Myth, Memory and Massacre The Pearl River Capture of Cynthia Ann Parker

Students of Texas history are familiar with the story of Cynthia Ann Parker, the nine-year-old white girl taken captive by Comanches, May 19, 1836.  For the next 24 years, Cynthia Ann lived with her Comanche captors, bore at least four children and somehow survived the rigors of life among the Indians until her rescue in 1860 by a troop of Texas Rangers in a fight known as “The Battle of Pease River.”

By now Cynthia Ann had been assimilated into the tribe, had forgotten most if not all of the English language, resisted parting with her Comanche children, and had become a hardened, sun-burned woman with huge work-worn hands, chopped hair and haunted eyes.

Ripped from her family at age 9, having witnessed the brutal murders of her parents and friends, faced with abuse and humiliation in a Comanche camp, Cynthia Ann Parker became the most famous of the white captives in Texas. There were many hundreds of other white girls and women taken captive by marauding Comanches, too.  Most were raped, tortured and killed.  Others traded back to their families were covered with scars and facial mutilation.  But what made Cynthia Ann different is that one of her children grew up to become Quanah Parker, famous in his own right as a chief and important negotiator between Indians and Whites.

After her rescue, Cynthia Ann never did adjust completely to return to White society. She died of a broken heart in 1870 and is buried at Fort Sill, Oklahoma between two of her Comanche children.

If you are interested in the complete history of the life and times of Cynthia Ann Parker, you must look elsewhere because there are many books available on the subject.  This book, Myth, Memory and Massacre delves mainly into events regarding the accidental rescue of Cynthia Ann by the Rangers at Pease River.  When the Rangers attacked a Comanche hunting party, they had no idea Cynthia Ann Parker was living with this clan.  The Rangers nearly killed her as she ran away clutching her baby, but one of the men realized she had blue eyes and correctly guessed she was a White captive.  It took a while to figure out who she was.

From here the authors begin their discussion of who, why, where and how.  They carefully dissect events beginning with the initial raid upon the camp, pointing out this was a hunting camp filled with women and children who had been butchering and preparing buffalo meat for winter.  Most of the Indians killed were women and children.  The surprise rescue of the white woman is what caused such a sensation throughout Texas since nobody thought Cynthia Ann could still be alive.  The publicity gave some individuals riding with the Rangers the opportunity for self importance and political gain.  Their actions, motives and self-promotion are exposed with regard to their showing the battle of Pease River had been a great victory with many more Indians killed, and at least one war chief taken out of action, which was probably not true.

The authors have done a great deal of careful research and tedious fact- finding.  Their conclusions are meant to clear up, in their opinion, many falsehoods regarding the rescue of Cynthia Ann that after many years of telling and re-telling has become folklore.  The authors aim to show how the rescue of Cynthia Ann Parker was eventually used for political advantage, and finally how the analyzation of these events historically have been misleading.  For those interested in “the rest of the story” concerning Cynthia Ann Parker, this book might help close the final chapter. You can tell for yourself and grab this amazing book HERE.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including Hell Horse Winter of the Apache Kid, Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988 vvww.silklapelbooks.

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

William Becknell Creates the Santa Fe Trail

In the early 1800’s the Southwest was part of Mexico, and Mexico was under the domination of Spain. Because the Spanish were afraid of the expansion of the Anglos, they closed the area to anyone from the states. Any American trader they found in the area ended up in jail.
 
In 1821 William Becknell and four other men were doing some trading with the Comanche Indians on the American controlled side of the Rockies when they encountered some Mexican troops. The troopers told Becknell that Mexico had won their independence, and the area was once again open to Americans. Immediately Becknell headed for Santa Fe, where he was able to sell everything he had at an enormous profit.
 
Five months later he was back in Missouri looking for men “to go westward for the purpose of trading for horses and mules and catching wild animals of every description.” With less than half the volunteers he was looking for, on November 16, 1821 Becknell and three wagonloads of merchandise arrived in Santa Fe.
 
Becknell’s delivery of goods to Santa Fe was a feat to be admired, but the delivery was not what made him famous. It was the route he took to get there.
For decades Mexican traders had used a route that went over a dangerous high mountain pass. What Becknell did was to create a shortcut that led across the Cimarron Desert. The route created by Becknell became known as the “Santa Fe Trail”. It became one of the most important Old West trading routes used by merchants and travelers until the 1870’s with the arrival of the train.
 

