Quanah Parker, Chief of the Comanche

Quanah Parker, Chief of the Comanche

This chapter on the the of Quanah Parker will be begun with the following poem taken in substance from Indianology by Herman Lehmann. The old chieftain, Parker, was a great lover of music, and the following poem fairly illustrates the figure of a dance of which the noted chief was especially fond:

Get yo’ little sage hens ready,
Trot ’em out upon the floor;
Line up there, you cusses, steady;
Lively now, one couple more.
Shorty, shed that ol’ sombrero;
Broncho, douse that cigarette;
Stop your cussin’, Casimero;
For the ladies now, all set.
S’lute your ladies, all together;
Ladies opposite, the same;
Hit the lumber with your leather;
Balance all, and swing your dame.
Bunch the heifers in the middle.
Circle, stags, and do-se-do;
Pay attention to the fiddle;
Swing her till the trotters crack.
Gents, all right, a heel and toe;
Swing ’em, kiss ’em, if you kin;
Go to next, and keep a-goin,’
Till yo hit your pards agin.
Gents to center, places round,
And form a basket balance;
All whirl yo gals to where yo found ’em,
Promenade around the hall.
Balance all yo pards and trot ’em
Round the circle double quick;
Grab and kiss ’em while you’ve got ’em.
Hold it to ’em if they kick.
Ladies, left hand to your sonnies;
Here we go, grand right and left;
Balance all and swing your honies;
Pick ’em up and feel their heft.
Promenade like skeery cattle;
Balance all and swing your sweets;
Shake your hocks and make ’em rattle;
Keno, promenade to seats.
Denver Post.

Quanah Parker is Chief of theComanches, one of the most powerful tribes of the North American Indians. The Comanches are now located on a reservation in Oklahoma Territory near Fort Sill, the tribe being reduced to only a few hundred. They were partially brought into submission in 1783 by the Spaniards under General Anza, but were soon again on the war path, and were ever afterwards known as the fiercest and most cruel in all the western country. They continually harassed the frontier of Texas until they were finally placed on their reservation in the Territory by the United States authorities in 1870.

“Quanah Parker succeeded to the office of Chief in 1867 or 1868 on the death of Chief Teppakenaki. Quanah is a man of much force of character, and has been the actual leader of the tribe for many years. He not only inherited his strong and prominent traits of character from his illustrious sire, old Chief Quanah, but there is also a reinforcement of Anglo-Saxon blood in his veins, coming from the Parker family, which contributes much to the robust strength of his manhood. When entering civilization, as he frequently does on trips to Washington and other eastern cities, he dresses in fashionable costume. When with the tribe, however he dons their primitive garb.”Mrs. M. _____ in Ennis’ Review.

Quanah Parker is now about 54 years old (1906). He is the son of Quanah, one of the most renowned chiefs of the Comanches, and Cynthia Ann Parker, the captive white girl who with her brother, John, was captured at Parker’s Fort in 1836. The capture and captivity of the Parker children is one of the most pathetic occurrences in Indian annals, and forms a prominent page in Texas history. The Parker family were early emigrants to Texas from Illinois. They settled in what is now Limestone County, near where the town of Groesbeck now stands, and in conjunction with others in that vicinity erected a fort which was designated as Parker’s Fort many years after. The settlers in the new country were unmolested. They had commenced farming and stock-raising with considerable success. They had established a neighborhood school, which Cynthia Ann and John Parker had entered. They had organized a Primitive Baptist church, of which Elder John Parker, an uncle of Cynthia Ann, was pastor.

