Last week I shared a little about the town of Deming,New Mexico but I had so much to say about the Mimbres Museum in Deming that it needed its own post.

However, before I share about the Mimbres Museum, one thing I didn’t talk about last week was the climate of Deming. During the months I was there, it wasn’t as warm as I expected. In fact, one day it snowed. Deming, like the other places I’d hoped to visit while in New Mexico, is in the mountains. Deming’s elevation is over 4,300 feet which explains the morning chill.

But it was the wind I found most surprising about the weather. Now, I’m no stranger to wind at high elevation. You’ve heard of the Wyoming wind? I grew up in the Wyoming wind in a high elevation town.

Wind makes temperatures feel colder than it is. On an already cold day, wind can feel like it goes right through you. And Deming was like that. Not every day. Maybe not even most days. But, still, a lot of days.

I spoke to a long-term resident who told me to leave by April or risk experiencing wind. I said something about all the wind we already experience. He said it was nothing compared to what was to come.

Mental note: don’t be in Deming in the spring because of wind or summer because of heat.

But I digress. The topic today is about a most wonderful museum in the humble little town of Deming.

Deming Luna Mimbres Museum

Okay, so I love small local museums. More so than the fancy big well-funded ones. Many of those are run by local historical societies. For example, I talked about how much I enjoyed talking local history with a historical society member during a visit to Old Jail Museum in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. In the 30,000 miles I’ve traveled in RV life, I’ve visited many museums run by historical societies.

So, when I tell you that the Deming Luna Mimbres Museum was amazing, I know what I’m talking about. It’s operated by Luna County Historical Society and is, by far, the best historical society museum I’ve visited. If you get to Deming, you simply must go. Best of all: it’s free. Of course, like most places that offer free admission, they appreciate donations and purchases in their gift shop.

Front of a red brick building, two stories with an American flag and steps leading to the front door.
The outside of the Mimbres Museum. It has a pretty front door but you actually go around the side and down some stairs to enter.

What makes this museum great? For starters, the size. It’s housed in Deming’s former armory (20,000 square feet) which was completed in 1916, two months after the Pancho Villa raid which I talked about last week and purchased by the Luna County Historical Society in 1977. The volunteer who oriented me pointed out the room, now the doll room, that was once the armory’s shooting range. The museum has two big floors.

The organization and well thought-out displays also makes the museum great. No doubt, having adequate space helps them accomplish this. Most historical society museums have way more stuff than they have room for. Not to mention, they get so many random and diverse donations that it can be a challenge to create cohesive displays. Not this place.

A green and brown army tank with two guns at the top. It sits in front of a red brick building.
The side of the Mimbres Museum is a little veteran’s park since the building used to be an armory including this tank.

Some of the individual sections include a gem and mineral room, an art gallery, a Hispanic room, a cowboy exhibit, a quilt and lace room, a military room and a Mimbres pottery room.

My Favorite Part of the Mimbres Museum

Like with all museums, no matter how good they are, there are sections I go though at lightning speed. Either the topic or their exhibits don’t speak to me. And that was true for this museum as well. The pottery and military stuff weren’t really my cup of tea though I did walk through because you never know what might catch your eye.

However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, I found a large exhibit I just loved. I thought the layout was creative and I enjoyed exploring it very much. If I could change anything it would be not having so much of it behind glass. Though, obviously, I understand why it is.

My favorite area was called Main Street. It mimicked a walk down any small town’s main street back in the day (no specific period). Donated items at each “store” came from local residents. You walk down Main Street and peer into a dentist shop, a beauty parlor, mechanic store, a grocery store and others. You can walk through the ticket office at the railroad station. All along your walk down Main Street, you’ll pass antique automobiles, including early fire trucks.

