Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Fort Davis: Alice’s Roses

Fort Davis, 1860s

In 1854, Fort Davis in West Texas was built near the Limpia Creek. The soldiers at the fort guarded the wagon trains and stagecoaches that traveled between San Antonio and El Paso. They were often called out to protect the settlers from Apache Indian raids.

The fort itself was hastily built with the idea in mind that it would eventually be moved to a more protected location by a canyon. The fort consisted of wood plank structures with dirt floors. There were houses for married men and their families, a hospital, stables and a store.

The beautiful desert scenery and a large vegetable garden made the rough frontier life for the women that resided at the fort more bearable.

These hard living conditions were made worse as the various relationships between the soldiers became strained as the South came closer to secession.

The threat of a war between the states was looming over the U.S., and Fort Davis was staffed with officers from both the South and North--several had attended West Point together. Arguments between former friends flared up, and orders were often now followed in silence.

One young pretty southern wife at the fort was Alice Walpole. She was married to a lieutenant from Alabama. Alice, distracted by the rising tensions, missed the gentle blue-green hills of home even more.

In the early spring, Alice was told that there were beautiful wild white roses outside the fort, wanting to escape she decided to pick some. The Apache threat did not cross her mind for the bands usually kept to the roads in hopes of robbing coaches that carried money.

She followed the Limpia Creek but found no roses. She walked toward the mountains thinking she might find the blooms at a higher elevation. She looked back to see the fort as just a dot on the horizon.

She continued to follow the creek but as she rounded a bend, she saw a group of Indians a few feet away. They drank from the steam-- their horses were tethered nearby.

Limpia Creek
Robert William Wood, 1979
When her husband returned to the fort that afternoon, Alice was not at home, nor was she anywhere near the fort. The next day a search party was sent out, but no trace of Alice was found.

Late one night, several months later an enlisted man spotted a beautiful young woman hurrying past the row of Officer houses. He saw her long blue cape whipping behind her in the wind. The soldier greeted her, but she did not reply. 

He wondered why she was so familiar, he remembered Alice Walpole always wore a blue cape. He turned around to take another look and called out, “Wait, Miss.” She then just vanished.

Soon after others at the fort also saw the beautiful female apparition wearing the blue cape. Alice was often spotted near the officer’s quarters where the southern wives gathered to sew and talk.

No one ever heard her speak but the most tangible evidence of her presence was smelled--for whenever she was seen a strong aroma of wild roses lingered in the air.

Along with her appearances white roses began to appear in various rooms around the fort mysteriously.

As the Civil War began, many southern soldiers at Fort Davis tendered their resignations--to go east to fight for Jefferson Davis.

Amid this confusion the fort’s commandant, Captain Edward D. Blake noticed a vase with seven white roses appear on his desk. He found it odd because it was too early for flowers to bloom. Seven southern officers had resigned.

During the Civil War Fort Davis was occupied briefly by Confederate soldiers in 1861--they left when they failed to take New Mexico.

After the war, in 1867 Fort Davis reopened. Many soldiers from the South returned to serve at the garrison. The lovely female ghost wearing the blue cape continued to appear.

She often was seen by fort brides that were homesick. For years after whenever wild white roses were found out of season at the fort, it was believed to be Alice’s handiwork.

1 comment:

Leona Joan said...

Fascinating story. 😎