The Ghosts of Old Tascosa

 

I hope you’re doing some fun things this summer. A few weeks ago, I drove thirty miles from where I live to what used to be only one of three towns in the entire Texas Panhandle. Tascosa used to be a thriving, but very dangerous, town that at its peak boasted 350 people. It was settled in 1876 by an ex-soldier and blacksmith named Henry Kimball and it became the assembling point for the Tascosa/Dodge City Cattle Trail. Surrounded by large ranches, the town quickly became known as the Cowboy Capital of the Plains and was an economic rival of Dodge City, Kansas.

It also became a place where outlaws and bad men outnumbered the law-abiding sort.

Here’s an adobe schoolhouse (built 1911). It’s the oldest one of adobe in Texas.

Due to the town being only thirty -five miles from the New Mexico line, Billy the Kid used to rustle cattle and bring them to Tascosa to sell. He made the trip many times. His campground is still marked today in a shady spot near a creek.

Pat Garrett was another regular to frequent Tascosa that in 1879 had a population of 150 with only 8 English speaking women who were not employed in the considerable brothels and saloons.

Inside of two years, there were twenty-eight deaths caused by shootings and Boot Hill saw much activity. Here’s the picture I took and the restored markers. I think it’s the first Boot Hill cemetery I’ve ever been in.

A post office opened in 1878 and in 1880 the county of Oldham (only the second county in the entire Texas Panhandle) was formed and a stone courthouse was built. That courthouse is still there and they’ve turned it into a museum. Here’s the picture I took during my visit.

Despite the lawlessness, romance was alive and well. A mysterious saloon girl and gambler named Frenchy fell deeply in love with Mickey McCormick who owned one of the saloons. They married and from then on, the two became inseparable. This huge, deformed tree and marker is all that remains of the spot where their adobe house sat.

         

Mickey died in 1912 and Frenchy walked to visit his grave every day—even after the town died and everyone moved away, she remained. She lived alone in the ghost town by herself with no running water or electricity for twenty-seven years, grieving for Mickey. Finally, in poor health and her house falling around her, the woman whose real name they never knew or where she was from let them move her to the nearby town of Channing where she stayed a little over a year before dying in 1941. As per her wishes, they brought her back and laid her to rest next to her beloved Mickey.

Other ghosts reside there also—like Ed King, Frank Valley, Fred Chilton, and Jesse Sheets who were killed in a gunfight in the wee hours of March 20, 1886.

The ghost town was bought by Julian Bivins who turned around and donated it to the Cal Farley Boy’s Ranch in 1939. The town sits on this private land and I believe the thousands of boys(and now girls also) who’ve lived there have purged the voices of the ghosts. I didn’t feel any restless spirits. Although it is on private land, they welcome visitors.

If you’ve read any of my Outlaw Mail Order Brides, you’ve seen the town of Tascosa in the stories. Here’s one segment in Tally Shannon’s point of view from Book 1 – The Outlaw’s Mail Order Bride:

Life was full of ups and downs, and this wasn’t the worst that they would face. She’d heard the men talk about a bounty hunter Ridge had seen in Tascosa and the reward poster the man had been showing around. Foreboding told her the worst still lay in front of them.

Have you ever been to or read about a ghost town? I’m curious what you thought. I would love to have seen Tascosa at its peak but I wouldn’t have wanted to live there. Too rough for me!

 

Linda Broday
I live in the Texas Panhandle where we love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!
http://petticoatsandpistols.com/sweepstakesrules/

29 Comments

  1. Good morning Linda- Yes is Of loves to have seen Tascosa in its heyday.
    There is a community up here in Kansas that sets in the very far SW Kansas just northwest of Richfield, KS that’s no longer, it was once a thriving little community called Stonington, Kansas. When I’m on inspections and go by there, I always get a strange feeling. Not scary, but not calm either.
    Thanks for sharing your adventure with us, Rob & I may have to check out Tascosa sometime. We will get you to go as our tour guide. Have a great day. Love you.

    1. Good morning, Miss Tonya……I’m so happy to see you. You’ve piqued my interest. I would love to visit Stonington and learn more about it. The name alone draws me. I love visiting ghost towns and imagining what they must’ve been like and the hopes and dreams of its people. Have a great day, sister friend! Much love.

  2. I have read about, but never visited, a ghost town. This sounds like a very interesting place to visit.

    1. Good morning, Janine…….I’m happy you enjoyed my post. If you ever get a chance, visit a ghost town and let your imagination run away with itself.

      Have a blessed day. Much love.

  3. I have never visited one but would love to. I have read some stories.

    1. Good morning, Debra……..Thank you for coming. Ghost towns give you certain feelings, depending on what happened there. Some are sad and make you want to weep while others scare you. I didn’t get any feeling at all about Tascosa and I think it’s because it’s now a boys ranch.

      Have a blessed day and much love.

  4. I have read about ghost towns but have never visited one. I would love to go out west sometime and visit places like this.

    1. Good morning, Quilt Lady……..I’m so happy to see you. Thanks for coming. I hope you get a chance to visit a ghost town. They’re fun.

