Jump to content

Quanah Parker


Recommended Posts

Quanah Parker, the last chief of the Quahada Comanche Indians, son of Peta Nocona and Cynthia Ann Parker, was born about 1845. According to Quanah himself, he was born on Elk Creek south of the Wichita Mountains in what is now Oklahoma, but there has been debate regarding his birthplace, and a Centennial marker on Cedar Lake northeast of Seminole, Texas, in Gaines County, claims that site as Quanah's birth location. He was a major figure both in Comanche resistance to White settlement and in the tribe's adjustment to reservation life. Nomadic hunter of the Llano Estacado, leader of the Quahada assault on Adobe Walls in 1874 (see RED RIVER WAR), cattle rancher, entrepreneur, and friend of American presidents, Quanah Parker was truly a man of two worlds. The name Quanah means "smell" or "odor." Though the date of his birth is recorded variously at 1845 and 1852, there is no mystery regarding his parentage. His mother was the celebrated captive of a Comanche raid on Parker's Fort (1836) and convert to the Indian way of life. His father was a noted war chief of the Noconi band of the Comanches. Despite his mixed ancestry, Quanah's early childhood seems to have been quite unexceptional for his time and place. In 1860, however, Peta Nocona was killed defending an encampment on the Pease River against Texas Rangers under Lawrence Sullivan Ross. The raid, which resulted in the capture and incarceration of Cynthia Ann and Quanah's sister Topasannah, also decimated the Noconis and forced Quanah, now an orphan, to take refuge with the Quahada Comanches of the Llano Estacado.

By the 1860s the Quahadas ("Antelopes") were known as the most aloof and warlike of the various Comanche bands. Among them Quanah became an accomplished horseman and gradually proved himself to be an able leader. These qualities were increasingly in demand when, as a consequence of their refusal to attend the Medicine Lodge Treaty Council or to move to a reservation as provided by the treaty, the Quahadas became fugitives on the Staked Plains. There, beyond the effective range of the military, they continued to hunt buffalo in the traditional way while raiding settlements.

For the next seven years Parker's Quahadas held the Texas plains virtually uncontested. Attempts of the Fourth United States Cavalry under Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie to track and subdue the Indians in 1871 and 1872 failed. Not only was the army unable to find the Indians but, at Blanco Canyon on the morning of October 9, 1871, the troopers lost a number of horses when Quanah and his followers raided the cavalry campsite. Afterward, the Indians seemingly disappeared onto the plains, only to reappear and attack again. Mackenzie gave up the search in mid-1872.

But time was on the side of the army. As buffalo hunters poured onto the plains, decimating the Indians' chief source of subsistence, Parker and his followers were forced to take decisive action. Determined to maintain their independence, or at least their survival as a people, the Quahadas, under the guidance of Quanah and a medicine man named Isa-tai, formed a multitribal alliance dedicated to expelling the hunters from the plains. On the morning of June 27, 1874, this alliance of some 700 warriors—Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Kiowas, and Comanches—attacked the twenty-eight hunters and one woman housed at Adobe Walls. From the Indians' point of view, the raid was a disaster; their planned surprise was foiled, and the hunters' superior weapons enabled them to fend off repeated attacks. In the end the hunters suffered just one casualty, while fifteen Indians died and numerous others, including Parker, were wounded. Defeated and disorganized, the Indians retreated and the alliance crumbled. Within a year Parker and the Quahadas, under relentless pressure from the army and suffering from hunger, surrendered their independence and moved to the Kiowa-Comanche reservation in southwestern Oklahoma.

While most Quahadas, indeed most Indians, found adjustment to the reservation life difficult or impossible, Quanah made the transition with such seeming ease that federal agents, seeking a way to unite the various Comanche bands, named him chief. While this action was recognized as lying outside the jurisdiction of the federal government and, perhaps more significantly, utterly without precedent in Comanche tradition, the tribe, essentially leaderless, acquiesced. It was a fortuitous choice, for over the next quarter century, Quanah provided his people with forceful, yet pragmatic, leadership. As chief, frequently leading by example, Quanah Parker worked to promote self-sufficiency and self-reliance. To this end, he supported the construction of schools on reservation lands and encouraged Indian youths to learn the White man's ways. Indeed, most of his children were educated, either at reservation schools or off-reservation boarding schools. Economically, Parker promoted the creation of a ranching industry and led the way by becoming a successful and quite wealthy stock raiser himself. He also supported agreements with White ranchers allowing them to lease grazing lands within the Comanche reservation. Parker defended this controversial idea by pointing out that herds belonging to White ranchers were already using Comanche pasturelands, with or without legal sanction. Therefore, by concluding arrangements with specific ranchers, Parker hoped to enlist the aid of Whites who had a stake in preventing unlimited access to Comanche grazing lands. In addition, he called on his followers to construct houses of the White man's design and to plant crops. In general, then, Parker was an assimilationist, an advocate of cooperation with Whites and, in many cases, of cultural transformation. Along with his support for ranching, education, and agriculture, he served as a judge on the tribal court, an innovation based on county tribunals; negotiated business agreements with White investors; and fought attempts to roll back the changes instituted under his direction. Here, his influence was most keenly felt in his successful attempt to prevent the spread of the ghost dance among his people. He also approved the establishment of a Comanche police force, which he believed would help the Indians to manage their own affairs.

