Monday, October 30, 2023

Haunted Sonora- Gunn House Hotel by Zina Abbott


One thing I have discovered as I have researched the California Sierra Nevada Mountains and the adjoining foothills is that there are records of a number of haunted buildings and “spots,” especially dating back to the gold rush era, but including later decades in the 1800s. California was a rough place to live—and, sometimes, a rough place to die.

Some previous posts of haunted buildings I have published are The White Lady of the Bridgeport Inn, please CLICK HERE, Haunted City Hotel in Columbia, California, please CLICK HERE, and Columbia, California’s Haunted Fallon House & Theater, please CLICK HERE.

Sonora, California is the county seat of Tuolumne County and is about four miles south of Columbia. Today’s post will share a few details about one of the alleged haunted places in Sonora—the Gunn House.

Background History on the Gunn House:

The Gunn House, the oldest building still in existence in Sonora, dates back to 1850.


Gunn House - November 1850

The first two-story adobe structure in town, it was built by Lewis Gunn. Mr. Gunn originally came to the Sonora area to mine for gold. After months of fruitless attempts, which he described as just “digging holes,” he decided instead to draw upon his limited medical knowledge and some apothecary information he had to serve the medical needs of the community. Since there were no trained medical doctors in Sonora at the time, he filled a need by helping cure cases of scurvy caused by not eating enough vitamin C in the form of leafy greens or other fresh foods, dysentery from drinking bad water, and helping with stiff backs and arthritic legs that resulted from miners spending so much time stooped or bent over in or next to streams and patches of dirt while searching for gold. It is estimated he saved many lives and benefited many in the area.

After Mr. Gunn built his house, he became Tuolumne County Recorder and used his building to store county records. He saved a generous amount from his portion of the fees paid to file land and mining claims to the point in November of 1850, he bought an interest in the Sonora Herald, the local newspaper, which ceased publication in about 1854.

 In 1850, Lewis Gunn’s wife, Elizabeth, and their four children left their home in Pennsylvania and traveled to California on a ship by way of Cape Horn. They arrived in August of 1851, where the appreciative citizens of Sonora who had benefited from Mr. Gunn’s medical assistance warmly welcomed them. The family lived on the second floor, and the newspaper and county recorder’s records were housed on the ground floor.

The Gunn family stayed in the home for about ten years before moving to San Francisco. The house was sold and used as a hospital until about 1899 or early 1900.

Italia Hotel - 1934

After that, it was sold to the Bisordi family. The building was remodeled into a hotel and boardinghouse. At first called the Rosa Italia Hotel, the name was later shortened to Italia. The business was overseen by the family matriarch, Josephine. She handled the cooking, which became quite well-known locally. Her husband, Anacleto, focused on running the saloon and gaming parlor in the former Room #3.

In 1962, the hotel was purchased by Margaret Dienelt. She renamed it the Gunn House Hotel and added a landscaped garden, patio, and swimming pool. In 2002, Mike and Shirley Sarno bought the building and did considerable restoration work. You may see the building as it appears today, the Gunn House Motor Hotel, by CLICKING HERE.

In spite of all the changes to this oldest building dating back to 1850, the original adobe structure remains intact and forms the core of all the additions and renovations.

The Ghosts of Gunn House:

There are a slew of ghosts that have been seen, experienced, and reported by guests and staff over the years.

In Room #10, a man was reportedly hurled out of bed by a violent entity, which had no intention of letting him stay the night.

In Room #11, overnight guests have been awakened to find an unseen entity rearranging the furniture in the room. An oft-reported experience has been for guests to wake in the morning to find all thirteen of the pictures hanging skewed, even though nothing occurred during the night that might have dislodged them from their positions. Some guests have reported hearing a sound similar to the rattling of coins.

The most haunted is Room #12. Guests have opened their door to a terrifying apparition. Others have reported seeing a man in an old-fashioned suit standing at the end of their four poster bed.

In other rooms, a ghost has been known to hop into bed with couples, while others have reportedly felt the sensation of being watched.

Hauntings are not confined to guest suites. On several occasions, the apparition of a matronly lady has appeared in the parlor room fireplace. Others have seen a shadowy apparition appear on the stairs.

Paranormal experts theorize that the ghostly activity dates back to the thirty or so years that the building was used as a hospital.

Reservations, anyone?


