Fort Parker: Indians, Pioneers, and Settlers

They say that the indigenous peoples called it Nabasota, but it really sounds like a Spanish version of Navasota – one wonders whether there was a distinction between indigenous and Mexican in the mind of the Texas settler who might have written this history.  The river starts in Mount Calm, descending to join the Brazos just west of the town of Navasota.

A quick trip up to the old Native American site that is presently known as Lake Mexia.  The Bistone Dam, built in 1961, currently controls the water level of the lake (ref 1) from the Navasota, just southeast of its origin, and south of the highest point between Dallas and Houston – the former Native American village of Tejuacana.  The lake’s history, although surely ancient and dating prior to TawakoniWaco and Caddo settlements, lies buried along its creek beds.

Modern history began in 1832, when right before the time of Texas independence and the Alamo, the Parker family descended from Illinois to settle this lake area in Texas as Baptist colonists.  Apparently skilled negotiators with the local Native American communities, perhaps even signatories of treaties, as in the case of the Meusebach-Comanche treaty (although this treaty claims to be the only private treaty), these first Anglo settlers, the Parkers, would eventually build a fort and in 1836, this fort would be attacked by some Comanches who did not honor the local treaties.  There was a massacre, and the 9 year old daughter, Cynthia Ann Parker, would be kidnapped, and raised by the Comanches.  She would marry their chief, and have a son, Quanah, who would become a very famous Comanche chief.  Cynthia Ann would later be rekidnapped by the Parkers where she would never really reintegrate into non-native ways.  She would die mourning, after stopping to eat.

About 1 year after the Parkers had originally built the fort, in 1833, a land grant was given to a Mexican federalist career military man named Mexia, who was sent to Texas to quell the Anahuac rebellions (about Mexican taxes) while Texas was still a part of Mexico.  He would proceed to befriend Austin and fight Santa Anna when Santa Anna changed his policies from federalist to centralist.  Mexia, although employed by the Mexican army, was educated as a youth in the Unites States, and spoke fluent English.  Eventually, he would be captured by the Mexican government, exiled, and executed in 1839 after trying to organize a US invasion of Mexico.

His son, a Mexican soldier and diplomat, like his father. acquired the land grant by transfer just prior to his father’s unsuccessful attempted revolt.  The town, for which the lake bears its current name, would be incorporated when the railroad passed through much later in 1870.

Just south of the lake is the cemetery and memorial to the Fort Parker massacre.  And, as if the physical memorial could not suffice, all of the local Native American culture and heritage seems to have disappeared as well.

A little Texas history quiz.  It took me 3 tries to work my way up from a 40% to a 100%.

Some Comanche history.

References:

1) “LAKE MEXIA,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/rol56), accessed May 09, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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