Concho was established in 1867, along
the banks of the Concho River, the location was then at the junction of
the Butterfield Trail, Goodnight Trail and the Road to
Constructed under the guidance of Captain G. Hunt and the 4th
Cavalry, the post’s objective was to protect frontier settlements, patrol
and map the vast West
Texas region, and quell hostile threats in the area.
It replaced Fort Chadbourne, located in present-day Coke County, when it
was abandoned due to chronic water shortages. The site itself, was chosen
for its strategic location at the junction of the North and Middle Concho
Rivers, and because there were five major trails in the vicinity.
By March 1, 1870, several buildings had been completed, including a
commissary and quartermaster storehouse, hospital, five officers’
quarters, a powder magazine and two barracks – all built of sandstone.
Construction continued for the entire existence of the fort, and it
was deactivated before it was ever actually completed. In the end,
the fort contained at least forty buildings and covered more than 1600
At its peak, the post
supported as many as 500 troops, including such famous frontier units
like the 4th and 10th Cavalries. Notable military commanders included
men such as Ranald Mackenzie, William 'Pecos Bill' Shafter, and
Benjamin Grierson, who commanded several regiments of buffalo soldiers
of the 10th Cavalry.
In addition to
protecting settlers, stagecoaches, wagon trains and the United States
mail, the troops also participated in several successful campaigns
Comanche Indians and played an important role in the
suppression of illegal profiteering between the Mexican and American
traders known as Comancheros.
September, 1872, Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie and his troops,
familiarly referred to as "Mackenzie's Raiders," successfully attacked
camp, killing 23 warriors. When the battle was over,
127 women and children were marched to Fort Concho where they were
imprisoned through the winter in the stone corral. In the spring of
1873, the women and children were then sent to the Indian reservation
near Fort Sill,
On September 28,
1874, Mackenzie, led his raiders on another campaign when he attacked
and destroyed a large
Indian encampment in
Palo Duro Canyon. Mackenzie’s troopers formed part of the Red
River Campaign of 1874-75, organized to force the
Comanche to return to the reservations. On September 28th,
Mackenzie’s scouts followed the
Indian trail to the edge of
Palo Duro Canyon, before the
soldiers descended the steep slopes to the valley floor 700 feet
below. Taken by surprise, the
Indians abandoned their villages, allowing Mackenzie to capture
more than 1,100 horses that were later slaughtered to prevent
recapture. Although few
soldiers were killed, the unrelenting pursuit of the troopers and
the cold weather ultimately forced the
Indians to surrender, thus bringing to a close the Red River War.
By the late 1880s, the
railroad had arrived in the area, the vast majority of hostile Indians had
been placed on reservations, and military protection was becoming
unnecessary. The few remaining soldiers left the fort for the last time
on June 20, 1889 headed to
The acreage and buildings
were later sold to a private individual. However by the early 20th
century, interest was increasing to preserve the fort. In 1935, the land
and buildings were purchased by the City of San Angelo,
Texas. Over the
years, the structures were restored and others rebuilt. It was designated
a National Historic Landmark in 1961.
Today, the old post
includes 23 buildings, such as the post headquarters, officers' quarters,
barracks, post hospital, stable, school house, and others. The site also
features several museums including the Fort Concho Museum, which provides
regular an changing exhibits in many of the restored buildings. The
visitor's center is located in Barracks 1 and includes a gift shop.
Special living history reenactments are held throughout the year. In the
old Officers’ Quarters No. 4 Building, is housed the E. H. Danner Museum
of Telephony and the Robert Wood Johnson Museum of Frontier Medicine is
located in the post hospital building.
Hauntings at Fort Concho
In addition to the staff
and many visitors to this historic site, other unearthly "people” are also
said to continue to linger throughout the fort. The most haunted
buildings are situated on "Officers Row,” where the spirits of previous
commanders allegedly remain.
Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie
reportedly lingers at his old home at the center of Officers Row. Said to
have been extremely fond of the house, he has been seen by visitors and
staff alike. Staff have heard the sounds of mysterious footsteps when no
one is present. Others have heard knuckles cracking, which was a common
habit of the old colonel.
In the old home of Colonel
Officer Quarter 1, the ghost of his 12
year-old daughter has evidently continued her residency in the home.
Unfortunately, Edith, who was familiarly called "Eedie,” died in
September, 1879 of typhoid fever after weeks of having been ill. Over the
years, she has been often spied playing the game of Jacks, which was her
favorite in her lifetime. Those who have seen her report that the room is
very cold when they enter, and when the startled visitors spy her
apparition, the girl turns and smiles before returning to her game.
Objects have also said to have been mysteriously moved in the room, and
some have spied jacks lying about. She has also been seen standing on the
staircase in a long peach colored dress. Others have reported the sounds
of a ball bouncing and footsteps on the staircase, doors slamming shut of
their own accord.
The post headquarters has
also seen paranormal activity. Reporting sightings of a shadowing
soldier, staff believe that this is the spirit of Second Sergeant Cunningham,
who was the only soldier to ever die at
Fort Concho. Cunningham, who was
a chronic alcoholic, died of liver disease. His ghost is said to be
opposed to females in the building.
Other ghosts have also been
seen and heard around the old post, including the disembodied voices of
Chaplain Dunbar and an unidentified officer’s wife at the post chapel,
strange lights coming on in the night, and some report seeing a soldier
who likes to wander about the neighborhood outside the fort.
of America, updated April, 2015.