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Quanah

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For three centuries the South Plains had been the domain of the Comanche. With the coming of white settlers and the might of the U.S. Army, the land was being wrested from its Indian masters. Among the last to capitulate was the Comanche group known as the Kwahadi, or Antelope Eaters. Quanah Parke, half-white son of a revered Kwahadi chief, grew into manhood during the tragic years when the buffalo herds were being destroyed.
Most of the Comanche tribe agreed, at the treaty council of Medicine Lodge in 1867, to follow the path of peace. The Kwahadi, spurning the council, continued to resist, however hopeless their cause. Quanah, a young firebrand who rose to leadership during the brief but savage war, was born about 1852 in the Pecos Valley at the time his tribe was fighting the Navajos. His father was Peta Noconi and his mother was known to the tribe as Naduah. Actually, Naduah was Cynthia Ann Parker, a white captive who was born in Illinois in 1827 and brought to Texas by her family when she was a small child. Her family established Parker's Fort, near Mexico, where they started a school and a Baptist church. Her uncle, a minister, left the fort's gate open one ay and a band of marauding Comanches killed him and carried off Cynthia Ann, then nine years of age.

Some years later, Cynthia Ann became one of the wives of Peta Nocona, for whom she bore three children. Quanah, whose name means "Bed of Flowers", was the first. A younger brother, "Peanuts", died in infancy and a sister, "Prairie Flower", was a babe in arms when Cynthia Ann was recaptured at the Battle of Pease River in 1860. Tragically unable to adapt to life among the white people, Cynthia Ann was morose and frightened during the few years preceding her death.

Because he was a half-breed, Quanah was the victim of much maltreatment by the tribesmen during his youth. He was about 14 when his father died. Old Noconi's dying request was that Quanah be named his successor provided he proved himself to be brave and capable.

Within a year, Quanah took to the warpath, participating in raids in Texas, Kansas and Indian Territory. When Chief Bear's Ear was killed in a battle on the Red River, Quanah was chosen to lead Kwahadis.

A medicine man named Ishatai persuaded Quanah to lead a raid against a group of buffalo hunters at Adobe Walls, a trading post about 20 miles northeast of the site of Borger in Hutchinson County. Ishatai insisted that his magic paint would make warriors and their horses impervious to bullets, that if there was a shortage of ammunition Ishatai could spit bullets from his mouth by the wagonload and that the white men had no chance whatever against his medicine. He suggested that the Indians could sneak into Adobe Walls during the night and kill the occupants with clubs while they slept.

Before dawn on June 27, 1874, a force of about 700 Comanches, Kiowas and Cheyenne's stealthily approached Adobe Walls. They were me by a barrage of rifle-fire. The sharp-eyed hunters, awakened early by the bartender, had seen the Indians and opened fire. Outdoors I was sufficiently light that the raiders could easily be seen, but the white men were hidden in the dark shadows of the buildings.
There were only 28 men and one woman at Adobe Walls, but among the defenders were such notched sharpshooters as Billy Dixon, Dutch Henry, and Bat Masterson. Two men and a dog, who were asleep outside in their wagon, were killed in the initial charge. All of the livestock was killed or stolen. Later in the fight a third man was killed when he tried to move some of the horses out of the line of fire.

Indian losses mounted rapidly. A bullet from a buffalo gun killed Ishatai's horse, penetrating the "bullet proof" paint to bury itself in the animal's brain. Leading warriors of all three tribes were killed, including the son of Chief Stone Calf, the Cheyenne leader.

Quanah's horse was shot from under him, and as Qaunah hurried toward cover a bullet struck him above the shoulder blade, causing temporary partial paralysis. Another brave helped him to safety. Ishatai's medicine obviously was worthless. To the Indians, the uncanny marksmanship of the buffalo hunters spelled bad medicine. Gathering as many of their wounded as they could, the Indians departed in the afternoon. They left behind 13 Cheyenne and Comanche corpses (there weren't many Kiowa on the raid because their medicine man had spoken against it) and 56 dead Indian ponies. Ishatai, whose name is sometimes translated as "Wolf's Ann" or "Coyote Dung," claimed the disaster was brought on by the breaking of the medicine when one of the braves killed a skunk before the fight. The Indians decided the medicine man had lived up to his name and never again took him seriously.