Main Street Photos

Vintage dentist office with chair, spit sink and drill stand.
The Dentist’s Office on Main Street. It is what one would have looked like in the 1930s and earlier. The drill and fountain unit dates to 1928, while the chair was manufactured in 1907.
An old fashioned permanent wave machine. A top metal disk has cords hanging down  from it and on the end of the cords are clips which is the part that would attach to the curlers in a woman's hair.
What is a Main Street without a beauty parlor? This store had everything, but this gadget was my favorite. I had to stare at it for a while before I figured out what it was. After World War I, it became fashionable for women to cut their hair in a bob and have it waved. The permanent wave machine was first invented in 1906. Most of the items in the beauty shop were donated by a woman who owned and operated the Korrect Beauty Shop which opened in 1934 in downtown Deming and had several owners until the last one who donated the items. I’m not sure the date of this machine but it’s probably from the 1940s.
An old fashioned grocery with a display for milk, eggs, flour on an wooden box.
The grocery store was the largest of the stores on the Mimbres Museum’s Main Street. This one had so much in it that I particularly would’ve loved to be able to step in for a closer look. This is based on Gem Grocery that occupied the building next to the Masonic Hall I told you about last week from 1925 to 1970. Prior to that it was known as the Deming Mercantile Co.
Open door into a room with a desk and other items. Above the door's entryway it read Deming.
This one you could go into. It was kind of the inside of a railway station. One corner was dedicated to Harvey Houses. The sign, in case you cannot read it, says that San Francisco is 1204 1/2 miles away while New Orleans is 1280 1/2. Those half-miles just crack me up.
Close up of a vintage Underwood typewriter from early 20th century.
You can make out this Underwood typewriter on the desk in the photo above. The typewriter was purchase in the early 1900s and used at the Southern Pacific freight office in Deming.
Flat-bed cart with four wheels. It is filled with vintage suitcases and in front of a Harvey House building in the Mimbres Museum.
Early baggage cart that you’d find in railway stations across the country.

Other Things I Loved in the Museum

Vintage box television with a lamp on the top.
Television arrived in Deming in the 1950s and this is one of the first to do so.
Very old quilt, folded and over a quilt rack with others. It has six-sided shapes in variations of green and red.
The Mimbres Museum had tons of old quilts and handmade lace. They were behind glass so I couldn’t get a close-up look. This one wasn’t my favorite but I was impressed because, near as I could tell, it was the oldest dated to 1827. It came from Kentucky during the Gold Rush.
A wooden hand cart with a white bucket in the back and a sign that says, "hot tamale 10 cents."
This hot tamale cart was owned by Leonardo Reyes. He would make fresh tamales and sell them in downtown Deming from this cart from the late 1930s through the early 1950s. He would wrap heated bricks and put them in the bottom of the crock to keep the tamales warm.
Old time wagon set up to provide meals to cowboys on teh range.
This chuck wagon in the cowboy section reminded me of my favorite carriage when I visited the Northwest Carriage Museum in Washington.
Close up on one part of chuck wagon, a wooden box hanging by a chain from the side of the wagon.
This was something new as the chuck wagon in Washington didn’t have a wheel grease buck. Before axle grease came in a can, it would be carried in an ox horn or one of these wooden buckets for maintenance on the road. Early axle grease was tallow rendered from animal fat.
A photo of an information sign that reads, "Silent Witness. On March 9 1916 this mirror was hanging in the drug store of CC Miller in Columbus, NM. Between the hours of 4:20 a.m. and 6:20 a.m. it saw the looting and burning of the Pancho Villa Raid.

The store was shot up and the owner was killed.

Still today we have this silent witness to that part of history of New Mexico.
This was next to a giant mirror. The mirror was nothing special but to think about all it witnessed was a spark for the imagination.

Old Customs House

Across the street from the Mimbres Museum is the Old Customs House. I’m not sure why but they have different hours from the museum so I had to make a second trip back to get a peek inside the Old Customs House.

The Old Customs House is thought to be the oldest house in the area having been built prior to 1848. In 1882 Judge Seaman Field and his family arrived in Deming. He bought the property and built his house around the original adobe structure. Small additions to the house were built in 1902, 1908 and 1930.

White one-story building. Photo shows the front door with two large windows on either side. The sign above reads, "Historic Custom House Port of Entry 1848-1900."
Front of the Old Customs House.

President Grover Cleveland appointed Judge Field the Collector of Customs in 1888. He served in that capacity for a decade until the port of entry moved closer to the US-Mexico border. Additionally, Judge Field served as Deming’s first mayor, 1902-1907.

The city of Deming purchased the property in 1994 and gave it to the Luna County Historical Society. After an extensive renovation, it opened for tours the following year. Prior to the Gadsden Purchase (which I talked about last week in the history of the area), Deming was the port of entry for those crossing the border.

A desk with a large ledger under a Plexiglas box. Behind it is a  black and white framed photo of a man and a woman.
A portrait of Judge Field and his wife along with one of the customs books. It was fun to read what people were bringing over the border.

You can walk through various rooms of the house including Judge Field’s office where you can view some of the old customs records. The most common items coming into the US were cattle, mules, chickens and goats as well as other staples.

I liked the kitchen a lot. It was my favorite room at the Customs House though the parlor, where you come into upon entering the house, is also lovely.

Old fashioned kitchen with sink and blue painted cupboards. Next to it is a big old stove with shelves of items and fake made food.

Outside Deming

Next week, I’ll tell you all about my adventures outside of Deming including a ghost town named after the world’s most famous English bard.

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