Ransom Canyon: History in my Backyard

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About thirty miles from where I live in West Texas is an historical site called Ransom Canyon. It was incorporated into a town in 1977, but in the 1800’s it was the scene of trading in human flesh.

Originally called Yellow House Canyon, it became known as Ransom Canyon after it became the regular meeting place for the Comancheros and the Comanche Indians. The Comancheros would trade guns and whiskey for stolen cattle or, more often than not, white captives. The Comancheros would then ransom off the captives back to their families for a hefty sum. If the families didn’t or couldn’t meet the price, the captives were sold to the highest bidder. Not a pleasant life for sure.

Here’s a pretty good shot of the canyon.

Ransom_Canyon_

But who were these Comancheros, you ask?

They were a blood-thirsty group mostly of Mexican descent who roamed the Llano Estacado commonly known as The Staked Plains (an area that covers western Texas and the Panhandle and extends into eastern New Mexico.) It’s one of the largest mesas or tablelands on the North American continent. One source says it’s over 32,000 square miles.

Back to Ransom Canyon though….

It was carved out by a tributary of the Brazos River. The huge canyon was protected by steep walls.

The comancheros and Comanche weren’t the only ones who used it. Because of its clear trickling streams and towering cottonwoods, it became regularly traveled. Besides the Comanche and Comancheros, buffalo hunters, U.S. Army soldiers, frontier settlers, and cowboys with their cattle herds camped here.

Ransom Canyon2

I drove over to take some pictures of the Texas Historical marker and see what else I could see. When I stepped out of the car, I got goosebumps. Just standing on the ground where so much happened was pretty emotional. When I closed my eyes I could feel their spirits and see the frightened faces of the captives. They say the canyon is haunted and I can believe it.

Have you had a strong connection to a historical place where it felt like you’d stepped back in time?

We have a new anthology that’ll be out July 1st. I team up again with the Queen of Texas romance Jodi Thomas, Phyliss Miranda, and DeWanna Pace. Click on the cover to Preorder your copy today!

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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans 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!
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36 thoughts on “Ransom Canyon: History in my Backyard”

  1. Great post, Linda. I felt it just the other day when I visited The Alamo. Another time was the Freedom Trail all over Boston. Good luck with the new book! oxoxoxox

  2. Old World Wisconsin

    Ethnic farms, school house, stores, churches …It’s huge. It’s amazing! I definitely felt like I had stepped back in time.

  3. I had a strong experience where I stepped back in time once when I went into an OLD house that belonged in my family. These ancestors visited with famous people (before they became famous). Jean Lafitte slept in their barn or a cabin down on the bayou, Frank & Jesse James came by one day and Grandma Jo fed them & their horses then sent them on their way. It is said she (Grandma Jo) could outshoot and outspit a man 🙂

    I set my WF novel on that property (which has been sold to a pipe company) – in the story, the heroine is blessed with a gift – she ‘sees’ into the past and can restore a run down home to its previous grandeur.

    The research she did, I actually did and was fun to recreate.

    Great post.
    PamT

  4. Your post gave me goosebumps! Such a beautiful place and such an ugly situation for the captives. What sadness this canyon must have known.
    Yes, I’ve had that feeling several times. Most recently it was at Lincoln’s home in Springfield IL. I have also felt that way at several points along the Oregon Trail.
    I’m looking forward to reading your new book.

  5. Interesting post, Linda. I see those historical marker signs all over the Texas highways, but I’m usually in too big of a rush to get where I’m going to stop and read them. One of these days I’m going to slow down enough to take more of those in.

    Can’t wait for the new anthology. I’ve loved all the previous ones. You gals have a winning partnership going on. Keep it up!

  6. Tanya, the Alamo has such a huge pull for people who love history. It’s definitely a must-see for visitors to the state. So much glory and tragedy all wrapped up in one event. I think the Alamo personifies the depth of human spirit in a fight for freedom and to settle the West. Those men did give their all for a belief. I get teary-eyed everytime I think of their sacrifice.

  7. Laurie G, I’d love to visit Wisconsin sometime. It sounds like a place a historical romance writer would need to go at least once in their lifetime. Anyplace where you can step back in time gets my vote. I really enjoy watching them churn butter, shoe a horse, or any of the other jobs the pioneers did. I hope you get to go there often. And take your kids if you have any. They need to see how we got to where we are today and appreciate the modern inventions we take for granted. Thanks for dropping by.

