The Panhandle was the last area of Texas to be settled and there are a million stories right here. In fact, the railroad takes the credit for taming this last wild part. Along the rails, towns sprang up which pushed out the outlaws and other undesirables thereby bringing law and order.
Amarillo, the largest town in the Panhandle, wasn’t settled until Oct. 1887. Before that, was Tascosa, which is a ghost town now, only 36 miles from here.
Tascosa loosely became a town in 1876. I say that because I don’t think it was ever incorporated. It was a wild and wooly place and occupied mostly by men on the run. Saloons and dancehalls sprang up and gunfights were a regular occurrence. It became known as the Cowboy Capital of the Plains. Temple Houston, son of Sam Houston, served as a district attorney in Tascosa from 1882 to 1884. He was a brilliant attorney by the way.
At the time Frenchy McCormick arrived, there were only three other white women in the whole Panhandle and they had to be as tough as shoe leather. Frenchy would be classified as that. The twenty-four-year-old worked in the saloons dealing Monte at the gaming tables and played cards with many old West legends.
No one really knows her real name. Some say Elizabeth McGraw. She was Irish and well-educated. It’s hard to understand why a well-educated woman chose this life. She could’ve done so many other things, but I suppose her heart led her to Tascosa. A cowboy gave her the name Frenchy because she spoke fluent French and came from Louisiana.
Around 1880, she fell in love with Mickey McCormick, an Irish gambler and livery stable owner. He always claimed as long as she was at his side at the gaming tables he never lost.
They were married in 1881.
When the railroad bypassed Tascosa a few years after, the town began to steadily decline. But Frenchy and Mickey kept living in their small adobe house, their devotion to each other evident by all.
Mickey died suddenly in 1912 at 64 years old, but Frenchy refused to leave Tascosa which had become a ghost town. She occupied their adobe house on Atascosa Creek and visited his grave every day. (The town is now on the property of the Cal Farley’s Boy’s Ranch and they have become diligent caretakers.)
She lived alone in the ghost town for 27 years without electricity or running water, tending Mickey’s grave. She died on January 12, 1941 at the age of 89 and was buried next to Mickey. True to the end. That was true love.
I have plans to go out there to the ghost town and visit their graves soon and I can’t wait. I wonder how many of us would show such devotion.
Do you know of other love stories? Maybe in your family or in books or movies.
Two years ago my husband and I traveled to Tombstone, Arizona. I’d been to the town once before but for some reason we never walked through the Bird Cage Saloon. Visiting the infamous building was on the top of my list this last time. I hope you enjoy my photos from this trip!
Tombstone is located in southeastern Arizona and was the site of the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral and Boothill Graveyard.
The town suffered two devastating fires: one in 1881 and again in 1882, but the Bird Cage Saloon survived both.The saloon was located in the heart of the red-light district on the corner of Allen Street and 6th Street. The photo below shows what the Bird Cage looked like before the outside was renovated.
The building remained boarded up for the next fifty years before it reopened as a tourist attraction. The outside of the structure was remodeled to protect it from the elements. Inside the Bird Cage you will find the original wood floors that Doc Holiday, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Luke Short and the Clanton family all walked across. Even the mirrors behind the bar are original. The only part of the inside that has been renovated is the staircase leading to the basement.
The Bird Cage served many purposes as listed on this sign.
The saloon was considered a “house of negotiable affection” and for $25 a gentleman could buy a bottle of whiskey and time with a lady in one of the 13 “cages” or cribs suspended above the gambling parlor.
Twenty-fours hours a day the vaudeville circuit played on the stage.
The piano in the picture has sat in that same spot since 1881. The piano was the first to arrive in Tombstone and was part of a five-piece band that played in the saloon from 1881-1889.
The saloon also had a barber if any cowboy wanted to “spiff up” before visiting the ladies in the upstairs cribs.
Outlaw Curly Bill was recognized getting a haircut in this chair and was later tracked down and killed by Wyatt Earp. The table is the original table in the gaming parlor where Doc Holliday was often seen playing and dealing Fargo.
The Longest Poker Game Ever Played
The basement of the saloon is where the serious gambling took place and was the location of the longest poker game ever played in history. The game lasted eight years, five months and three days. Twenty-four hours a day seven days a week. There was a $1,000 buy-in and a continuous list of gamblers waiting to get into the game. The saloon employed runners to go out on the street and find the next player on the list when someone folded or left the game which averaged every 3 to 4 days.
