The Texas panhandle brings to mind images of the wild west. Outlaws, cowboys, saloons, shootouts, robberies...all of the good parts of Hollywood westerns. Once in a while, there's even a bit of the supernatural involved.

Do you know the story behind the first grave in the Childress Cemetery?

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Will Pankney, Shoe Nail Ranch, And The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Legends have it, actually an old newspaper has it, that sometime shortly before Christmas in 1886, there was murder that led to the first grave in Childress Cemetery being dug. That grave belongs to Will Pankney.

Supposedly, Pankney got into a bit of a verbal altercation with a cowboy from Shoe Nail Ranch. That altercation is what wound up making Will a part of history.

Things had gotten heated between the two, and only got worse when they got back to the dugout. It was there that they each produced a firearm.


Pankney took lead to his belly, and would die the next day in Childress from the wound.

He was buried in an unmarked grave. To this day, no one is sure exactly where Will's remains are resting. The marker you see now is only there to tell the story.

It doesn't actually mark Packney's resting place...wherever it is.

The Dugout Of The Damned

The location of the dugout where Packney lost his life is a detail that is hotly contested. There are two locations many believe to be the dugou, however a supposed third possibility exists.

It's the third possible location that adds a bit of paranormal flair to the story.

Photo by Paul Einerhand on Unsplash
Photo by Paul Einerhand on Unsplash

According to the lore, after Packney was taken to Childress for medical attention the cowboys worked to clean up the mess. There was a large bloodstain where Will had fallen, and I'm sure the cowboys weren't excited about it being there.

They tried their best to dispose of all the blood stained dirt. They went to bed, and woke up the next morning to a terrible surprise.

The stain was back.

The cowboys hightailed it out of the dugout and never went back. Legend has it they set up a whole different camp, because they thought the other one was damned due to Packney's death.


While it all makes for a fantastic story, none of it has been verified. All we know for sure is that the first grave in Childress Cemetery is one that has been lost to time and legend.

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