I focused on Sonora, California, research while plotting and writing my recent book, A Watchman for Willow, part of the Mail Order Papa series. At the time my story is set in 1886, the Gunn House would have been a hospital. To find the book description and purchase options for this book, please CLICK HERE




My most recent release is my Old Timey Holiday Kitchen series book, VinegarPie by Varinia. To find the book description and purchase options for this book, please CLICK HERE






Williams, Nancy K., Haunted Hotels of the California Gold Country. Charleston, S.C.: Haunted America, a Division of The History Press. 2014, pages 116-121.


Thursday, October 26, 2023

The Haunted Fort Worth Stockyards by Bea Tifton

A few years ago, I took the Cowtown Winery's Haunted Stockyards Tour. We had complimentary Wine a Ritas in our hands and a great tour guide in our midst. The event at the end really happened. It was the perfect ending to a fascinating glimpse into local history. In the time of Covid, I'd like to visit that wonderful evening again, so forgive the repost. 

The Stockyards actually have a branch of the Trinity River flowing under Exchange, the main street. Many people believe that water holds spiritual activity and heightens paranormal activity.

The Stockyards Hotel was built in 1910 and was a crown jewel of a hotel, attracting rich oil tycoons. Bonnie and Clyde reportedly stayed in room 305. That room now overlooks Merrick Fine Western Wear, which was then a jewelry store, and the nearby bank.  Two stories are told about their stay. One is
that they rented the room to stake out the two businesses, but they liked Fort Worth so much they decided not to rob either place. The other tale is that they told the owners of the bank and the jewelry store that they weren’t there to rob them or cause any trouble because, as  Bonnie and Clyde said, they were just hiding out from the law until things cooled down a bit.
The Stockyards Hotel has a full-bodied apparition named Jesse. He’s a cowboy who couldn’t have afforded to stay in the hotel at the time. People speculate that he just wanted to stay there in the afterlife.  Visitors hear his spurs jingling as he walks through the hall or see him. Jesse never interacts with anyone.
Many have felt the presence of a former employee, Jake. He was a messenger from the 1900’s and he loved his job of 30-40 years. Visitors feel hot and cold spots and some of his physical duties are still taken care of. If guests leave their room unlocked, it will be locked when they return. For the last 30 years, the phone rings after hours. No one is there and the call cannot be traced, put on hold, or transferred. 

The Rodeo Arena  has had an indoor  rodeo since 1908. This arena is a hotbed of paranormal activity. There is a phantom black horse that runs around the arena.
Apparitions are of deceased cowboys in old-time clothing.  The rodeo was very dangerous and many lost their lives during their performance.  EVP’s (electronic voice phenomenon; conversation not heard by the human ear) record hearing a voice saying, “Cow, cow, cow.” And “Pig, pig, pig.”
People have also reported seeing the spirit of Quanah Parker, who was the first Native American to ride in a rodeo.

The Exchange Building had two stories. One of the stories is that a man’s small child followed him to work in the early 1900’s. He wasn’t sure what to do with her, so he let her wander around. She went to play in the vault and an employee inadvertently locked her in. She wasn’t discovered in the airtight building until the next morning, and she had suffocated. Employees say they get an eerie feeling upstairs. They see a little girl running around playing and trying to get their attention. She looks out
windows at dawn. One early morning, the paranormal team from the Stockyards found two handprints on the inside of the door. 
The body of a prostitute was found inside years ago when prostitution was a licensed profession. She was probably murdered offsite and then dumped there. Her rose-scented perfume, for which she was known, can still be smelled on tours.

The Armour Swift Corporate Building is quite an attractive building outside. Arson destroyed the building in the 1970s and, with all the residual animal fat, it took 1 month to put  the fire out completely. The Spaghetti Warehouse was there after the building was rebuilt, but they couldn’t keep staff. Silverware would fly, things would be moved, staff would hear strange noises and experience uneasy feelings.  The building currently houses business offices.