Below are pictures of the basement gaming area. I was surprised at how small it was. In the photos you’ll see the original service bar that served drinks to the gamblers as well as the men visiting the two bordello rooms in the basement. The mirrors behind the bar have hung in the same place since 1881. The whiskey keg and heating stove are originals and have been in the same place since the Birdcage closed its doors. The gaming tables, chairs, dealers box and money boxes all sit where they were during the “longest game.”
The Infamous Sadie Jo
One of Tombstones most famous soiled doves, Sarah Josephine Marcus, who went by the name of Sadie Jo & Shady Sadie worked at the Bird Cage in the basement. Below is the room where she and Wyatt Earp had their romantic liaisons while she was engaged to the then sheriff of Tombstone, John Harris Behan. At the time Wyatt lived in a covered wagon fifty feet away from the Bird Cage with his common law wife Mattie. Wyatt left Mattie for Josephine and Mattie was forced into prostitution in Prescott, AZ. and later committed suicide by overdosing on laudanum.
Haunted Bird Cage
You know me and my fascination with ghosts…well, it is said that 27 ghosts inhabit the Bird Cage Saloon—the same number of people believed to have been killed in the building.
Employees say they often smell perfume and cigar smoke when working as well as seeing apparitions. Ghost tours are given at night, and one day I’d love to return to Tombstone and take the tour.
Before I sign off, I have to share one more photo of this little cowboy I came across on my trip to Tombstone.
To be entered into a giveaway for a Kindle copy of all three books in my series share this blog post and put the link where you shared it in the comment section! I’ll post the winner’s name on Saturday Oct 14th in the comment section of this blog post.
Dear Readers… Jerome, Arizona earned its reputation as the wickedest town in the west after three catastrophic fires within an eighteen-month period. The pious people of the sinful town attributed the fires to Devine retribution and pushed to incorporate Jerome. Once building codes were passed, a fire department was established and laws were put on the books to rein in Jerome’s wild ways.
Who wouldn’t want to visit the wickedest town in the west after a description like that?
This past summer hubby and I drove Route 89A to Jerome, which lies between the towns of Prescott and Flagstaff. The trip through the Prescott National Forest was breathtaking and well worth the slow climb in elevation to 5,000 feet above sea level.
Jerome was founded in 1876, its population peaking at 15,000 in the 1920’s. I’ve been to this ghost town three times in my life. Once when I was fifteen on a family vacation out west and twice since hubby and I moved back to Arizona. Jerome, a former copper-mining town, sits on Cleopatra Hill overlooking the Verde Valley. Today it’s a tourist stop and a favorite haunt of ghost hunters. All of the various hotels and B&B’s are reportedly haunted.
Famous Bartlett Hotel
The remains of the famous Bartlett Hotel on Main Street brings in as much as $6,500 a year for the Jerome Historical Society. Tourists stop to toss their coins between the bars hoping to hit the old outhouse and pieces of rusted mining artifacts below. My days playing basketball in college did not help me hit the toilet.
The Connor Hotel
I entered the lobby of the Connor Hotel to look around and the desk attendant was happy to tell me about the place, saying several guests had seen the Lady in Red while others reported being touched, feeling a draft of cold air sweep over them, lights and TV’s flickering on and off—the “usual ghostly things” she said. Behind the motel are the remains of the 1918 haunted Liberty Theater, which played silent movies in the 1920’s. It’s the light tan building next to the red hotel in the picture below.
If you’re a paranormal enthusiast, you’ll enjoy the youtube video of photographs taken in the Connor Hotel that show ghostly orbs.
Years ago a department store sat across the street from the Connor Hotel, but now its an empty lot with only department store safe remaining.
The Jerome Historical Society is working on restoring the famous sliding jail, which slipped 200 feet downhill from where it originally stood. The ground shifted in the area after Phelps Dodge purchased the copper claims during WWII and began dynamiting the mountains. The mine, still owned by Phelps Dodge, closed in 1953.
Just for fun!
I get excited when I find something taller than me like this old gas pump.
