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Spring 2015 Exhibition

Quanah and Cynthia Ann Parker: The History and the Legend

The story of Cynthia Ann and Quanah Parker is well-known in Texas history, but their story really began in East Central Illinois. Cynthia Ann’s grandfather, Elder John Parker; her uncles, Benjamin and Daniel Parker; and other members of the family were among the first white settlers of Crawford and Coles counties. Cynthia Ann was born near present-day Charleston, IL, c. 1827.

From February 7 to April 9, 2015, Booth Library on the campus of Eastern Illinois University hosted an exhibit, as well as several programs and presentations, about Quanah Parker; his mother, Cynthia Ann Parker; and other members of the Parker Family who were influential in settling the land that is now Coles County, IL.

“Quanah & Cynthia Ann Parker: The History and the Legend” looked not only at the history of the family and the lives of Quanah and Cynthia Ann, but it examined the impact their story still has today. In addition to the programs listed below, the series included film screenings of the 1920 silent film “Daughter of Dawn,” starring two of Quanah Parker’s children, White and Wanada Parker; and “The Searchers,” the John Wayne film inspired by James Parker’s search for his niece, Cynthia Ann. In addition, captivity narratives written by Rachael Parker Plummer and others were examined in a panel discussion titled “American Captivity Narratives: A Literary Genre of Enduring Interest.”

Co-sponsors of the Booth Library exhibit and program series were Eastern Illinois University, the Tarble Arts Center, the Illinois Humanities Council and the Texas Lakes Trail. Unless otherwise noted, all of the programs below were presented on Feb. 20-21 on the campus of Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL.


On the Trail with the Parkers

Audrey Kalivoda, documentary filmmaker with Mesquite 90 Productions based in Nashville, TN, examines the westward trek of Elder John Parker, who, like many early settlers, constantly was inspired to pull up roots and journey into new, unsettled lands. They traveled across 2,500 miles and through 12 states, settling in Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee and Illinois before ending their journey in Fort Parker, TX. Kalivoda’s presentation and discussion included a viewing of her 2013 documentary, “Following the Parker Trail” (not included in the recording below).

Preserving Parker Cemetery

Two groups of Parkers were among the first settlers of Coles and Clark counties in East Central Illinois. Local historians refer to them as the “Preachin’ Parkers,” with patriarch Elder John Parker, his 13 children and multiple grandchildren, including Cynthia Ann Parker; and the “Prairie Parkers,” headed by James Parker. Early historical writings claimed no blood relationship between these two groups; however, recent DNA testing has proven a familial relationship. In this program, two descendants of the “Prairie Parkers,” James David Parker of Memphis, MO, and David Parker of Pendleton, IN, explore the relationship between the two Parker families and describe recent cleanup efforts of the nearby Parker Cemetery, located in rural Coles County.

Parker Pioneer Burial Ground Historic Preservation and Mapping Initiative

Steven Di Naso, geospatial scientist and instructor in the Department of Geology and Geography at Eastern Illinois University, details new technology being used in the restoration of the Parker Cemetery. Di Naso and his students have used state-of-the-art technology and field data techniques to collect, analyze and map this historic burial ground. Once this research has been completed, an accessible, online database will be created to aid in historical and genealogical research, as well as provide a permanent record of the cemetery.

Quanah Parker and the Battle of Adobe Walls

Richard Hummel, professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern Illinois University, presents this overview of the Comanche tribe’s reliance on the buffalo for survival and the effect of the dwindling herds on Quanah Parker and his people. Traditional Native American hunting grounds were being wiped out by buffalo hunters who made a living by harvesting the animals’ hides. This conflict came to a head on June 27, 1874, when Quanah and his tribe battled with buffalo hunters in the Second Battle of Adobe Walls. The outgunned Comanches were eventually forced to give up the fight, and this battle had a profound impact on Quanah as he made future decisions to ensure the survival of his people.

Turning Hell into a Home: Depictions of Native Americans on Film

Robin Murray, professor of English at Eastern Illinois University, takes a look at how American Indians are portrayed in film, from early silent films to later Westerns that often depict them as savages. These include films with characters or storylines inspired by the Parker story, such as “Comanche” (1956) and “The Searchers” (1956). More authentic portrayals can be found through the eyes of American Indian filmmakers, as evident in the film “Smoke Signals” (1998).

Quanah and Cynthia Ann Parker: The History and the Legend

Beth Heldebrandt, public relations director at Booth Library, gives an overview of the story of Quanah and Cynthia Ann Parker, as well as the family of Elder John Parker, which was influential in settling the land and organizing the government of Charleston and Coles County, IL. This program was originally presented at the Crawford County Historical Society Museum in Robinson, IL, on Feb. 12, 2015, and was repeated on Feb. 25 on the EIU campus to an audience of education students. As part of the Booth Library series, these students are assigned to lead more than 200 Charleston fifth-graders through the Parker exhibit and provide them with a related social studies activity.