When I recently went through Cimarron, New Mexico on my way to a writer’s retreat two weeks ago, I had to stop again at the historic St. James Hotel where so much history happened. I felt as though I could brush shoulders with the many outlaws, ranchers and historic figures that once tied their horse to the hitching rail and walked through those doors.
The St. James Hotel was established in 1872 and continues to operate today. How I wish those adobe walls could talk. It seemed as though I was walking back in time. Henri Lambert, who was once a chef for President Abraham Lincoln, and his wife built the establishment and trouble soon began.
Cimarron is Spanish for wild or unruly, and man, did the town live up to its name. With little law enforcement, the fastest guns quickly settled disputes. The undertaker was kept very busy. The newspaper in nearby Las Vegas, New Mexico wrote in 1874 that things were awfully quiet in Cimarron because no one had been killed in three days. That was truly remarkable. At least 26 people lost their lives in the hotel and its saloon. After that they stopped counting. When the ceiling of the saloon was replaced in 1901, they discovered over 400 bullet holes. Yet, despite the gunplay, the business thrived.
Many well-known and influential people visited the St. James Hotel. The Earp Brothers stopped for several days on their way to Tombstone, Arizona. The Territorial Governor of New Mexico, Lew Wallace, wrote part of his novel BEN HUR there during visits to the area. This was where Buffalo Bill Cody laid down plans for his Wild West Show. Author Zane Grey began writing his novel, Fighting Caravans, while staying in Room 22.
The outlaws were too numerous to list but among them was Jesse James who always stayed in Room 14, Black Jack Ketchum, Clay Allison, Bob Ford, Pat Garrett, Doc Holliday, and Billy the Kid.
I found it interesting that David “Davy” Crockett, nephew of the famous Davy, was a regular at the hotel. He struck up a friendship with Clay Allison, then was killed one night and lies buried in the Cimarron Cemetery.
I just love visiting this place and do every chance I get. History presses around you and can smell gunpowder in the air.
What do you like best about visiting historical places? Have you ever gone to one that left a lasting impression?