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.
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.