I guess it’s coming up on 30 years ago now on a time when my husband and I came out here from Houston to visit his parents. We had an unusual experience. Somehow we ended up at the old Camp Colorado outpost, just across the old iron bridge that was still in use at that time. We got out and wandered around, and met an old man by the name of Sackett. Sackett owned the property, which has been in his family for over 150 years. Old Mr. Sackett was a storyteller, and I was a ready-made audience. He told me how his great-grandfather, (I think it was one great, but it’s been a long time) was paymaster at Camp Colorado.
The great-grandfather had, according to Sackett, ridden to Austin to collect the payroll for the troops. On his way back, he saw smoke signals coming off of Santa Anna Mountain, and knew he was in trouble, the story went. He took off at a gallop to reach the camp before the Comanche swooped down on him from the hill. A mad rush it was, during which he dropped the bag of money that he carried for the troops’ payday, but he was riding for his life and did not stop to retrieve it. The man reached the fort safely, but the money, according to Sackett, was never found.
The incident must have happened sometime in the late 1850s or early ‘60s, as the Jim Ned location of the Army Camp was only in operation for a brief time, from 1857-1861. The site was at that time a part of Brown County, and the center of social activity for the region. It’s where supplies were available, where dances took place, (here I have a picture of a girl with a yellow ribbon in her hair dancing to the tune of the fiddlers) and where local residents headed when trouble with the Comanches was afoot.
I believe Mr. Sackett said that the original part of the building that was still standing, a small rectangular room at the back of the rebuilt structure, had subsequently become a post office and then a store. I remember thinking I need a recorder, or at least a sheet of paper, to take this story down, but I did not have either. The details of the story are hazy to me now. It’s a lost story. My husband points out that some of the dates in this story don’t line up, meaning the arrival of the first Sacketts and the dates of Camp Colorado. Of course, he is right. Did he say it was his great-grandfather, or someone else’s? I couldn’t swear to either. I wish I had another chance to sit with Mr. Sackett and take it down properly. I wonder what other tales could this man have told? We won’t ever know.
Old Mr. Sackett passed away in 2007, from what I can tell, and so did most of that story, unless someone else wrote it down. Camp Colorado stands empty now, on private property. You can view it from the road, but it is not open to the public. Likewise, the old cemetery there is closed off, with most of the graves moved away. I like to drive down the lonesome dirt road towards it and think about the story. It’s strange to imagine that this out of the way place was at one time a hotbed of local activity. The road shows little signs of use, the old iron bridge is cut off now, left standing by itself over the creek, but it must have been fairly well traveled back in the day. Maybe because it’s empty, it’s easy to picture a soldier riding hell for leather through the Jim Ned, the payroll money flying through the air and 100 warriors hot on his tail. You could almost hear the sounds of gunfire from the camp as his buddies gave cover while he urged his sweaty horse into camp. I regret not getting the whole story, and I try never to miss any that come my way. Sadly, very few stories from Camp Colorado remain.
Diane Adams is a local journalist whose columns and articles appear periodically on BrownwoodNews.com