One summer morning in 1836 the gate of the fort had been left open, and several of the men had gone out to their farms to labor. While the little settlement was in this helpless condition three hundred Comanche Indians suddenly dashed into the fort, killing the three or four men who had been left to guard the fort, including Elder John Parker, Benjamin and Silas Parker and Samuel and Robert Frost. All the women and children were made captives. Among the captives were John and Cynthia Ann Parker, aged nine and eleven years respectively. John and Cynthia were kept among the Indians many years. John, upon reaching manhood, became an important personage among the Comanches on account of his bravery and good judgment in battle. In an expedition into Mexico, while attacking a town, the Indians were so closely pressed that defeat seemed imminent. The chief in command was killed, upon which John Parker assumed command and led a charge that turned the fortunes of the day, so that the Comanches achieved a signal victory. On his return to the Comanche country he was at once made a sub-chief, and became conspicuous in the councils of the tribe.

Cynthia Ann was taken as a wife by Quanah, and became the mother of three children, the young Quanah and a brother and sister. In the early part of 1860 Colonel G. S. Ross, since governor of the state, in command of a battalion of Texas Rangers, engaged a large body of hostile Comanches in battle in what is now Knox County, and near where stands the town of Benjamin. Colonel Ross led a charge which routed the superior force of the Indians, killing Quanah. The Indians fled to the brakes of the Wichita River, and in the pursuit one of the Rangers overtook a woman riding a pony and carrying a small child. He presented his revolver to her, when she threw” back her robe, held her child in front of her, and exclaimed in broken Spanish, “Americano, Americano.” The Ranger took her prisoner, and after returning to the fort she proved to be the long-lost Cynthia Ann Parker. Her uncle, Hon. Isaac Parker, who was then a pioneer legislator, repaired to the fort with a few friends, and through an interpreter engaged her in conversation, when she at once related the heart rending scenes enacted at the fort in 1836. After having endured the hardships of savage life for a quarter of a century she soon passed away under the influence of civilized luxury. Her death occurred in Anderson county, Texas, in 1865. Her little daughter is said to have been an extremely bright child, and took readily to the ways of civilization. She was placed in school by her white relatives and gave unusual promise of success, but died soon after her mother.

It is said that Quanah still longed for brighter fields and freer hunting. He, after the manner of his father, thought it best to drive the white man from his hunting ground, so he headed a party of picked warriors and started out on the range. He went into Beaver County and tackled a camping party of hunters who were making headquarters in an old adobe made after the fashion of a block house with port-holes. Parker’s men rushed up on those hunters a little ways from their encampment, shot, speared, lanced, tomahawked and otherwise put to death several in a running fight. The Indians were too close for the hunters to do effective work with their long ranged guns, and so Quanah’s men overtook them near the house and had a hand to hand conflict. Some of the hunters, however, gained entrance into the fort as the door of the cabin swung open. Just as one hunter was entering an arrow pierced his heart, and his soul went to that land from whose bourne no traveler returns. His body blocked the door. The pale faces tried to pull the body in so the door could be closed, and Quanah’s men made a desperate attempt to enter over the corpse. The white men were sending volleys of explosive balls at the Indians from the portholes. When one of those balls struck anything, even the finger, it was like an electric shock. To the effect of these balls the hunters owed it that they were able at last to pull in the body and close the door. The Indians attempted to batter it down, and they even seized the port-holes and were firing into the adobe hut. The hunters, driven to desperation, opened new holes and kept up the battle, until Quanah’s men, seeing they were not gaining anything, scattered and stole away, meeting again away out on the prairie, out of gun-shot range from the fort. They were riding along trying to devise some means for rescuing their dead, who were left on the battlefield. Suddenly and without warning or apparent cause one of the warriors tumbled from his horse dead. He was examined, and it was found that a ball had gone through his skull. The wind was blowing and the buffalo hunter’s gun was of such, long range that the report was never heard, but the effect was quite visible. That decided Quanah’s men. They left their dead, and thenceforth steered clear of such adversaries. I don’t know how many were killed on either side, but there must have been scores. This was called the battle of the adobe wall. To the credit of the frontier women, it may be said that there were seven white women inside of those walls, who ran bullets and reloaded shells while their men emptied them at the portholes. Without the assistance rendered by the women, the whole party probably would have perished.