Through shrewd investments, including some $40,000 worth of stock in the Quanah, Acme and Pacific Railway, Parker became a very wealthy man, perhaps the wealthiest Indian in America at that time. As a testament to his successful conversion to White ways, Parker was a close associate of several prominent Texas Panhandle ranchers, counted Theodore Roosevelt as one of his friends, and was frequently interviewed by magazine reporters on a variety of subjects, including political and social issues. Yet, for all his efforts to embrace White culture, Quanah did not completely repudiate his past or endeavor to force his followers to abandon their traditions altogether. He rejected suggestions that he become monogamous and maintained a twenty-two-room house for his seven wives and numerous children. He refused to cut his long braids. He rejected Christianity, even though his son, White Parker, was a Methodist minister. Quanah was a member of the peyote-eating Native American Church and is credited with introducing and encouraging peyote use among the tribes in Oklahoma.

Despite his artful efforts to protect his people and their land base, by 1901 the movement to strip the Comanches of their lands had grown too powerful. The federal government voted to break up the Kiowa-Comanche reservation into individual holdings and open it to settlement by outsiders. For the remaining years of his life Parker operated his profitable ranch, continued to seek ties with Whites, and maintained his position as the most influential person among the now-dispersed Comanches. In 1902 his people honored their leader by naming him deputy sheriff of Lawton, Oklahoma. On February 11, 1911, while visiting the Cheyenne Reservation, he became ill with an undiagnosed ailment. After returning home he died on February 23 and was buried beside his mother in Post Oak Mission Cemetery near Cache, Oklahoma. At his funeral he was dressed in full Comanche regalia but, befitting his position as a man of two worlds, was reputedly buried with a large sum of money. Apparently robbers plundered his grave four years later. In 1957 expansion of a missile base forced the relocation of Post Oak Mission Cemetery and the reburial of Quanah and Cynthia Ann Parker in the Fort Sill Post Cemetery at Lawton, Oklahoma. On August 9, 1957, Quanah was buried with full military honors in a section of that cemetery now known as Chief's Knoll.

Citation:  Brian C. Hosmer, “Parker, Quanah,” Handbook of Texas Online, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/parker-quanah.

Shown here: Quanah Parker at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in 1897.


Quanah parker at Fort Sill oklahoma 1897 from Smithsonian.jpg

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...


“Quahadis were the hardest, fiercest, least yielding component of a tribe that had long had the reputation as the most violent and warlike on the continent; if they ran low on water, they were known to drink the contents of a dead horse’s stomach, something even the toughest Texas Ranger would not do.”
― S.C. Gwynne, Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History

May be a black-and-white image of 1 person and outdoors





  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I cannot say with 100% certainty, but I believe this is the last known photo of Comanche warrior and last official principal Comanche chief Quanah Parker. It was taken in 1910, one year before Quanah passed away. What a life those eyes saw. Everything from battles with the U.S. Army to wolf hunting with the President of the United States.

May be an image of 1 person

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...
"A sensation was created on the streets yesterday by the news of a tragedy from asphyxiation at the Pickwick Hotel, of which two noted Indians, Quanah Parker and Yellow Bear, were the victims. All the afternoon large crowds surged about room # 78, above Taylor and Barr's, where the last named lay cold in death, a hapless victim of his own ignorance and folly, and Parker was battling almost hopelessly for life against the poison of the deadly gasses ...
The failure of the two Indians to appear at breakfast or dinner caused the hotel clerk to send a man around to awake them. He found the door locked and was unable to get a response from the inmates. The room was then forcibly entered, and as the door swung back the rush of the deathly perfume through the aperture told the story. A ghastly spectacle met the eyes of the hotel employees."

