At the Pickwick a “Deathly Perfume”: A “Noble Red Man Succumbs”

On December 19, 1885 Comanche Chief Quanah Parker and his father-in-law, Chief Yellow Bear, came to Fort Worth. Yellow Bear was father of Wec-Keah, Quanah Parker’s first wife.

The two men arrived on the Fort Worth & Denver train from Indian Territory. They had come to Fort Worth to meet with Lee Hall, federal agent for the Wichita, Kiowa, and Comanche Indians, to discuss the collection of money that was due to their tribes from white cattlemen who had leased tribal reservation lands. Quanah Parker, son of Cynthia Ann Parker and Comanche Chief Peta Nocona, was about thirty-six at the time. The Fort Worth Daily Gazette described Quanah Parker as “by far the most influential man in the Comanche nation, well-to-do, intelligent, and liberal and a fast friend of the whites.” Among those whites was Burk Burnett. (Photo from Tarrant County College NE, Heritage Room.)

quanah taylor and barrQuanah Parker and Yellow Bear checked into the Pickwick Hotel at Main and 4th streets (at today’s Sundance Square Plaza) but were assigned to “room 78” over Taylor & Barr dry-goods store in the building at 405-407 Houston Street (at today’s Westbrook Building). Perhaps the hotel had no room available in its main building, or perhaps the hotel did not accommodate Indians in the main building. But the fact that the room over the dry-goods store was numbered “78” indicates that the room was considered part of the hotel.

Fort Worth photographer Augustus R. Mignon took this photo while Quanah Parker and Yellow Bear were in town. Yellow Bear is seated at left; Comanche medicine man Isa-Tai is seated at right. Quanah Parker is standing at left. The younger man standing at right probably is Isa-Tai’s eldest son. George W. Briggs, foreman of Dan Waggoner‘s ranch who accompanied the Indians to town, may be the man standing next to Parker. (Photo from DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.)

quanah taylor and barr

That night—a Saturday—Yellow Bear went to bed about 10 p.m., but Parker went out on the town with Briggs. About midnight Parker returned to room 78 and went to bed.

The next morning—December 20—the two men did not appear at the hotel for breakfast. Someone reported smelling gas in the Taylor & Barr building. Hotel employees could get no response from room 78. Alarmed, hotel employees forced open the door.

quanah 21 1

quanah 21 2

Yellow Bear was dead; Parker was “battling almost hopelessly for life.” The Gazette wrote: “. . . as the door swung back the rush of the deathly perfume through the aperture told the story. A ghastly spectacle met the eyes of the hotel employees. . . . Yellow Bear was stone dead . . . his companion . . . within but a stone’s throw of eternity.”

quanah 22 1

Parker later told the Daily Gazette that he had returned to room 78 that night and had found Yellow Bear in bed and the gas lamp extinguished. Parker said he had lit the lamp, undressed, and turned out the lamp. He woke in the night and smelled gas but merely pulled a bedcover over his nose and went back to sleep.

The newspaper quoted Parker: “Me wake up again—me awful sick. Me wake Yellow Bear and say, ‘me sick.’ Yellow Bear say, ‘Me sick, too.’ Me get up and fall about room. Me crazy.”

The initial Daily Gazette headline of December 21 had indicated that the theory was that while Parker had been gone Yellow Bear, unfamiliar with the technology, had blown out the flame of the lamp but had not turned off the gas supply to the lamp. However, Parker said that after he had returned to the room he himself had turned off the gas lamp upon retiring. But he apparently had not fully closed the valve. After Parker awoke to the smell of gas and roused Yellow Bear, both men struggled across the floor but lost consciousness. Parker collapsed near a window, which provided him with enough fresh air to survive.

The December 22 Daily Gazette article quoted Burk Burnett’s anticipation of the nature of the burial rites for Yellow Bear.

By December 22 Parker was well enough to travel, and he returned by train to Indian Territory with the body of his father-in-law. Harrold is in Wilbarger County near the Red River. It is forty miles southeast of the town of Quanah, which in 1884 had been named for Parker as the Fort Worth & Denver railroad laid track to Colorado and began to sell lots for the new town. Clip is from the New York Times of December 25.

quanah-to-dcFor Quanah Parker there was life after room 78. He represented the Comanches in Washington.

quanah-1889-wikiIn 1889 Parker posed for photographer Charles Milton Bell (photo from Wikipedia).

quanah-reported-deadIn 1897 Parker was reported dead.

Roosevelt_Inauguration_Parade

But by 1905 he was feeling much better. In fact, he appeared in the inaugural parade of President Teddy Roosevelt with chiefs Buckskin Charlie of the Ute, American Horse and Hollow Horn Bear of the Sioux, Little Plume of the Blackfeet, and warrior Geronimo of the Apache. A month later when Roosevelt visited Texas and Oklahoma he invited Quanah Parker to participate in a wolf hunt. (Photo from Wikipedia.)

quanah car 3-11-09

In 1909 Quanah Parker took his first automobile ride in Burk Burnett’s car. Parker and “his band” were in town to perform at the Fat Stock Show. Clip is from the March 11 Star-Telegram.

quanah-1910-censusThe 1910 census listed Parker, wives Tonarcy and Toe-Pay, and other family members. Parker listed his occupation as farmer and assistant of the Kiowa Indian Agency.

quanah obit 2-24 11 Quanah Parker, who on December 20, 1885 had been, the Daily Gazette wrote, “within but a stone’s throw of eternity” and who was reported killed by outlaws in 1897, died on February 23, 1911. Clip is from the February 24 Star-Telegram.

quanah_gravestoneQuanah Parker is buried in the post cemetery at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The inscription on his monument reads:

Resting Here Until Day Breaks
And Shadows Fall and Darkness
Disappears Is
Quanah Parker
Last Chief of the Comanches
Born 1852
Died Feb. 23, 1911
(Photo from Wikipedia.)

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9 Responses to At the Pickwick a “Deathly Perfume”: A “Noble Red Man Succumbs”

  1. I was looking through the Lawrence T. Jones III Texas photography collection (SMU) and found what I assume was the last photo that Yellow Bear had taken before he died on his visit to Fort Worth. This photo was taken at Fort Worth Art gallery 24 Main St. Fort Worth TX.by AR Mignon, Artist.

    http://digitalcollections.smu.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/jtx/id/1712/rec/13

    Very interesting article Mike!

    • hometown says:

      Brian: What a find! I will add that photo to my post with credit to SMU. Thanks for the tip.

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