|Peta Nocona (Lone Wanderer)|
|Quahadi Comanche leader|
|Cause of death||
Old age and old war wounds
|Parents||Po-bish-e-quasho "Iron Jacket"|
Peta Nocona was strictly linked to the Nokoni band, having taken his wife in this band. He led his tribe during the extensive Indian Wars in Texas since the late 1840s until the 1860s. He was the son of the Quahadi Comanche chief Pohebits-quasho ("Iron Jacket"). He became so renowned that a diffuse but erroneus belief asserts that the Nokoni (or Wanderers, or Travellers) band, which long predated his birth, was named after him. The city of Nocona, Texas is named after the Quahadi leader.
Despite Sul Ross's claim that Peta Nocona was killed at Pease River, his son insisted he was not present, and died several years later. This claim is supported by Texas historian John Henry Brown. Brown had already disputed the identity of the person killed at Mule Creek, before Quanah came onto the reservation, stating he was told the name of the man killed at Pease River was Mo-he-ew, not Peta Nocona. Quanah then wrote an affidavit disputing his father's death: "while I was too young to remember the chief it is likely that Brown was correct" (but the killed warrior's name results to have been Nobah, a former captive adopted in the tribe).
Fort Parker Massacre
Cynthia Ann Parker was born to Silas M. Parker and Lucy Duty Parker in Crawford County, Illinois. There is considerable dispute about her age, as according to the 1870 census of Anderson County, Texas, she would have been born between June 2, 1824, and May 31, 1825. Because of the Americans' war-fighting ability against the Indians, the Mexican government had originally encouraged Americans to establish frontier settlements to block the continuing raids of the Comanche deep into Mexico. Consequently, the Parker clan, which had the long history of frontier settlement and fighting, was encouraged to settle in Texas. When Cynthia was nine years old, her family and extended kin moved to Central Texas and built Fort Parker, a log fort, on the headwaters of the Navasota River in what is now Limestone County. Her grandfather, Elder John Parker, the patriarch of the family, had negotiated treaties with the local Indians who were subject to the Comanches, and historians conjecture that he believed those treaties would bind all Indians, and that his family was safe from attack.
However, the customs of the Comanche regarding treaties made by their subjects tribes did not limit the Comanche as to their raison d'etre of being a raiding nation. Consequently, when the Comanche raiding season began, Fort Parker was one of the many settlements to be subject to the Comanche raiding custom. Consequently, with substantial militia forces focused on guarding the Texans during the Great Scrape, all of the frontier settlements were woefully unprepared and undermanned for the invasion.
On May 19, 1836, a huge force of Nokoni Comanche warriors (at the time the head chief of the Nokoni band was Huupi-pahati, to English-speaking people "Tall Tree"), approximately 500 strong, accompanied by Kiowa and Kichai allies, who had also been promised by the Mexicans rich booty and hundreds of white females and slaves, made a raid against Limestone County, and a war group attacked the fort in force, killing most of the men. However, the Comanche ordered some of the children spared for slavery into the tribe. Thus, after the attack, the Comanches seized five captives, including Cynthia Ann. Following the defeat of Mexico in the Texas War of Independence, the new government shifted its attention toward recovering the thousands of children and women captured during the invasion.
Cynthia Ann Parker and Peta Nocona
For his role in leading many raids and the allegiance of his warriors to his leadership, Peta Nocona's band was to be recognized as a preeminent one and Peta Nocona's band was to be often confused, afterwards, with the Nokoni Comanche, his wife's people. Peta Nocona married Cynthia Ann Parker (Naduah), a white captive who had been adopted by the Nokoni Comanche (her foster father being Tabby-nocca). A great tribute to his affection to Cynthia was that Peta never took another wife, though it was common among the Comanche for such a successful war chief to do so. The couple had three children, famed Comanche chief Quanah Parker, another son named Pecos ("Pecan"), and a daughter named Topsannah ("Prairie Flower").
However, the Texans never gave up on finding every last one of the children and women captured during the Great Comanche raid and subsequent ones in the following years. Although hundreds were either ransomed or eventually rescued in Texas Ranger and Scout expeditions, many others remained in the hands of the Comanche. In reprisal, the Texans launched a series of retaliatory attacks on Comanche settlements, finally forcing the war-chiefs to sue for peace. The negotiations for the end of hostilities and the return of the captives was to take place in San Antonio. However at the subsequent negotiations, the Comanches' aggressive posture and known behavior of quickly attacking anyone led to series of confrontations during the meeting and full scale violence. Peta Nocona's wife and children were captured and his band scattered on December 18, 1860 by Captain Lawrence Sullivan Ross and his Texas Rangers and Militia at the Battle of Pease River.
Death of Peta Nocona
While Peta Nocona's death is a matter of dispute, the destruction of his band is not. In early 1860 Peta Nocona led the Comanches in a raid through Parker County, Texas, which was named in honor of his wife's family. After the raid he returned with his band to what he believed was a safe retreat under the sandstone bluffs of Pease River near where Mule Creek flowed into the stream. The site was long a favorite of the Comanche, providing both cover from the fierce blue northers that hit the plains, and ample forage for their ponies, with easy buffalo hunting from the nearby herds. But the raids of the Comanche had brought pressure in Austin to protect the settlers, and Texas Governor Sam Houston had commissioned Ranger Captain Lawrence Sullivan Ross to organize a company of 40 Rangers and 20 militiamen to put a stop to the Indian raids. The company of 60 was based at Fort Belknap, in Young County.
