PILGRIM CEMETERY

A replica of the original Pilgrim Baptist Church at the Pilgrim Cemetery is maintained by the Parker Family Reunion Committee. This is the spot for the local event honoring Quanah Parker Saturday.

A local celebration honoring Quanah Parker will take place at Pilgrim Baptist Church and Cemetery in Elkhart. The event dovetails with Gov. Greg Abbott's naming second Saturday in September Quanah Parker Day.

Roughly 100,000 descendants of Elder John Parker, Quanah Parker’s great-grandfather, live in the United States today, many in Anderson and Houston County.

Saturday, at 10 a.m. the Parker Family Reunion Committee will sponsor an event at the site of the original church started by Elder Daniel Parker, Quanah’s great-uncle.

In 1832, theologian Daniel Parker received permission to settle in Texas. He organized a group of people as part of the Predestination Baptist Church. They left Illinois in July of 1833 in an ox-drawn wagon.

Daniel and most of his followers originally settled in Grimes County but later moved near to present-day Elkhart, where a replica of their Pilgrim Baptist Church stands. Other group members went farther west, near the Navasota River and present-day Groesbeck.

Elder John Parker and three of his sons, Silas, James and Benjamin, cleared land in December of 1833 for the construction of "Parker's Fort."

John Parker negotiated treaties with local Indians, who were subject to the Comanche. Historians believe Parker thought the treaties applied to all Indians and would protect his family from any attack.

Comanche customs, however, regarding treaties made by subject tribes didn't limit the Comanche as a raiding nation.

On May 19, 1836, Comanche Indians attacked Fort Parker. They killed five settlers and captured another five, as 21 surviving settlers fled to what is now Palestine.

Quanah’s mother, Cynthia Ann Parker was kidnapped during that attack and raised among Comanches. She became the wife of Chief Peta Nocona.

Quanah is believed to have been born between 1845 and 1852 in the Indian territory of Oklahoma. At 59 years of age, he died on Feb. 23, 1911, at his home, Star House, on the Comanche reservation.

Before his death, he arranged for his mother and sister to be reburied in a plot next to his own at Post Oak Cemetery near Cache, Oklahoma. In 1957, due to an expansion of a missile base, the three were moved to the Fort Sill Military Cemetery in Oklahoma.

Quanah Parker, the last great chief of the Comanche, is an iconic historical figure. He served as chief of during the difficult transition to life on the reservation. He was an influential negotiator with government agents, a prosperous cattle-rancher, and a vocal advocate of education for Native American children. Quanah founded the official state bison herd of Texas at Caprock Canyons State Park. This free-ranging bison herd is the last of the great Texas southern plains bison herds.

Since 1953, the Parker Family Reunion Committee has organized an annual family reunion for the descendants of Elder John Parker at Pilgrim. Daniel, his brother James, the founder of Fort Parker, and numerous other members of Quanah's Parker family are buried at Pilgrim Cemetery.

The Elkhart event is driven by Scott Nicholson and Cynthia Ann Burke, who plan to share stories of Quanah's ties to the area.

The Elder John Parker is Nicholson’s fifth great-grandfather on his mother’s side.

“I’ve been attending the reunions since I was a child,” Nicholson said. “The love of our family legacy was given to me by my grandfather. He talked about it all the time when I was growing up.”

Nicholson’s grandfather commissioned a silver bowl that has been traded between the white and Comanche sides of the family through the years.

The gesture was intended to affirm, despite separate customs, the kinship of both sides of the family.

Nicholson also helped a group of men rebuild the current replica church at Pilgrim’s Cemetery in Elkhart.

Light refreshments will be served at Saturday’s event.

The Pilgrim Baptist Church and Cemetery is at 1559 FM 861, in Elkhart. The event is open to the public.

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