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Basin Buzz: Taking a step back in time at the Annie Riggs Museum

Fort Stockton is home to history of the Old West and to one of the first businesswomen in West Texas.

FORT STOCKTON, Texas — When you think of the "Wild West," there's a lot of things that probably come to mind: Cowboys, lawlessness, and the struggle to make it every day.

West Texas is home to those towns that are full of history. Fort Stockton is one of them that can take you back in time. The Annie Riggs Museum is where you can learn about what life was like back in the 1800s in West Texas.

The Annie Riggs Museum was once a hotel run by a woman of the same name. Annie Riggs and her family moved to Fort Stockton from New Mexico after the Civil War.

"She loved cooking," said Ethan Elliott with the Fort Stockton Historical Society. "She cooked three meals a day out of her kitchen, served her guests and everything. No drinking, gambling and stuff. If you want to do that, you go across to the saloon."

Annie was a mother of 11 children and married twice. Her second marriage was to a man named Barney Kemp Riggs, who was considered an outlaw at the time. He was shot by Annie's brother-in-law from her first marriage and later died in a room at the hotel without a will. His estate was awarded to Annie and she bought the hotel for $5,000.

Credit: Anne Riggs Museum

This served as a boarding house and income for Annie until her death in 1931. Her heirs deeded the hotel to the Fort Stockton Historical Society.

"Stepping into the past and take a step back," said Adrianna Lujan with the Fort Stockton Historical Society. "You appreciate what we have now because of the things they didn't have back then."

The museum is set up with displays of the heritage and development in Fort Stockton. You'll find thirteen rooms including the lobby and kitchen. They're filled with old figurines, photographs, even some original furnishings including the desk where Pecos County Sheriff A.J. Royal was murdered.

Credit: Anne Riggs Museum

"Being this far out west, you were surviving," said Elliott. "You had to help anyone who was around you but you were on your own. We were lucky enough to have a source of water."

That source of water was vital to Fort Stockton. The museum was built right above the Comanche Springs in 1899. It opened in 1901 as the Koehler Hotel. At one point, the spring served as the main watering source and later became a place for people to enjoy. It's where visitors at the hotel would go for the bathhouse.

"A lot of photos we have give us a good idea of what it was like back in the day," said Lujan. "You see all the women in their big gowns sitting in bank of the spring."

If you walk around the building, you'll see the original adobe brick still stands. Everything is maintained by the Fort Stockton Historical Society. They're always at work researching and preserving the antiques.

"We take the time because we care, we care about Fort Stockton and  want to preserve history, "said Lujan. "In 10, 15-20 years, all this stuff will be gone and what's the point of young generation having it and working here if we don't take time to preserve it?"    

So if you find yourself in Fort Stockton, make a stop to the museum. It's the  home where you can learn how one of the first businesswomen in West Texas helped bring this town to its feet.

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