Concordia – A Grand And Ghostly El Paso Graveyard

Posted by US Ghost Adventures Contributor in US Ghost Adventures

A burying ground located in the desert city of El Paso, Texas, Concordia Cemetery is known as the burial place of more than just a few infamous gunslingers and old west outlaws. The first burial took place in 1856, and since then, more than 60,000 people have been buried there. It is the only known Chinese cemetery in all of Texas and is one of the oldest! To see the spirits of Texas for yourself, join us for a San Antonio or Austin ghost tour!

A Bit About Concordia

The cemetery was once a ranch by the name of Rancho Concordia and was built by Hugh and Juana Stephenson in the 1840s. Hugh married Juana, and Juana’s family gave them the land where the ranch was settled. It included a chapel and a cemetery, in which Juana was the first buried in 1856 after she was gored by a deer and died of the following infection. In 1882, El Paso bought part of the ranch in order to bury the city’s poor. Different sections of the cemetery were bought by multiple groups, and because of this, no one took responsibility for the upkeep of the cemetery, leading to some disarray and decay of the graves. In 1990, the Concordia Heritage Association was created to preserve the cemetery and its history.

Concordia Cemetery’s front gate. Source: Flickr

The cemetery itself is just about 52 acres in size — a well-to-do size for the thousands of souls resting here. The cemetery is well known for its Chinese cemetery, as El Paso had a huge Chinese population during the construction of railroads. Chinese immigrants came to El Paso as workers and chose to stay in the town. There is also an area set aside for Freemasons and even an ‘infant nursery’ with unmarked graves for babies — many of who died during the 1918 influenza pandemic. The pandemic hit El Paso in Janury of 1919. It is possible that the cemetery was once much larger, and that some of the graves may have been built upon in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Hardin and Selman – El Paso’s Outlaws

John Wesley Hardin (May 26th, 1853 – August 19th 1895)

Hardin was the quintessential Texas outlaw, gunfighter, and folk icon. Hardin had run-ins with the law since he was a teenager, and even killed someone at the age of fifteen (though he claims it was self-defense) Pursued by lawmen for most of his life, he was sentenced to 24 years in prison for murder at the age of 23. At the time of his sentencing, he claimed to have killed 42 men. In prison, he created an autobiography and studied law. A year after his release from prison, he was killed by John Selman in an El Paso saloon.

Hardin was born near Bonham, Texas to James ‘Gip’ Hardin, a preacher. He was named after John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church. At the age of 9, he attempted to run away to join the Confederate army. Hardin’s father traveled over much of Texas before settling his family in Sumpter. There, Hardin’s father established a school that Hardin and his siblings attended.

In 1867 while at his father’s school, Hardin was being bullied by another student, Charles Sloter. He accused Hardin of defacing the schoolhouse wall with graffiti that insulted a girl in their class. Hardin denied writing the note and said that Sloter was the actual author. Sloter charged at Hardin with a knife, but Hardin’s hands were fast and he stabbed Sloter instead, nearly killing him.

First Murder

In November of 1868, Hardin challenged one of his uncle’s former slaves, Maje, to a wrestling match, which Hardin won. The following day, according to Hardin, Maje ambushed him, shouting at him and waving a stick. Hardin drew his revolver and shot Maje five times. He later said he rode to get help for Maje but unfortunately he died three days later from his wounds.

Hardin’s life was long and lawless. To learn more about him, check out his biography here.

John Selman (November 16th, 1839 – April 6th, 1896)

John Henry Selman was another Texas outlaw and working lawman for the Old West. He is best known for shooting and killing John Hardin in the Acme Saloon on August 19th, 1895. John Henry Selman was born in Arkansas and was the son of Jeremiah Selman. He moved with his family to Texas in 1858. After his father’s death in 1861, Selman joined the 22ns Texas Calvary and served the Confederacy during the American Civil War.

In 1877, he became a deputy inspector alongside John Larn and fought against outlaws and vigilantes in northwest Texas. The two were involved in more than a few shootouts with bandits and outlaws. Selman’s trajectory changed when Larn was arrested for the hiding of six outlaws at his house, he actually had nothing to do with them. Even though Selman was out of town a the time, he was implicated and found himself a wanted man, hunted by the vigilantes that were hiding out at Larn’s place. Selman went into hiding at this time, also facing charges from his desertion of the Confederate Army. Selman went to Mexico and returned only when the war ended.

Selman began to become the type of man he once hunted once his wife passed away during childbirth. His remaining four children were sent to live with his wife’s niece, and Selman was left all alone. He organized a band called ‘Selman’s Scouts’ and the group was accused of multiple murders and rapes in the area. No one ever faced any charges for the crimes.

The Murder of John Wesley Hardin

El Paso policeman and Selman’s son, John Jr., arrested Hardin’s mistress for brandishing a gun in public. Hardin confronted John Jr. and the two had a verbal dispute. Hardin then pistol-whipped John Jr. and threatened his life. After hearing about the fight, Selman approached Hardin and the two argued. That night, Hardin went to the Acme Saloon to shoot dice. Shortly before midnight, Selman arrived at the saloon and walked up behind him, shooting him twice in the back of the head. Obviously dead, Selman shot him three more times. A true crime of passion.

Selman claimed that he saw Hardin notice him enter the saloon and start to draw his gun. He stated that he fired in self-defense, and with a hung jury, he was released on bond. Selman himself was shot and killed in a shootout with a US Marshal just a year later.

Notable Burials

Moses Carson – younger brother of Kit Carson

Benjamin Dowell – first mayor of El Paso

John Wesley Hardin – gunslinger. His grave is surrounded by a cage to prevent visitors from digging up his body.

John Selman – gunslinger. Killer of John Wesley Hardin

Ernest St. Leon – Texas ranger

Florida J. Wolfe – also known as ‘Lady Flo’

Hauntings at Concordia Cemetery

A rugged landscape, Concordia Cemetery is stark, dry, and dusty. The cemetery seems to have vast, empty spaces, but no one is sure how many people were buried under wooden or sandstone markers that eroded after years of sandstorms and droughts. Most of the grave markers are humble and some even look homemade.

The nursery section of the graveyard is said to be especially haunted. It is said that women who have had C-sections will feel a weird sensation on their surgery scar when visiting the cemetery.

A section of the cemetery is known as ‘The Vortex’ and is responsible for exerting a mysterious force. Evidence of satanic worship and witchcraft have been found in the cemetery, alongside hauntings and ghostly sightings captured on film.

One prominent spirit at the cemetery is that of Florida J. Wolfe. She was a resilient and glamorous African American woman who lived in El Paso. Wolfe was the wife of Lord Delaval James Beresford of Ireland. No one knows for sure how Lady Flo came to El Paso, but once she arrived, everyone noticed. She was a socialite in the area and gave grand parties while also making generous contribtutions to the El Paso Police and Fire Departments. These days, an electric energy can be felt by the grave of Lady Flo. Her exciting aura is still felt and recognized even in the afterlife!

Have you ever visited Concordia Cemetery? For more on another one of America’s most haunted cemeteries, check out our article about Central City Masonic Cemetery.

Sources Cited:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Selman

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concordia_Cemetery_(El_Paso,_Texas)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concordia_Cemetery_(El_Paso,_Texas)

https://www.npr.org/2012/08/01/155389087/the-ghostly-grandeur-of-a-desert-graveyard

https://www.ktsm.com/destination-texas/destination-texas-concordia-cemetery-rich-in-haunting-history/