Quanah had found many hunters of buffalo on this trip. He saw the hunters, the white men, had come to stay, and experience had convinced him that where one was killed, seven came in place of the dead man. He .decided therefore that if he did not wish to see the white men as thick as the stars of the sky or the grass of the plains, he and his men had better quit killing them. His father had died in battle, his mother, sister and brothers had been carried away never again to be seen by him. Now he must go on to death like a mad man or must take a more sensible view and let the dead bury their dead and try to secure some benefits for his people.

He decided that it was the height of folly to fight for a hunting ground with no game on it. If the buffalo were not all killed already, he knew that they would soon disappear. Consequently, in the year 1869 he let General McKenzie at Fort Sill know his whereabouts, and also asked concerning terms, of surrender. McKenzie sent one of his scouts to the Comanches, and a Mexican who had been raised by the Comanches, to make a treaty with them.

They met away out on the plains and made a treaty. Let us stop and think of that treaty. Let us stop and think of that treaty, one white man and a Mexican who had been raised by the Comanches on one side; on the other hundreds of warriors who, with white men’s scalps dangling at their belts, had been dancing their war dance until they were tired, under the leadership of a young man. But this young man, Quanah Parker, must somehow have inspired respect and honor, which these Indians recognized, and which was plain to General McKenzie also. For the general, though a brave man, and had no fear whatever, would not send a lone man into a place where he thought there was great danger, and this man whom he sent was one of his favorite scouts. Though I have tried to get the name of this scout I have so far failed, and know only his Indian name, which means nothing in this case.

So away out there on the plains they made their treaty. Now there were some older chiefs, jealous of Parker, who wanted to secure control, so they slipped across into Texas, and murdered and stole and committed depredations innumerable, among their other crimes being the burning of a government train. The leaders of these unruly Comanches were White Wolf and Sutaner. They were finally arrested and taken to Texas, where they were sentenced to the penitentiary for life. After having been kept in the penitentiary for three months, however, they were released and permitted to return to the reservation, in order that they might tell their people what would become of them if they did not obey the law. After having visited their people White Wolf and Sutaner had to go back to the penitentiary for the balance of their lives. White Wolf escaped by killing himself before it was time to go back, while Sutaner committed suicide in the penitentiary after his return.

Quanah moved his band to the reservation and then went to work, riding night and day, trying to gather up the small bands and persuade them to move on to the reservation. This was a hard task many times, for while they were small bands they had taken a solemn oath to stick together and to fight the white man. Always, however, when Quanah would get to them he would out-talk them and bring them in.

To illustrate his power, I will insert here the experience of a German boy who was captured on the frontier of Texas by the Apaches. He was named Herman Lehmann, and was only 11 years old when captured. He lived eight years among the Apaches and Comanches. He was since written a book, “Indianology,” printed by the Johnson Brothers’ Printing company, San Antonio, Texas, in 1899. I have met some of his old friends among the Comanches, and one of them, Ora A. Woodman of Lawton Okla., had a copy of the book. I shall have occasion to speak further of Woodman later.

Lehmann says, in his book: “Ranches and forts were being established everywhere, and we had no show. The soldiers were thick, and game was getting scarce. The soldiers did not want to kill us, so they got Quanah Parker to look for us. We had confidence in Quanah and smoked with him, talked over the situation, and at first refused to go. Finally he out-talked us, and we began to move towards Fort Sill. We had divided, and there were only fifteen of us together where Quanah had found us.

“One night we saw an unusual number of signs of soldiers and became frightened. Quanah advised us to stay, and all at once we were surrounded by soldiers. Quanah raised a white flag and met the soldiers in consultation. They then withdrew and we went on with Quanah without further trouble. We met many soldiers and white people, but Quanah always managed things satisfactorily, and we were allowed to travel on.