Old West Book Review: Texas Ranger N.O. Reynolds

Texas Ranger N.O. ReynoldsParsons and Brice have chosen Texas Ranger (Nelson Orcelus) N.O. Reynolds not because he is well-known, but because he is deserving of recognition.  Reynolds was one of those brave, dedicated individuals who believed in justice, law and order.  He was willing to ride hard, shoot straight and suffer all of the hardships and dangers in a land filled with deadly intrigues.

Author Parsons has written numerous Western history books.  He was for seventeen years “The answer Man” for True West magazine, as well as editor for the Quarterly and Newsletter of the National Association for Outlaw and lawman History. (NOLA).

For writing this book, Parsons has partnered with native born Texan Donaly E. Brice, Senior Research Assistant of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.  Brice has authored a number of books depicting Texas history.

Carefully researched, well-written, the biography of N.O. Reynolds is fast-paced reading about a man who served with the Texas Rangers, Company E, Frontier Battalion in various ranks for nearly five years.  During that time only one man, Tim McCarty was killed in Reynold’s command.  “Citizens of Texas wanted lawmen with courage and efficiency,” and they certainly got that with N.O. Reynolds.  He seemed always in the middle of things when it came to a variety of feuds and gunslinger escapades.  The Horrell-Higgins feud, Comanche raids, the Hoo Doo War, the transporting of Texas man-killer John Wesley Hardin, night rides, unruly lynch mobs, shootouts, ambushes, tracking thieves and killers, and capturing the Sam Bass gang were all part of Reynolds’ Job which he handled with steadfast efficiency.

In 1879, after nearly five years of service in Company E, Reynolds resigned from the Ranger Service citing health issues.  He had been a Texas Ranger since 1874.  At this time he went into the liquor business and bought property and ran a bar for a while but in 1880 he accepted a job as commander of Company D with the Texas Rangers.  However, he stalled taking the job citing trouble selling his business, and the job was filled by somebody else.

in 1882 Reynolds, at age 35, married the 20-year old Irene T. Nevill, the younger sister of one of his sergeants.  The couple married at the bride’s home in Austin.  They would have two daughters, Emma Elizabeth and Lula Jenkins.  Lula Jenkins Reynolds Blunt died of appendicitis when still a young woman; her early death was a great tragedy for the family

In 1883 Reynolds became City Marshal of Lampasas, Texas.  Here he was still a businessman, his name carne up periodically in newspapers as locals tattled on him for selling liquor on Sundays.

In 1888 to 1890 he was elected sheriff of Lampasas County.  He dealt with murder, mayhem and fence cutters.  Ranchers cut fences in desperation allowing their cattle to roam for grass and water during a hard drought.  Murder followed as desperate cattleman struggled over open rangeland vs private property.

Eventually Reynolds would move to the Gulf Coast of Texas where he worked in the shoe business.  According to newspaper advertising, within ten years he was back again in the liquor business.  Reynolds’ final employment was work as a night foreman at the Yellow Pine Paper Mill in Orange, one hundred miles east of Houston.  He remained here until his retirement in old age.  Reynolds died of pneumonia March 1, 1922.  His wife died in 1947, and the two rest side by side in the Center Point Cemetery where thirty-two Texas Rangers are buried.

In 1987 the Kerr County Historical Commission with the Center Point Sesquicentennial Committee sponsored a marker dedication honoring these men.  In addition, in 1999 a Texas Ranger memorial service sponsored by the Former Texas Ranger Association of San Antonio was held here honoring these brave men who rode, fought, and lived in a different time. Get your copy of this book HERE.

The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West, including the true crime Death For Dinner, The Benders of (Old) Kansas, published by Silk Label Books, P. 0. Box 700, Unionville, New York, 10988-0700 www.silklabelbooks.com.

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

Medicine Man Isatai At War

In 1843 a trading post was built in what is now Hutchinson County, Texas. Over the years the trading post was abandoned, and it fell into disrepair. Thirty years later, about a mile away from the original post, another trading post was established. It comprised of a store, saloon, blacksmith shop and another building. Whites called it Adobe Walls.

