Western Trips

Western Trips

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Quanah Parker / Quanah Texas

U.S. Hwy 287 is a busy thoroughfare that in Texas runs from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area northwest to Amarillo. In Amarillo it connects to Interstate-40 which is the major east/west route between California and the East. When you drive from the Dallas Metroplex to Amarillo you will pass through a small town named Quanah. What you may not know traveling through Texas is that Quanah was the name of the most famous of Comanche Indian leaders to ever ride the Texas plains. His story is fascinating, not only because he was a highly regarded by the Comanche tribe but also the story of how he became who he was.

The Land of Comancharia


The story of Qanah who was known as Quanah Parker goes all the way back to the 1830's when Texas was basically Comanche territory. In fact, during the mid 1830's the frontier in Texas was east of a line which went north/south from about present day Dallas to about San Antonio.
Quanah Museum, authors collection


Everything west of that line was considered "Comancheria" which was the land of the Comanches. Settlers who establish farms and ranches along this line were essentially in harms way. In other words, if you lived that far west on the frontier you had to contend with the possibility of deadly Comanche raids.

The Kiowa tribe in northern Texas was also a formidable threat. The Indian raids did occur and some didn't end well for the settlers.

The Parker Family and the Texas Frontier

The tale of Quanah begins with the extended Parker family moving to Texas from Illinois in 1833. The Mexicans were offering free land grants to settlers willing to move to Texas. People in effect could start anew.

The Mexicans and before them the Spaniards had quite a difficult time dealing with the Comanches who had a reputation as being some of the fiercest warriors on the frontier. Some say they were better warriors than the Apaches and at one point they expelled the Apaches from much of south Texas.

The Apaches themselves had a similar struggle against the western settlers during their 25 year long war led by Cochise and Geronimo. The Comanches and to some degree the Kiowas were a major impediment to both Spain and Mexico's northern advance. In the 1830's the Mexicans had a good reason to give land away in Texas. Offering land grants to white settlers was a good way to build a buffer against the Comanches and also a way to push the Indians northward.

In the year 1833, the Parker family built a fort which was a working farm near present day Groesbeck, TX. This site was considered the far western end of the frontier. To some it was too far west. Some may have been pushing their luck.

To the Parkers the land was good. Everything for the Parkers however changed in May of 1836. Indians approached the Parker settlement, named Fort Parker, under the pretense of asking for food. This was not totally out of the ordinary. Indians did ask for supplies from time to time from settlers. Members of the Parker family were prepared to offer food but during the conversation between the two groups the Comanches suddenly attacked and killed the family. This reportedly came right out of the blue. No warning whatsoever. Obviously a well thought out raid.

Quanah,Tx Museum plaque
What was not uncommon during a Comanche raid was the kidnapping of children.

After most of her family was killed, and it was a brutal and vicious attack, John Parker, Cynthia Ann Parker, then nine years old, and a few others were taken captive.

Why did the Comanches take prisoners? Indians took young white captives for really two reasons. One was for ransom  and the other to attempt to assimilate them to their culture and increase their own population.

Cynthia Parker saw her father and some family members killed. They were not merely killed, they were incredibly tortured. As can be expected a rescue party was sent out. During their pursuit of the Comanches one of the captives, a young teenage girl, escaped. Over the years several more captives were released but not before ransom was paid. Everyone who still managed to stay alive among this group of captives were released except for Cynthia Ann Parker. She stayed with the Comanches for 25 years.

Quanah Parker
Cynthia eventually married a Comanche by the name of Pete Nocona. After that Cynthia Ann gave birth to several half breed children and one of them grew up to be the warrior named Quanah.

Quanah turned out as an adult to be a great warrior. He was at the top of the target list of not only the U.S. Army but also the Texas Rangers. Quanah raided white settlements on the plains for years, including the famous battle at Adobe Walls against Kit Carson, and was considered the most famous and feared Comanche leader who ever fought the military. These clashes continued off and on until his surrender in 1875 in Palo Duro Canyon Texas at the hands of the well known Indian fighter Colonel Ranald MacKenzie.

Quanah Pushed His People to Assimilate 

Ironically, Quanah later on became a main proponent for the Indians adopting the white man's way of civilization and settled near Fort Sill, OK.

Parker's was the last tribe of the Staked Plains to settle on the reservation. After arriving on the reservation Quanah was named chief of all the Comanches. Also, because of his apparent financial savvy Quanah eventually was recognized as one of the wealthiest of all Native Americans. His story is about as unique as it gets when you consider how his life turned out after the horrible events witnessed by his mother, Cynthia Parker, at the old Fort Parker in 1836. You cannot fully understand the history of the Comanche in Texas without learning the amazing story of Quanah  Parker.


The Quanah Acme and Pacific Museum in Quanah Texas, which derived it's name from this famous Comanche leader, is in Hardeman County and about 100 miles northwest of Wichita Falls. The museum is in the former Acme and Pacific Railroad Depot. It offers a wide collection of items collected from town residents about local history, industry, etc. The museum address is 100 Mercer St., about 1/2 mile north of U.S. Hwy 287. If you're passing through Quanah Texas you'll want to add this unique museum to your trip planner.

(Article copyright Western Trips. Photos from the public domain
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