      Much love and have a great day.

  5. I know there are ghost towns in my state, but have never visited one.

    1. Good morning, Estella…….Thank you for coming. I’m glad my post interested you. If you have access to the internet, you can do a quick search to see if you have some ghost towns near you.

      Have a blessed day that’s filled with love.

  6. Welcome. This is some very interesting information. I love history. I used to live in CA and my dad had business near Death Valley. My mom knew a lady that lived in that town. So when dad did his business, mom and the five of us kids would go and visit this friend of moms. There were very few people and a lot of building were not lived in. But like the lady above, she refused to move where her family could take care of her. I also went through a town in AZ that used to be a reservation. No one lived there about 50 years ago. But it was very interesting to see. I love to read about towns that are struggling because it seems like the people that do live there are strong and very independent.

    1. Good morning, Lori……..I’m happy to see you and glad you enjoyed my post. There are a lot of ghost towns in Arizona and California. I think you made a great observation about those who refused to move away after a town dies. Some roots are just too deep and strong to pull up. And Frenchy and your lady didn’t want to live anywhere else. They are very resilient and independent. The man I spoke with at Tascosa told me that Frenchy didn’t even know when the Depression hit because she’d been living that way all her life.

      You have a very inspiring day. Much love.

  7. Never been to a ghost town but I did live for 15 months in a former hotel that is quite haunted. Sections in the halls can be hot in one area and freezing cold in another. Never get use to going from one extreme temp to another in just a few steps. It also has what is believed to be an opium den in the basement since it was built around 1880. There are times you can hear children laughing but no children live there.

    1. Good morning, Kim……Wow! I can’t imagine living in a haunted hotel. That would be quite an experience. That’s so interesting. You should try to find out more about the history and find out why these spirits are so active.

      I hope your day brings lots of laughter. Much love.

  8. Linda, thank you for the virtual tour of this ghost town!

    1. Good morning, Caryl……You’re very welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed it. If you’re ever in this area, I’ll take you there.

      Have a blessed day full of love.

  9. How fun! It’s so sad that I’ve lived in Amarillo nearly my entire life but have never gone to visit Tascosa. I’ve wanted to but just never have. I need to talk my husband into going to look around one of these days. I love old west history.

    1. Hi Christy…thanks for coming. Yeah, I know. I moved here six years ago and only now got out there to it. I hope you get your husband to go, but you might want to wait until it cools off a bit. I live and breathe history.

      Have a wonderful day!

  10. I’ve never been to a ghost town. I find them fascinating.

    1. Good morning, Denise……Thank you for coming. Ghost towns are great places to set your imagination whirling. You leave with so many questions about the people and you want to know more.

      Have a blessed day. Much love.

  11. Wow. Loved reading this and the history. The tree awed me. Thanks for sharing your visit there. I have never been to a former western town being in the north but have seen one as an exhibit at the fair here. I shall check more on it since your post got me curious! This is why I love reading western historical romance! Your books are just like being there! Cathie

    1. Good morning, Caffey……I’m so glad you came. It’s great seeing you. Yes, that tree is so huge and the deformed way it grew kinda fit the town. I hope you get to see a real ghost town one day. Thank you so much for the compliment about my books. I do try very hard to relay what I see both around me and inside my head. By the way, I have Longing for a Cowboy Christmas out in September.

      Love you dearly.

  12. That was an interesting read Linda! Always educational. I’ve never seen a ghost town, but would like to. I love reading about life in the 1800’s. It was a survivorship lifestyle I can’t identify with, but enjoy reading about. Thank you for your post today!

    1. Good morning, Kathy…….I’m happy you liked my post. I found my visit to Tascosa most interesting even though not a lot remains from those days. I think what helped was that I read a nonfiction book about it before I went so I knew quite a bit beforehand.

      Enjoy the rest of your trip. And the cooler weather! I’m so envious.

      Love you, lady.

  13. Oh Linda I always enjoy your Historical blogs I have learned so much about the old West from you. Oh how I would love to visit Tascosa

    1. Good morning, Glenda……..Thank you for coming and for liking my post. I’m glad it wasn’t boring. Sometimes I get too carried away with detail and it turns into a nonfiction book instead of an article. HaHa! 🙂 If you ever come this way, we’ll have to go out there.

      Have a wonderful day doing something fun. Love you so much.

  14. Hi, history is very interesting! Thank you for all the info on your blog, I learn a lot from reading your blogs! I don’t believe I have visited any ghost towns, but I’m sure they have a lot to tell and a lot of history! I think it would be very interesting. God bless you.

  15. Hi, Linda…enjoyed your blog about this ghost town. You always do a lot of research on all subjects back in the 1800’s, they are always interesting. That’s why I enjoy reading your awesome books.

  16. I have read about several interesting ghost towns but haven’t yet been to one. We have visited some abandoned sites and old homesteads. Going though an old house that has been abandoned usually has such a melancholy feel. Who were the people that lived here? What was their life like? Why did they leave the house and why did they leave things behind? Why has no one made the house their home?

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