I don’t write historical romances but if I did, I’d definitely use Jerome, Arizona, as the backdrop for a story. And speaking of books… I have two releases out this month…so here’s my shameless plug!
Sadie McHenry and her twin sons are heading home to Stampede, Texas. Sadie wants a chance to start over after being laid off—and she might have found it with rancher Logan Hardell. Logan instantly bonds with her boys, especially with Tommy, whose ADD makes him a handful. But Logan seems to understand the four-year-old’s needs and seeing them together melts Sadie’s heart.
Logan’s ranch is at risk, so Sadie agrees to help with their books—putting Logan on twin patrol! With his fun-loving approach to the kids and his rugged appeal, Sadie can’t understand why he’s ruled out a family of his own. But she’s not giving up on him just yet. Because Sadie’s convinced Logan is exactly what she and her boys need!
One woman’s journey home gets derailed by her soon-to-be ex-mother-in-law in a novel filled with humor, small-town charm, rekindled love, and the resilient ties of family.
Cast aside by her cheating husband, Katelyn Chandler is ready to pack it all in and drive home to Little Springs, Texas. She wants a chance to regroup, reconnect with her mother, and get back to her art.
But Shirley Pratt—master manipulator, elitist snob, and Katelyn’s terror of a live-in monster-in-law—has other ideas. Shirley insists on joining Katelyn’s trip after her son tries to pack her off to a retirement community. Katelyn has no choice but to play peacekeeper between the ornery old woman and the proud matrons of Little Springs. Yet the small town seems to be changing Shirley. And as Katelyn weighs the wisdom of picking up where she left off with Jackson Mendoza, the town bad boy and her high school sweetheart, she must find a way to believe in the strength of her dreams.
Tell me about a strange place you once visited for a chance to win a signed paperback or digital copy (reader’s choice) of the first book in my Cowboys of Stampede series, The Cowboy’s Accidental Baby. I’ll announce the winner in the comment section of this post sometime on Saturday Sep 9th.
Dwelling in the past is something I love to do. Especially, when it involves ghost towns, gold, rivers, and hardy heroes. When I wrote my latest novella, “Gold Haven Heiress” from The California Gold Rush Romance Collection, it was very intriguing to find that ghost towns existed in the 1850’s! After towns were tapped out of gold, miners would pack up and hit the road for the next big hit and the buildings were left behind as memories of a bustling time filled with hopes of prosperity.
I loved planting my heroine, Thalia, smack in the middle of a ghost town. Stuck in a place where she could be alone and dwell in the murky pain of her past. Then I wondered to myself, how often do we plant ourselves in our own little ghost towns. Memories of where we once lived, who we once were, or what we once had. I believe in memories, they’re precious pieces of life that help us in the quiet moments. But to live there? To dwell there? It probably isn’t healthy when what before us are new memories, new beginnings, new hope.
My grandmother lived in New Mexico the majority of my growing up years. I recall hanging on the fence as my uncle worked the horses, riding the back of a hay bale pretending it was a bronco, and catching tarantulas with my cousins. Gramma always said that a piece of her heart lived in New Mexico and always would. But, she left it and returned to Wisconsin after my Grampa passed away.
I believe Gramma had the perfect equation of memories vs. living in the past. Pictures of New Mexico littered her bookshelf. A blue glass cowboy boot sat on her coffee table. A ceramic steer clock with leather ribbons hanging from its horns hung on the wall. An Aztec-patterned blanket draped over the back of her chair. But next to them all were the signs of new beginning. Even after the loss of her soul mate. The pictures of her great-grandchildren, the gardening gloves tossed on the kitchen table from tendering her flowers, the pressure cooker on the stove for canning, and her Sunday dress hung on the door ready to put on come service time.
Gramma always kept on keeping on. She moved forward even when memories tugged her back toward that ghost town. Toward the memories that perhaps seemed richer and more enticing than the future. She had hope in things eternal. In a land not-so-far away that would one day be that glorious place she’d call Home. My Gramma was an heiress to riches far greater than the ghost-town-memories.
I have memories too. They’re little golden nuggets I pocket in my heart. But like my Gramma taught me, I wave farewell to the ghost towns and journey down that dusty ol’ road. Adventure lays around the bend, you know, and there’s always the truth that more memories will be made.
