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