The Historic St. James Hotel


There are some places that draw me over and over again. The St. James Hotel in Cimarron, New Mexico is one. Each time I pass through there, I have to stop. So much history happened there. I never fail to feel as though I brush shoulders with the many outlaws, ranchers and historic figures that once walked through those doors. Gunfights were a regular occurrence. But then, Cimarron was a rough place with no law.

The St. James Hotel was established in 1872 and continues to operate today. How I wish those adobe walls could talk. It seems as though I walk 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! The fastest guns quickly settled disputes and to say the undertaker was kept very busy is no exaggeration. 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 must’ve been 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 who sought lodging 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 by an unknown assailant and today lies buried in the Cimarron Cemetery.

I put Clay Allison in The Heart of a Texas Cowboy as Houston Legend’s head drover on that cattle drive and used his actual name. But my editor fell in love with him and wanted me to give Clay his own story, so I had to change his last name to Colby. I’m currently writing this story now and it’s due in two weeks. I love how the story came together and I think readers will love it too.

The real Clay Allison was responsible for killing 7 men in the St. James Hotel from 1872 to 1875. He loved to dance and did every chance he got and I incorporate that into my fictional Clay. Allison’s most quoted saying was this, “I never killed anyone who didn’t need it.” And from all the accounts he didn’t. He never bothered anyone who was doing right. He was well-liked and had a lot of friends. In 1881 he married  America Medora McCulloch and they had two daughters. He bought a ranch outside of Pecos, Texas and had a freak accident in 1887 involving a wagon and was killed. He was 46 years old.

I just love visiting the St. James Hotel and do every chance I get. History presses around me and if I close my eyes, I can smell gunpowder in the air.

What do you like best about visiting historical places? Have any left a lasting impression?

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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!

36 thoughts on “The Historic St. James Hotel”

  1. I love learning about the past. I visited the Yuma Prison. It was quite impressive. I shall add this hotel to my list.

    • Good morning, Debra…….I hope you’re having a great day. I’d love to visit the Yuma Prison. That place held so many outlaws and the conditions I read about were deplorable. I think you’d love the St. James. Cimarron itself is such a neat little town set in the mountains of New Mexico. It’s kinda hidden and I think that’s what drew the outlaws. Plus, it had no law and order.

      Enjoy our day!

  2. I love history. We visited Fort Smith Arkansas last year absolutely loved it. I’d like to travel more but money and work get in the way (lol).

    • Good morning, Sherry……..Thanks for coming. Fort Smith is a very historical place. Judge Isaac Parker really laid down the law there and was not soft on criminals. He hung a lot of bad people. Maybe some who were innocent. No outlaw wanted to be tried by him.

      I hope you stay cool and have a good day!

    • Good morning, Janine…….Thanks for coming. I would love to be able to go back in time for just a day or two and see what life had been like back then when outlaws frequented the St. James. It was sure the place of action. I’m glad you liked my post.

      Have a blessed day!

  3. I love any place with a history! Especially places that have been around for a long time! My favorite thing about those places is the feeling I get when I’m there. I love knowing that life happened in that exact spot and I get to be a part of it just by being there!

    • Good morning, Cori……I get goosebumps when I visit a place like this old hotel. I know I’m walking in those men’s footsteps, putting my foot on top of theirs. They say that place is really haunted and I believe it is. I could feel their presence around me.

      Thanks for coming. Have a blessed day!

    • Hi Natalie……Thanks for coming. I’ve just never seen a place I felt more passionate about and delving into Clay Allison’s life gave me details to add to my fictional Clay that really deepened his character. My editor really fell in love with him when she read Heart of a Texas Cowboy. She said, you’ve got to give him a book. I hated that we had to change his name but glad I wrote his story.

      Love and big hugs!

    • Good morning, Catslady……I agree that history is really fascinating. And it doesn’t matter where it is. So much has happened world over that there’s no shortage of interesting things to learn and see.

      Have a blessed day!

  4. Oh wow! I didn’t know about this hotel! So interesting, Linda! I would love to visit it sometime. One of my favorite historical places to visit is Geronimo’s grave at Ft. Sill here in Oklahoma. He is buried in a POW cemetery on the base–and it’s not easy to get to. He is surrounded by his warriors and family–and it’s one of the most peaceful places ever. The last time I was there, I was standing in front of his grave marker and a giant eagle began to circle overhead. I do believe it was his spirit.

    • Good morning, Cheryl……I’m glad you liked my blog. Maybe one day you’ll get a chance to visit Cimarron and the St. James. They have a really neat restaurant in there and you can go down a long hallway and peek into some of the rooms on the bottom floor where these outlaws and lawmen stayed. When I lived in Wichita Falls all those many years, I went to Ft. Sill and saw Geronimo’s grave. Yes, it’s very peaceful. But how neat is that that the eagle began circling overhead. Oh my gosh! That gives me goosebumps!

      Much love and hugs!

    • Oh, Cheryl, I’m so glad to know that I’m not the only one to notice the circling of eagles or hawks over meaningful places or times. I’ve had it happen a number of times and it always takes my breath away. And no one can convince me it’s merely circumstance when I FEEL the occasion so profoundly and feel the person with me.

  5. Hi Linda,

    Okay, now I’ve put the hotel on my bucket list. Not only do I want to stop there, I want to stay there. While staying at an old hotel in California’s gold rush country, I discovered that walls do talk-providing you’re very quiet and listen.

