The Famous Cowboy “King of the Pecos”

Most people know about John Chisum through movies and TV. You can see it advertised on billboards, like the billboard advertising near me, and maybe even the restaurant that was named after him, but not many know he died in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. John Simpson Chisum was born on August 16, 1824 in Hardeman County, Tennessee.

John became a wealthy cattle baron in the American West in the mid 1800’s. The famous cowboy became engaged in the cattle business and was the first to drive his herds to the New Mexico Territory earning him the nickname ‘The King of the Pecos’. At one time John had over 100,000 head of cattle he sold to the United States Army in Fort Sumner and Santa Fe,
New Mexico. This deal with the army made him a rich man.

But for all of the famous cowboy’s wealth it couldn’t stop the inevitable. In 1883, Chisum discovered a tumor on his neck. The tumor was removed, however, his health continued to deteriorate. He traveled to Eureka Springs, Arkansas in 1884 to take in the “magical healing waters” but, even that wasn’t enough. John Chisum died in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, on December 23, 1884 in a hotel called the Perry House.

The Perry House burned down a long time ago but in its place, on that very foundation, was built the Basin Park Hotel. When the architectural plans of the Perry House were compared to the Basin Springs Hotel it was discovered that John Chisum died in what is now room #310 of the Basin Park Hotel.

There is one famous story that recounts a doctor and his wife who stayed at the Basin Park Hotel in room #310. It was reported by the doctor that he and his wife had spent a pleasant evening of dinner and dancing and then retired to their room on the third floor. The doctors wife, being tired from the evening, slipped into bed while the doctor stayed awake for a nightcap. After only a few moments the doctor heard what he thought was the heavy steps of hooves and the rhythmic sound of spurs. Opening the door he observed a man with a cowboy hat walking his horse down the hallway. Turning to his wife he asked her if she wanted to see the misty looking man and his horse to which she responded with a resounding ‘NO’! Turning
back around to check the hall again the doctor stated that the man had disappeared. There was no longer the man with the horse and nowhere they could have gone.

Stories abound of people hearing what sounds like a horse walking through the halls or spurs jingling as a person walks down the stairs. And even some have come forward to say they’ve seen a cowboy walking down the halls only to disappear through a wall, probably looking for his horse.

So, next time you’re in Eureka Springs, stop by the Basin Park Hotel and spend the night. You might just meet a famous cowboy… and his horse.

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Learn more about the Basin Park Hotel and the Ghost Tours: