Cynthia was a little girl living with her extended family in a settlement fortified against Comanche raids, later called Fort Parker. On May 19th 1836 when she was 10 or thereabouts, the settlement was attacked by Comanche, Kiowa and Kichai Indians, taking the settlers completely unawares. Her grandfather, John Parker, had negotiated treaties with Indians but the Comanche didn’t recognise them. In the massacre which ensued, he received the worst treatment of anyone, being castrated and scalped before he was killed. A few women and children escaped out the back gate of the fort, but other women were raped. The young Cynthia witnessed the whole thing.
Cynthia was one of 6 to be kidnapped and taken away to Comanche territory. The Texans gave chase and one captive, a teenage girl, escaped. The others were gradually released over the years when ransom was paid for them – all but Cynthia. She stayed with the Comanche for 25 years.
By all accounts, once she settled, she was very happy. An Indian couple adopted her and raised her as their own so that she soon forgot her old ways. She married a chieftain called Peta Nocona and they had 3 children – 2 boys and a girl. The eldest, Quanah, became a famous Comanche chief.
In December 1860, Texas Rangers led by Lawrence Ross found a blue-eyed woman among the Comanche at the Battle of Pease River. When questioned, she came up with details of the Fort Parker massacre and they realised who she was. Some of the Rangers thought it best to leave her with the Comanche, but Ross insisted on returning her to her birth family along with the 2-year-old girl she was holding whose name translates as Prairie Flower.
Cynthia captured the imagination of Texas and became a symbol of hope for those whose relatives still hadn’t returned from capture by Indians. The state showered her with gifts: land and money. But she didn’t like being the centre of attention and she was desperately unhappy at being separated from her 2 sons.
Four years later her little girl died of pneumonia and that was the last straw. She was consumed with grief and started refusing food and water. She died officially of influenza but in reality of a broken heart in 1871.
Her story has been explored in books and films, most notably ‘Dances with Wolves’ where Stands With A Fist has a similar background. The adopting Indians are in her case Sioux rather than Comanche.