  8. Hi Pamela T, glad you enjoyed my blog. That old house you mentioned held the spirit of the people who lived there. Your Grandma Jo sounds like a woman I’d love to have met, fearless and full of vim and vigor as they say. How sad they tore the house down. I hate when they do that. It’s like the new owners can’t see the value in perserving pieces of the past. To them it’s over and done with and are in a rush to wipe away the footprints. I’m glad you got to “feel” the spirit of your Grandma Jo though. That’s really neat. And it’s also great that you placed that setting in the book you wrote. In doing that you perserved that old house in a sense. Good for you!!

  9. Hi Judy H, I’m glad you could relate to my blog. Yes, I can imagine Lincoln’s log cabin would be a powerful place. I wish I could visit it. And also retrace the Oregon Trail. Walking in the footsteps where those brave settlers once stood, to “feel” their struggle, would be an unforgettable experience. I’m glad you got the chance to see those places.

  10. Hi Karen, thanks for coming by. I know what you mean about being a rush and not stopping to read historical markers. There are lots in this area that I’ve not stopped to read. One day I’m going to make myself do that. I really want to learn the history of this area. A lot happened here.

    Bless you for the kind words about our anthologies! I’m glad you liked them and I hope you’ll find this new one as entertaining as the others. I’ll be giving some copies away when we get to the release date.

  11. Great post Linda, there is an old shaker village near where I live and when you go through it, you feel like you are traveling back in time! Very interesting to see how people lived back then.

  12. I’ve had a few historical places hit me like this, Linda.

    I once went to Lake Atasca, the headwaters of the Mississippi in northern Minnesota. The water wasn’t the thing it was the drive. The woods around it.

    We drove there, so a road had been hacked out of that forest, but to look off through the woods, it was a perfect embodiment of the word Impenetrable.
    Trees so close together, broken off, scub brush, land so rough … I don’t think a person could walk ten yards into those woods. I could exactly imagine being a pioneer, looking for a place to settle. You would have avoided that place. Such a barrier.

    It absolutely transported me. I’ve always wanted to set a story in those woods. Not sure WHAT story, but what a land that time forgot.

  13. The other place like this for me that comes to mind is Carlsbad Cavern. When I walked through that place it was like I went back in time. I could imagine the first person who tried to walk in there. (I’ve read a lot about him, fascinating stuff)
    But it’s so VAST and so DANGEROUS.

    Did you know that they found THREE dead bodies down there as they explored. Very odd.
    One was buried about one hundred feet down in Bat Guano. One was wrapped in leather, so a sort of formal burial situation. One was under a limestone drip and the skeleton had grown and grown as it became something of a stalagmite. When they found the body they thought it was of a giant, because it was so big. It took them a while to not think they’d found evidence of a lost race of giant men.
    These bodies were already down there when Jim White discovered the cavern so someone had come before.
    Jim White spent TWENTY YEARS trying to convince people it was cool. It was just so far out from a town, such rugged land. No roads. He couldn’t get anyone to come and look.

  14. Oh, and, just this year, I read that they have discovered a new stretch of the cavern that is still unexplored. Out over some pit they discovered that OVERHEAD was a huge cave. They raised a camera up to it on a helium balloon (or something like that) So after 100 years they haven’t reached the ends of Carlsbad Cavern.

  15. Hi Linda! This sounds like a perfect setting for a book! About connecting to historical places . . . That feeling mostly hits me in the middle of nowhere, where it’s easy to imagine covered wagons and people moving west. I like to imagine being the first person to ever see a particular place or view.

    On a more concrete note, visiting the White House (just the “cattle tour”) gave me goosebumps. Same with Mt. Vernon.

  16. Hi Quilt Lady, wow a Shaker village! I love going to those places where the people show what it was like to live back in the old days. I learn all sorts of interesting things. I can read about the different tasks people used to do, but actually seeing it makes a much deeper impression. And I learn all sorts of interesting little details that make it come to life more when I add them in my stories.

  17. Hi Mary, you always seem to incorporate some out of the way scary place in your stories. I remember that thicket in your first book where the heroine lived and was hiding out with her children. You created lots of suspense. Those woods in Minnesota would be the same way. They just spoke to you. I’ll watch and see what story you put them in.

