An excellent Texas side trip is Old Fort Parker located about 100 miles south of Dallas, between the towns of Groesbeck and Mexia. One of the most incredible stories during pre republic Texas started right there in the year 1836.
The story begins with the extended Parker family relocating to Texas from Illinois in 1833. The inducement was the Mexicans offering free land to settlers. The Mexicans had a difficult time during their advance northward into Texas primarily because of the hostile Comanche Indians. The Comanches were formidable warriors and they essentially checked the Mexicans advance northward. They were probably the main reason the Mexicans went no further than south Texas. Offering free land to white settlers was a way to build a buffer against the Comanches and also a way to push the Indians northward.
In the year 1833, the frontier line was in east central Texas. The Parker family built their fort which was a working farm near present day Groesbeck, TX. At that time this particular site was on the far western edge of the frontier line. To some, it was considered probably too far west meaning that the Indian threat was much greater.
The tale of what happened in 1836 at old Fort Parker is the subject of several very good books. In short, in May of 1836 the Comanches approached the Parker settlement under the guise of asking for food. Several family members approached the Indians and were willing to offer some supplies. The brief meeting took a quick turn for the worse and several Parker family members were slaughtered. The Indians, as was common at the time, kidnapped the children. Cynthia Ann Parker, nine years old, was one of the captives and was held by the Comanches for decades. Indians took young white captives for two reasons. One was for their ransom value and the other simply to assimilate them to their ways and increase their own population. During this time Cynthia Ann Parker gave birth to half breed children one of which turned out to be the warrior chief named Quanah Parker ( picture to the left). Quanah grew up and roamed and raided white settlements on the plains for years and was probably considered the most famous and feared Comanche chief who fought with the military until his surrender in 1875. Interesting enough, Quanah eventually became a main proponent for the Indians adopting the white man's way of civilization and settled near Fort Sill, OK.
The story is fascinating and of course there are many side stories sprouting from these events during the mid 1800's. One of which is the story of Colonel Ranald Mackenzie who was considered one of the army's premier Indian fighters and was the person whose troops brought final defeat to Quanah's band. Other stories concern the origins of the famed Texas Rangers and attempts by groups of Texans to free the captives.
A visit to Old Fort Parker makes for an interesting side trip into the early formation of the Texas Republic. Nearby the fort is the Fort Parker State Park.
You will want to visit these web sites for additional information about Old Fort Parker and the Fort Parker State Park and their exact locations: