About Peta Nocona
Peta Nocona (b. ? - d. 1864?) was a Native American chief who led the Noconi Comanches in Texas from the 1830s to 1860. He was the son of the infamous Comanche chief Iron Jacket and father of chief Quanah Parker. His band Noconis, or Wanderers, were named after him. Some sources indicate that his name means He who travels alone and returns. Nocona, Texas is named after the Noconi leader.
Rumored to be a physically gigantic man, he was a feared figure on the Texas border for three decades until a company of Texas Rangers and Militia led by Sul Ross ambushed and massacred his band at the Battle of Pease River on December 18, 1860.
Despite Ross's claim that Nocona was killed at Pease River, his son insisted he was not present, and died several years later. This claim is supported by Texas historian John Henry Brown. Brown had already disputed the identity of the chief killed at Mule Creek, before Quanah came onto the reservation, stating he was told the name of the man killed at Pease River was Mo-he-ew, not Peta Nocona. Quanah then wrote an affidavit disputing his father's death: "….while I was too young to remember the chief it is likely that Brown was correct…."
Fort Parker Massacre
Cynthia Ann Parker was born to Silas M. Parker and Lucy Duty Parker in Crawford County, Illinois. There is considerable dispute about her age, as according to the 1870 census of Anderson County, Texas, she would have been born between June 2, 1824, and May 31, 1825. When she was nine years old, her family moved to Central Texas and built Fort Parker, a log fort, on the headwaters of the Navasota River in what is now Limestone County. Her Grandfather, Elder John Parker, the Patriarch of the family, had negotiated treaties with the local Indians, and historians conjecture that he believed those treaties would bind all Native Americans, and that his family was safe from attack. If so, this was a tragic error. On May 19, 1836, a huge force of Comanche warriors approximately 500 strong, accompanied by Kiowa and Kichai allies, attacked the fort and killed a number of its inhabitants. During the attack, the Comanches seized five captives, including Cynthia Ann. The other four were released after the typical ransom was paid, but Cynthia remained with the Indians for nearly twenty-five years. She completely forgot whatever she had known as a white child, and became a Comanche.
Cynthia Ann Parker and Peta Nocona
Peta Nocona was one of the war chiefs present at the Fort Parker massacre, and had formed his own band of the Comanche called the Noconi or Nokoni, afterwards. He had become the husband of Cynthia Ann Parker, the Comanche by adoption, but Anglo-Texas woman by birth, who had been kidnapped as a child in the Comanche raid on Fort Parker in May 1836. A great tribute to his affection to her was that he never took another wife, though it was common among the Comanche for such a successful war chief to do so.  The couple had three children, famed Comanche chief Quanah Parker, another son named Pecos ("Pecan"), and a daughter named Topsannah ("Prairie Flower"). Peta Nocona's wife and children were captured and his band scattered on December 18, 1860 in a battle with Captain Lawrence Sullivan Ross and his Texas Rangers and Militia at the Battle of Pease River.
Death of Peta Nocona
Battle of Pease River
While Peta Nocona's death is a matter of dispute, the destruction of his band, the Noconis is not. In early 1860 Peta Nacona led the Comanches in a raid through Parker County, Texas, which ironically was named in honor of his wife's family. After the raid he returned with his band to what he believed was a safe retreat under the sandstone bluffs of Pease River near where Mule Creek flowed into the stream. The site was long a favorite of the Comanche, providing both cover from the fierce blue northers that hit the plains, and ample forage for their ponies, with buffalo hunting easy from the nearby herds. But the raids of the Comanche had brought pressure in Austin to protect the settlers, and Texas Governor Sam Houston had commissioned Ranger Captain Lawrence Sullivan Ross to organize a company of 40 Rangers and 20 militia to put a stop to the Indian raids. The company of 60 was based at Fort Belknap, in Parker County.
