14. Nadua's Return to the Wichitas: Her Reburial and Quanah's Death

By Bill Neeley

Frontier scout Charles Goodnight, who captured Quanah's mother Nadua (Someone Found) in 1860, listened as Quanah spoke at the Texas State Fair in the fall of 1910. The Dallas Morning News offered this report: "Quanah Parker, a Comanche chief and one of the last of the historic figures of Indian life and frontier history of the Southwest, and the members of his family arrived yesterday to be prominent figures in the features arranged at the State Fair today for Quanah Route Day."

"Today he will wear his war bonnet at the Fair Grounds, and in the afternoon in Convention Hall he will deliver an address. Yesterday afternoon he and his family, in an automobile, visited the State Fair and attracted much attention as they rode about the grounds. The chief is a striking figure. He was attired in ordinary street costume and a soft black hat, his braided locks, tied in two plaits down his back, his erect bearing, his seamed and wrinkled countenance immediately disclosed to most observers his identity." The train of the Quanah, Acme, and Pacific Railway (named in honor of the chief) with Quanah and his family and friends aboard much of the time, was parked on the grounds of the State Fair the whole week.

Quanah's address was in English, an incredible achievement for a man who began life as a Comanche warrior. "Ladies and gentlemen, I say a few words to you." Holding his lance, he acknowledged that he had once fought the whites. "Now I am a citizen of the United States. We are the same people now." Then Quanah brought up the subject of his mother. "She was Cynthia Ann Parker. That was my mother, a good long time ago, after the Indian people had been on the war path, about 700 were on warpath, my father and an old Indian told me that on the warpath they had killed a lot of white people and burned their little houses. They got my mother." Then Quanah said emphatically, "Governor Ross did not capture my mother but Colonel Goodnight did." From the time of her capture, she and baby daughter Prairie Flower were held as virtual prisoners. The dreaded Comanches had taken Cynthia Ann away from the Parker family when she was only nine years old. Now twenty-four years later they had her back, though she frequently attempted to escape and return to her husband and sons, Quanah and Pee-Nah. But all her efforts met with failure. On one occasion Coho Smith, a friend of Ruff O'Quinn, Nadua's brother-in-law with whom she was staying, stopped by for a visit.

Many Texans were curious about the woman they called Cynthia Ann, though she was Nadua now and would never be Cynthia Ann again, no matter how hard the family tried to win her over. T. J. Cates, a neighbor of O'Quinn, recalled the tragic figure. "I well remember Cynthia Ann and her little girl Prairie Flower. She looked to be stout and weighed about 140 pounds, well made and liked to work. She had a wild expression and would look down when people looked at her. She was an expert in tanning hides with the hair on them, of plaiting or knitting either ropes or whips."

Coho Smith's visit, about five years after her capture by Goodnight, excited Nadua in the extreme when she discovered that he had once been a Comanche captive and understood the language fairly well. He also spoke Spanish as did Nadua. Smith later recalled the encounter: "When we got to the house we sat down to dinner. Cynthia Ann sat opposite me. I said to Cynthia Ann the first word that occurred to me, "ee-wunee-keem" (meaning "come here"in Comanche). She sprang up with a scream and knocked about half the dishes off the table. She ran to me and fell on the floor and caught me around both ankles, crying in Comanche, "ee-ma, mi mearo, ee-ma mearo"(I am going with you). She was so excited I thought she would go into a fit. She said to me in Spanish, "You will take us, won't you?" Coho explained to her that the state of Texas had granted her a league of land, and her white family wanted her with them. He added that Texans would be mad at him if he took her back. Having escaped from the Comanches during a windstorm, it is likely that Coho feared going back, though Nadua tried to reassure him. When Coho told her she had no horse and that his could not carry all three of them, she exclaimed, "Horse! That is nothing." In a mixture of Comanche and Spanish, she said, "There is some first rate horses and when I get my hand on their mane they are mine. Don't hesitate a moment about horses." In Spanish she cried out, "Mi Corazon esta llorando todo el tiempo por mis dos hijos. (My heart is crying all the time for my two sons)." But Coho either wouldn't or couldn't take Nadua back to her Comanche family.

Also, earlier at the State Fair of Texas in 1910, Quanah spoke of retrieving his mother's remains and reburying them in Post Oak Cemetery on land the chief had donated to the mission. Another topic of strong interest for Quanah was his insistence that "General Ross no kill my father. I want to get that in Texas history straight up. No kill my father, he not there. I want to get it straight here in Texas history. After that – two years, maybe three years maybe – my father sick. I see him die."

Quanah's next point was also about family. "Five years ago I been to Washington. I see John Stephens, Congressman from Texas. I tell him I would like to get bill $1,000 to move my mother's remains." At the time of Quanah's address, he had not yet received the funding he had requested. His earnest appeal to have his mother's remains reburied in the Wichita Mountains generated a groundswell of support, with Goodnight helping to lobby his fellow Texans for passage of the bill.

On December 4, 1910, less than two months after Quanah's speech at the State Fair, the aging chief reburied his mother's remains at Post Oak Cemetery at the foot of the Wichitas. Nadua, at last, had returned home. Quanah made these remarks at the service: "Forty years ago my mother died." The year was 1870, ten years after being captured by the whites. "She captured by Comanches, nine years old. Love Indian and wild life so well no want to go back to white folks. All same people anyway. God say. I love my mother. I like my white people. Got great heart. I want my people follow after white way, get educated, know work, make living when payments stop. I tell 'em they got to know how to pick cotton, plow corn. I want them know white man's God. Comanche may die today, tomorrow, ten years. When end comes then they all be together again. I want see my mother again then."

Less than three months later, Quanah passed into the world of the spirit and rejoined his mother for eternity.

The above is excerpted from The Last Comanche Chief: The Life and Times of Quanah Parker by Bill Neeley. Copyright © 1995 Bill Neeley. All rights reserved.

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