Riscky's Steakhouse
 is a popular restaurant in the Stockyards. A brothel was above this popular restaurant. This was a high class brothel that was more expensive than usual. The last member of the
Riscky family is very embarrassed about the brothel and won’t let people go up there. She threw everything away--but a red rocker once owned by the madame mysteriously reappeared in the building.The bells that signaled the men that their time was up are still there and working. The windows where the women would stand to attract customers have been covered up because people kept seeing apparitions of working women standing and posing in them.
Saunders Park
 is a lovely part of the  Stockyards.When the nearby area of Fort Worth was known as part of  Hell’s Half Acre, however, people would take care of disputes by shooting at each other. The dead or dying were dumped into the river by the park. Historic reports from the time say that sometimes the water was red with blood. Divers report that there are too many human bones to count remaining on the bottom of that part of the Trinity River. The city decided not to dredge, leaving them out of respect.   
Miss Molly's B and B is a popular place to stay in the Stockyards. Molly is actually the name of the lead cow in the simulated cattle drive and the mascot of Fort Worth.
The actual Madame was Miss Josie. It was a speakeasy until the 1930’s, and then the site became a low end brothel. The girls were actually 11-15 years old. Most of the girls were orphans or runaways.  Miss Josie was abusive. She didn’t take any guff from the male customers and was known to throw them out on the street. She was morbidly obese and ill-tempered. The girls had huge quotas and, if they didn’t meet them or they talked back, Josie would lock them in the closet without food, water, or facilities as long as she felt the the discipline was required. 
Girls were very competitive and would poison each other’s food and lotion, resulting in some violent illnesses and deaths.  Miss Josie had a daughter, father unknown, who she abused terribly. When the little girl was 8 years old, she disappeared.  Everyone thought Josie had killed her, but it was never investigated.  One time a little girl on the ghost tour had her hair pulled and told her mother that “Mary was messing with her.” No one had told the little girl that Josie’s daughter was named Mary. The owner keeps toys for Mary that no one else is allowed to play with and the playthings move around.
Josie’s room and the Cowboy’s room are the most haunted. Men have their shoulders rubbed or their heads patted, but women report feeling very unwelcome and watched.
Miss Josie's Room

Cowboy's Room
The Longhorn Saloon 
is a popular watering hole.  Three cowboys stopped to drink, just boys between 15 and 17. They got drunk and got back on what they thought were their horses. The men whose horses they stole confronted them and the boys were hanged in the saloon.  Now women in the ladies bathroom report having their legs tugged and feeling like they are being watched.

We ended up back at the Cowtown Winery. The paranormal team that works the Stockyards swept the building and found just as much activity as Miss Molly’s.  It used to be a Chinese Laundry with the family living above.  People feel the presence of a young boy. A medium said he was killed by an abusive parent, who kept him in a cupboard behind the bar. There is an old-fashioned sock monkey doll no one admits to having brought in.  It will disappear for days, then reappear in odd places.

Another presence is also felt. Wine is spilled during the night, crackers are spilled, and cases topple over. The motion detector is never tripped.  People hear glass break and rush in, but nothing is broken.

Photo: Jess Vide

While the guide was talking about the little boy, the street light in the alley was flickering. When she got to the story of the other presence, the light went out with a “Pop!” Everyone jumped, looked at the light, and then laughed at themselves. As the tour dispersed and the guide went back in, one of the remaining tourists said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if the light came back on?”

And it did!

If you're ever in Fort Worth, Texas, you should really take the Haunted Stockyards Tour with the Cowtown Winery. I enjoyed it tremendously and the local history was fascinating. 

Do you believe in ghosts? Leave a comment below.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Adeline Hornbeck

Post (c) Doris McCraw

aka Angela Raines

The Hornbeck Home

In 1878, Adeline Hornbeck purchased property west of Colorado Springs in what was known as the Florrisant Valley. Here the widow, with her four children, carved out a livelihood for themselves. Not only did the property have a well-constructed home, but had many outbuildings including a milk and chicken house. The home itself was a marvel, the first two-story home in the area when it was completed in 1878. It still stands today and was in use as a home up until the 1960s.

Adeline's journey began with her birth in July of 1833 in Massachusetts. It was there she met and married Simon A. Harker. They had three children, Franklin, Anna, and George. According to the 1860, the couple were in Creek Nation, Indian Land, Arkansas (Oklahoma) where Simon was an Indian agent, according to one record. By 1861 they moved to the Denver area and filed on 160 acres. Then in 1864 Simon died, he may have been sickly and moved to the area for his health, leaving Adeline to fend for herself and the children. Showing her business sense she purchased 80 acres of the homestead, using a clause in the act, for $100.