The hunters, their horses gone, were marooned for days at the post. One the third a group of Indians appeared on a hill nearly one mile from the buildings. On a dare, Billy Dixon stepped outside and fired his 50-callibre Sharps buffalo gun at the distant figures. The spent bullet knocked a warrior from his horse-1,538 yards from where Dixon stood. Her was ample proof of bad medicine; the Indians scattered. Months later, after Adobe Walls had been abandoned, they returned to burn the buildings to the ground.

Nor did the luck of the hostiles improve. The U.S. Army brought overwhelming numbers of troops into the Plains, ruthlessly prosecuting their orders to punish the Indians "for recent depredations along the Kansas and Texas frontiers." Driven onto the icy prairies during a particularly hard winter, the Indian bands began to surrender.

Quanah arrived at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, on June 2, 1875 with the remnants of his forces-100 warriors, 300 women and children and old men, and 1400 horses. Surrendering to Colonel Ronald Mackenzie, the implacable nemesis of the tribes on the Plains, Quanah was ready to make peace. He was one of the last hold-outs.

Quanah proved to be as tenacious a leader in peace as in war. Selecting a homestead near Cache, Oklahoma, he put in crops and eventually built there a two story, 10-room home. For several years he did odd jobs for the government, for which he was well paid. One of the first of these was to bring back some renegade Indians who were depredating in New Mexico. The efficiency with which he handled this chore impressed the government authorities, and they came to think of him as the major representative of his people.
In most respects Quanah adjusted to the white man's life, but there were exceptions. He refused to give up any of his wives (he was married seven times) when officials informed him of the laws against polygamy. His mode of dress combined features both Comanche and European, and he continued to wear his hair in long braids. Once Quanah and his friend Yellow Bear stopped at the Pickwick Hotel in Fort Worth. Before retiring, they blew out the gaslight. By morning Yellow Bear was dead and only prompt medical aid saved Quanah's life.

In behalf of his people, Quanah made numerous trips to Washington and participated in legislation to aid the Indians in their difficult new life. He became noted as a gracious host and raconteur, despite his limited knowledge of English. Among his friends were Theodore Roosevelt and Ambassador Brice of England. Once, on his native heath, he told Roosevelt on a wolf hunt, which the doughty president always considered one of the high spots of his career.

Quanah became quite wealthy and owned a great deal of land and large herds of cattle and horses. He was a director of the bank at Cache and donated more than $40,000 to a railroad in Texas which was named in his honor, the Quanah, Acme and Pacific. He lived to see a Texas town named for him and to know that Parker County was named for his white mother and the Texas town of Nocona was named for his father. He had 21 children and his many descendants are leaders in Southwestern affairs today.

In his later years he became increasingly affected by rheumatism. One particularly strong seizure brought on a heart attack while Quanah was on an out-of-town visit. He asked that he be brought to his home near Cache, and that a medicine man be brought there to pray for him. He was taken into the house on a stretcher and a medicine man, seeing that the end was near, chanted to the Great Spirit to receive the soul of a great chief. A few minutes after he entered the house, on February 23, 1911, Quanah Parker died.
At the time of his passing Quanah was the chief of all the Comanches, having been so elected three years earlier at the great intertribal council at Saddle Countain. He is buried beside his mother in the cemetery at Fort Sill. A large tombstone of red granite carries this inscription:

Resting here until day breaks,
And shadows fall,
And darkness disappears, is
Quanah  Parker
Last Chief Of The Comanches

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Collection of books and papers, 1922-1925

Indian Warriors

 

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