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Historic Cimarron NM

Updated on October 10, 2014

Where the West is Still Wild

Cimarron is a Spanish word that translates to wild and untamed. You won't see wild west shoot outs, the area has indoor plumbing and electricity, and the main roads are now paved, but there are no large cities or industrial sites. Nestled in the foothills of the Sangre de Christo mountain range in northeastern New Mexico, the air is clean, the sky is an incredible blue, and a refurbished historical land mark awaits at every turn.

I grew up 18 miles south of Cimarron. I lived there until I was 13 and just took all the historic wonder for granted. Not until we moved, did I realize that not every small town had such a rich history.

This photo of Cimarron is courtesy of TripAdvisor

St. James Hotel, Cimarron NM
St. James Hotel, Cimarron NM

St. James Hotel

The St James Hotel was established in 1872 by French chef Henri Lambert. The Cimarron Historical Society has restored it and it is now open for business. Guided tours are available.

During it's hay day it was reputed to be the site of 26 murders, all claimed to be in self defense. With such patrons as Buffalo Bill, Kit Carson and Clay Allison it's no wonder there are bullet holes in the ceiling of the dining room which was once the saloon



The Governer's Room. History claims Governer Lew Wallace stayed in this room while he finished writing "Ben Hur" after he retired. However my family, the descendants of Joseph Blazer, refute the claim. They say he stayed in the boarding house of my Great Great aunt, Emma Thompson, in Mescalero.

Where Did Lew Wallace Live While Writing Ben Hur

Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ was published by Lew Wallace in 1880. The St. James Hotel in Cimarron, New Mexico claims he stayed there while he was writing it. The Palace of the Governor in Santa Fe claims he wrote it in his room there. Word of mouth in my family history claim he stayed at Emma Thompson's boarding house in Mescalero, while yet another source claims he wrote it sitting under a beech tree on his own property.

Where do you thing Lew Wallace wrote Ben Hur?

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Other Historic Sites In Cimarron

The Old Mill Museum was a grist mill built in 1864 by Lucian B. Maxwell to supply ground grains to the Maxwell Ranch, Jicarilla Apache Reservation, Fort Union and Santa Fe trail travelers. It now houses many historic documents as well as native american tools and weapons, parts of the grist mill and more items used in every day life during that period.

In all, there are 14 historic sites within a 30 to 60 minute walk.

A guided tour by lantern light meets and the St. James Hotel. Interpretive, guided tours of Old Town Cimarron by lantern light while telling local history, legends, and ghost stories


Philmont is best known for its summer programs but it is open year round and provides fall and winter adventures also.

You may see a herd of buffalo along the the roadside on the way to Philmont from Cimarron. Philmont raises buffalo for meat to feed the summer campers as well as to sell commercially. Tending livestock is one of the full time jobs at the ranch.

A bit of trivia: The area behind the Tooth of Time is where the Montana scenes of the TV mini-series "Lonesome Dove" were shot. It is a perfect place for shooting old west movies because there are no electric high lines.

Villa Philmonte

Villa Philmonte, built by Wait Philips, sits at Philmont Scout Ranch headquarters just north of the training camp. Much of the building material was imported from Spain and other European Countries. The round window is said to be the first of its kind in America. Guided tours of this magnificent mansion are available.

The Villa and the land occupied by the Philmont Scout Ranch was donated by Wait Philips.


This photo of Casa del Gavilan Historic Inn is courtesy of TripAdvisor

St James Hotel


Other Area Attractions

Be sure to explore the arts and crafts in Cimarron. Many artists and artisans sell their own works as well as the work of other local artisans ranging from oil painting to pottery and jewelry making.

Take a picnic lunch into Cimarron Canyon. The leaves of the aspen trees quake in the slightest breeze creating the sound of a rushing wind overhead. The Cimarron river is cool and clear all summer. Definitely not suitable for swimming. It is fed by run-off from melting snow in the mountains and is always COLD!

Visit the palisades. Try as I might, I could not find a picture of the one feature that has fascinated me since childhood, Devils Mailbox. It is a vertical rock with a horizontal rock balanced across it high atop the palisade cliffs. All the pictures I could find of the palisades are taken too far west to show it.

Seasonal Attractions

Summer is the height of tourist season and Cimarron makes sure there are events for every taste.

In June the Chamber of Commerce sponsors a Gallery and Gift tour to show you all the merchants that feature local artisans. Refreshments are served and the tour is on different days each year, so contact the Chamber of Commerce ahead of time.

Cimarron Days celebrates the old and new together during this fun week during June. Dates vary from year to year. Contact the Chamber of Commerce for current information.

July 4th Maverick Rodeo is the oldest open rodeo in the country. It features the standard, bronc and bull riding, barrel racing plus many more fun activities.

September features the The Shortgrass Music Festival In 2011 it will be September 9th through 11th.

The median temperature in the foothills during the summer is 80 degrees. In the mountains it's much cooler. It also gets very chilly when the sun sets, so be sure to take along sweaters, jackets and long pants.

Share any thoughts you have on this lens or on Cimarron.

Have you been to Cimarron, NM?

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    • MelRootsNWrites profile image

      Melody Lassalle 6 years ago from California

      This sounds like an interesting place to visit.

    • Beaddoodler profile image
      Author

      Jennie Hennesay 6 years ago from Lubbock TX

      @moonlitta: :) It's really not too terribly cold in the summer, but I wouldn't want to go up in the canyon in tank top and shorts, which many tourist take with them as summer wear.

    • profile image

      moonlitta 6 years ago

      I'd rather visit the inn than the canyon, but it seems to be worthy of overcoming some cold:)

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 6 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      Interesting lens