Elaine Levine ~ A Dip into the Wild and Unruly Past

Cimarron, NM

One of my favorite things to do is to visit historic western towns.  In every single one of them, the energy of the last century feels alive to me.  This past spring, my husband and I took a jaunt down to the wild and unruly town of Cimarron, New Mexico–a historic stop along the rugged Santa Fe Trail.  We were on a mission to photograph an amazing saloon bar like the one featured in my latest story, LEAH AND THE BOUNTY HUNTER.

Over the years, Cimarron has been home to Anasazi, Apache, and Ute Indians, as well as traders, trappers, miners, and ranchers.  It’s now a lovely small town with historic buildings, a few shops, a museum . . . and a very haunted hotel–the St. James.

The St. James Hotel (originally known as the Lambert Inn) was built in 1872 by Henri Lambert–formerly the personal chef of President Lincoln–after his foray into gold mining proved less than lucrative.

The St. James, an oasis of luxury in the late 1800’s, hosted many

St. James Hotel, Cimarron, NM

well known western personages including Jesse James, Bat Masterson, Black Jack Tom Ketchum, General Sheridan, Kit Carson,

Doc Holliday, Buffalo Bill, Billy the Kid, Clay Allison, Pat Garret, Fredrick Remington, Annie Oakley, and Zane Grey.

What drew us to the hotel was the gorgeous bar in the restored saloon.

The tin ceiling in the saloon still has nearly two dozen bullet holes from gun fights that erupted inside the

room in the days when carousing cowboys rode horses through saloons and settled disputes with lead.

St. James Historic Saloon

When Henri Lambert’s sons were repairing the roof at the turn of the century, they found over 400 bullet holes in the double planked ceiling separating the saloon from the guest rooms above.

The guest rooms in the historic portion of the hotel are filled with antique and reproduction furniture.  The doors of unoccupied rooms are left open but areblocked off by velvet ropes, letting visitors peek inside rooms that look like museum vignettes.

I took some pictures of the hallways, certain I’d capture a ghostly image.  After all, with 26 recorded deaths on the premises, the probability for encountering an entity seemed high.

St. James 1st Floor Hallway

That night, I lay awake in our first floor room, listening to the music and sounds from the saloon slowly grow quiet as the hotel settled down to sleep in the wee hours of the morning.  Not a floor board creaked.  Not a door opened or closed.  No whispers from disembodied visitors echoed in our room or the hallway.  The absolute silence lulled me to sleep.

The next morning, as we were loading up our car, we came across a lovely young couple in the parking lot.  Theyhad stayed on the second floor, near the hotel’s infamous gambling room.  The woman was looking very pale and distraught.

We asked how they enjoyed their stay and quickly learned their sleep had been disturbed all night long by slamming doors, stomping in the hallway, men arguing, and a lingering scent of cigar smoke.  Her husband, a soldier, had tried numerous times to get the other occupants to settle down so that his wife could sleep.

St. James 2nd Floor Hallway

Of course, there never was anyone to scold because hell raisers in the hallway were not visitors from the human realm…

Elaine Levine is the author of 3 books in the Men of Defiance series that take place in Nineteenth Century Wyoming.  She’ll be giving away a copy of her latest release, LEAH AND THE BOUNTY HUNTER, to one lucky commenter (be sure to let her know if you prefer a paperback or a Kindle ebook version).  Visit her

website www.ElaineLevine.com for more information

about her books.

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35 thoughts on “Elaine Levine ~ A Dip into the Wild and Unruly Past”

  1. Hey, Elaine : )

    Ahhh…Cimmaron! How I’d love to “sit & sip” awhile in that saloon, soaking up all the memories and memorable characters that I could store! I have the first two terrific books in the marvelous “Men of Defiance” series. I’d love to win a print copy of “Leah and the Bounty Hunter” ; )

  2. Hi Virginia! Doesn’t that saloon just invite a long visit like that? Add the wind, the dirt, and the desolation of the small town, and you won’t feel very far removed from the old west at all!

  3. It must have been fasinating to have stayed in this hotel.. And that saloon is just beautiful done. I can just imagine while sitting have a beverage, what might have taken place in the bar..

    I have not had the privilage of reading any of your books as yet, but I will be searching your out for sure. Your Men of Defiance sound like books I want on my TBR shelves..

  4. The St. James Hotel sounds like a great place for an insomniac to stay, if one were allowed to join the party. Failing that, a print copy of LEAH AND THE BOUNTY HUNTER would be nice. Thanks for the chance to have.

  5. Elaine,

    What a great post! I love visiting Old West towns and just absorbing the history of the people who lived there, or traveled through (in a rush to get away from the law, or to stay awhile). The St. James Hotel has just been placed on my to visit list.

