Womens Improvement Association Hearse --- aka Pat Garrett Hearse
Society member and past president Cal Traylor poses beside the Garrett
hearse inside the Doņa Ana County Sheriff's Department museum dedicated
to law enforcement. Traylor found the hearse, negotiated its purchase
and then donated it to the museum in 2012.
In 1894 the hearse first appeared in the minutes of a meeting of the
Womens Improvement Association (W.I.A) of Las Cruces. It was the only
hearse in the county until 1912 when Graham’s Mortuary set up
shop. Prior to this hearse, coffins were carried to the grave on
any conveyance that was available for a few hours. The women stored the
hearse at the Amador Livery and Hotel, on Amador Street. They rented it
out for use at $8 in town, or $10 out of town. Charity cases were free.
With the rents the WIA purchased a city block of land from the railroad
and created a park now known as Pioneer Park.
They purchased a water wagon to sprinkle the dirt streets, to reduce
dust. They built the WI.A building still in use, it was the first
library. They also had other fund raising events, but the hearse was
the most innovative.
In1908 when Pat Garrett’s body was buried, it probably traveled on this
hearse -- thus the title Pat Garrett Hearse. Graham’s also offered a
motorized Buick hearse, and slowly the market went to Graham’s. The
hearse was sold to Hal Cox who removed the top and used the remainder
around his ranch.
Again, the hearse was abandoned in favor of motorized vehicles.
Eventually, an antique dealer bought what was left and moved it to
Silver City. Frank Tastch, who had a museum in Pinos Altos, then
purchased it and reconstructed it to as close to original as
possible. When Frank died, his son Dink inherited it and was not
Traylor tracked down the hearse and struck a deal with Dink. With
the help of Bob Gamboa and many others, Traylor was able to get the
hearse transfered to its rightful home in Las Cruces.
The sheriff's museum is at 845 N. Motel Blvd. and is usually open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.