Ross quickly ascertained that he simply did not have sufficient men to guard the frontier, and instead determined that the best way to protect the settlers was to take the offensive to the Indians. To this end, he began to scout the area for sign of Indian camps, determined to take the fight to them at the earliest opportunity. After Peta Nocona's raid into Parker County Ross and his fighters started tracking the Nokonis, who were considered the hardiest fighters among the Comanche, who were in turn considered the fiercest of the Plains Indians. Ironically, modern research has revealed that Peta Nocona did not intend to stay at Pease River, and was preparing to move on when the attack came on his camp that December day. It was daybreak on December 18, 1860, when Ranger Captain Ross himself scouted out the camp on the Pease River as his scouts reported the presence of a fairly large hunting party and camp on the banks of the Pease. With an oncoming blue norther blotting out sign, Ross was able to move up to literally spy out the location of the Noconas on the Mule Creek head bank as it came into the Pease River.
Ross sent a detachment of 20 men out of his force of 60 to position themselves behind a chain of sand hills to cut off retreat to the northwest, while with 40 men, Ross himself led the charge down into the Indian camp. The result was that the band was taken completely by surprise, and were massacred, either shot down where they stood, or were killed by the 20 men to the north as they attempted to flee. Though excuses were made for doing so, men, women, and children were shot indiscriminately. Indeed, Sul Ross himself wrote, quoted in Indian Depredations, by J.W. Wilbarger, that they fired at everyone present, saying "The attack was so sudden that a considerable number were killed before they could prepare for defense. They fled precipitately right into the presence of the sergeant and his men. Here they met with a warm reception, and finding themselves completely encompassed, every one fled his own way, and was hotly pursued and hard pressed."
There are two distinct and very different stories about Peta Nocona’s death. The first is that he died trying to escape with his wife and infant daughter, which is the generally believed story, and the one reported by Sul Ross officially. According to this story, seeing that the camp was hopelessly overrun, Chief Peta Nocona and Cynthia Ann Parker fled to the east up a creek bed. Reportedly, mounted behind Nocona was a 15-year old Mexican girl, while Cynthia Ann Parker carried her two year old child, Topasannah (“Prairie Flower”). Captain Ross and his lieutenant, Tom Killiheir, pursued the man they believed to be the legendary Peta Nocona. But Quanah Parker, the chief's oldest son, once reportedly said in Dallas to Sul Ross, "No kill my father; he not there. I want to get it straight here in Texas history. After that, two year, three year maybe, my father sick. I see him die." Certainly Quanah Parker said on numerous occasions to both friend and foe that his father had survived the massacre of his Band, and died 3–4 years later of complications from old war wounds suffered against the Apaches. In this story, strongly supported by the Comanche people, Peta Nocona was out hunting with his oldest son and a few others when the attack occurred.
Strongly supporting Quanah Parker's story that his father did not die at Pease River is the fact that Quanah was introduced into the Comanche Destanyuka band, where Chief Wild Horse took him under his wing, only after his father's death, several years after Pease River. Until Nocona died, he took care of his son. Indeed, it was not until Cynthia Ann Parker was kidnapped back into white society that Quanah knew his mother was white, and that he was of mixed blood. His father had not told him of his white ancestry until his mother was taken from them. According to Quanah Parker and his warriors Peta Nocona was a broken and bitter man after Pease River. He was never the same after his wife was taken from him, and died somewhere around 1863-4 of complications of old war wounds fighting the Apaches, and from sorrow at the loss of his wife and infant daughter.
It must be also noted that a rare book from that period supports Quanah's claim that his father did not die at Pease River. In a book decades out of print, written in 1890, Carbine & Lance, The Story of Old Fort Sill, by Colonel W.S. Nye, the Colonel buttresses Quanah's version of the story. Ney says: "Accounts vary as to what happened. Captain Ross, who was acclaimed a hero for the deed, claimed and probably honestly believed that he had caught and killed Peta Nacona. But in the melee he pursued and shot Nawkohnee's Mexican slave, who was trying to save the fleeing Comanche women." Nye claimed that he encountered men who saw Nocona alive several years after Pease River, when he was ill with an infected war wound. This version strongly supports Quanah's claim that his father survived Pease River, and died 3–4 years later, technically of an infected wound, but more, Quanah said, from a broken heart at losing his family. Nye said what Quanah maintained, that Nocona and Parker had been an exceptionally happy couple, and the forced separation killed them both, Parker starved herself to death, and Nocona withered away.