We recently wrote about the story of Cynthia Ann and Quanah Parker. Today we continue the story by discussing efforts through time to remember their story by preserving Fort Parker.
After the events of the Parker story in Texas—Cynthia Ann’s capture by Comanche, her recapture and return to Texan society, her son Quanah’s role as military leader against the United States army, and his subsequent role as a political leader to help the Comanche on the reservation—the Parker story became a popular one in Texas. (See Part One of this blog series if you need a refresher.) With Texan interest in historic preservation growing due to the impending Texas Centennial in 1936, people began to work towards preserving the site of Parker’s Fort or Fort Parker.
While the original fort was long gone, the site was selected in the 1930s as a work area for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). It was decided to build a replica fort, matching as closely as possible the original fort built by the Parkers. Several Parker family members visited the site of replica fort in the 1930s to help verify that it was the site of the original fort. Construction was still underway as the Texas Centennial came and went.
Program from the Grand Opening of Fort Parker State Park in 1941. Note the opportunity to visit “restored Fort Parker”–now known as Old Fort Parker.
Only a couple of miles away, the same CCC camp built camping and outdoor recreational facilities around a 670 acre lake, formed from building a dam across the Navasota River. While the plan originally called for one site to be named Fort Parker State Park, which would include the replica fort, the lake, and all the recreational facilities, eventually the site was split into two separate areas. Confusingly, the recreation area with the lake became known as Fort Parker State Park, while the replica fort site became known as Old Fort Parker State Historic Site, or just the Old Fort.
In 1941, after years of planning and construction, Fort Parker State Park was opened to the public. Along with fishing, boating, and fireworks, people could also visit Old Fort Parker, where construction was complete on the replica fort.
After many years of use, the replica fort at the Old Fort site was rebuilt in 1967. Both Fort Parker sites were operated by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department until 1992, when the nearby cities of Groesbeck and Mexia, and Limestone County took over operations of the Old Fort. Fort Parker State Park continues to operate as a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department site.
Today, visitors to Old Fort Parker can tour the replica fort, various historic structures from Central Texas, and the visitor center. For research opportunities, patrons can visit The Texas Collection and view materials on the Parker family and Old Fort Parker.
The next post in this series will examine the various creators of the Selden collection. Mark your calendar for Selden’s lecture: Thursday, February 18, at 3:30 pm in the Guy B. Harrison Reading Room of The Texas Collection, located in Carroll Library at Baylor University.