In September of 1866, she married Elliot Hornbeck. They had a child together, Elliot Jr. But things did not remain calm. Elliot disappeared in 1875. There is speculation he may have been married to another woman back east, or he may have died, but no one seems to know. But Adeline was not done yet. She accumulated enough cash to purchase the land in Florrisant Valley. It is from this base that she built her 'empire', although when starting out she worked in the mercantile in the new town of Florrisant.

Adeline chose well. Her homestead was on the route to the gold and silver fields in the South Park area. Sitting on one of the tributaries of the South Platte River it had good pasture land, pine trees, and water. She was also an astute businesswoman and was active in the community, holding social gatherings at her home and serving on the school board. By the time she paid off her homestead claim, in 1885, the property value was at least five times more than the original.

Adeline was still not done. Around 1900, at age 66, she married 47-year-old Frederick Sticksel, an immigrant who came to the U.S. in 1882. Five years later, Adeline passed away at age 71 of  'paralysis'. 

The land where Adeline Warfield Harker Hornbeck Sticksel built her home for herself and her children is now part of the Florissant National Fossil Beds and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Adeline is buried in the Four Mile Cemetery, Florissant, Colorado. 

Thank you for joining me on this short journey of a most interesting woman. There is a lot more about Adeline, but for now, we can remember and honor this pioneering woman. 


Until Next Time: Stay safe, Stay happy, and Stay healthy. 


Sunday, October 1, 2023

Formation of Tuolumne County, California by Zina Abbott


On February 18, 1850, Tuolumne County was established by the California Legislature as one of the original twenty-seven counties. It was given its name and divided into the six townships of Sonora, Mormon Camp, Jacksonville, Don Pedro’s Bar and Tuolumne City. It had it white American roots in the gold rush.


1852 Columbia, California

The name Tuolumne is of Me-Wuk, or Mi Wuk, (the predominant Native American tribe in the region) origin. It has been given different meanings, such as "Many Stone Houses," "The Land of Mountain Lions." and "Straight Up Steep," the later an interpretation of William Fuller, a native Indian Chief. Vallejo, in his report to the first Legislature, said that the word is “a corruption of the Indian word talmalamne which signifies “cluster of stone wigwams.” The name may mean “people who dwell in stone houses,” i.e., in caves.

This is interesting, since the Mi Wuk tended to live in cedar bark shelters.

1851 California mining map showing counties

Originally, it was much larger than it is now. When the state was organized in 1850, Tuolumne was. At the time, it was far larger than it is now.  It extended from the summit of the Coast Range on the west. It was south of San Joaquin County and extended eastward to the summit of the Sierra Nevada Range. It included all of what is now Tuolumne County, Stanislaus County, and parts of other counties.

At the first California Legislature meeting in 1848-1849, what became known as the town of Sonora, which had been named after the Mexican state of Sonora, became the county seat of Tuolumne County. At first, due to the large number of gold miners from Sonora, Mexico, who had come to work the region, it was known as Sonora Camp.  When Malcolm M. Stewart, who represented the San Joaquin district in the Assembly, went to that first meeting, he called the town “Stewart, formerly known as Sonorian Camp.”  The name was changed back to Sonora by petition and an amendment approved by the State Senate on April 18, 1850.  By May 1851, the city of Sonora was incorporated.

July 7, 1852, the first meeting of the Board of Supervisors of Tuolumne County was held.


June 1854, Stanislaus County broke off from Tuolumne County, and that county held its first elections. Tuolumne became much smaller in territory.

There is a Tuolumne City in Tuolumne County. However, it has never been the county seat.

It was not long before this county became known for its gold production, timber and lumber, and agricultural production.

Bret Hart Cabin and Hanging Tree in Big Oak Flat

The following is a list of early cities, towns, and communities in Tuolumne County. The names that are bolded are the ones in which I have set some of my books. Big Oak Flat, Chinese Camp, Columbia, Groveland, Jamestown, Long Barn, Mi Wuk Village, Moccasin, Pinecrest, Sonora, Soulsbyville, Standard, Strawberry, Tuolumne, Twain Harte.

Willow, my heroine in my latest release, 

A Watchman for Willow

came from a lumber camp in the east part of Tuolumne County to Sonora after her husband died. To find the book description and purchase options, please CLICK HERE






The Early History of Tuolumne County California.pdf,_California