Quanah Parker landed in Fort Worth’s jail in 1914. But he wasn’t who people thought.

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Richard Selcer
·4 min read
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By all accounts, Comanche Chief Quanah Parker was a frequent visitor to Fort Worth between 1885 and 1911. He once said he “loved” Fort Worth, and the feeling was mutual.

Parker had powerful Fort Worth friends in cattlemen Burk Burnett and Dan Waggoner and was an honored guest of the Fat Stock Show more than once. Today a larger-than-life statue to him stands in the Stockyards.

In 1914, Fort Worthers were shocked to hear that Quanah had landed in jail here. The man behind bars was not our Quanah Parker, however. The old chief had been dead and buried for three years, so who was this man the Star-Telegram called “Quanah Parker Jr.”? The newspaper identified him as a son-in-law, but there was no such person by that name in the family tree. That news story sent us off on a quest to identify the ersatz Quanah, starting with looking at several son-in-laws.

Chief Quanah had seven wives by whom he had nine known daughters, all of whom married. Any of their husbands might have called himself “Quanah Jr.,” which would open more doors than using his actual name. It was also likely to get him better treatment at the hands of Fort Worth authorities.

If any son-in-law had the temerity to borrow Quanah’s name, it would not have occurred until after 1911 when the rightful owner was in his grave. Only one of Quanah’s many children had a Fort Worth connection, Weyodee or Wer-Yoh-Ti (1880-1965) who married Louis Tahmahkera. Their descendants were still living in Fort Worth decades later, but that particular Fort Worth connection is irrelevant in this case.

Junior’s troubles with the law in the spring of 1914 would not have merited attention in the newspaper were it not for that name. A lot of men were hauled into police court for disturbing the peace, but only one with the name “Quanah Parker.”

When the accused informed Judge Hugh Bardin that he was “a full-blood Comanche Indian,” the Judge inquired, “What relation are you to Chief Quanah Parker?” The accused replied with some pride, “I married his daughter. Then I took his name.” He did not explain whether it was to honor the fabled chief or purely out of self-interest. Nor did he specify which daughter, but we can narrow the possibilities because only two of Quanah’s daughters married full-blood Comanches: Weyodee (Mrs. Tahmahkera); and Esther, who married “Charlie Sunrise” Tabbyyetchy.

“Quanah, Jr.” as he called himself was not what was known as a “reservation Indian.” He had worked variously as a cowboy, stage performer, piano player, and sharpshooter, among other jobs. Most recently he had performed with his wife, doing “fancy roping” and “sleight of hand.” They lived at Quanah, Texas., named for Chief Quanah, and had an infant daughter. The arresting officer charged Junior with hanging around a “resort” (bawdy house) in the Acre and said he had threatened the officer’s life for arresting him. Judge Bardin assessed the minimum $5 fine plus court costs and let him go.

Junior apparently did not learn his lesson because less than a week later, he was back in police court, this time charged with drunkenness and vagrancy. His principal offense this time was “insulting a white man.” A penitent Junior, crying very unmanly tears, swore he had never insulted any white person and was being “framed” – presumably because he was Native American. He begged the judge to let him go home to his wife and child, whom he had not seen for nine months, causing some bystanders in the courtroom to hoot in derision. They claimed to know Junior well enough to call him “a real actor,” and they did not mean stage actor.

The judge, reminding Junior of his previous appearance in court, fined him $100 plus court costs on the vagrancy charge and another $1 plus court costs on the drunkenness charge. When a tearful Junior could not pay, he was sentenced to the city workhouse, located on the Clear Fork on the grounds of the waterworks. It existed to put the low-level, indigent offenders to useful labor, allowing them to work off their fines at $1 a day. Men sentenced there spent 10 hours a day breaking rocks, paving streets, and picking up garbage. It was not easy time.

Facing incarceration of more than three months at hard labor, Junior won the confidence of the guards long enough to get his shackles removed, then escaped. His luck with police had not gotten any better because he only got as far as Stop 3 on the Interurban line to Dallas when an officer caught up with him and arrested him, this despite his protest that he only wanted to get home to see his wife and child. He was returned to jail where his story finally earned him some sympathy. Police Commissioner Bob Davis released him on parole contingent on his promise to leave Fort Worth “immediately” and never come back.

We do not know if Junior made it home to his family, but he was never seen around Fort Worth again.

Author-historian Richard Selcer is a Fort Worth native and proud graduate of Paschal High and TCU.