Ghost of the "Hainted Cross"

Violent Deaths Give Lurid History To Kyle Abode

By T. F. Harwell

Austin American Statesman Sunday Magazine, Sept. 27, 1925

There's a ha'nted house near Kyle, six miles west on the Kuykendall ranch, and near the Blanco city road -- the "Cross House," taking its name from the shape of the house, which was built in the form of a cross.

A number of weird stories are told about this old house, which was built 65 or 70 years ago, and has not been occupied for about 50 years.

In about 1859, or 1860, a man named Rogers, whose wife was in very bad health, came from one of the northern states in search of a healthy locality. He selected this spot and began the erection of a house, intending when it was completed, to bring his wife. In the erection of the house he used some of the surface rock around the place, and some rock he quarried from the hillside. He finally completed the building, putting slabs of dressed limestone over the doors and windows. On the slab over the front door, he put the words, "Loma Alta -- 1861." Loma Alta is Spanish and means "high hill."

The Civil War opened about the time Rogers completed his house, and as he was a "Yankee," some of the local people made it rather unpleasant for him on occasion, but nothing very serious occurred over it. Finally -- he was gone, and no one ever heard of him again. Some of the people of the community said he got a letter telling of his wife's death, and as her health was the only reason for his coming here, he had no further interest in the place, and went back home.

About this time, a small company of soldiers stopped early one morning at the home of Major Ezekiel Nance, on the Blanco River a few miles from the Cross house, and about three miles west of where the town of Kyle now stands, and got breakfast and fed their horses. While they were eating breakfast, they told of hanging a man that morning at the Cross House. Some people thought that the man they hanged … (missing copy).

Later on during the war two other men were hung at the Cross House -- so the story goes.

For a number of years after Rogers left, no one claimed this old house, and it was occupied by anyone who wished to live in it, if he found it vacant, and several families lived there, first and last, until the roof fell in and the floors rotted away.

In 1870 three prominent cowmen of the section went "up the trail" with a herd of cattle. They disposed of their cattle at Abilene, Kan., and on their return brought with them three "women of the baser sort," and took up their abode in the Cross House for the winter. As it was only a few miles from Mountain City, at that time the post office and community center, the people of the neighborhood soon found out about what was going on, but "what is everybody's business is nobody's business," the Cross House occupants were not molested for quite a while.

But one of the men had a family in Mountain City, and his wife began to get suspicious, so one day when she saw a neighbor coming, and knew he had been to the Cross House, she stopped him and asked him the straight question: "What's going on up there?" He played a George Washington stunt, and "spilled the beans." The lady forthwith had her carriage hitched up, took her negro driver and a Winchester and proceeded to the Cross House, and shortly after her arrival it was without inhabitant.

One of the men married his woman and they went to Austin, where they lived many years. The other two women were said to have been murdered and their bodies buried beneath the floor of the old house, and this, with the two hangings, started the ghost stories. Some of these are uncanny stories and give you a "creepy" feeling as you listen to them, especially if you hear them at night.

The old timers say there was a reward at one time offered any one who would spend the night at the old house, and more than one would-be hero made a try at it.

An old negro wanted this reward, so one night he made his pallet on the floor, and laid him down to sleep. Some time during the night he was awakened by an unusual noise. Raising up, he saw a white-robed figure in a window, and asked in a shaky voice, "Who's dat?" The ghost replied, "Who'se this in my house?" The negro answered, "Dey's me an' you now, but if you'll wait till I gets dis ole shoe on, day'll be jist you," and the negro sailed through the window and soon lost sight of the ghost and his habitat.

Later, a white man, an Englishman, declared, "An'ts 'as no terrors for me," and he wanted the money too. The night he selected was very cold, so he built a fire in one of the huge fire-places and was warming himself by the fire when he heard behind him an unearthly noise. His blood ran cold, and he could scarcely move, but he finally succeeded in looking around, when he saw a big black cat in the middle of the room.

The cat walked slowly to the fire and said, "Well, how are you this evening?" Without taking time to reply, the Englishman leaped for the door, passed through it, and began with all haste trying to put mountain scenery between himself and Loma Alta. But to no avail. His feline companion, seeming determined to cultivate his acquaintance, ran by his side for awhile, then jumped to his shoulder. This threw him into a frenzy of fear. He knocked the cat off and redoubled his efforts to lose his visitor. That cat insisted that fear was unnecessary, but the "Brave Briton" couldn't see it that way, and continued his mad race.

Finally, the cat said, "I see nothing in this sort of thing, I'm going back home." The Englishman, however, did not let up in his efforts until he reached the edge of the prairie.

As he emerged from the timber, just when the first streak of dawn tinged the east, he met a man on horseback who accosted him with "What's the matter, stranger? What's your rush?" Dropping exhausted to the ground, he began telling his story. As he proceeded, the horsebacker's hair began pushing his hat up, and by the time the story was completed, he had made up his mind it would be as well to postpone his visit to the hills, and taking the Englishman up behind him on his horse, together they proceeded to the "open spaces."

These ghost stories did not become current, however, until long after the old house got too dilapidated for occupancy. After the cowmen's winter party, as previously related, several different families lived in it from time to time.

Although the country was sparsely settled, there was the social life just the same, and many dances were given in the Cross House, and many young men and women attended from all over the mountains for 20 miles around. And boys from the prairie were sure to go to these dances when they heard of them, and then the "fur would fly."

I don't know why it is, but folks from the prairie and folks from the hills don't always get along the best in the world, even now, and it was worse then. The prairie boys called the mountain boys "mountain hoosiers," and the mountain boys retaliated with "prairie wolves," and so the war kept up. The prairie boys lived closer to "town," dressed a little better, perhaps, and thought they knew more, and when they went to the Cross House dances, they always stood in with the mountain girls better than the mountain boys did, and were able to take the girls away from the mountain boys. Many fist fights resulted, and occasionally a cutting scrape and a six shooter play, but these did not break up the dances, nor did it prevent the prairie boys going.

The men who engaged in these dances and fights are old men now -- most of them have gone to their reward, and those that are left, pass up the dances. However, I heard of a few of them engaging in an old folks' dance at the Confederate reunion at Driftwood the past summer. But I imagine it was not much dancing they did -- except in their minds as they dreamed of their responses, in the long ago, to the calls of "Swing your partner," Balance all," First lady to the right," and the other familiar calls of the old fashioned dances.

But back to the story, a portion of which is legendary, of course, but most of it true, just as I have related it. The old house is now in ruins. When I came to Kyle, 22 years ago, the door and window casings, some of the roof, and a little of the floor could be seen from the road two hundred yards away. Now there is nothing but a part of the old walls, and it surely is a "spooky" looking old place, especially in the moonlight -- just the sort of place you'd expect to find ghosts and hobgoblins. I'm not superstitious, after all, but I should not select this for a camping place overnight.

Well, I guess that's about the story of the "Cross House." Go out and look at it some time. It's on top of a pile of rocks we call a hill, six miles west of Kyle, on Mrs. M. M. Kuykendall's ranch, which, so far as I know, is the largest ranch in Hays County -- 14,000 acres.