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Dennis Russell
Cimarron Cowboy Poet
©2014-2017 Cimarron Cowboy Music and Poetry Gathering
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4th Annual Cimarron Cowboy Music and Poetry Gathering

Friday - Sunday, August 25-27, 2017

Cimarron New Mexico     "Where the West is Still Wild"

Historic St. James Hotel            The Philmont Scout Ranch
Training Center Auditorium
Friday & Saturday   Friday 7-9:30 PM
sidewalk serenades, breakfast
& Friday lunch
  Saturday 11 AM-4 PM & 7-9:30 PM
jamming after 9:30 PM   Cowboy Church Sunday 9 AM

Tickets at the Door:      $10


Cimarron, New Mexico History

"Wild & Untamed, A Brief History of Cimarron, NM." by Steve Zimmer

In 1841, a large tract of land encompassing most of present day Colfax County was granted to two Mexican citizens, Carlos Beaubien and Guadalupe Miranda. Although they agreed to colonize the grant, frontier conditions prevented its settlement until 1848, after the area became part of the United States as the result of the Mexican War.
Carlos Beaubien
Guadalupe Miranda
In the spring of that year, Beaubien’s son-in-law, Lucien Maxwell, led settlers east across the mountains from Taos to the Rayado River. The colony he started was strategically located near where a trail branched off to Taos from the Santa Fe Trail. Despite frequent Indian attacks, Maxwell’s ranch prospered. He pastured large herds of cattle, sheep, horses, and mules and planted hay and other crops. Kit Carson joined Maxell as a partner in the enterprise and remained until he was appointed Indian agent at Taos in 1854. A company of United States dragoons was stationed at Rayado in 1850 and 1851, charged with not only protecting the fledgling colony, but Santa Fe traders as well.

Lucien Maxwell
Maxwell decided to establish a new ranch north on the Cimarron River in 1857. Headquartered there, he expanded operations by enlarging his cattle herds and farming extensive acreage along the river. Hundreds of men, mostly Mexicans, lived on his ranch, worked his fields and herded his cattle. Sometimes they were paid in money, and at other times, they received cattle or grain for their labor. Contemporary observers likened Maxwell’s ranch to a feudal kingdom.

To grind wheat from his fields into flour, Maxwell erected a three-story grist mill called the Aztec that still stands. When the United States government established an agency for the Jicarillas and Utes on the ranch in 1861, Maxwell obtained contracts to provide them with weekly rations of flour and meat.

Lucien Maxwell Ranch 1864
Aztec Mill

Maxwell entertained many visitors at his ranch on the Cimarron, most of whom were former trapping and trading associates. Foremost amount them was Kit Carson. With Carson, Maxwell had been a member of two of John C. Fremont’s 1840s exploring expeditions into the Far West and also his partner at the Rayado ranch. Other visitors, such as Dick Wootton, William Bent, Tom Boggs, Ceran St. Vrain, and Colonel Henry Inman, also spent the night reliving old glories at Maxwell’s expansive adobe home.
Maxwell acquired Miranda’s share of the grant in 1858. When his father-in-law Beaubien died in 1864, Maxell began buying the claims of the other heirs. Consequently, the property eventually became known as the Maxwell Land Grant.

Gold was discovered in the mountains on the western part of the grant in 1866. Miners rushed to the placers of the Moreno Valley and Baldy Mountain areas which increased Maxwell’s wealth as he received lease payments for their claims. With several partners, he opened the most productive gold mine on the grant, the Aztec, located inside the Aztec Ridge east of Baldy Mountain.

Aztec Mine
Aztec Mine
Having established a ranch kingdom of mythical proportions, Maxell entered into negotiations to sell the grant in 1870. A group of English investors acquired the grant for 1,350,000 and established the Maxwell Land Grant and Railway Company.

The Britishers immediately encountered resistance from miners and others who had settled on the grant but did not hold title to their claims. Whereas Maxwell had allowed many to live and work on his ranch, often with no compensation, the land grant company considered them squatters and insisted that they purchase the land they used or leave. On the other hand, the miners and settlers believed they were on public domain and outside the grant proper, which they believed to include no more than 100,000 acres.

The ensuing fifteen years, known as the Colfax County War, were a dark period in the history of the area. The region was the scene of numerous murders for nearly two decades after Lucien Maxwell sold the grant and conflict arose between the new owners and the miners and settlers.

Two Cimarron ministers, both of whom supported the settlers, figured prominently in the conflict-one by his death and the other by his persistence. In September of 1875 the Reverend F. J. Tolby, a Methodist minister and outspoken critic of the land grant company, was found murdered in the Cimarron Canyon. It was assumed by many that the killer had been hired by the company. Tolby’s murder set off violence that pervaded the region for the next fifteen years.


Rev. Franklin James Tolby
Rev. Franklin James Tolby

In part because of the death of his friend, another minister, the Reverend Oscar P. McMains, began a personal crusade against the land grant company. McMain’s campaign lasted until the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed the right of the company to nearly two million acres in its decision of April 18, 1887. McMain made one last appeal for the settlers to President Grover Cleveland, but his request was denied. Peace gradually came to the region after the Supreme Court’s decision. Settlers either bought their land from the company or sold their improvements and left. No one is certain how many deaths resulted from the war, and many remain unsolved to this day. Rev. Oscar P. McMains (left)
Ref. Oscar P. McMains (left)
Much of the land was already owned or was soon purchased by stockmen who were running large herds of cattle and sheep. Jesus Abreu at Rayado, Manly Chase in Ponil Canyon, and John Dawson on the Vermejo River each bought ranch country from Lucien Maxwell before he sold the land grant. Frank Springer, attorney for the land grant company, purchased a large block of grazing land along the Cimarron River in 1873 from the company, and this eventually became the C S Ranch. C S Ranch
More about Cimarron History  


St James Hotel Courtyard
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St. James Hotel Courtyard

St James Hotel Courtyard
St James Hotel original
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St. James Hotel

St James Hotel original
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St James Hotel front

For more information, contact us on Facebook 
or call Dennis Russell (719) 330-1797

Co-Producer: Dale Page


Thanks to our volunteers:
Shirley Dale, Kaye Peery, Jack Brugger


The St. James Hotel & Staff
The Philmont Scout Ranch
KRTN Radio

The Albuquerque Journal August 2016

"The Cimarron Cowboy Music and Poetry Gathering: How to Put on a Cowboy Gathering" from the Winter 2015 The Western Way.

Thanks to our 2016 Top Hand Sponsors: The Philmont Scout Ranch, The St. James Hotel & Staff, Express Ranches, C S Ranch, Cimarron Health Center, AcousticByLines; and our performance sponsors:Broken Horn Music, Cabinets by Connie, Cimarron Maverick Club, Cimarron United Methodist Church, Bob Burns, Fred Lambert, Markus Printing & Stationary,  Schwenk's Antique Hall. Please support our sponsors. Be a 2017 sponsor and put your business link here! Contact us on Facebook or call Dennis Russell (719) 330-1797