It is probably legitimate to say she died of a broken heart, a heart that started breaking when she was about nine years old. Cynthia Ann Parker’s family and several members of the Parker clan moved from Illinois to North Central Texas in the spring of 1835 and built a log fortress they called Fort Parker.
On May 19, 1836, several of the men in the Parker family were out working in the field a mile from the fort when a large force of Comanche, Kiowa and Kichai attacked the fort. Cynthia Ann’s horror began as she watched the slaughter of her father, uncle, and grandfather. As was the custom among Southern Plains Indians, the women were raped. Some were killed or died later from their wounds.
Her uncle James Parker arrived from the field in time to help seventeen family members escape into the nearby forest, but he was too late to help Cynthia Ann. She was carried away as were her brother John, and James’ own daughter and grandson, and his sister-in-law—five family members—stolen by the Indians who soon divided their captives among different bands.
Over the next several years, the Parker family began recovering first one and then another of its lost members through various ransom arrangements.
For twenty-four years stories surfaced of Cynthia Ann being spotted with various Comanche bands, even refusing on one occasion her brother John’s request to return to her white family. An Indian Agent claimed that offers to buy her release were rebuffed by Comanches who vowed that only force would induce her captors to release her.
Cynthia Ann married Peta Nocona, war chief of the Nocone band of the Comanche who was so devoted to his white wife that despite Comanche custom of polygamy, he never took another wife. She bore two sons Quanah and Pecos and a daughter Topsanna (often called Prairie Flower).
On December 18, 1860, Sul Ross led his Texas Rangers on a surprise attack of a Comanche hunting camp, killing many including women and children. Peta Nocona was shot, and accounts differ as to whether or not he was killed. The Rangers were surprised that one of the three Indian captives who carried an infant daughter had blue eyes and spoke broken English. When she said her family name, Ross believed he had found the missing Cynthia Ann.
Some of the Rangers tried to convince Ross to allow her return to the Comanches, but Ross believed so many families across the country had lost children in Indian raids that it would stir up terrible unrest among all the families not to allow her reunion with her white family.
When Cynthia Ann’s Uncle Isaac Parker arrived and said her name, Cynthia Ann patted her chest and said “Me Cincee Ann.”
At some point after her “rescue” Cynthia Ann, her hair cut short–a Comanche sign of mourning–was photographed with her two-year-old daughter Topsanna at her breast. She apparently believed her husband was dead and that she would never again see her sons Quanah and Pecos.
The following April, the Texas Legislature granted Cynthia Ann $100 a year for the next five years, a league of land (about 4,400 acres), and appointed her uncles guardians. Despite being moved from the home of one family member to the next, she never adjusted to life in white society and tried unsuccessfully several times to return to her Comanche family.
In 1864, Topsanna died of influenza. Cynthia Ann never recovered from losing her daughter. Some accounts say she stopped eating and died very soon; others say she continued to grieve until her death in 1870. She died without knowing that her son Quanah became the last of the great Comanche chiefs.