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Cimarron, Colfax County, New Mexico

Downtown Cimmaron, New Mexico

Downtown Cimmaron, New Mexico

Cimarron is a village in Colfax County, New Mexico, United States. The population was 1,021 at the 2010 census.

Philmont Scout Ranch, an extensive “high-adventure base” operated by the Boy Scouts of America, is located just south of Cimarron. The Chase Ranch (famous for its heart-shaped brand and allegedly the Marlboro Man’s place of origin), Ted Turner’s Vermejo Park Ranch, the CS Ranch, the UU Bar Ranch (formerly the property of Waite Phillips), the Clearview Ranch of the western singer/songwriter R.W. Hampton, the Elliott Barker State Wildlife Area, the Valle Vidal, Cimarron Canyon State Park, and Carson National Forest are also located in the Cimarron area.

The village is a pioneer of the four-day school week, which it originally implemented in the early 1970s, during a time of rising fuel and utility prices.


To avoid the rocky and mountainous Raton Pass, wagon traffic used the Cimarron Cutoff of the Santa Fe Trail during the 1840s. Thereafter, Mountain Branch near Raton Pass became more popular with traders, immigrants, gold-seekers, and government supply trains.

West of Cimarron is the Palisades Sill, with high cliffs surrounding a modest flow of the Cimarron River.

In 1842, Lucien B. Maxwell, a fur trapper, came to the Beaubien-Miranda Ranch in northern New Mexico and courted and married Luz Beaubien, one of the owner’s six daughters. He eventually inherited the ranch and built a huge mansion in 1858 on the future town site.

Old Aztec Museum in Cimarron, New Mexico

Old Aztec Museum in Cimarron, New Mexico

Maxwell built the Aztec Mill in 1864. It is preserved as the Old Mill Museum, operated by the Cimarron Historical Society. The museum’s collection includes working mill parts; Native American tools, weapons and pottery; Maxwell Land Grant paperwork and documents; and other materials.

Cimarron was officially chartered in 1859 and was named for the Spanish word used to describe a mustang, meaning “wild” or “unbroken”. Cimarron was the county seat of Colfax County beginning in 1872, when it replaced Elizabethtown. At that time, Cimarron was a stage stop on the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail. In 1881, the county seat was moved to Springer, a town on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. It was during this time that Lucien Maxwell sold the Maxwell Land Grant to a group of investors, with the resultant Colfax County War in which more than two hundred people were killed.

Final homeport of USS Cimarron

As a tribute to many dedicated crew members, USS Cimarron’s key artifacts were donated to Cimarron, since it is the closest village to the Cimarron River’s headwaters at Eagle Nest, New Mexico. Her ship’s bell became the village high school’s bell.

Historic St. James Hotel in Cimarron, New Mexico

Historic St. James Hotel in Cimarron, New Mexico – The St. James Hotel is said to be haunted by the ghost of T.J. Wright, who was killed there.

Touring N.M. – Cimarron’s Wild History

Jon Knudsen, October 2014

Rudy Coca looked me in the eye and leaned over the bar. “I’ve got the reputation of being the bartender that drinks with ghosts,” he told me. I took a long drink of my root beer and mused that ghosts would seem to be the least worrisome feature at the St. James Hotel in Cimarron. After all, 26 men had been shot to death right here in the bar. There were still about a dozen bullet holes in the old tin ceiling.

“That’s exactly what I’m talking about,” said Rudy. “The original owner, Henri Lambert, built this place in 1872. But he was quite a gambler and one night he lost the whole hotel in that poker room at the top of the stairs to a man named T.J. Wright. When Wright stood up to leave, Lambert shot him. Wright staggered down the hall and fell into Room 18 a dead man. And by the way, Lambert kept the hotel.”

Some people say the ghost of T.J. Wright haunts this hotel. I had noticed that Room 18 sported a big padlock. Rudy just smiled and said, “Well, we always keep the room locked because people sleeping there were coming down in the middle of the night scared stiff and demanding a different room. The lock keeps everybody out. And if anyone begs me to take him in there, I tell him I need two shots of Jack Daniels first: one for me and one for the ghost of T.J. Wright. He’s still plenty mad about being shot!”

I left the bar and went upstairs to our rooms above the front of the hotel. My wife and I were in the old 1872 section of the St. James: no TV, no phone, and a cast-iron tub with feet. Out the window, a herd of deer grazed in the twilight.

Cimarron began as a stop on the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail. It was a rip-roaring frontier town situated right where the plains met the mountains. Trail figures such as Lucien Maxwell dominated early history. Then came the Colfax County War. Even later, many notables with unruly reputations passed through Cimarron and the St. James Hotel, including Clay Allison, Wyatt and Morgan Earp, Black Jack Ketchum, Kit Carson, Buffalo Bill, and Annie Oakley.

After all, Cimarron means “wild” in Spanish. Given the town’s history, the name fits.

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