Tag: gunfights

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!

 

Wigwam Motel & Bucket of Blood Saloon

Visiting the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook this past summer was another item on my bucket list that I was able to cross off during our Route 66 travels along northern Arizona. I was really surprised the teepees looked exactly like what I’d seen in photographs.

There were once seven Wigwam Villages in the United States but today only three are open to the public—Cave Creek, Kentucky, Holbrook, Arizona, which is listed on the National Register of Historical Places, and Rialto, California.

The “village” concept for the motel was designed by Frank A. Redford and the first motel was opened in 1937. Chester Lewis, an Arizona motel owner, bought the rights to the wigwam design from Redford and built four more “villages”, including the one in Holbrook. Each teepee is 25 feet wide at the base and 28 feet high. Vintage automobiles decorate the parking lot and you won’t find an ice machine on the property or a telephone inside a teepee, but the rooms all have air conditioners and cable TV.

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The Wigwam Motel in Holbrook closed in 1982, and shortly after in 1986 Chester Lewis died. After restoring the Holbrook Motel, Chester’s widow and children reopened the rooms in 1988. The 15 teepees are spread out in a semi-circle around the main office, which operates a museum open to the public and includes Mr. Lewis’s Indian artifacts and Civil War memorabilia along with his petrified wood collection.

 

While my husband browsed through the museum I struck up a conversation with another tourist and the lady had asked me if I had seen the remains of the Bucket of Blood saloon across town. I hadn’t, and as luck would have it, my husband and I were on a tight schedule and didn’t have time that day to see the remains of the saloon. But I did wonder if any historical western romance authors had ever referenced the saloon or Holbrook, Arizona, in their stories.

 

 

I found the following images and history of Holbrook and the Bucket of Blood Saloon HERE.

In the mid-1880s, Holbrook was known as a place “too tough for women and churches.” At the time there was little law enforcement when several cow punchers from the Aztec Cattle Company moved into the area. They called themselves the Hashknife Outfit, and they rustled livestock from other cattle companies. They also played a major role in the Pleasant Valley Feud, one of the longest and bloodiest land and cattle feuds in the history of the United States.

In 1886 there were 26 shooting deaths in Holbrook, which at the time only had a population of around 250. Many of the shootings were attributed directly or indirectly to the Hashknife Outfit. The Bucket of Blood Saloon got its nickname after a gunfight between the Hashknife Outfit and a group of cowboys who accused them of stealing cattle. The gun battle ended in so much death that the floors were said to be slick with a “bucket of blood.”

Years later the street that runs in front of the old saloon in Holbrook was renamed from “Central” to “Bucket of Blood St”. The new name landed on several top ten lists citing the most unusual street names.

For fun…have you ever lived on a street with an unusual name?

 

Until Next Time…Happy Trails!

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