Return: The Parker Story


The Parkers had come to Texas in the 1830s, where they were quickly drawn into the turbulent affairs of the time. Though their initial effort was simply to acquire land and to establish homes and farms, they soon found that success and even their survival depended upon their active participation in the burgeoning Texas government.

Despite that participation, however, the family’s isolated outpost, Fort Parker, was attacked by a band of Indians on May 19, 1836. Five of the fort’s inhabitants were killed, and five of the Parker family were taken by the Indians. Return traces the events which led to the attack and the ensuing attempts by the family to recover the captured relatives.

It would be a quarter-century before the last of the five captives was returned. Years after that last return, the story took a new twist when a Comanche warrior, claiming to be the son of one of the captives, asked for help in finding his mother. Return follows the warrior’s efforts at locating his mother and the aftemath of his search.

Today, the Parker drama remains one of the most recognizable stories in the Southwest. School children throughout the area hear it as part of their early education. In fact, several schools in Texas and Oklahoma are named for two of the characters, Cynthia Ann Parker and her son, Quanah Parker. A Texas county (Parker) and two Texas towns (Quanah and Nocona) also bear Parker-related names.

The story has been repeated thousands of times in newspapers, magazines, movies, even an opera. One of the best know derivatives of the Parker story is the book, The Searchers, by Alan LeMay, and the John Wayne film of the same title. The movie is based on the efforts of James Parker to recover his family taken at Fort Parker.

As in most such tales, the Parker story has accumulated a load of questionable baggage over the years. Selden removes the inaccuracies that have grown up during the 175 years since the family came into Texas. Return is an authoritative and definitive book about the lives of the Parker family who met their destiny in frontier Texas.


  • Preface
  • Encounter
  • I. D. Parker and the Parker Tribe
  • The Colony
  • The Politics of Land
  • Seeds of Texas Government
  • The Drift Towards Independence
  • The Rangers and the Indians
  • Convergence
  • May 19, 1836
  • The Search Begins
  • Death in Houston
  • James Continues his Search
  • Uncle Isaac
  • Annexation
  • The United States and the Indians
  • Texas Frontier Defense
  • Sam Houston Returns
  • The Fight on the Pease River
  • Stranger in a Strange Land
  • At Home in East Texas
  • Contact
  • The Expanding Story
  • Monument
  • Chief Quanah is Dead
  • Fusion and Reunion
  • The Third Monument
  • Epilogue
  • Appendix A Texas Presidents and Governors
  • Appendix B Ross Report
  • Appendix C Spangler
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Maps and Illustrations

  • Fort Sill Location Today
  • Ranald S. Mackenzie
  • John Parker Genealogy
  • Stephen F. Austin
  • Pilgrim Church
  • Parker Colony on the Navasota River
  • Mexican Land Grants
  • David G. Burnet
  • President Sam Houston
  • Mirabeau Lamar
  • Title Page of Rachel Plummer Narrative
  • Nathaniel Parker
  • Isaac Parker
  • Anson Jones
  • Texas Indian Reserves
  • John R. Baylor
  • Lawrence Sullivan (Sul) Ross
  • Nathan G. Evans
  • Pease River Battle Site
  • Horace P. Jones
  • Cynthia Ann Parker
  • Susan Parker St. John
  • East Texas Area Where Cynthia Ann Parker Lived
  • Quanah Parker
  • Quanah Parker ca. 1883
  • I. D. Parker
  • Baldwin Parker and Family
  • Mr. and Mrs. White Parker
  • Weldon and Elsie Hamill
  • Joint Parker Reunion, 1953
  • Joint Parker Reunion, 1953
  • Joint Parker Reunion, 1953