Saloons in Old New Mexico

I thought I’d do something different this month and share some video about a historical even instead of a written piece. In this particular case, there are several events reenacted in this Colores presentation about saloons in Old New Mexico, including speeches by Benito Juarez and the Clay Allison-Pancho Griego gunfight in Cimarron. Enjoy!

Clay Allison Kills Pancho Griego in Lambert’s Saloon!!!

Monday, November 1, 1875 in Cimarron, New Mexico should have been a quiet day after an eventful weekend. Cruz Vega, the man thought to have murdered Methodist missionary Reverend Franklin J. Tolby in September, was dead and buried. Now the County could get back to ranching and mining. But Vega’s confession at his Saturday, October 30  lynching had not put the matter to rest.

Vega confessed merely to being involved in the plot to kill Reverend Tolby. He said Manuel Cardenas was the actual shooter. So there was still that to deal with.

Then there was the matter of how Vega had died. Following the telegraph-pole lynching that produced his accusation against Cardenas, Vega was shot and killed. When his battered body was found the next day, his friends and relatives were upset, to say the least. Their thoughts turned almost immediately to revenge. In fact, before the funeral was over, Civil War veteran Juan Francisco “Pancho” Griego vowed vengeance on the men who’d tortured and killed his friend.

There’s no concrete evidence that gunslinger R. Clay Allison was part of the Vega lynch mob, but the fact that Griego confronted him about it implies that Allison either participated in the lynching or was concerned for the welfare of those who had.

At any rate, Griego and Allison met late Monday, November 1 at Henri Lambert’s saloon in Cimarron (today’s St. James Hotel) and Griego didn’t make it out alive. According to Lambert, who’d been born in France, “Pancho try to pull the pistol. Mr. Allison smarter.” When Pancho fell, Lambert ordered everybody out and closed up shop. It was a smart thing to do. Allison and his friends spent the night “hoorahing” the town and probably would have caused more damage to Lambert’s place besides the blood-stained saloon floor if he hadn’t closed down when he did.

But Tolby’s killer still needed to be dealt with and there were still strong suspicions that the Santa Fe Ring was somehow behind it all. Certainly, the bloodshed hadn’t ended. There would be more in the coming days. Stay tuned . . . .


Nov 1 illustration.pancho griego.parsons book
Source: Clay Allison, Portrait of a Shootist, Chuck Parsons

Sources: Las Vegas Gazette, November 14, 1875. Chuck Parsons, Clay Allison, Portrait of a Shootist, Pioneer Book Publishers, 1983.

Future St. James Hotel Owner Marries Virginia Belle

On March 28, 1868, former Fifth Army Corps cook Frenchman Henri Lambert married Anna E. “Molly” Stepp of Petersburg, Virginia, where Henri had been operating a restaurant following his service in the Union Army. Shortly after their marriage, Henry and Mary made their way to Denver by train and then south by wagon to Elizabethtown, where they arrived in May, 1868. Here, Henry worked as a placer miner until Fall set in, when he opened the first of the two hotels he would own in Colfax County. In the fall of 1871, the Lamberts moved to Cimarron, where Henri opened the saloon which would form the first story and basis of today’s St. James Hotel. Although Henri and Mary never had children, they did share their Elizabethtown home with her younger brother Nathan and in the mid 1870’s adopted a New Mexican boy named Jacob. Another brother, William, died September 1, 1881, less than two months before Mary’s death on October 28.

1870 Elizabethtown, NM Census Record for the Lambert hotel and its occupants

Sources: March 2015; Ralph E. Twitchell, The Leading Facts of New Mexico History, Torch Press, Cedar Rapid, Iowa, 1911. p. 212; 1870 and 1880 Colfax County Census data; George B. Anderson, History of New Mexico, Its Resources and People, Pacific State Publishing Co., New York, 1907.  p. 696-697;