Ghosts of Fort Concho …

A couple of months ago fellow Filly, Linda Broday and I, along with two other writer friends who love to research went down to Fort Concho in San Angelo, Texas, for a visit.  Little did we know about the ghosts of this retired military post.

Like many others in the chain of forts in the heartland of Texas, Fort Concho was built to protect frontier settlements, patrol and map the vast West Texas region, and quell hostile threats in the area. The site was very strategically located by the government in order to stabilize the region because no less than five major trails passed near the junction of the North and Middle Concho Rivers.

In December 1867, because of the lack of good water, the army was forced to abandon Fort Chadbourne (located north of what is now Bronte, Texas) and established Fort Concho. The original fort consisted of over forty buildings constructed for the most part of native limestone and covered more than 1600 acres. The post was known as Camp Hatch and Camp Kelly, named for commanding officers of the post. 

But it only served the area for about twenty-two years. In June 1889 the last soldiers marched away from Fort Concho and the fort was deactivated. The fort’s role in the settling of the Texas frontier was over.

During its heyday, Fort Concho served as regimental headquarters for some of the most famous frontier units like the 4th and 10th Cavalry. Notable military commanders such as Ranald Mackenzie, Benjamin Grierson, and William ‘Pecos Bill’ Shafter commanded here. Elements of all four regiments of the Buffalo Soldiers were stationed at the post during its active period. At full strength Fort Concho supported 400-500 men made up of companies of infantry and troops of cavalry, staff officers and support personnel.  The post played a pivotal role in the suppression of illegal profiteering that was being conducted by Mexican and American traders known as “Comanchero’s”.

Now that you know the history of the fort, let’s talk about the ghosts of Fort Concho.

One of the most haunted locations at the fort is the officer’s quarters also known as “Officers Row”. Located across the parade ground from the enlisted barracks, this row of sturdy stone houses serve as the impetus for most if not all of the ghostly tales that are told about Fort Concho.

Their most distinguished commander, Colonel Ranald Mackenzie, known for the infamous Battle of Palo Duro Canyon, is said to haunt his old residence at the center of Officers Row. The ghost of Colonel Mackenzie has been seen by visitors and staff at the old house on more than one occasion. It is said that Colonel Mackenzie was fond of his house and its location because he could see almost everything that was going on in the fort at any given time.  

While preparing for a winter event one December, a female staff member working in the Mackenzie house heard the unmistakable sound of footsteps walking behind her. Just as the woman turned around, she was knocked up against a wall by a blast of cold air. Frightened, she heard the “unique sound of knuckles cracking.” Colonel Mackenzie was known for cracking his knuckles; therefore, there was no doubt to the woman that she’d come face-to-face with the spirit of the famous commander.

Another of the “row’s” many distinguished families was that of Colonel Benjamin Grierson, regimental commander of the 10th cavalry.  Colonel Grierson’s daughter Edith died in the upstairs bedroom of one of the houses around her twelfth birthday. Over the years, many people have encountered the little girl along Officer Row. In most instances, Edith is often seen quietly playing jacks.

Those people who have encountered her say that the first thing they notice is that the room where the girl is playing is substantially cooler than any of the other rooms in the house. Edith will acknowledge the presence of a person when they enter the room by turning her head and smiling before she returns to her game of jacks, but she will rarely say anything them.

Another interesting story is about a delivery person bringing flowers to one of the houses along Officers Row. He was told to put the two bouquets of flowers in the bedrooms at the top of the stairs, one to the right and one to the left. As the young man ascended the stairs, he noticed that the temperature seemed cooler than in the foyer of the house. Reaching the top of the stairs, the man turned and entered the first bedroom on the right nearly tripping over a small girl playing jacks on the floor just inside the doorway. The man excused himself but the girl never appeared to even acknowledge his presence. The florist placed the flowers on the bedside table as instructed. Once finished, he left the room and placed the other bouquet in the bedroom across the hallway.

Before going back down stairs, the florist looked in on the little girl across the hall and she was gone; however, the flowers he had placed on the nightstand had been moved to a table in the corner of the room. He figured that the little girl had repositioned the flowers because he noticed that the girl’s jacks were on the table next to the bed.

