Raton to Las Vegas Map Segment


Lucien Maxwell built a spawling hacienda which burned down as well as the Old Aztec Mill which now houses a museum of Cimarron history.

Take the time for a walking tour which includes the cemetary, Swink's Gambling Hall, the Aztec Mill Museum, the St. James Hotel, the plaza, and the jail.

Maps available at the visitor's center


The Boy Scouts of America operate three museums in the Philmont Scout Ranch on the way to the old settlement of Rayado.
They include the Villa Philmonte, the Seton Memorial Library/Philmont Museum, and the living museum in Rayado where you will find the home of Kit Carson and the Lucien Maxwell house.

Wild West Towns...Cimarron, Rayado, Springer, Las Vegas

      ...along the Santa Fe Trail                   Next Stop -Fort Union        

Descend Raton Pass and exit I-25 at Hwy 64. Follow 64 to Cimarron. The old Denver and Santa Fe Stagecoach road once paralleled this scenic road.

Cimarron was a wild town, the haunt of such notables as William (Buffalo Bill) Cody who planned his Wild West Show here; Kit Carson, the legendary guide; and Davey Crockett, the nephew of the famous frontiersman.. As a measure of the violence which this town saw, 400 bullet holes were found in the roof of the St. James Hotel when it came under renovation. This hotel has been restored and is found off Hwy 64 in Cimarron, 1 block south on Hwy 21.

Cimarron was once home to Lucien Maxwell, the one time owner of the long contested Maxwell Land Grant of close to two million acres. Part of the grant encompassed the area of northern New Mexico where Cimarron sits, and part of the grant extended into Colorado. Imagine one family owning property the approximate size of Ireland. He was the largest single land owner in the world at the time.

He made Cimarron, which had been settled first in 1844, the headquarters for the land grant and lived in splendor in a sprawling hacienda he built in the town in 1857. One visitor compared his living standard to that of English nobles. Lucien did not finish out his life here but died later in relative poverty in another part of the state.
The mansion has not survived to today, having burned down in 1922. But more of his story can be found by visiting the Old Aztec Mill which he built and which now houses a museum.

Land disputes were the reason for the perpetual unrest in this area. Before this area became a part of the United States, Mexico encouraged settlement in their frontier by making grants of land to wealthy citizens who promised to bring in settlers to develop the land. In 1841, only a few years before the Mexican War, a French Canadian trapper by the name of Charles Beaubien who had been in the New Mexican area for 9 years, and a businessman from Chihuahua named Guadaloupe Miranda applied to Governor Armijo for a grant of land.

This grant took on more owners when two years later; a fourth interest was given to the same Governor who had granted to them the land. Another interest was deeded to Charles Bent, a Taos merchant and brother to the founder of Bent’s Fort. This all happened before the Mexican War of 1846, but when General Kearney of the Army of the West marched across this territory, both Governor Armijo and Guadaloupe Miranda fled to Chihuahua, Mexico. Charles Bent, one of the grant owners, was appointed to be the civilian governor of New Mexico.

Taos erupted in a revolt after the territory became part of the US. Beaubien, the French trapper and grant owner found it impossible to continue developing the grant land because of the tumult and turned it over to his son. But both his son and Charles Bent, the territorial governor and partial owner, lost their lives in the revolt.

The share of the grant Beaubien deeded to his son reverted back to him.Having lost interest in the project, Beaubien gave oversight of the grant to his son-in-law, Lucien Maxwell. In 1848, Maxwell brought in William Cody to be the ranch manager. Horses, sheep, and goats became the mainstay of the ranch.

Maxwell founded Rayado the same year and built a home here, the first settlement to be established
east of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and a stagecoach stop along the Santa Fe Trail. Two years later, a military post was also established in Rayado. The town is now part of the Philmont Scout Ranch and run by them as a living museum. It includes the house of Lucien Maxwell and another built by Kit Carsen.

Maxwell bought interest in the grant in 1857 and the next year moved from Rayado to Cimarron where he built another home. At the end of the Civil War in 1864, Maxwell bought out the other 5 owners and became sole owner. This same year he built the grist mill to supply Fort Union with wheat. In all about 1,000 men worked for him.

But he was a harsh taskmaster, treating some of his workers brutally.
And gambling was his favorite occupation.. When copper was discovered in 1867 bringing hordes of prospectors to the area, he invested in the mine. He started the First National Bank of Santa Fe and invested in the Texas Pacific Railroad. It was the failure of these projects that led to his later demise. But in the meantime, he lived and entertained like a king.

As his fortunes began to turn, he sold the grant, through its title and boundaries remained unclear. In fact, the Secretary of the Interior approved only part of the grant, but this was ignored by Maxwell who sold it to Senator Chaffee of Colorado in 1870.

Chaffee immediately sold it to an English syndicate who in 6 months sold to a Dutch Firm.. The Dutch company owners saw the settlers on the land who had come 30 years before to settle here under the Mexican land grant, as a deterrent to their success in selling the land. But these homesteaders would not leave.

Gunslingers were then hired by the Land Grant Company in the Cimarron area to force these families off their land and the Colfax County War exploded. False allegations were made against the locals by what came to be called the “Santa Fe Ring”. One of these land grant partners later became a senator. Governor Samuel Axtell was also a member of this ring. The courts ruled in their favor allowing the owners to legally boot the settlers from their homes. Retaliation ensued and by 1875, Cimarron was completely lawless. In 1878 Governor Axtell was removed from office. It was reported that 200 people were killed in the violence.

Fighting went on for many more years. Bat Masterson’s brother, Jim Masterson, tried with a posse of 35 out of Trinidad, to march to Cimarron to bring order but was turned back at Raton.

It was not until 1887 when the US Supreme Court legitimized the Maxwell Land Grant Company’s efforts to drive out the settlers, that the fighting stopped.

Though the land was then subdivided among several owners, large chucks still remained.
An Oklahoma millionaire, Waite Phillips, bought a large area in 1922 where he built a spacious Spanish Mediterranean home. He named it Villa Monte. Over the next few decades, he donated large areas of this holding to the Boy Scouts of America. You pass through this area as you travel south on Hwy 21. The mansion is now a part of the Scout Ranch and is called the Villa Philmonte. The scouts now operate the Villa Philmonte as a museum.

In 1970, another of the large chunks of the land grant was sold to Penzoil who in turn donated 100,000 acres of it to the Forest Service in 1982. A third large holding of this grant is owned by Ted Turner.

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