“We were very near Fort Sill when the famous fifteen all came together and took again an oath never to give ourselves up or submit to the domineering attitude of the whites. We were just ready to quit this country and seek more freedom elsewhere, but Quanah came around and again out-talked us, so we went on reluctantly. That night our chief, High Shorty, had a bad dream. The next morning he called all his men together, invited Quanah in, and told US his dream. He told Quanah that he was doing wrong by breaking his oath, and that he ought not to do it. He said, ‘Quanah, I am not afraid of you, but I dread the white men.’

“Quanah offered him protection and a good time, but still our chief was not convinced. He trusted Quanah and believed he would do his part, but he did not think Quanah could manage the soldiers. High Shorty would not move that day. He said to Quanah, ‘You are one of us, but where did we lose our warriors? Did we lose them in battle? No; we weakened and submitted to the whites, and they transported many warriors far away from their wives and loved ones. Shall we give up and be severed from all that is near and dear to us? You know how our comrades have been imprisoned and punished.’

“Quanah said: ‘I have ridden on the black horse train and seen white people by the thousands and thousands and thousands, and it would be the height of folly for 3’ou and fourteen others to try to whip them. And besides, you know how hard it is to hide from them, for they have dogs that would trail you up. You are too near kin to me for me to let the soldiers hurt you or any of your men, so come on and don’t be killed.’

“He came, but against his will. We started on, and Quanah sent scouts to notify the soldiers of our approach. We met white people everywhere, but Quanah could speak a little English, and, being a half-breed, he made it all right. We were within fifteen miles of Fort Sill, and I saw a cloud of dust and heard the soldiers coming. I was riding a black mare, and a pretty swift animal when properly ridden. I turned and rode for life back towards the Wichita Mountains. Quanah followed me and ran me for three or four miles before he caught me. The soldiers surrounded my comrades, disarmed them, and carried them to the guard house and imprisoned them. Heavy balls of lead were bound around their ankles, and they were made to wear the ball and chain for many days.

“Quanah took me with him to his camp and I stand with him. The Indians who had been my companions were made to grade the roads all around the post and then made to do farm work, and promised these farms when they learned how to cultivate them.

“What did they care for farms? The poor Indians began to pine away, and some died of broken heart, but still I stand with Quanah and would not work. I hunted a great deal, and kept his horse in fine shape, but I did not like to see my comrades so badly treated. After we had been there about two weeks two Indians had to stand guard to watch some cattle. Some of the cattle got away. The next day these boys were punished; they had to chop wood. They planned to get away. One of the Indians asked White Horse for a chew of tobacco. He set his gun down and reached in his pocket for the tobacco, and the other Indian knocked him in the head with his ax. The two Indians took his gun and ammunition and ran away. This was early in the morning. About 500 soldiers and I don’t know how many dogs were sent to catch these Indians, but they made good their escape, and were never heard of any more.

“One evening Quanah and I had just come from a hunt. I was riding along singing an Indian song. I was sitting sideways. Some-body opened fire on me. It was dark. I fell off and moved forward quickly and low. They shot right where I fell. I raised up and emptied my six-shooter at the cowards. I had a 45 caliber Colt’s. In a few seconds I heard somebody groaning. I loaded my pistol, jumped up and ran towards Quanah’s camp. I saw a big black stump right in front of me. I was on the war path and afraid of everything. I shot twice at the stump and ran by. I reported to Quanah what .had happened and he called up his men and five were missing. We scattered out and soon found them carrying a wounded Indian. They had all kinds of excuses; they said that they had just wanted to scare me. Quanah threatened to report the matter to the soldiers. Some cowardly Apaches had hired these Indians to kill me. They had an Apache horse, and that is what gave them away. We rounded them up and they acknowledged the whole scheme.

“In a few weeks we went out on a buffalo hunt and staid two weeks. I came home sick. I almost died. I had to give the doctor the best horse I had and a number of buffalo robes. I was so weak that I could not raise my head. The doctor boiled a lot of herbs and kept me wrapped in poultices. Besides he gave me some kind of tea and nursed me carefully until I recovered.

