Most people would be happy to be remembered in one culture, but Quanah Parker became a legend in two, walking between the Comanche and white people with ease.
The Mansfield Historical Museum & Heritage Center will celebrate the life of the last Comanche war chief with the special exhibit Quanah Parker: One Man, Two Worlds through Jan. 31, and a special evening with Parker’s great-great grandson Jan. 19. The exhibit features facts and photos of Quanah Parker and his mother, Cynthia Ann Parker.
“He’s an infamous figure in history,” said Jessica Baber, museum manager. “He has historic ties to the Fort Worth area. A lot of people here don’t really know much about him. I worked for the Comanche National Museum for about a year. I can’t claim to be an expert, but I know enough.”
Quanah Parker was the product of two worlds. Cynthia Ann Parker was kidnapped as a child in 1836 by the Comanche from Fort Parker, east of Waco. She went on to marry Comanche chief Peta Nocona and have two sons and a daughter. In 1860, the Texas Rangers kidnapped her and her infant daughter, Topasannah, from her Comanche family and returned her to her white family, who she no longer remembered.
Cynthia Ann tried to escape and return to the Comanche several times, and died of influenza in 1871.
Her son, Quanah, who was 11 when his mother was taken, soon rose to become a war chief, living a traditional Comanche lifestyle, hunting buffalo and eluding the military, until 1875 when they surrendered and were moved to the Kiowa-Comanche reservation in southwestern Oklahoma.
“He was the chief at the time of transition,” Baber said. “He was a war chief that led them into battle and he also led them in finding their place in white society.”
Parker, who stood close to 6 feet tall, rose to prominence and wealth, becoming a cattle raiser and a public and political figure. He hunted with President Theodore Roosevelt, and later rode in his inaugural parade. Quanah Parker became the wealthiest Native American in the United States at the time.
“He was well regarded in two worlds,” Baber said.
Parker’s great-great grandson will be featured in a special evening, History Talks: Quanah Parker and Comanche Stories with Lance Tahmahkera, at the Farr Best Theater, 109 N. Main St., at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 19. During the free event, Tahmahkera will share family stories and the history of the Comanche, along with rare family artifacts and photos.
Between the exhibit and the special evening with his great-great grandson, people can learn a lot, Baber said.
“You will certainly learn more about his life and his mother,” she said. “You will also have a better understanding of what life was like for the Comanche.”
Admission to the museum, the Quanah Parker exhibit and the evening event is free. The Mansfield Historical Museum & Heritage Center, 102 N. Main St. in Mansfield, is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.