Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Violent History of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Beloved Home

Georgia O'Keeffe at Ghost Ranch
Arthur Pack, one of America’s first environmentalists, bought Ghost Ranch, 15 miles north of Abiquiu, New Mexico in 1936.

O'Keeffe's home at Ghost Ranch
Georgia O’Keeffe having visited Ghost Ranch for several summers convinced Pack to sell her, a small piece of this ranch in 1940, seven acres and a house. This became her summer home.

She bought another three acres and a crumbling adobe home (which she spent 3 years remodeling) in the village of Abiquiu where she spent her winters.

O’Keeffe created her Southwestern paintings while living in North Central New Mexico.

Her home at Ghost Ranch has a fascinating history.

In the 1800s the Archuleta brothers claimed 22,000 acres on the Rito del Yeso spring. This was the most reliable water source in this high arid desert.

Ghost Ranch

These brothers built cedar and adobe houses and ran horses and cattle on this ranch that became known as Rancho de Los Brujos (Ranch of the Witches).

Ghost Ranch in Fall.
This pair began to offer “feigned hospitality” to other cattlemen that passed through the valley. But these visitors would mysteriously disappear. There were rumors of bodies in the well and men being pushed off high cliffs to their death.

The Archuleta brothers then sold the goods, horses, and cattle they stole from these victims.

These two men became prolific killers.

View from Kitchen Table
Credit: Erin Vanella
Ghost stories began to be told about the ranch. Some heard the wailing voices of the murder victims. Others spoke in whispers about ghostly apparitions.

The brothers afraid this was drawing undue attention to their criminal enterprise stated they actually started the rumors of ghosts themselves to keep people away.

Becoming greedier the Archuleta brothers grew paranoid. They even eventually became suspicious of each other.

After the younger brother sold one stolen herd, he decided to bury the gold he received in a clay pot. The older brother demanded to know where he hid this payment.

The two fought, and the older brother killed his brother. But this younger man took the secret of where the money was to his grave.

Thinking the wife of his brother must know where the gold was hidden the older brother threatened her. She wisely packed up and left with her children.

O'Keeffe's Winter Cottonwoods
The villagers seeing that the remaining brother was now alone and vulnerable took the opportunity. They rode to the ranch and hanged the older brother from a Cottonwood tree.

For years, people felt the spirit of this brother was connected to the tree he was hanged from.

This is why some feel the property is called Ghost Ranch today.

Phoebe and Arthur Pack
No one has ever found the buried gold and the Presbyterian Church has owned Ghost Ranch since Arthur Pack and his wife, Phoebe, gave it to the church in 1955.

Since this beautiful valley has been used as a retreat for people of all faiths and cultural backgrounds.

No comments: