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Haunted St. James Hotel in Cimarron

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The St James Hotel was built in 1872 by Henri Lambert (later changed to Henry) and was originally called Lambert's Inn. Its saloon, restaurant and 43 rooms were witness to at least 26 murders during Cimarron's wilder days. Clay Allison, Black Jack Ketchum, Jesse James, and Buffalo Bill Cody have all left their mark on the St. James, as attested by the numerous bullet holes in the ceiling of the main dining room.

 

Before Henry made his way to New Mexico, he was the personal chef to President Lincoln, upon the recommendation of Ulysses S. Grant. He continued to hold the position until the president was assassinated in 1865. Before long, Henry made his way west in search of gold. Finally settling in Elizabethtown, New Mexico, he opened a saloon and restaurant instead of finding gold.

 

St James Hotel, Cimarron, New Mexico

Historic View of the St James Hotel in the 1800's,

from vintage postcard. This image available for photographic prints HERE!

 

 

 

Henri Lambert on the rightAt this time Elizabethtown, Cimarron, and much of the surrounding was owned by Lucien B. Maxwell. The Maxwell Land Grant was the largest land grant ever made in the United States. When Maxwell sold the grant in 1870, the new Land Grant Company men discovered that the French chef, Henry Lambert, was working in Elizabethtown and enticed him to come to Cimarron.

 

The Lambert Inn, as it was called at the time, started business in 1872. Built during a time when law and order was non-existent, the saloon quickly gained a reputation as a place of violence, where it is said that 26 men were shot and killed within its adobe walls. The first question usually asked around Cimarron in the morning was: "Who was killed at Lambert's last night?" Another favorite expression following a killing was: "It appears Lambert had himself another man for breakfast." 

 

The saloon was wildly popular to cowboys, traders, miners and the many travelers of the Santa Fe Trail. The saloon did so well that Henry added guest rooms in 1880, and the hotel was soon considered to be one of the most elegant hotels west of the Mississippi.

 

Many well-known people stayed there over the years. Wyatt Earp, his brother Morgan, and their wives spent three nights at the St. James on their way to Tombstone, Arizona. Jesse James stayed there several times, always in room 14, signing the registry with his alias, R.H. Howard. Jesse James’ nemesis and would be killer, Bob Ford, also stayed at the St. James.

 

Buffalo Bill Cody, who was a goat ranch manager for Lucien Maxwell for a short time, met Annie Oakley at the hotel and began to plan and rehearse their Wild West Show. When Henry’s son Fred  was born, Buffalo Bill nicknamed him "Cyclone Dick” because he was born during a blustery snow storm, and he was soon asked to be Fred’s godfather.

 

As Fred Lambert grew older, Buffalo Bill would be one of the first to give him instruction in the use of guns. Fred Lambert would spend his entire life upholding the law as a Cimarron Sheriff, a member of the tribal police and a territorial marshal. When Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley left Cimarron to take their show on the road, they took an entire village of Indians from the Cimarron area with them.

 

Other notables who have stayed at the historic inn include Bat Masterson, train robber Black Jack Tom Ketchum, General Sheridan, Doc Holliday, Billy the Kid, Clay Allison, Pat Garret, artist Fredrick Remington, Governor Lew Wallace, and writer Zane Grey. The Hotel was later renamed the St. James and continues to cater to travelers today.

 

When the railroads came through, the Santa Fe Trail died, and soon after, the gold in the area began to play out. Cimarron's population began to dwindle and the elegant St. James Hotel fell into disrepair.

 

St. James Hotel Dining Room

Though today, this dining room serves elegant meals, it was this room that once served as Lambert's Saloon and its tin ceiling is still pocked with bullet holes. Kathy Weiser, September, 2008.

 

St James Hotel 2008

St James Hotel , Cimarron, New Mexico,

Kathy Weiser, September, 2008.

 

When Henry Lambert's sons, Fred and Gene, replaced the roof of the Lambert Inn in 1901, they found more than 400 bullet holes in the ceiling above the bar. A double layer of heavy wood prevented anyone from sleeping upstairs from being killed. Today, the ceiling of the dining room still holds 22 bullet holes.

 

Henri Lambert died in 1913. His wife, Mary E. Lambert died in 1926. Through the years, the old hotel was, at many times, uninhabited and passed from owner to owner. However, in 1985 the St. James Hotel was restored to its former luxury.

 

 

 

Continued Next Page

 

 

St James Hotel Interior

St. James Hotel Lobby today, Kathy Weiser, September, 2008.

St. James Hotel, Cimarron, New Mexico

This historic roulette table inside the St. James Hotel

 has been played by some notable historic characters

 of the past, Kathy Weiser, September, 2008.

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