Just as the florist was about to leave, he happened to see a portrait above the fire place. To his surprise, the little girl in the picture was a twin of the young girl he had just saw upstairs playing jacks. Believing that the small child was the daughter of the woman staying in the house, the florist mentioned that he had met the girl in the picture only moments before and commented on how she had moved the flowers from the nightstand. To the delivery man’s surprise, the woman stated that she did not have a daughter and explained that Colonel Grierson’s daughter Edith had died in the upstairs bedroom where he had placed the flowers. Chuckling to herself, she informed the man that countless others have seen the Edith’s ghost in the house.

The Officers Quarters is not the only location at Fort Concho where ghostly activity has been report. The fort’s headquarters building is also reputed to be a hot bed for paranormal encounters. In addition to the ghosts of Colonel Mackenzie and Edith Grierson, several other lesser known but still active spirits have taken up residence at Fort Concho, but I’ll have to save that for another day.

I’d love to hear your ghost stories.

Today is the official release date for “Give Me a Texas Outlaw” from Barnes and Nobles , Amazon, and all the book clubs.   Here’s a picture of Linda and me in the Lonesome Dove Jail at Fort Concho.  That dang sheriff couldn’t hear a dern thing and thought we were saying “We are Texas Outlaws” not we’re authors of “Give Me a Texas Outlaw”!

To celebrate our newest release, I’m gonna give away two autographed copies of “Give Me a Texas Outlaw”, so get your name in the hat by comment ing today. 

In memory of Elmer Kelton… 

 

While in San Angelo, we had the humbling experience of attending the unveiling of Elmer Kelton’s bronze statue at the Tom Green County Library. I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Kelton, a western novelist of over forty books who brought the sensibility of the old-style western to bear on a modern Texas landscape of oil fields and financially troubled ranches, before he  died in August 2009 at the age of eighty-three.

He won the prestige Western Heritage Award four times, and was a seven time winner of the Spur Award from the Western Writers of America, amongst many other awards and achievements.

Elmer’s  novels were set in many eras of the past and occasionally the present, all of them underscoring the workingman’s dignity of the cowboy, which he treated as a category of man rather than a specific profession. His protagonists were as likely to be oil-field workers, handymen or Texas Rangers as ranchers, and though they weren’t perfect — in fact they were often hugely flawed — he always imbued them with natural competence, self-sufficiency and self-respect.

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A native Texan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Phyliss Miranda still believes in the Code of the Old West and loves to share her love for antiques, the lost art of quilting, and the Wild West.

Visit her at phylissmiranda.com

33 thoughts on “Ghosts of Fort Concho …”

  1. Fort Concho is close to my neck of the woods, Phyliss. Glad you got to experience with Linda. We have a fort in Abilene with a very ghost-like name – Fort Phantom – but as far as I know, no ghosts roam the old ruins. The little research I did into the name showed that the fort was actually named Fort Phantom Hill because from a distance it seemed to be sitting atop a rise, yet as you came closer the hill disappeared. Not as fun or interesting as the little girl playing jacks.

  2. Very interesting post. Best of everything with this book and a Texas Christmas (also the one coming out about Valentine Day).

  3. Hi Karen, Abilene is like home to me, since both my oldest daughter and her hubby are McMurry alum. Spent a lot of time down there a few years back. I’ll have to check out Fort Phantom Hill. Very interesting. There might be ghosts you don’t know about. LOL

    Goldie, thanks for stopping by, and appreciate the good wishes on our new book. We’re starting our official booksigning tour on Friday (although we’ve already done two booksignings), and I’m already tired.

    Hope you both have a great day after the 4th!! Hugs, P

  4. Well done post with great information. I love those tales of the old west and particularly the ghost stories. Thrilled you girls have another book out (finally!). Can’t wait to read it.

  5. Thanks for the great post Phyliss. Lot’s of interesting and new-to-me info. Don’t have any ghost stories of my own and I’m not much of a believer in that sort of thing, but it’s always fun to hear of others experiences.

  6. Enjoyed reading the article. Isn’t it refreshing to know that some of our early history is preserved in places such as these? I grew up near Bent’s Fort in south Eastern Colorado so was introduced early in life to our heritage.
    The book sounds great.

