Tag: Tascosa Tx

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!

 

The Last Golden Girl of the West

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.