atm-logoDoes The Searchers movie have any basis in fact?

Teresa Smith
Jasper, Alabama

The Searchers was written loosely around the story of nine-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker who was abducted on May 19, 1836, and lived nearly 25 years with the Comanche. She married and had three children; only her oldest, Quanah, would live to adulthood, achieving fame as the Comanches’ last chief. After the Texas Rangers rescued her, she never adjusted to white society.

Cynthia Ann did not have an Ethan Edwards in her life, but men were known to spend a long time searching for loved ones taken by the Comanche. Britt Johnson was one of them. His wife was taken in a Texas raid in 1864. For months, he rode deep into Comancheria, searching for her. His dark skin (he was black) or his courage may have saved him from Indian attacks, and he eventually was able to ransom her back.

The taking of women and children as slaves or for ransom was common, and scholarly works share this history. My favorite is Lynn R. Bailey’s Indian Slave Trade in the Southwest.


Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone.  If you have a question, write:  Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at

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