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History

Bountiful resources

Small lake surrounded by grassesBordered by the seasonal Pease River, this land was once rich in bison and other wildlife. It offered protection and bounty to generations of early Americans.

Before early settlers arrived, this region was the realm of the Comanche and Kiowa tribes.

Comanche stronghold

The Comanche were the dominant tribe of the plains. They hunted, took shelter and sought medicine from the spirit world in the Pease River area. They believed that spirits dwelled in the Medicine Mounds, four domes about 10 miles east of the park.

In 1860, a young scout for the Texas Rangers named Charles Goodnight found signs of a Comanche camp near the Pease River. The rangers tracked the band, and a gun battle ensued. The rangers captured a woman and her infant.

That woman was Cynthia Ann Parker.

Tale of a captive

Cynthia Ann ParkerA large band of warriors had captured Parker in 1836, and the Nocona Comanche adopted her. She later married a Comanche chief named Peta Nocona. The couple had three children, one of whom was Quanah Parker.

After her capture in 1860, Cynthia Ann was returned to her relatives. She never adapted to a settler’s life. She wanted to rejoin the Comanche but wasn’t allowed to do so.

Last war chief

Quanah ParkerQuanah Parker was the last war chief of the Comanche. He led raids across the Texas plains and fought the U.S. Army. The Comanche finally surrendered in 1875 and were forced onto a reservation at Fort Sill in Oklahoma.

After the surrender, Quanah Parker became an advocate for his people.

 

Settling the frontier

Settlement of the frontier began in earnest after 1875.

Nearby Highway 6 began as the Mackenzie Trail, a major cattle trail and pioneer wagon road.

Look for the gray-green streaks of raw copper banding the rust-colored mini-canyons and arroyos in the park. That copper drew adventurers here.

Dreams of riches

Streaks of raw copper showing in cliff faceGeorge B. McClellan, former commander of the Army of the Potomac, took up mining after the Civil War. He noticed copper deposits in northwest Texas while on an expedition in 1852.

He formed the Grand Belt Copper Company in 1877 based on a geologic report and eyewitness accounts of plentiful copper deposits. The company purchased 200,000 acres in Hardeman County for 25 cents per acre.

Later that year he set out from Fort Worth with a large entourage of engineers, miners, carpenters, laborers, horses, wagons and supplies. McClellan’s personal belongings included a full-size metal bathtub, carpets and fine furniture.

After a three-year suspension in operations while McClellan served as governor of New Jersey, mining resumed in 1884.

He and his employees found ore mainly near the surface. They collected it from a broad area, including multiple sites within the present-day park. Up to 100 employees worked the steam-powered machinery and rock-crushing equipment. A nearby shantytown of saloons, brothels and other frontier businesses soon appeared.

Major obstacles blocked McClellan’s dream of riches, including fuel and water shortages, transportation issues . . . and his death in 1885. The company continued limited operations for three more years before closing.

Later attempts to mine copper were also unsuccessful.

The park

Today, Copper Breaks State Park is 1,899 acres 12 miles south of Quanah and nine miles north of Crowell, in Hardeman County.

The state purchased the park from a private owner in 1970 under the State Parks Bond Program. The park opened in 1974.