Fort Parker massacre

Published on February 17, 2013 by Carol

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Fort Parker

Following is a brief account of a tragic bit of history that should not be forgotten. We hope to see a more detailed history published later, God willing.

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Daniel Parker was born in Culpepper County, Virginia, April, 1781. He professed a hope in Christ and received into the fellowship of Nail Creek Church, Franklin County, Georgia, and was soon set apart to the ministry. He moved to Illinois and became a “charter” member of believers called Pilgrim Church. It was this body, with members of the Parker family, who were to suffer in an Indian Massacre.

While Texas was still the Republic of Mexico, Daniel Parker went there to establish a Baptist Church; this was not permitted by the (Catholic) Mexican Government. He did obtain permission from Stephen Austin to bring his church (Pilgrim) from Illinois. Daniel Parker led this church, with a colony of twenty-five wagons through Louisiana into Texas. After several meetings in the home of Elder Parker the colony built a fort called Fort Parker, consisting of log cabins. The fort stood on a hill overlooking the fertile valley of Navasota River.

The families were peacefully engaged in their farm work, when, on the 18th day of May, 1836, while the men were in their fields, there appeared on the hill some five hundred Comanche and Kiowa Indians. The frightened children flew to their mothers; the men on guard seized their guns, but the tricky Indians raised a white flag as a token of peace and friendship. Ben Parker (son of Daniel Parker) went out to see what the Indians wanted. They professed to be very friendly and asked him to show them a good camping place next to the spring, and for a beef as they were very hungry. Ben fearing to offend them promised what they wanted. Returning to the Fort, he told the trembling women what the Indians said, but added, “I fear they intend to fight, but by kindness I will try to dissuade them from fighting.” His brother Silas and all the women begged him not to go out to them again, but he went, and immediately the bloody monsters surrounded and murdered him. Then with horrid yells and death dealing clubs, axes and tomahawks, they rushed upon the fort, and battered down the doors. Then began one of the bloodiest tragedies known even in Texas Indian warfare.

Silas Parker was murdered trying to rescue his sister, Mrs. Palmer. She made a desperate effort but was knocked down with a hoe and captured. Sam Frost and his son were killed while heroically defending the women and children inside the fort. Old Grandmother Parker was stabbed and left dead. Elder John Parker (aged 79), his wife and Mrs. Kellogg were making their escape but were overtaken and brutally murdered, scalped and horribly mutilated.

Thus, in one short hour the happy colony was deluged in blood and filled with desolation and mourning. Elder John Parker, Silas Parker, Samuel M. Frost and his son were killed; Mrs. John Parker, Grandma Parker and Mrs. Duty, were dangerously wounded; Mrs. Rachel Plummer, daughter of James Parker, her two year old son, James, Mrs. Elizabeth Kellogg, and Cynthia Ann Parker, age eight, were all taken into captivity as prizes to be redeemed later, by loving and sorrowing friends. After murdering Silas Parker, some Indians overtook his wife, fleeing with her four children, compelled the terror-stricken mother to lift her daughter Cynthia Ann and her son John, upon horseback behind two mounted Indians. The Indians on foot drove the mother and her two children back into the fort, but they were rescued by the men who rushed from the fields as soon as they had heard the screams of the women and children. The remaining terror stricken men, women and children, seeing their homes in possession of the bloody Indian murderers, escaped to the dense timber of the Navasota bottoms.

When night came Abraham Anglin and Faulkinberry, started back to see if they could give any succor to the wounded and determine the extend of the ruins of their colony. The only living being they could see was old Grandma Parker, whom the Indians had speared and stripped and left for dead on the ground. She had crawled to a deserted cabin and concealed herself. They carried her to a place of concealment until they could return from the Fort. On reaching the Fort no living human sound could be heard. The dogs were barking furiously; the cattle were lowing, the horses neighing acid the hogs squeeling, making a hideous sound.

The next morning, Bater, Anglin and Falkenberry went back to the Fort to get some provisions and look after the dead. On reaching the Fort they found five or six horses, and some venison, bacon and honey, but fearing another attack from the Indians still lurking in the thickets they left without burying the dead. They concealed themselves in the thick timbers in the Navasota bottom until they could set out for Fort Houston ninety miles away, near the present town of Palestine. We give the description of the mournful description of the journey in the language of James W. Parker, who says, “We were truly a forlorn set,, many of us barefoot and bareheaded, with a relentless foe on one hand, and on the other a trackless and uninhabited wilderness infested with reptiles and wild beasts, entirely destitute of food and no means of procuring it. Added to this the agonizing grief of the death and capture of our dear relatives and expectation of meeting at any moment a like fate. Utter despair almost seized us. I took one of my children on my shoulders and led the other, the other men followed my example. Our mournful party consisting of eighteen persons, left for Fort Houston.

“Our journey lay through thick tangled briars and underbrush. My wife was in bad health, Mrs. Frost was in deep distress for the loss of her husband and son, all were bitterly mourning for the loss of loved ones, and being barefoot, except my wife and Mrs. Frost, our progress was very slow. Many of the children had nothing on but their shirts, suffering from the briars tearing their little legs and feet were beyond human endurance. We traveled until about 3 o’clock in the morning, when the women and children became worn out with hunger and fatigue. We lay down on the grass and slept ‘til daylight. When we resumed our perilous journey the briars tore the legs until we could be tracked by the blood that flowed from the wounds.