What are some of your precious memories? Have you ever been to a real ghost town and felt the hovering of people’s memories in the vacant doorways?
I’m giving away one copy of THE CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH COLLECTION. Winner chooses either print or e-book.
Rush to California after the 1848 gold discovery alongside thousands of hopeful men and women. Meet news reporters, English gentry, miners, morticians, marriage brokers, bankers, fugitives, preachers, imposters, trail guides, map makers, cooks, missionaries, town builders, soiled doves, and more people who take advantage of the opportunities to make their fortunes in places where the population swelled overnight. But can faith and romance transform lives where gold is king?
Gold Haven Heiress?– Jaime Jo Wright
Jack Taylor determines to use his new wealth to restart a ghost town to help others. But one person challenges his conviction to embrace all the disillusioned and lost. Thalia wasn’t supposed to be hiding in the tiny little garden behind the ghostly saloon. And he never intended to fall hard for a used-up prostitute.
The lifespan of a mining town in the old west was as volatile as the dynamite used to blow up the rock and release the ore. Seems that just as soon as most of the ore was hauled from the mines, the town would dry up and blow away, becoming ghost town. Two famous ones in California that boomed and are now nothing but ghost towns are Calico and Bodie.
Calico Mining Crew
Calico in Yerma, California was established when silver was discovered in the mountains there in 1881. $20 million in silver ore came from the 500 mines surrounding the town over the next 12 years. Then, when silver lost its value, everyone packed up and left. Today, Calico is a historic site, restored for people to visit and see what life was like ‘back in the day.’ Calico makes for a very interesting destination today, but no one lives there anymore.
The same thing happened to Bodie, California. The place was a small mining camp in the Sierra Nevada mountains when gold was discovered in 1859. Although nearby towns boomed, Bodie inched along until 1876 when more gold was discovered by the Sandard Company. Suddenly miners poured into the town and its population shot up to 7,000. $34 million in gold ore came from the mines there over the next eleven years. And then, like Calico, Bodie slowly died. In 1915 it was officially labeled a ghost town.
So how did Julian in San Diego’s back country escape the fate of becoming a ghost town?
In 1870 gold was discovered 60 miles east of New San Diego and the Julian Mining District was formed. Over the next 6 years more than 600 people made Julian their home and enjoyed all that living in a boom town entailed. then in 1876 with most of the gold excavated out of the mines, the bulk of people left searching for better goldfields elsewhere. The population dropped to 100. What made Julian’s fate so different than Calico’s or Bodies had to do with a number of things–good soil, climate, and more than anything it seems, Julian became a place for family.
Although the town had its share of saloons and dance-halls and rowdy miners, it was never the “Wild West Town” like other mining towns. The early settlers of Julian saw to the opening of their first school–and the first year 100 children attended. When teacher after teacher married and had to stop teaching due to the law at the time that forbade married women to teach, the school trustees decided to hire a man for the position. When the miners learned of it, they threatened trouble, and the trustees relented and hired another woman.
When the mines played out, instead of leaving, a core group of 100 people remained and turned to agriculture. James Madison was the first to recognize the perfect soil a
nd weather for apple growing and he, along with Thomas Brady started an orchard of young apple trees. Others followed suit, adding pear trees. Today Julian apples have won many awards and the town is world famous for its apple pies.
There were two main ways to socialize in town. One was through church (Free land was given for the establishment of churches.) The second was at the frequent dances. Dances and fundraising socials would often last through the night and into the early morning hours. The dance hall in town even had a separate room for mothers to leave their babies to sleep away the night so the mothers could continue dancing. A number of good-natured tricks were played on neighbors and friends in Julian. Couples tried to keep their romantic feelings a secret so they wouldn’t end up the recipient of these pranks. The people of Julian were known for enjoying each other and having fun in a big way. (To me, it sounds like the town had a lot of personality!)
Today, Julian is a tourist town with a small-town feel. It caters to those who want to get away from the city. They come for the mountain air, fresh apple pies, mining tours and–for many San Diegans (including me) — the snow in winter. I have always had a soft spot for Julian. As an author, it is great to vicariously live in the town of 1876 through the characters in my books. I am grateful it survived its gold rush heritage and has given me such inspiration for my stories.
Do you have a soft spot for any particular place?
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