    The Carlsbad Caverns always amaze me. No matter how many times I’ve been there I always see something new. I was born and raised fifty some miles from there so I went a lot when I was growing up. The vastness, the cool damp air, and the sounds of water dripping really stand out in my mind. Back in the old days we were taken through there by park guides and they would turn out the lights for a few minutes so that we could get a feel of what it must’ve been like for the first men to explore it. It was sooooo DARK! You can’t see anything. Just amazing. And yes, they’re still discovering new parts to it.

  18. Hi Vickie, I agree that the lonely desolate places really get my imagination going. I wonder how those people survived being so far removed from others. From HELP if they had an accident or got sick. That would’ve taken lots of courage. But I also find myself wondering what drew people to those remote areas. It boggles my mind.

    The White House must truly be something to see. Talk about a historical place! I’d love to visit it someday. I wonder what it be like to live in a place like that. I’ve heard there are hidden tunnels all over it. Lots and lots of history, and sadness, and overwhelming beauty.

  19. I’ve never felt any great longing to travel outside of American…probably because I’ve done so LITTLE traveling IN America. I always figure I should see America first.

    But the exception to that is I’d love to see Anciet Things. I’d love to see old moldering castles in England and Scotland. Pyramids. The Romanc Coliseum. Not sure why I feel such a draw to really old stuff.

    I don’t particular lust after antique furniture. Thought I like it. But I prefer NEW stuff in my house. 🙂

  20. I’ve never felt any great longing to travel outside of America…probably because I’ve done so LITTLE traveling IN America. I always figure I should see America first.

    But the exception to that is I’d love to see Ancient Things. I’d love to see old moldering castles in England and Scotland. Pyramids. I’d like to see that gold sarcophagus King Tut was in. The Roman Coliseum. Not sure why I feel such a draw to really old things. Of course it might explain why I neglect the back of my refrigerator!!!

    I don’t particular lust after antique furniture. Though I like to look at it. But I prefer NEW stuff in my house. 🙂

  21. Mary, I know I’ll never make it to places outside the U.S. but I’m perfectly satisfied to tour the states and see their historical sites. Like you said there’s a lot to see and do. I just hope I get to see Hawaii before I swing on the pearly gates.

    Ha! I wonder if those people who had the first ice boxes had a problem with sticking things in the back and not finding them until they molded? I just hate cleaning the fridge. Sounds like we could be sisters.

  22. Here in the States I went to Louisa May Alcott’s house…very much a shrine in my opinon. Just felt like what you would expect. I also get the goosebumpy feeling when I go to Civil War Battlefields.

    But I am one of those people who has been fortunate to travel outside the US and the first thing that came to mind was going to Giverny where Monet lived and painted his garden. We were there so early in April that I had assumed there would be few flowers in bloom. But I walked through the gate to a riot of color in all forms of flowering things. Burst into tears right there.

    Mary, I inherited a lot of antiques 300 years and older, as well as family heirlooms from colonial to WWII. I was the girl who grew up saying “I am going to have a house made out of stainless steel and glass.” So it has been out with the new and in with the old.

  23. Ft. Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain in Upstate New York is such a place. We went there for one of their first Highland Games back in the mid 1970’s. The fort was built between 1755 and 1759 by the French. Over the years it was held by the British and the American Revolutionary forces. It has seen a lot of history and important figures in history.
    The night of our visit, a concert (bagpipes and drums) was held on the parade grounds in the center of the fort. The grounds were lit only by torches. There was a clear, star filled sky overhead. The pipe band started playing outside the fort walls and marched in through the archway. The music echoed off the walls and you could smell the leather of the bagpipes. Looking around, there were soldiers and militia men with their flintlocks and the women in their aprons and mop hats. You truly were transported back over 220 years. It still gives me goosebumps to think of it.
    We have been back many times since. A couple of years ago we were there for a French & Indian war reenactment and encampment. They had night time cannon volleys (6 to 8 cannons) and we strolled among the tent where life was pretty much the same as it had been. Women and men sat around fires cooking, visiting, sewing, eating, playing cards, etc. The area was lit by candle lanterns. We hiked out to a field where they reenacted a nighttime skirmish. It was so dark I don’t know how sentries ever managed to do their job. Muzzle flashes and voices were all that told you where the combatants were.
    Mesa Verde in Colorado also has a feel of the past to it. The whole area has an atmosphere of the ancients to it. There is just a presence to the land. We hope to make it to Chaco Canyon and Canyon de Chelly some day soon.
    I have been lucky enough to travel and some places just seem to hold part of the essence of what came before. Some of the temples in Bali and Indonesia held that feeling.