“At dark of the second day after leaving the Fort the children and especially the women who were nursing infants began to suffer intensely from hunger, but had not a morsel of food. But providentially a polecat came near us. I immediately pursued him and caught him just as he jumped into the river. The only way I could kill it was by holding it under the water until it drowned. We soon had it cooked and equally divided between the women and children, each share being small indeed. …On the fifth day I found that the women and children were so exhausted it would be impossible for them to travel farther.

After holding a consultation it was agreed that I should hurry on to Fort Houston for aid. Leaving Mr. DeWight in charge, early next morning I started for Fort Houston, which I reached in the afternoon. I have often looked back and wondered how I was able to accomplish this extraordinary feat. I had not eaten a mouthful for six days, having always given my share of the polecats and terrapins to the women and children; yet I walked thirty-five miles in about eight hours. The thought of the suffering women and children I had left behind inspired me with strength and perseverance and above all, God in His bountiful providence upheld me in that trying hour.

“The first person I met on reaching Fort Houston was the generous and brave Captain Carter. He soon had five horses saddled and other means of conveyance; he had Jeremiah Courtney go with us to meet our little band of starving, bleeding women and children. We met than just at dark, and placing them on the horses, we reached Captain Carter’s home about midnight…

“After so many years I look back over that scene of suffering and inexpressible horror, yet with devout thanksgiving and praises to God for His merciful support and protection…The Indians who had taken Mrs. Kellogg sold her to the Kaskaschias and Delawares, who after six months sold her to General Sam Houston for $150.00, and he conveyed her immediately to her sorrowing relatives. Mrs. Plummer remained a captive about eighteen months, and we find the following extract from her diary:

“In July and a portion of August we were in some very high mountains on which the snow remained for the greater part of the year, and I suffered more than ever in my life. It was very seldom I had any covering over my feet and but little clothing for my body. I had a certain number of Buffalo skins to dress and the horses to mind at night. My feet would often be frostbitten. In October I gave birth to my second baby; but it was impossible for me to secure suitable nourishment for myself and infant. I had been with them six months and would often beseech my mistress to advise me what to do to save my child, but she turned a deaf ear to my supplications. My child was six months old when my master, thinking it interfered with my work determined to put it out of the way. One cold morning five or six Indians came to where I was suckling my baby. As soon as they came I felt sick at heart; my fears more aroused for the safety of my child. My whole frame convulsed with sudden dread. My fears were not ill-founded. One of the Indians .caught hold of my child by the throat and strangled it until by all appearance it was dead. I exerted my feeble strength to save my child, but the other Indians held me fast. The Indian who had strangled my child then threw it up into the air repeatedly and let it fall to the frozen ground until life seemed to be extinct. I had been weeping incessantly while they were murdering my child; but now my grief was so great the fountain of tears dried up as I gazed on the blue cheek of my darling. I discovered some symptoms of returning life. I hoped that if it could be resuscitated they would allow me to keep it. I washed the blood from its face and after a time it began to breathe; but a more heartrending scene ensued. As soon as the Indians ascertained that the child was alive they tied a rope around its neck and threw it into a bunch of prickly pears and then pulled it back and forth until its tender flesh was literally torn from its body. One of the Indians who was mounted on a horse then tied the end of the rope to his saddle and galloped around in a circle until my little innocent child was not only dead but torn to pieces. One of them untied the rope and threw the remains of my child into my lap. I took a butcher knife and dug a hole in the earth and buried my child after performing the last rites for my dear baby. I sat down and gazed with a feeling of relief on the little gravel had made for it in the wilderness; and I could say with David, ‘you cannot come to me, but I can go to you.’ Then, and even now, as I recall the dreadful scene, I rejoice that my baby passed from the sorrowing and suffering of this world. I shall hear its dying cries no more; and relying on the righteousness of Christ, I feel that my child is with kinder spirits in the world of joy.

“After the death of my child I was given to be the servant to a very cruel squaw, who treated me in a most brutal manner. My other son had been carried off by another party to the far West. I supposed my father and husband were killed at the massacre of Fort Parker. Death seemed to me but a sweet relief. Life was a burden and driven to desperation I resolved no longer to endure the cruel treatment of the intolerable old squaw. One day she and I were some distance from, but in sight of the camp, she attempted to beat me with a club. I wrenched the club from her hand and knocked her down. The Indians who had witnessed the proceeding from the camp came running up and shouting at the top of their voices. I expected to be killed immediately, but they patted me on my shoulder crying ‘Bueno, Bueno good, well done.’ I now faired much better and soon became a great favorite and known as the Fighting Squaw.”

Mrs. Plummer was afterward ransomed through the assistance of some Mexican Santa Fe traders by a noble hearted American, Mr. Donahue. She was then made a member of the benefactor’s family and later brought back to her people in Texas. Her son James was ransomed six years after her death in 1839. Cynthia Ann Parker and her brother were held by separate bands. After a long search, sums of money were offered for the lost children. In 1840 Colonel Len Williams and Mr. Stout, and Indian guide, when they fell in with Pohonka’s band of Comanches, and Cynthia Ann was with this tribe; Colonel Williams proposed to redeem her, but the Comanches replied that all the gold of the white man could not ransom her. Her brother John Parker married an Indian maiden and settled on a cattle ranch in the West.

The Pilgrim Church was the first Primitive Baptist Church to settle in what later became the Lone Star State of Texas. This must be recounted in the life of Daniel Parker.

Source: Legendsofamerica

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