with the invited chief in attendance, he spoke this blessing, “May the Great Spirit smile on your little town, May the rain fall in season, and in the warmth of the sunshine after the rain, May the earth yield bountifully, May peace and contentment be with you and your children forever.” The words of this blessing are on a granite monument to Quanah on the downtown square in Quanah.
If you make it to Quanah, we highly recommend making the drive down to Copper Breaks State Park. There it is easy to imagine that the views you see there are not much different from the views one might have seen 150 years ago. The Park Rangers there are quite cordial and very knowledgeable about the history of the area.
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