A Nashville, Tenn., filmmaker's new documentary tells a tale with Crawford County ties.
Audrey Kalivoda's Following the Parker Trail chronicles the travels of Cynthia Ann Parker and her family before she was kidnapped as a child by the Comanche in 1836. Cynthia was the blonde, blue-eyed daughter of Silas M. and Lucy Parker, Virginians who had settled near Flat Rock.
According to 1870 census records, she was probably born between June 2, 1824, and May 31, 1825, in Palestine. Raised by the Comanche, she and grew up to be the mother of Quanah Parker, a legendary figure in Texas history.
The documentary, released earlier this year, includes footage shot in the area, but has not been seen here. "I drove what would have been "the Buffalo Trace" from Louisville to New Albany, to Vincennes and across the river to Palestine," Kalivoda said, discussing her work on the film. "Beautiful drive."
Kalivoda explained the Crawford County area is unique in that some of the younger Parkers stayed here when the rest went to Texas in 1833.
"I think it's interesting that all of Elder John's children lived to adulthood," she added. "Pretty rare in that day and time. One son was killed by Indians in Missouri in 1812. He was [in his] later 20s. Two, including Cynthia Ann's father, died at Fort Parker." The other nine lived into their 70s.
According to the Texas State Historical Association, the Parkers moved to central Texas when Cynthia was 9 or 10 and built Fort Parker on the headwaters of the Navasota River. On May 19, 1836, a large force of Comanche warriors accompanied by Kiowa and Kichai allies attacked the fort and killed several of its inhabitants.
The Comanches seized five captives, including the girl and her brother, John. He and the other three were eventually released, but Cynthia remained with the Indians for almost 25 years, forgot white ways and became thoroughly Comanche.
At 18, she married the warrior chief Peta Nocona and later had two sons, Quanah (whose name means "odor") and Pecos, and a daughter, Topsannah, also known as Prairie Flower.
In the mid- and late-1840s, several white men encountered Cynthia, who refused to return with them to white society. One of the men who failed in efforts to take her back may have been her brother, John.
On Dec. 18, 1860, Cynthia and her infant daughter were captured by Texas Rangers during an attack on a Comanche hunting camp. Col. Isaac Parker later identified her as his niece.
Believing her husband dead, Cynthia finally agreed to accompany her uncle to Birdville, Texas, on the condition that the military would send along her sons if they were found. She later lived with her brother, Silas, then with a sister.
She was never reconciled to living in white society and made several unsuccessful attempts to flee to her Comanche family.
The 1870 census listed Cynthia as still being alive, but many sources claim she died six years earlier. One account says she starved herself to death after her daughter died of illness.
Meanwhile, Peta Nocona died of an infected wound and Pecos succumbed to disease.
Quanah Parker, however, took refuge with the Quahadis (or Antelopes) - the most aloof and warlike of the various Comanche bands - and thrived. The last chief of the Quahadis, Quanah fought a long war to keep his people off the reservation.
Later, he embraced some white ways (Christianity and monogamy not among them - he had at least seven wives), became wealthy and befriended President Theodore Roosevelt.
He is the subject of dozens of books and scholarly essays. He has been featured in several movies and even played himself in the 1908 silent film The Bank Robbery, three years before his death. There is a Texas town named Quanah in his honor.
Cynthia is no less famous; her story was the inspiration for the classic John Wayne movie The Searchers.
Quanah and Cynthia Ann Parker are buried at Fort Sill, Okla.
For Kalivoda, that story began 10 years ago during a wedding at Old Spencer Mill in Burns, Tenn., not far from her home in Nashville.
The restored grist mill, now a wedding and event destination, had a long lineage back to 1808, when a man named Moses Parker killed a bear and carved his name on a tree along what would become Parker Creek. Moses' uncle was Elder John Parker, leader of Cynthia's itinerate clan.
The family also built a church there: Turnbull Primitive Baptist Church, which is still active.
Intrigued, Kalivoda, decided to retrace their route through the wilderness.
"The Parker family left very few footprints," Kalivoda said. "If not for the events in 1836, they would have been like most other pioneers, destined to live and die in obscurity.
"They moved frequently, often establishing primitive Baptist churches on the fringes of Indian territories and pulling up stakes when called or coerced into blazing their way on a circuitous route south and west," she explained.
There was neither rhyme nor reason for their moves, or at least none Kalivoda was able to unearth.
"It was random, like throwing a dart at a board," she explained. "They were on a quest not even Elder John understood."
It is possible the legendary New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-12, spurred the Parkers to relocate temporarily in Crawford County. Then, after a few years, they moved on to Texas... and their destinies.
Out west, Kalivoda has been making guest appearances for various groups, showing the documentary and discussing how it was made. She said she would love to find someone in the area - such as an historical group or civic organization - that would host a viewing. She is also actively seeking gift shops to carry the DVD.
Posted: Monday, December 09, 2013
Article comment by:
Not surprisingly, there are several of Quanah Parker's descendants around here (Duncan, OK). A late friend of mine, Quanah Cox, was a great-grandson who bore a striking resemblance to the old chief.
I have long wanted to visit "Star House", Quanah Parker's residence, but it is apparently on private property.
Posted: Sunday, December 08, 2013
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My uncle spent a lot of money about 25 years ago an traced back our family history. And I've been told that quanna Parker is one of my great great great grandfathers.
I think my Granddad Fred Parker was somehow connected to Cynthia Parker's family.
Posted: Wednesday, December 04, 2013
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I knew, and worked with Chief Quana Parker's granddaughter, Mitzy Lozano, who was an xray tech., in the Irving Communiyty Hosp, now Baylor, Irving. That was in the middle 70"s. We be came friends, but I have lost touch with her now..