    • Hi Margaret……Great! I’m glad it intrigued you. Ghost hunters go to the hotel quite frequently and have logged in lots of paranormal activity. I’ve always wanted to go spend the night there but have never been able to make it work. I’m always in a rush when I go through there every year. We have a writers retreat at Red River, NM only about thirty miles away.

  6. I think my all time favorite historical site is in Boston–walking the Freedom Trail, which I’ve done countless times. There are many places to visit but the highlights for me are generally Paul Revere’s house, the Old North Church, the site of the Boston Massacre, the State House, and Faneuil Hall. The Constitution is nearby too. I’ve grown up and lived in the East close to Revolutionary sites so they’re the ones that quickly come to mind. Oh, and I’ve driven through Valley Forge Park regularly for most of my life but I never take its rolling fields, cabins, and monuments for granted. It’s a wonderful place to visit, or just to picnic or hike its many trails. A national treasure, for sure.

    • Hi Eliza……How it does my heart good to see your name pop up. I hope you’re doing lots better. I’m sure you felt like you’d been to hell and back. I’d love to visit some of the historical sights in the East but have never gotten up there. It’s a far piece from Texas. Maybe one day. Yes, these places are national treasures for sure.

      Much love and big hugs!

  7. Hi Linda

    I love all history, but visiting sites like this really makes me happy! We have an historic site just miles from my house, in fact, my oldest munchkin is there right now, making adobe bricks, cooking tortillas, washing clothes with the board and wringer. The old house and ranch is part of the El Camino Real trail and they’ve turned it into a learning center for children in the summer.
    Great blog today!

    • Hi Charlene……That sounds like a great place! Kids need to know how to make adobe bricks, cook tortillas and wash by hand. They’ll be in a lot better shape to face life’s trials. I’d love to go there. I’m glad you enjoyed my post.

      Love and hugs!

  8. I love thinking about places that have seen so much over time… like you said, I wish they could talk and share their stories….

    • Hi Colleen……I do too. Those old historical places can sure spark my imagination! And it doesn’t take much. Just curious…do you ever got to Tombstone or Yuma? I visited both places as a kid but I’d love to go back as an adult.

      Much love and hugs!

  9. I love your post and I love visiting historical places. We have visited many battle fields, Presidential libraries and homes…all very memorable .

    • Hi Melanie…….Thank you for coming by. I’m glad you enjoyed my post. I loved sharing what I know and interests me with everyone. It sounds like you really like to go to historical places. I think that’s wonderful. Life’s too short to stay home.

      Much love and hugs!

  10. Hi Miss Linda, I know it’s late, but I wanted to chime in. As you know, I love the old hotel and its history, plus it has great food! I remember the last time we were there. Although we both knew we needed to get on the road, there was just too much to take in, so we stayed longer than we should have. As you know, as a writer (and maybe this comes from my days in the legal field), but I believe in walking the walk. There is nothing like standing in the same place as all of the heroes and not so heroic people you mentioned. I love your blog. Hugs, P

    • Hi Phyliss…..You and I always lose track of time when we stop in at the St. James. We just love to let our imaginations run wild and they need very little stimulation.

      Love and hugs!

  11. Linda- I don’t know if I’ve ever been here or not, but I’ll be researching it & if we go back to NM I’d love to visit.
    Love you wish you were in WY with me.

    • Hi Tonya…..Cimarron isn’t that far from where you live. It’s only 30/40 miles from Raton. Springer too. I hope you’re having a great vacation. Wyoming is a beautiful place.

      Much love, sister friend!

  12. I love historic places. They all have their own special feel. You can tap into it if you quiet yourself and “listen.” We have “gone back in time” twice at Fort Ticonderoga in New York state. The first time was during a pipe and drum concert at night on the parade grounds of the reconstructed fort. The only light was torch light, it was a clear, starlit night with bats flying over head. You could hear the bagpipes as the band approached the walls of the fort and as they echoed off the walls of the tunnel entering the fort. The stillness of the night, the leather smell of the bagpipes, the music, and the surroundings all took centuries off the night. Several years later, we were back for a French and Indian War reenactment. Another evening event with night time cannon volleys being shot off (8 cannons) and walking around the encampments lit only by fires, candles, and torches. Standing in the English camp and hearing the Indians and the French singing across the fields in there campsites. Standing in a pitch dark field being challenged by a sentry we could not see and who could barely see us by our lantern light. A fire fight broke out between the centuries and enemy troops sneaking up on them. How did they even manage when they couldn’t see who was there and who they were shooting at. Add to that they were using single shot muskets. It certainly brought history alive. The next day there was a battle reenactment.

    There have been other times and places, but Fort Ti has always been special and the closest to the past.

    • Hi Patricia…….Oh, I’d dearly love to visit Fort Ticonderoga! So much history happened there. In fact, I’d love to visit all the Eastern seaboard historical sites. Doubt I’ll get to though. It’s a long ways from Texas. Yeah, it’s amazing the risks those men took to win our independence.

      Love and hugs!

  13. What I like about visiting historical places is who visited or lived there for a time some very famous and some not so famous. Mostly men and a few even became president of this country at some point.

    • Hi Kim……I hope you’re having a good day. It sounds like you’re a historical fan too. Those places just call to us. It’s such an odd feeling to walk in the footsteps of those larger-than-life historical figures.

      Love and hugs!

  14. I’m catching up on a week’s worth of posts! This was so good, Linda. So much interesting history. 400 bullet holes! That is some place to visit!
    I would have never known about Lew Wallace without your mentioning him. I love Ben Hur. I had that book in my hands last night-not to read, no, but to pack for our move. Soon I will get back to reading.

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