“One day just after my convalescence Quanah wanted me to go to town with him. We went into the post and the soldiers surrounded me and called me Charley Ross. I went by that sobriquet for a year. They wanted to keep me. Quanah would talk to the general and then to me. He told me about my mother and folks still alive. I told him no, that the Indians were still my people and I would not go with the whites. We talked a long time, and Quanah persuaded me to stay, and I got pretty mad at Quanah and told him that he was no man at all, to bring me there when he knew those soldiers would try to keep me.

“He said that he did not know it, and besides he often went into Texas to see his people, and always had a pretty good time. I got up and told him that if he was getting tired of me I was of him too, so I would leave him. He and the soldiers carried me down to a creek nearby to talk to an old man and Comanche interpreter by the name of Jones. About the same dialogue ensued with him as I had just had with Quanah. After we had talked for some time, and I still would not consent to go, he said that they would have to take me anyhow. I drew my bow on him, and you ought to have seen him crawling for a table hard by. Quanah stopped me and said that he would see that they did not take me, for he was going back to his tepee with me. I turned and was going to kill Jones anyhow, but he was gone. I never got another chance at Jones, or he would have been a goner.

“I went home with Quanah and we talked a great deal. He persuaded me to give up. I went back to the post and staid one day. They were good to me and offered me sugar, fruits and many nice things, but I wasn’t satisfied. 80 I sent for Quanah, but I was angry at him and would not go home with him. They put me across the creek with my former comrades, and I lay around, hunted, and had a pretty good time. The soldiers furnished us rations and ammunition, but we yearned for freedom. One Indian proposed to me that we steal a girl apiece and run away. I went to my old girl that had nursed me when her father shot me for courting her, and she consented to go. We were to meet that night. My chum stole another man’s wife, two good horses and other necessities and made good his escape. My girl was true to her promise, stole all the goods she could carry, and waited for me until nearly daylight. I started and was nearly to where my girl was when the soldiers, who had been secretly watching me, made a drive for me. I ran off a bluff, fell into the river, came near freezing, and was actually driven back to camp, where so many soldiers watched me that I had no chance for escape.

“For a few weeks hunting and the monotony of camp life was all I knew, but one warm day I was in swimming with two Indian girls and I caught one and hugged her and was trying to kiss her when the other girl came up. They double-teamed on me and ducked me until I was nearly drowned, but I caught them off by themselves one at a time and made them sorry that they ever immersed me, and don’t you forget it.

“In a few weeks General McKenzie saw mamma down near Fredericksburg and told her about me. From the description she did not think I was her boy. Adolph Korn, whom I had met once while a Comanche party was visiting his Apache master, had been at home for several years. Fisher had come about three months before, and I was the only white boy left.

“General McKenzie came back and they began to persuade me to come home. Quanah told me how to find the way back ‘ to his camp, and promised to take care of my horses while I was gone. He said that he would be a brother to me, and insisted that if I did not have any folks I should come back and live with him. I left all my Indian property with Quanah and in company with five soldiers and a driver I started. We went twenty miles the first day. Four days traveling brought us to a country where there was game. They would give me a gun and ammunition and say, ‘Here, Charley Ross, fresh meat.’ I would go out and bring in an antelope.

“The fifth day a soldier and I went hunting and got out of sight of the wagon. We killed several prairie dogs and then sat down on a hill. I kept singing and making Indian songs. He patted me on the head and motioned to go. I got up reluctantly and went with him. I was planning all the time to kill him and run away, but where would I go? That bothered me, for all of our old hunting ground was taken up. The soldier watched me pretty closely, but finally I got the drop on him and made him drop his gun. He didn’t much want to do it, but then he saw that I meant business, so down went his gun and up went his hands. I said, ‘Home,’ and pointed towards the camp. He trotted off that way, but would stop and look at me. I leveled my gun on him again. Before he got to camp he was in full trot. I had to lug both those heavy guns into camp. I had a notion to shoot the soldier, but then I did not know where to go. He preceded me into camp probably five minutes, as I was about a hundred and fifty yards behind him. When I got there the soldiers motioned me to come on into the camp, and then they motioned at the old soldier and laughed. He didn’t like it at all. He would cuss and mutter, but they made fun of him all the way.