  7. I love ghost stories, Phyliss. With its colourful past as a military city, my hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia has plenty. A friend of mine who lives in the part of the city destroyed by the Halifax Explosion in 1917 had an encounter a few years ago. She arrived home after work, glanced in her kitchen window and saw a man in old-fashioned clothes sitting at her table. While she was watching, he vanished. Her ‘guest’ is the hero of my current WIP.

  8. What a great post. I love learning about all of these historical sites. I have been in a few castles in Ireland and Scotland, that are said to be haunted, but I have never toured anything like these old towns and barracks you have talked about.
    Thanks for sharing..

  9. I apologize to everyone for doing my 9:23 post under Karen’s name. For some reason (mainly because I didn’t double check the fields that automatically filled in for me) WordPress recognized Karen, since she was the last person answering, instead of me. Sorry!

  10. Thanks, Nat, for dropping by. I really wanted to use the picture of you and the Buffalo Soldier showing you how his rifle worked, but didn’t have room. Love our “walk the walk” research trips … which translate into “gives us a reason to leave the kids behind” and enjoy the day! But, we’ve all have seeds planted for future work from our trips. Hugs, P

  11. Winnie, isn’t it fun to listen to the stories! It’s kinda like sitting around a camp fire at the closing night of summer camp. I’m sure many of mucho exaggerated, but still fun.

    And, Joye, good to hear from you. Bent’s Fort will be added to my list of places to research.

    You all have a great day. Hugs, P

  12. Great post. I love ghost stories. Congrats on the release of your new anthology. Love the cover.

  13. I really loved this post! Also love the pic of you in the jail. Congrats on your new release Give Me A Texas Outlaw, can’t wait to get this book. Your other anthologies are on my keeper shelf so this one needs to join them. Thanks for sharing with us today.

  14. Hi Phyliss, love the research and the ghost! I own a demonstration house from when they were selling off the XIT ranch. When my oldest son was a baby we lived there. I went to do the dishes one day after lunch and low and behold there was a see through cowboy standing on the stairs, smiling and watching me. I said hello and went about my chores. He was there more in the spring than any other time of the year. I never knew when he would appear.

  15. Jennie, how interesting. Now I want to read up on the Halifax Explosion in 1917. I’m such a “what if” type researcher. Even at Fort Concho, I got an idea for a plot involving the first copying presses used by the military. It was fascinating.

    Kathleen, I’ve heard about the haunted castles in Ireland and Scotland, but have never had the opportunity to visit. My foreign travel is nothing greater than Mexico, Canada, and the Bahamas (and they nearly had to tie me to the seat to fly over water … even landing at Logan in Boston scares the dewaddling out of me. I’m not a water baby for sure.) Maybe someday.

  16. Phyliss, I’m so glad I got on this research trip with you. I had so much fun. Getting put in the pokey was even fun. Loved your blog today. I’d heard that Ft. Concho was very haunted but didn’t know any of the stories until we visited it. It’s a great place to see. So much history happened there and the historical society has done an excellent job keeping those old buildings in such good shape.

    Looking forward to our trip to Liberal in a few weeks. That’ll be fun also.

  17. How interesting. We would like to go back to Texas and if we do, Fort Concho will be on our list to visit.
    We have ghosts in our house. I have felt their presence, but never seen them. When our son was about 12, he woke up one night and saw a little girl of about 8 to 10 standing next to his bed. Former residents of our house have said there is a lady in white who appears on the upper hall landing before someone dies. Our daughter said she saw her the night before our cat died.
    The most frightening event occurred about 13 years ago. Our daughter was house sitting for us. We have a 1898 victorian farm house with a new addition on the back. She is not comfortable in the old part of the house, so she put the portacrib with her infant son in the family room in the new part and she slept on the sofa. She got up for the baby in the middle of the night and had that creepy feeling someone was watching her. It was a very threatening feeling. She turned around and a greenish form was taking shape in the hallway to the old part of the house. Our black lab who had been sleeping next to the sofa got up, with the hairs up on her back. She was growling and headed for the form. Just before she got to it, it vanished. The dog stopped in her tracks, stopped growling, and came back to lie down. Our daughter said the threatening feeling stopped when the form vanished. As far as we know, she is the only one that has ever had any type of negative experience.

    Good luck with the release of GIVE ME A TEXAS OUTLAW. I am certain it will be as good as your earlier ones.