Ross quickly ascertained that he simply did not have sufficient men to guard the frontier, and instead determined that the best way to protect the settlers was to take the offensive to the Indians. To this end, he began to scout the area for sign of Indian camps, determined to take the fight to them at the earliest opportunity. After Peta Nocona's raid into Parker County, Ross and his fighters started tracking the Quahadi, who were considered the hardiest fighters among the Comanche, who were in turn considered the fiercest of the Plains Indians. Modern research has revealed that Peta Nocona did not intend to stay at Pease River, and was preparing to move on when the attack came on his camp that December day.
It was daybreak on December 18, 1860, when Ranger Captain Ross himself scouted out the camp on the Pease River as his scouts reported the presence of a fairly large hunting party and camp on the banks of the Pease. With an oncoming blue norther blotting out sign, Ross was able to move up to literally spy out the location of the Noconas on the Mule Creek head bank as it came into the Pease River.
Ross sent a detachment of 20 men out of his force of 60 to position themselves behind a chain of sand hills to cut off retreat to the northwest, while with 40 men, Ross himself led the charge down into the Indian camp. The result was that the band was taken completely by surprise, and were massacred, either shot down where they stood, or were killed by the 20 men to the north as they attempted to flee. Though excuses were made for doing so, men, women, and children were shot indiscriminately. Indeed, Sul Ross himself wrote, quoted in Indian Depredations, by J. W. Wilbarger, that they fired at everyone present, saying
The attack was so sudden that a considerable number were killed before they could prepare for defense. They fled precipitately right into the presence of the sergeant and his men. Here they met with a warm reception, and finding themselves completely encompassed, every one fled his own way, and was hotly pursued and hard pressed.
There are two distinct and very different stories about Peta Nocona's death. The first is that he died trying to escape with his wife and infant daughter, which is the generally believed story, and the one officially reported by Sul Ross. According to this story, seeing that the camp was hopelessly overrun, Chief Peta Nocona and Cynthia Ann Parker fled to the east up a creek bed. Reportedly, mounted behind Peta Nocona was a 15-year-old Mexican girl, while Cynthia Ann Parker carried her two-year-old child, Topasannah ("Prairie Flower"). Captain Ross and his lieutenant, Tom Killiheir, pursued the man they believed to be the legendary Peta Nocona.
Accounts vary as to what happened. Captain Ross, who was acclaimed a hero for the deed, claimed and probably honestly believed that he had caught and killed Peta Nacona. But in the melee he pursued and shot a former Peta Nocona's Mexican slave, whose Comanche name was Nobah, who was trying to save the fleeing Comanche women.
But Quanah Parker, the chief's oldest son, once reportedly said in Dallas to Sul Ross, "No kill my father; he not there. I want to get it straight here in Texas history. After that, two year, three year maybe, my father sick. I see him die." Certainly Quanah Parker said on numerous occasions to both friend and foe that his father had survived the massacre of his band, and died 3–4 years later of complications from old war wounds suffered against the Apaches. In this story, strongly supported by the Comanche people, Peta Nocona was out hunting with his oldest son and a few others when the attack occurred.
Strongly supporting Quanah Parker's story that his father did not die at Pease River is the fact that Quanah was introduced into the Comanche Nokoni band (also called Destanyuka, not necessarily because of the taboo of the famous dead chief's name), his mother's people, where Chief Tirhaya-quehip ("Horseback") alias Kiyou took him and Pecos under his wing, only after his father's death and his temporary departure from the Quahadi band, now led by Parra-o-coom ("Bull Bear") as first chief and Kobay-o-burra ("Wild Horse") as second chief, several years after Pease River. Until Peta Nocona died, he took care of his son. Indeed, it was not until Cynthia Ann Parker was kidnapped back into white society that Quanah knew his mother was white, and that he was of mixed blood. His father had not told him of his white ancestry until his mother was taken from them. According to Quanah Parker and his warriors Peta Nocona was a broken and bitter man after Pease River. He was never the same after his wife was taken from him, and died somewhere around 1863–4 of complications of old war wounds fighting the Apaches, and from sorrow at the loss of his wife and infant daughter.
Nye claimed that he encountered men who saw Peta Nocona alive several years after Pease River, when he was ill with an infected war wound. This version strongly supports Quanah's claim that his father survived Pease River and died 3–4 years later. Nye said what Quanah maintained, that Peta Nocona and Naduah had been an exceptionally happy couple, and the forced separation killed them both: Naduah starved herself to death, and Peta Nocona withered away. A 2012 book, Myth, Memory and Massacre: The Pease River Capture of Cynthia Ann Parker by Texas Tech University history professor emeritus, Paul H. Carlson and Tom Crum debunk most of the material in the apparently politically inspired 1886 book of James T. Deshields. They also document the primary sources who verify that Peta Nacona was not at the scene of the massacre and died around 1865, not December 1860.
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