“They kept my gun cleaned, and always roasted my meat. I would not eat anything cooked in bacon, or even in the same pan, but they petted and humored me, or I would have killed some of them and run away. I would get up and stir around early and play pranks on the soldiers. One morning I grabbed up a blanket and gave the Comanche war whoop, and I want you to know those fellows scattered! The driver made the mules break loose. They came back and laughed at me after they found out what the trouble was: ‘Charley Ross no good; too much like Indian.’

“We came on to Fort Griffin, and all these soldiers got on a whiz; stole my money and all went to the lockup. A new outfit brought me on, and I was allowed to kill game and do pretty much as I pleased, but they kept an eye on me all the time. We came on to a big hole of water, and there these soldiers caught big bull frogs and fried them in lard. I quit camp. That was in violation of a sacred treaty we had made years ago with the Caranchuas, and therefore against our religion. I would not eat with those soldiers any more. I cut off meat and roasted it on an iron. Frogs and swine, both water or mud animals, too much for me.

“The second day I jumped off the wagon and shot an antelope. One of the soldiers brought the little animal in, and as he went to get on the wagon while it was in motion his foot slipped, the mules jumped, and he fell and the wagon ran over his leg, breaking it. After this we traveled slowly, camped often, and killed much game. Gradually, however, we neared the home of my childhood. We passed through Fort Mason and learned that our destination was not far. At Loyal Valley the people began to meet us. We drove up to a place and stopped. The captain said, ‘Charley Ross, get out and kiss your mother.’

“But I sat still in the wagon. I thought mother was killed and all of my folks. The Indians had told me this, and nearly killed me because mother shot one of them. When mother came out I knew her, although I could not speak, and then there were so many people that I was afraid to try. They did not know me until they had examined my arm and found a scar that was made there while I was quite a boy.”

It will be remembered that Texas had refused to make a treaty with the Comanches, but by force had driven them from the land of their inheritance. For this cause many hundreds of white families, men, women and children, had come to a horrible death, while on the other hand many a brave Comanche with his wife and children had gone to the happy hunting ground. Even the old chief, Quanah’s father, had died in battle, and his mother, sisters and brothers had been carried off into captivity, never more to enjoy the blessing of Quanah’s companionship or to drink of the free air on which an Indian lives. What would have been the outcome if instead of doing evil to the Indian the white man had done good we can only conjecture.

Quanah Parker

In this instance we see an Indian chief in blanket and leggins persuading a white boy and doing all in his power to return him to his mother’s breast, among these same Texas people. Was it because he loved the white people, or because he loved to do right?

I have been among the Indians for more than twenty-five years, and have been married to three Indian women, and I never heard tell of such a case, not even among the most civilized Indians. In all my experience among the Indians, if a chief wanted his people to think well of him he would shoot the white man, certainly extend him no favors. Not so in this case. This man took his people fresh from the war trail, in blankets, and accustomed to living only in tents and tepees, and ill a little over a quarter of a century got them to wear citizens’ clothing, and persuaded many of them to live in houses and even to farm a little. He is the best-known chief of all the western tribes of Indians. He has two daughters, both of whom have married white men, one of them being Mrs. Emmett Cox. Mr. Cox owns a good barn and lots of cattle, and is interested in banking circles. He lives in Lawton, Okla. The other son-in-law, J. T. Birdsanger, lives in Dallas, Texas, where he is freight agent for the Texas & Pacific. Quanah doesn’t believe in having his picture taken, and it is only when it is requested by his Washington City friends that he will consent to pose’ before the camera. He is a particular friend of President Roosevelt.

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