  18. Yo Phyliss, I love the post. I’ve got Fort Concho in a wip I work on from time to time, and now I know where to come when I work on it for real! I need to spend more time in Texas, that’s for sure. Until I do, I sure do depend on you and Linda and the other Texans in my cyber-life. oxoxox

  19. Phyliss,

    I love any stories that deal with ghosts. I would love to visit and see the little girl. Thanks for sharing this with us today.

    Love the cover of the book!!!!Also, the photo of you and Linda

    Walk in harmony,
    Melinda

  20. I can never resist a ghost stories, I love them! Especially those based on a true stories. I believe in them but have no personal stories to share, a good thing? To make up, I like getting true-based ghost stories of my town. That way instead of one stories, I get many in a book and they are about places I know about. Sometimes the places still exist. I will say, though the ghosts I am afraid of are those that can follow you. If a place is haunted you can always leave, but nothing scarier than a mean stalker ghost.

    Give Me a Texas Outlaw looks fantastic. I want my own cowboy 🙂

  21. I love ghost stories! While I have never beenanywhere that there were rumors of ghosts, I believe my mother’s spirit has visited me many times.
    Love the book cover!

  22. When we were first married we lived in a historic building from the 1800s. At first I heard footsteps walking up to our door but no one was there. Eventually I saw young men walking through our apartment and hallway in old fahioned garb. This happened both during the day and at night. There were never any women or children, but the ghosts always seemed benevolent, never threatening. (It was still unnerving.)
    We later learned the building we lived in had originally served as housing for the single men. We were also told that an older man who lived there before we did would go out and sleep in his car because he said the place was haunted.

  23. Thanks Vicki, research is really fun, isn’t it; particularly with fellow writers. We just see things differently, I believe. CrystalGB and Quilt Lady, thanks for stopping by. We really loved this cover, and I hope you both love our stories as much as we loved writing them.

    Stephy, your story sent chills up my spine! WOW! I’m very eager to write a blog on the XIT, as you know. It’s so much fun to have someone who actually still lives on the famous ranch as a friend! I can hardly wait to tell its story!

    Hugs to all, Phyliss

  24. Ohhhh Pat, what a story! It spooked me, and that’s not easy to do. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    Thanks, Linda, for coming by. We’ve had some interesting research trips and Ft. Concho was one of the best. For those who don’t already know, Linda and I will be up in Kansas next weekend with a combination research and booksigning tour. We’re going to the Dalton Gang Hangout, Liberal and Dodge City. We’re already tired, but happy to be there.

    And, Tanya, it’s exciting to have Fort Concho in your wip. It was so interesting and there was so much information about its history that I couldn’t share. Col. Ranald Mackenzie and the story of Palo Duro Canyon in itself is fascinated, but again, I just didn’t have room to write everything I wanted to. Ask away when you are ready to go back to your wip. Hugs, P

  25. Okay, I have to admit that I’m behind on answering posts because I’ve been wrapped up in the Casey Anthony case from day one and had to stop to check out the verdict. I apologize!!!!

    Thanks, Melinda. We thought the pix at the jail was fun and figured you all would enjoy it. You know … girls just gotta have fun!

    Oh Na, don’t we all want our own cowboy!!! Hugs, Phyliss

  26. Judy H, what a great story. Even in Amarillo we have a couple of historic homes that are rumored to still have the spirits of the owners there.

    Colleen and Estella, thanks for stopping by. One of my favorite haunted houses is the Winchester Mansion in San Jose. Man, does that place have a history.

    Whether you believe in ghosts or not, it’s still fun to think about the “what if’s” and they make great stories. I’d imagine the majority have been embellished so much they they are only a grain of the real truth.

    Linda and I did get to see the picture of the little Grierson girl over the fireplace.

  27. Love hearing all the stories although I’m afraid I have none myself but I do believe all things are possible. Congrats on your book – it sounds wonderful!

  28. Enjoyed reading today’s blog..this site has one of the more interesting blogs I visit. The book sounds great.

  29. Hi catslady. I guess it’s good that you don’t have any ghost stories yourself, but it’s fun to wonder “what if?” That’s how writers think.

    Jackie, on behalf of all of the Fillies at Wildflower Junction, we appreciate your compliment. We love to write about the old west, but we’ve gotta have gals like you reading them. Thanks for your support. Have a great evening, ladies. Hugs, P

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