Ghost Ranch Mountains
Ghost Ranch is a vast retreat and education center in the desert of New Mexico, about an hour from Santa Fe. Georgia O'Keeffe made it her home, studio, and retreat and it was the subject of many of her paintings.
Ghost Ranch is part of Piedra Lumbre (Spanish, "Shining Rock"), a 1766 land grant to Pedro Martin Serrano from Charles III of Spain. The Rito del Yeso stream wanders through the area and provides a drought-resistant source of water.
The Archuleta brothers were cattle rustlers and were the first white people to inhabit what is now Ghost Ranch. They liked the invisibility that the canyon provided. They moved stolen cattle throughout the night, taking the cattle through streams so they could not be tracked. The brothers were not at all nice boys. People who stayed at the ranch often disappeared, but their clothes would appear on the brothers. Rather suspicious, I would say. One day one of the brothers made a deal without the other’s knowledge, and claimed to his bro that he had buried the gold for safety. The second brother killed the first when he found out about the perfidy, then kept his brother's wife and daughter hostage until they admitted to knowing where the gold was hidden. Mom and daughter eventually snuck away at night. A group of local men then came to the ranch and hung the remaining brother and his gang from a cottonwood tree. There were stories of voices from unseen people since all the deaths.
Roy Pfaffle won the deed to the ranch in a poker game. His wife, Carol Stanley, took the deed, put it in her name, and divorced good old Roy the next day. She tried to create a getaway, and eventually many of her friends moved to New Mexico for the peaceful atmosphere in the 1930s. One of the people to visit Ghost Ranch was Arthur Pack, writer and editor of Nature Magazine. Ms Stanley couldn’t make the ranch productive and she then the ranch to Mr Pack.
As Arthur Pack aged, he worried about the future of the ranch after he died. He tried to get various organizations to agree to take over the ranch when he passed on but they all refused. Then, the Presbyterians accepted the offer of using the space as an educational facility, though it would be difficult for them to develop. Now, the ranch is used as an educational and retreat center run by the Presbyterian Church, where over 300 classes are offered each year.
Georgia O'Keeffe fell in love with the geography, and soon split her time between New York and New Mexico. She enjoyed the peace and quiet and having alone time. The mesa features of the ranch often appear in her paintings, as do the bones of cattle that didn’t make it out of the ranch.
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