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Cynthia Ann Parker's First Photograph

Mother nursing child
The famous photograph of Cynthia Ann Parker taken in Fort Worth after her capture along the Pease River in 1860 (Hardin Simmons Library).

One of the most famous and tragic figures in the history of the American West is Cynthia Ann Parker, who was kidnapped by Comanches in 1836, adopted into a Comanche family of the Naconi, and subsequently re-named Narua (other sources say Naduah). She married Peta, a chief of the Naconi, but was re-kidnapped in 1860 at the Battle of Pease River. Her capture was explained in The Weatherford White Man (Parker County, Texas), a newspaper that editorialized on how to kill Indians. The story was subsequently relayed over the wire to other newspapers, where it garnered much attention.

By 1860, she had birthed three children. Her eldest child, Quanah, became a well-known chief and leader in the Red River Wars of 1874-1875. Her other son, Pecos, was most likely not in the camp at the time; and, neither was her husband, Peta, although Sul Ross, one of the commanders in the raid and later, a governor of Texas, claimed he had killed him. He may have made the claim to gain political points in Texas, where "Indian Killers" were heralded as heroes.

Cynthia Ann's youngest child, daughter Topsana (Topsannah) was spared. She remained with her mother until she passed away in 1863.

For years after her kidnapping in 1836, Cynthia Ann Parker's father, James Parker, had tried to find her, but his efforts failed as she rebuffed any overtures. Upon her capture in 1860, her uncle Isaac Parker brought her to Fort Worth on the "old Belknap Road." Her arrival "attracted a crowd to see the famous captive and her baby Prairie Flower. Bound with rope and set on top of a large box, Cynthia Ann was put on display in front of a general store as tears streamed down her face" (Bob Welch and Sue Hancock Jones, When Real Life and Screen Don't Match, Ranching Heritage September 10, 2022).

While in Fort Worth, Cynthia Ann Parker's first photograph was taken while she nursed her daughter, and hundreds of copies of the photo were sold as souvenirs. Then, Cynthia Ann's story returns to obscurity. In 1884, the Fort Worth Daily Gazette received the now-famous image, which it described in the newspaper account below.

A year after her return to white life, her uncle received a donation of land and a pension for Cynthia Ann for their care (Dallas Daily Herald, April 17 1861).

A newspaper item from the Fort Worth Gazette, July 4 1884 described the photograph of Cynthia Ann Parker upon her capture. The Gazette apparently did not take efforts in understanding the story, as is refers to the child as a male. The photograph it describes was taken in Fort Worth, but the Gazette received it from a collector in Waco.

Newspaper item
The Baltimore Sun relayed the story of Cynthia Ann Parker's re-kidnapping from the newspaper, The Weatherford White Man.

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