small light flickered through a broken pane of glass in the dilapidated
old officer’s quarters at Fort
Glancing at the light, the folks who occupied the adjacent officer’s
quarters bolted their doors and left a loaded gun in a convenient
location—just in case.
Established on the Concho River in 1867 to protect Texas from hostile
Indians, the fort had
been abandoned since 1889. The old fort
had become a residential area known as the Fort Addition by the early
Grown men and women did not believe the popular legend that Officer’s
Quarters No. 7 was haunted, yet the town’s younger generation found
the two-story structure terrifying. The adults merely agreed strange
things went on inside the house.
Interviewed by a reporter in the 1930s about a year-and-a-half before
her death, Mrs. Mary E. Rogers, who claimed to be the first Anglo
child born at the old fort,
said “mysterious things happened in that old house (No. 7). They just
couldn’t keep it rented.”
The haunted house label was attached – apparently by children—following
the discovery of a murdered man in the old building about 1895 or
limestone quarters had been built in 1877. Col. Benjamin Grierson,
commander of the post at the time, wrote his wife saying the building
contained a “double set of quarters for unmarried officers.”
After the fort’s abandonment,
as were many of the other buildings, No. 7 was used as a private residence
and occasionally rented out.
At the time of the murder, the house sat abandoned. Someone found
the body of a man inside, shot to death. After that day, rumor and
legend spread faster than rigor mortis.
Mrs. Rogers, who remembered a lot about the old fort,
said the man killed was a trapper of coyotes, wolves and badgers,
Apparently he had been killed is a dispute over trapping rights.
One woman said the man believed to have committed the murder later
was killed himself over a matter of grazing rights.
“He ran his sheep all over the country,” she said. “There wasn’t much
water at the time, so a land owner told him, ‘Don’t drive your sheep
in my pasture --.”
But just like a scene out of a Western movie, the determined sheep
owner ran his stock across the other man’s land anyway.
The landowner and a companion were riding in a wagon one day when
they saw the sheep owner coming. The passenger gave the man a rifle
and ran. The driver stayed on the wagon as the herder approached.
The sheep owner and purported creator of the ghost in No. 7 ended
up with a bullet between his eyes.
old government building could attract spooky living characters as
well as the more ethereal sort.
Mrs. Rogers said that when she was a young girl living with her family
at the fort, two men once approached her and asked if her mother might
have a candle. She said she was sure her mother did, and the two asked
her to bring them one.
“I brought them a candle and they went down into basement of No. 7,”
she continued. “The people next door saw a light over there that night.”
The next day, she related, lawmen from Brownwood showed up looking
for a pair who had robbed a ranching family and made off with two
of their best horses.
The officers spotted two horses hitched up behind No. 7, arrested
the two men inside and took them back to Brownwood to face charges.
As for Mrs. Rogers, she “liked to got ate up” by her mother for giving
the two strangers a candle.
story, with some editing and a few additions, is from my first book,
“Red Rooster Country,” published in 1970 and is based on a feature
article I did for the San Angelo Standard-Times in 1968. Another
Standard-Times journalist working a generation before me is
the one who interviewed Mrs. Rogers.
Though Mrs. Rogers had said she was the first white child born at
the fort, Suzanne Campbell, head of the West Texas Collection at Angelo
State University, says a couple of other pioneers asserted they were
the first Anglo kids in Tom
When I wrote
the story back in the late ‘60s, No. 7 remained in private hands
as rental property. It has since become part of the Fort Concho
National Historic Landmark. These days, it houses the fort’s
library-archives and an office.
According to tour guide Michael Smith, the staff at Fort
Concho has heard of No. 7’s supposed haunting, but no one reports
having any spooky encounters in the old building. Indeed, most of
the ghost hunter attention at the old fort gets focused on Officer’s
Quarters No. 1, where Col. Grierson’s young daughter – Edith --
died of typhoid fever on Sept. 9, 1878. Many believe her ghost has
stayed around after all these years.
© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" August
27, 2008 column