When you visit Old Fort Parker you’ll be stepping back in time and getting a glimpse of what frontier life was like in the 1830’s. And you’ll be learning a little more about the fascinating history of early Texas.
The Old Fort Park Historical Site is a place of reflection, and a place to enjoy many of its year around events. Visit us soon!
Old Fort Parker*
The Fort Parker massacre of May 1836 was an event in which members of the pioneer Parker family were killed in a raid by Native Americans. In this raid, a 9-year-old girl, Cynthia Ann Parker, was captured and spent most of the rest of her life with the Comanche, marrying a Chief, Peta Nocona, and giving birth to a son, Quanah Parker, who would become the last Chief of the Comanches. Her brother, John Richard Parker, who was also captured, was ransomed back after six years, but unable to adapt to white society, returned to the Comanches.
Fort Parker was established about two miles north of present-day Groesbeck, Limestone County, Texas, USA by Elder John Parker (1758–1836), his sons, Benjamin, Silas and James, with other members of the Pilgrim Predestinarian Baptist Church of Crawford County, Illinois. Led by John and Daniel Parker, they came to Texas in 1833. Daniel’s party first settled in Grimes County, then later moved to Anderson County near present-day Elkhart and established Pilgrim Church. Elder John Parker’s group settled near the headwaters of the Navasota River, and built a fort for protection against Native Americans. It was completed in March 1834. Fort Parker’s 12-foot-high log walls enclosed four acres. Blockhouses were placed on two corners for lookouts, and six cabins were attached to the inside walls. The fort had two entrances, a large double gate facing south, and a small gate for easy access to the spring. Most of the residents of the fort were part of the extended family of John and Sarah Parker.
Soon the settlers were making their homes and farming the land. Several had built cabins on their farms, and used the fort for protection. Peace treaties were made with surrounding Native American chiefs.nThe Fort Parker inhabitants had also allowed a Texas Ranger company to use the Fort, perhaps not understanding that many Native Americans regarded the Rangers with hatred for their Indian fighting. The Comanche, more properly known as the Nʉmʉnʉʉ, were on a raiding party.
On May 19, 1836, a large party of Native Americans, including Comanches, Kiowas, Caddos, and Wichitas, attacked the inhabitants of Fort Parker. In her memoir, Rachel Plummer wrote that “one minute the fields (in front of the fort) were clear, and the next moment, more Indians than I dreamed possible were in front of the fort.”
One of the Indians approached the fort with a white flag. No one believed the flag was genuine. Silas Parker wanted the five men present to man the walls and fight as best they could. Benjamin Parker felt that by going out he could buy time for the majority of the women and children to flee out the back (small) gate. He felt that there was simply no way that five men would be able to hold the Indians out more than a second or two, as they could use ropes to scale the walls. He felt that the war party would then kill everyone in the fort, and the unsuspecting men in the fields. He argued with Silas that they had to barter their lives for time for everyone else. Their father agreed with Benjamin.
Benjamin knew he was going to be killed. According to Rachel Plummer’s account, Benjamin returned to the fort, after his first talk with the war party, and told his brother and father that he believed they would all be killed, and that they should run swiftly to the woods. Silas again argued with him, telling him they should push the big gate shut, and man the walls. Ben pointed out, rightly, Rachel said, that there was no time, and their “course was decided.” He told her, “run little Rachel, for your life and your unborn child, run now and fast!” She said he then straightened up and went back outside. She recounted how Silas told her to watch the front gate, after Benjamin had gone out to talk to the Indians the second time, when she herself wanted to flee, while he ran for his musket and powder pouch.”They will kill Benjamin,” she reported her Uncle Silas saying, “and then me, but I will do for at least one of them, by God.” At that moment, she said she heard whooping outside the fort, and then Indians were inside.
The 3–5 minutes bought enough time that the majority of the women and children did get away. Rachel Plummer, who was pregnant, was afraid she would not be able to keep up while carrying her two-year-old son, and so she stayed in the fort. She began running after seeing the Indians come into the fort, holding her little boy’s hand, while behind her she said she saw Indians stabbing Benjamin with their lances, and then she heard “Uncle Silas shout defiance as though he had a thousand men with him. Alas, he was alone, and soon dead.” Lucy Parker, who also had a small child, stopped to argue with her husband Silas, begging him to come with her. Elizabeth Duty Kellogg stopped to gather up their savings, $100 in coins, before she attempted to escape.
Benjamin Parker was killed, and before the fort’s gates could be closed, the raiders rushed inside. Silas Parker, who was outside with his brother, was killed before he was able to get back inside the gate. Samuel Frost and his son Robert were killed inside the gate, as they attempted to flee. John Parker was castrated and then scalped. His wife came out of the woods when she saw his torture and was captured. Lucy Parker and her youngest two children were initially captured but were rescued by David Faulkenberry as he ran up to the fort from the fields. Her two oldest children, however, along with Rachel and her son, and Elizabeth Kellogg were successfully kidnapped.
In all, five men were killed, some were left for dead, two women and three children were captured, and the rest escaped into the wilderness.