----- from a December 21, 1885 article in the Fort Worth Daily Gazette regarding an incident at the Hotel Pickwick in which Quanah Parker came close to dying and his companion, Comanche chief Yellow Bear, DID die of asphyxiation from gas. Both are seen in the photo below. What happened was that Yellow Bear retired early and blew out the gas lamp but apparently did not turn the gas off at the valve. Quanah Parker went out on the town with the foreman of the Waggoner ranch and returned about midnight. He DID turn the valve off but apparently not all the way. He then went to sleep near an open window, which may be the reason he survived. Quanah lived for 25 more years, dying in 1911. This historical picture of the Comanche leaders in Fort Worth was taken by Augustus R. Mignon, probably in 1885. Quanah Parker is standing to the left, Yellow Bear is seated to the left, Isa-Tai is seated on the right. The younger Comanche man to the right is believed to be the son of Isa-Tai, and George Briggs is thought to be standing next to Chief Parker. Photo courtesy SMU's Lawrence T. Jones III Collection of Texas photos, which is one of the best such collections on the internet and which you can browse here:  https://www.smu.edu/libraries/digitalcollections/jtx

May be an image of 5 people
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 From Empire of the Summer Moon, S.C. Gwnne's description of a midnight raid by the 26-year-old Quanah Parker on the U.S. cavalry forces under Colonel Ranald Mackenzie on the Clear Fork of the Brazos river in June, 1871:

"At around midnight, the regiment was awakened by a succession of unearthly, high-pitched yells. Those were followed by shots, and more yells, and suddenly the camp was alive with Comanches riding at full gallop. Exactly what the Indians were doing was soon apparent: Mingled with the screams and gunshots and general mayhem of the camp was another sound, only barely audible at first, then rising quickly to something like rolling thunder. The men quickly realized, to their horror, that it was the sound of stampeding horses. Their horses. Amid shouts of “Every man to his lariat!” six hundred panicked horses tore loose through the camp, rearing, jumping, and plunging at full speed. Lariats snapped with the sound of pistol shots; iron picket pins that a few minutes before had been used to secure the horses now whirled and snapped about their necks like airborne sabres. Men tried to grab them and were thrown to the ground and dragged among the horses, their hands lacerated and bleeding.
When it was all over, the soldiers discovered that Quanah and his warriors had made off with seventy of their best horses and mules, including Colonel Mackenzie's magnificent gray pacer. In est Texas in 1871, stealing someone's horse was often equivalent to a death sentence. It was an old Indian tactic, especially on the high plains, to simply steal white men's horses and leave them to die of thirst or starvation. Comanches had used it to lethal effect against the Spanish in the early eighteenth century. In any case, an unmounted army regular stood little chance against a mounted Comanche.
This midnight raid was Quanah's calling card, a clear message that hunting him and his Comanche warriors in their homeland was going to be a difficult and treacherous business. Thus began what would become known to history as the Battle of Blanco Canyon, which was in turn the opening salvo in a bloody Indian war in the highlands of west Texas that would last four years and culminate in the final destruction of the Comanche nation. Blanco Canyon would also provide the U.S. Army with its first look at Quanah.  Captain Carter, who would win the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery in Blanco Canyon, offered this description of the young war chief in battle on the day after the midnight stampede:
A large and powerfully built chief led the bunch, on a coal black racing pony. Leaning forward upon his mane, his heels nervously working in the animal's side, with six-shooter poised in the air, he seemed the incarnation of savage, brutal joy. His face was smeared with black warpaint, which gave his features a satanic look. . . . A full-length headdress or war bonnet of eagle's feathers, spreading out as he rode, and descending from his forehead, over head and back, to his pony's tail, almost swept the ground. Large brass hoops were in his ears; he was naked to the waist, wearing simply leggings, moccasins and a breechclout. A necklace of bear's claws hung about his neck. . . . Bells jingled as he rode at headlong speed, followed by the leading warriors, all eager to outstrip him in the race. It was Quanah, principal warchief of the Qua-ha-das.
Moments later, Quanah wheeled his horse in the direction of an unfortunate private named Seander Gregg and, as Carter and his men watched, blew Gregg's brains out."

------ S. C. Gwynne, Empire of the Summer Moon, 2010.

If you're one of the 17 people in Texas who have yet to read Empire of the Summer Moon,  Gwynne's fantastic historical account of the Comanches, you need to go to your favorite bookstore and buy it right now. Highly recommended.

No photo description available.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Quanah Parker and famed rancher/cowman and founder/owner of the 6666 ranch, Burk Burnett.  The name for the town of Burkburnett in Wichita County was suggested by Burk Burnette's friend, President Theodore Roosevelt, who had previously gone wolf hunting with Quanah and Burk Burnett at the spot in which the town is now located.  Folks agreed and Burkburnett, Texas was born.

Quanah parker and burk burnett.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Unfortunately, your content contains terms that we do not allow. Please edit your content to remove the highlighted words below.
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...

Important Information

Terms of Use