    I took my parents to the Sheridan Inn in Wyoming for dinner this summer. Buffalo Bill Cody owned the inn and used to sit on the porch and audition acts for his show. I was in my zenith sitting in the same dining room where Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, et al sat and had dinner. It also gave me some great research material for one of my stories.

    Please don’t enter me in the drawing. I already have LEAH AND THE BOUNTY HUNTER on my Kindle and next in line TBR.

    –Kirsten

  6. I have never visited a haunted place…at least not one that I knew was haunted! Not sure how brave I would be.
    Looking forward to reading LEAH AND THE BOUNTY HUNTER!

  7. Elaine, welcome back to our little corner of the world. It’s a joy to have you. You won’t believe this but I’ve been to the St. James Hotel in Cimarron. We pass through it on our way to Red River, NM and usually we stop at that little restaurant in the hotel. It’s really a good place to eat. Can’t beat the ambiance. So much history took place there. I’m not a bit surprised that it has ghosts. Some day I’d love to spend the night there.

    Your new book looks great. Wonderful cover. I’m wishing you lots of success with it.

  8. The Sheridan Inn looks amazing, Kirsten! I’ve never been but now I want to go!

    It’s said that Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley met at the St. James and began to rehearse what would become Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Buffalo Bill was the godfather of Henri Lambert’s son, Fred. It’s an interesting location for western American history.

  9. Hi Linda! Thank you so much for inviting me back to Petticoats and Pistols! I always have fun visiting here!

    You should definitely stay over at the St. James sometime (on the 2nd floor of the historic wing!). That whole area around the hotel is so beautiful. I haven’t been down to Red River yet. We went into Taos after our stay in Cimarron. What a fabulous place to shop for Southwestern art and jewelry!

  10. Another stop to add to our next trip out West. The hotel is lovely. People don’t know what they are missing by staying at cookie cutter chain establishments. Of course they are avoiding the ghostly visits from past guests, but the lovely surroundings would more than make up for it. Our trips always center around history and national parks. This is a perfect stop. We’ll have to make sure we get a room on the second floor. We have our own ghosts here at home, so why not visit with a few new ones: )

    Thanks for an informative post. I’ll be looking for LEAH AND THE BOUNTY HUNTER.

  11. You are so right about that, Patricia B! And I too have my own ghosts at home. That’s why I thought I’d run into a few at the St. James. What do you want to bet that the next time I stay there, all the activity will be on the 1st floor!

  12. Great pics! I just wanted to say I love your books and that I have your first two on my keeper shelf. I can’t wait to get your book Leah and the Bounty Hurter. I have been waiting for Leah’s story. I loved Rachel and the Hired Gun and Audrey and the Maverick, so I have to have this book also. Thanks so much for visiting us today.

  13. Enjoyed the pics! Thanks for sharing with us! I love old and historic places… they always have such great stories!

  14. Elaine, welcome to Wildflower Junction. I love Cimmaron, New Mexico, and the St. James. Haven’t been there for a couple of years, but sure need to add it to our things to do on our next trip to New Mexico. Thanks for the great post and love your pictures! Hugs, Phyliss

  15. Hi Colleen! I loved taking the pics. It was my husband’s birthday weekend, so I pushed all my work aside and focused on him. It was fun! Something I don’t do enough of!

  16. Enjoyed the photos of Cimmaron. I have been there a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed that part of New Mexico. Have you ever been to Leadville, Colorado-it has that same kind of history and charm along with the old saloon with the girl’s face painted on the barroom floor. Very interesting area of Colorado.

  17. Traveled thru Cimmaron lots of times…pretty country around there. There is a really neato old hotel in Crested Butte, Colorado that I was reminded of when reading your blog today. I love to go look at old buildings like these.

  18. I’ve never visited any historical hotels. The story of Annie Oakley meeting Wild Bill is interesting. I’d love to be introduced to your writing!

  19. I just opened my September 2011 Rhapsody Book Club brochure and saw where your “Leah and the Bounty Hunter” is one of their Top 10 books to take to bed! Congrats! Phyliss

  20. Oh nice, Phyliss! Thanks for letting me know. It was very exciting to see my little paperback novel produced in a hardback edition. I hope Jace and Leah’s story gives lots folks many hours of reading enjoyment!

  21. Good morning, Elaine! Sorry I missed the party yesterday (we were driving back from vacation). We visited The House on the Rock, near Dodgeville, WI. What an amazing old house! Built practically into the rock, it weaves around the natural terrain, with all these little nooks and crannies just made for curling up with a good book.

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