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Haunted History: The Residents of Concordia Cemetery
El Paso is a unique city not only because of its geographical location, but for the rich history the city and its residents. El Paso is and has been called home by a variety of people and their cultures. When speaking of culture, one would consider this the particular way people live and behave in their society. Culture can also include the way people pass and are buried in a society. In El Paso, when its citizens passed, family would bury loved ones in the now historic Concordia Cemetery. Like the city of El Paso, Concordia is home to a variety of people from a variety of backgrounds: ranging from soldiers, to women dressed in white, and to children gone too soon. With such a diverse group of residents (all with such an interesting history), it should be unsurprising that these individuals would not remain quiet.
To briefly go over the history of the cemetery, Concordia had, like most westward expansion stories, a typical beginning. It started out as an indicator for an area named Concordia and was home to Hugh, a trader, and his wife, Juana Stephenson (ConcordiaCemetery.org, “History”). According to an article on Hugh Stephenson on the Texas State Historical Association, they lived on this land where Juana was eventually killed by a deer she had raised since it was a fawn in 1856 (Kohout, “Hugh Stephenson”). Stephenson had her buried on their land, in what is now a part of the cemetery itself, and moved to another one of his properties in Las Cruces where he was buried himself (Kohout, “Hugh Stephenson”). The article goes on to explain that it was acquired by the Union during or perhaps after the Civil War and then reacquired by a relation of Stephenson. It was in the 1880s that “the graveyard gained widespread use, when El Pasoans drove three miles to Concordia to bury their dead (ConcordiaCemetery.org, “History”).” Referencing back to its Civil War history, Neda Ulaby notes the presence of Buffalo soldiers, African American soldiers who participated in the Civil War, as having a grave here (Ulaby, “The Ghostly Grandeur…”). She briefly comments that the section is for veterans, as another article by Jaime Quesada notes that while it was once a mass grave, it has recently “[been] given a full memorial section with individual headstones to commemorate their service (“Ghosts…”)”. Despite the recognition, it seems the soldiers may not be ready to leave the past in the past. It seems that people have heard sounds around the grave when there is clearly no one around. The sounds have been said to be highly reminiscent of a cavalry marching around the site of the mass grave. While it may not be able to be definitively proven, it is clear something strange is happening around the Buffalo Soldier gravesite which could potentially be a haunting.
Continuing on with potential diverse hauntings, one would discover the history and story of Lady Flo. While there are two noted ladies in white at Concordia Cemetery, one is thought to be an African American woman named Lady Flo or, as she used to be called, Florida Wolf. Described as a remarkable and resilient woman, Wolf was a controversial figure as she cohabited and was in a apparent relationship with a white man named Lord Delaval James Beresford while it was illegal to be in an interracial marriage in 1893 (Crenshaw, “Wolfe, Florida”). The article goes on to say that because of their relationship, it was easier for them to live in Mexico as Texas law prohibited interracial cohabitation. Despite this, they did travel to El Paso frequently to throw lavish parties as well as make contributions around El Paso (Crenshaw, “Wolfe, Florida”). When her husband passed, she “claimed his property as his common law wife [and]… with her business knowledge she expanded his property (Crenshaw, “Wolfe, Florida”).” However, the article continues by saying Lord Delaval’s family contested her claim and eventually won the land and Wolf was left with $15,000. In 1913 Florida Wolf “developed tuberculosis and died in El Paso… and was buried in Concordia Cemetery (Crenshaw, “Wolfe, Florida).” Her story did not end there however. According to Lizette Espinoza, it is reported that a lady in white is seen to be “going from one side of the cemetery to the other (“Concordia Cemetery”). While it may not be Wolf for sure, the dress this lady in white is seen to be wearing is very similar to the ones Wolf would wear when she was alive (Espinosa, “Concordia Cemetery”). It has also been documented that her afterlife self may contain intelligence as it has been said that “she acknowledges your presence by waving or nodding and then continues her walk (Quesada, “Ghosts…”).” Noted as remarkable in life, it appears as if she will continue this representation of herself in the afterlife as well.
Adults and their deaths along with their subsequent hauntings are easier topics to discuss, but when talking about children dying, it’s a bit more tragic to talk about. However, in Concordia Cemetery, it is rumored that a section where children are buried, not all of the children are at rest. The children buried in this section may have all died from different and unrelated causes, some may have died from smallpox, and others perhaps by influenza, a particular epidemic in El Paso in 1918 (Burns, “Epidemic Diseases”). Whatever may have been the cause, it is chilling to note that there is a section for children. There have been many reports of sounds suggestive of children playing and laughing around the gravesite. There are even reported incidents of “some women [feeling] someone tug on their back pockets or tap the middle of their backs (Espinosa, “Concordia Cemetery”)” when passing through the children’s section. So while tragic, it does not seem as if the children are unhappy, but rather are content to pull small pranks on people. It has even been noted that tour guides have experienced an odd sensation while in the children’s section of the graveyard claiming that “…if they have [had] a C-section, they always tell us they feel something weird on their scar (Ulaby, “The Ghostly Grandeur…”).” Now, whether this is just an odd coincidence or evidence of paranormal activity can be left up for debate, but it cannot be denied that there is something supernatural going on in the Concordia Cemetery.
As El Paso has such a rich history, it should come as no surprise that Concordia Cemetery would also follow along in those footsteps. The people interred here came from such diverse backgrounds, some lived on the cutting edge of life, some lived protecting their country, and others died before reaching their potential. All residents of the cemetery, however, are as much a part of the history of El Paso as El Paso was or has become a part of them and their stories. Of course, some of their stories are still being told by them from beyond the grave. History, as well as the cemetery, is being kept alive and well by the city of El Paso and the caretakers of the Concordia Cemetery and even its dead residents as it seems that dead men do tell their own tales here.
Burns, Chester R. “Epidemic Diseases.” Texas State Historical Association. 12 June. 2010. Web. 15 Oct. 2016.
Crenshaw, Dailey, Jr., Maceo. “Wolfe, Florida J. (c 1867-1913) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed.” Humanities Washington. BlackPast.org. Web. 16 Oct. 2016
Espinoza, Lizette. "Concordia Cemetery - Borderzine." Borderzine. N.p., 26 Apr. 2009. Web. 16 Oct. 2016.
“The Ghostly Grandeur of a Desert Graveyard.” NPR. NPR. 1 Aug. 2012. Web. 16 Oct. 2016.
"History." Concordia Cemetery. Texas Historical Commission, n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2016.
Kohout, Martin Donell. "Hugh Stephenson." Texas State Historical Association, 15 June 2010. Web. 15 Oct. 2016.
Quesada, Jaime. “Ghosts: The Legends of Our City's Past.” The Prospector, 29 Oct. 2013. Web. 15 Oct. 2016.property (Crenshaw, “Wolfe, Florida”).” However, the article continues by saying Lord Delaval’s family contested her claim and eventually won the land and Wolf was left with $15,000. In 1913 Florida Wolf “developed tuber