The Annie Riggs Memorial
Museum features displays and exhibits depicting the heritage and development of
Ft. Stockton and surrounding area in thirteen rooms and the hidden courtyard.
The parlor, lobby, dining room and kitchen are filled with old photographs,
collectables and furnishings. One of the hotel rooms contains an iron bed that
Annie ordered from Sears and Roebuck for $6.75, and shows what a guest would
have encountered in 1905. In the kitchen is the first electric stove in Ft.
Stockton, purchased by Annie in 1922. Other exhibit areas are dedicated to
archeology, geology, religion, ranching, Hispanic Heritage,
pioneers and early businesses. In the courtyard sits an early 1900's buggy,
restored in 2004, and the only one known to remain in Pecos County. The east
grounds offer a view of a desert garden.
The lobby showcases a desk that originally sat in the 1883 Pecos county courthouse and has quite a story surrounding it. Sheriff A.J. Royal was murdered while sitting at the desk in 1894, and his bloodstains remain in a drawer. Although no one was indicted for the crime, it was common belief that several prominent Ft. Stockton businessmen drew straws to determine who would kill the controversial sheriff. Five Texas Rangers had been sent to town at the request of citizens because of a volatile, feuding atmosphere leading up to the 1894 election. Royal was not re-elected, and was killed two weeks later. Three of the Rangers were still here at the time. This remains the big mystery of Pecos County: "Who killed Sheriff Royal?"
ANNIE FRAZIER JOHNSON RIGGS
Annie Frazier (1858-1931) was born on November 24, 1858 near Las Cruces, New Mexico, Anna Stella was the first child of George M. and Mary Edgar Frazier. The family moved to Ft. Stockton after the Civil War.
On June 6, 1877 Annie married James Johnson at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Ft. Stockton. Johnson was the first sheriff of Pecos County. While bearing six children, Annie ran the Johnson Hotel, a popular boarding house. By the late 1880s, the marriage failed and James moved to Toyah.
In 1891 Annie married Barney Kemp Riggs in a civil ceremony. Riggs was considered by many to be a gunman. He had received a life sentence for murder in the Arizona Territorial Penitentiary at Yuma. When a riot broke out there, Riggs saved the warden's life and was later pardoned by the governor, although told to leave the territory and "never return". See The Gates Massacre
Annie brought four children into the often turbulent marriage, Barney brought a son from a previous marriage, and together they had four children. Annie was granted a divorce in 1901. Her son-in-law (from her first marriage), Buck Chadborn, was named as trustee for Annie's settlement, Barney had threatened Buck's life and on April 7, 1902, Buck shot Barney in self defense. Anne had her ex-husband carried to the Koehler Hotel (now the Riggs museum), where she sat with him until he died the next day.
Riggs did not leave a will, and the courts awarded his estate to Annie. She used those assets to purchase the Koehler Hotel in 1904. Changing the name to the Riggs Hotel, she operated it as a hotel or boarding house almost to the time of her death on May 17, 1931 at the age of 73.
Six local businessmen recognized the community's need for a hotel and organized the Ft. Stockton Hotel Company. A site on a hill above Comanche Springs was selected, and construction began on the town's first substantial hotel in 1899. It opened in 1901 as the Koehler Hotel, named in memory of Herman Koehler, a benevolent, early Ft. Stockton merchant. The sprawling, single-story, exposed adobe brick building with its wrap-around verandas and gingerbread trim is a prime example of Territorial architecture. It has fifteen rooms, nine of which were guest rooms. All of them have both a door and window that open onto the veranda. The walls are two feet thick and the ceilings fourteen feet high.
Annie Riggs purchased the hotel for $5,000 in 1904; she paid $3000 down and the rest on terms. The rate for a bed (not a room) was 50 cents. Family style meals were 35 cents. Baths were available at the bathhouse at Comanche Springs. Annie initially operated the facility as a hotel, then as a boarding house. She employed a full time cook, maintained a separate residence, and frequently employed a manager for the hotel. After her death in 1931, one of her sons, Ernest, with wife, Tina, operated the boarding house into the 1940s. Various family members resided in parts of the building during the Depression years and later.
In 1955 fourteen heirs of Annie Frazier Johnson Riggs deeded the old hotel to the Ft. Stockton Historical Society to be operated as a museum, which opened in November of the same year.
I really enjoyed our visit to the Museum which gave a look into the life of a pioneer female entrepreneur.