 
Chief Quanah Parker considered its existence an act of war. His medicine man, Isatai, also known as “Little Wolf”, convinced Parker that the Great Spirit had told him any Indian who attacked Adobe Walls painted with a special yellow paint would be invincible to bullets.
 
Because of their log construction and sod roofs, the buildings were virtually impregnable. In addition, the buildings contained 29 buffalo hunters, including Bat Masterson, all with 50 caliber “buffalo guns.”
 
On June 27, 1874, 700 Comanche, Cheyenne, Kiowa and Arapaho warriors attacked Adobe Walls head on. With the buffalo guns taking their toll, and his horse shot from beneath him, Quanah Parker realized the yellow paint wasn’t working.
 
Four buffalo hunters were killed. Three were caught outside the buildings, and the fourth died of an accidental self-inflicted wound. It’s not known exactly how many Indians were killed, because most of the dead and wounded were carried away.
 
Medicine man, Isatai, tried his best to come up with excuses for the failure. He discovered a brave had killed a skunk prior to the battle, and said that the skunk’s killing had caused the Great Spirit’s spell to be broken. But the braves would have none of it. Later, when asked what Isatai meant in English, the Indians said it was “Coyote Droppings.”
 

Old West Book Review: Last of the Old-Time Outlaws

617vO6chdkL“He had a reputation as a cardsharp, cattle rustler, bandit, and killer,” and if George Musgrave had had a more romantic-sounding name, Hollywood might have cashed in on this amazing Old West character. In Last of the Old-Time Outlaws, you’ll get the true story.

George West Musgrave was born May 27, 1877 in Atascosa County, Texas.  His family ran a thirty-five hundred acre cattle outfit, and baby George was surrounded by tough people earning a hard living.  The boy grew up surrounded by work, horses and guns.  The Musgrave family consisted of various characters involved in gambling, horse rustling, and cattle theft which resulted in arrests and jailhouse stints.  George even had a grandfather who had a long history of dueling, fights with Comanche, feuds with neighbors and “an inclination toward larceny.”

Excuses can be made for these influences on George, however, he began his career as a cowboy who could ride, rope, shoot and show off.  He was known for “putting on shooting displays with a number of revolvers.”  Soon he became involved in rustling with a devil-may-care attitude.  He seemed always ready with a string of wisecracks.  His popularity among his pals and cohorts became legendary.

His adventures led him back and forth from Texas into Old Mexico, then to New Mexico and sometimes Arizona.  He joined what was known as the High Five or Black Jack gang.  They spent years holding up stores, rustling cows, stealing horses, robbing banks and even trains.  Musgrave was one of the gang members who took part in the first bank robbery in Arizona Territory.  They also held up stagecoaches, and eventually pulled off the largest heist in the history of the Santa Fe railroad.

Musgrave was arrested and tried for the shooting death of a former Texas Ranger.  When he miraculously avoided conviction, he migrated to South America where he took up his same old ways, now getting involved on a large scale with some big ranchers and South American politicians.

George was tail, handsome, soft spoken and popular with the ladies, too.  During a trip back to Wyoming, Musgrave met an adventurous young woman named Jeanette “Jano” Magor.  Twelve years younger than George, Jano was known for her smarts and toughness.  Smitten with one another, the pair eloped. Jano followed Musgrave back to South America where she joined his dubious lifestyle.  One photo shows the beautiful brunette dressed like a gaucho complete with her own shootin’ iron.  She eventually grew weary of her husband’s philandering, and returned to the U.S. for a divorce.

After this, Musgrave had a succession of South American wives who produced children, all eventually either leaving him or hating him for his cavalier treatment of marriage vows.

Whether Musgrave was cheating at cards, robbing a bank, or shooting alligators, he joked about it all.  He died in South America at age 70 of natural causes.

The Tanners have written a compete and thoroughly researched book about a tough, strong-willed man who could not resist danger and deviltry.  The authors have a keen eye for unusual facts combined with a subtle and wonderful sense of humor that results in bringing the character of George Musgrave back to life.  Readers will enjoy this book. Get yours HERE.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including Death For Dinner, the Benders of (Old) Kansas, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988 (845) 726-3434. www. silklabelbooks.com.

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

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