  24. Hi Julie, thanks for stopping by to comment. I’d love to visit Louisa May Alcott’s house. And Giverny! That must truly have been something. I envy you of your travels. I really don’t have a whole lot to account for my years here on earth. There are so many things I’ve never seen.

  25. Hi Patricia B, wow lady, you’ve had some awesome experiences! I can just imagine what Ft. Ticonderoga would be like. How neat that they’ve kept it just as it was. I know I’d love to see that place, walk the ground where so much happened. And Mesa Verde in Colorado has been on my bucket list for a long time. One day I mean to go. Thanks for adding your list of places to the others.

  26. Great post, Linda. Lots of story material there. Near the place I grew up is the old homestead that belonged to Butch Cassidy’s family where little Robert (Butch) grew up with his many siblings. It’s pretty run down but you do get a sense of history there.
    Can’t wait to get your anthology. Great cover. Congratulations. And happy birthday to a great lady!

  27. great post!
    what an amazing and awful place
    i cannot imagine the things that happened there

    i get that connected feeling often
    i get it just standing in my house built in 1890 or out in the yard, looking around at the hills and valleys imagining all those that passed this way before me
    if the hills could only speak

  28. Hi Elizabeth, glad you liked my blog. I’m sure Butch Cassidy’s family’s old homestead is full of the spirits from long ago. It’s sad that whoever owns it has let it run down. Don’t they realize they own a piece of history? Sometimes I just want to shake people. When I drove over to Ransom Canyon I had to stop and ask directions to the historical marker. People couldn’t tell me tell me where it was. They have no idea the history of the place where they live. And the worst part is that they don’t seem to care. Too sad.

    Thanks for the birthday wishes. You’re so sweet. Also thanks for the compliment about our new anthology cover. I hope that guy helps us sell a bunch of copies.

  29. Hi Tabitha, how neat that you live in a house built in 1890! Wow! Yes, if only it and the hills and valleys surrounding it could speak. Sometimes I walk over the ground of a place and wonder at the secrets it holds, how many people are buried in unmarked graves, and what it looked like before it was settled. I have quite an inquiring mind. But I think that’s the sign of a writer. Ha!

  30. Great post, Linda! Your pictures are fantastic! I’ve had a few places that really took my breath away and one is Andersonville Prison. but the one that I think of so often is this wonderful house that you and I found in Calvert, Texas. I took a zillion pictures of it, as you will recall…even when it was too dark to keep taking ‘um. I just can’t get the house out of my mind and wonder about the people who owned it and their stories. It’s stayed so much with me that I plan on it being my mind-set house in our newly contracted collection, “Be My Texas Valentine.” I love that old house. The Pioneer Cemetery at Menard, Texas, is also a place that I love to stop and spend quiet time when I travel to San Antonio. There are a lot of Texas Rangers buried there and I’d love to know each of their stories. Wow, thanks for jogging my memories, friend.

  31. Hi Phyliss, glad you liked my blog and the pictures. Yes, I remember that old house in Calvert. That was such a neat old town. It seemed like history was smacking us in the face every time we turned a corner. I’m glad you’re using that house in our Valentine anthology. And I agree that cemetery in Menard. Jan and I went there after you told me about it. We walked around for hours looking at the graves. As you said, lots of Texas Rangers are buried there. I know how emotional your visit to Andersonville Prison was so am not surprised you listed it first. Glad I could jog your memories.

  32. I recently mentioned on one of Mary’s blogs an
    incident I experienced at the Alamo back in the
    1970s. I was fine until we reached an open area
    near the center of the building. Suddenly I was
    surrounded by what sounded like voices and sounds
    of battle. We had to leave the building because I
    was totally thrown off balance by the incident.

    Pat Cochran

  33. Oh, Pat C., that must’ve been a really strange experience! I’ve never had anything happen like that. I’m certain the Alamo is haunted. It has to be with so many deaths in it. Those spirits have to be trapped in there. Thank you so much for sharing that.

  34. I grew up in Ransom, we had a lot of ghost stories. There’s one about a woman that drowned her daughters before the indians could get to them.

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