Yet it was graveyards that attracted Heather Moulton and Susan Tatterson.
The pair teamed up to travel around the state and chronicle the beauty and
history that exists in these areas.
The result is the book, “Graveyards of the Wild West: New Mexico.”
Moulton and Tatterson took weekend trips for six months to capture the stories and photographs.
Tatterson says Moulton has been joining her on trips to photograph towns for another series of books.
“She always had to stop at the graveyards,” Tatterson says. “It became a bit of joke between us; every time we saw a sign for a cemetery, I knew we would have to stop.”
Moulton’s interest in graveyards/cemeteries stemmed from her childhood with mom.
“She writes historical romance novels, and we would visit cemeteries to look at the headstones – for inspiration and excellent names for book characters,” Moulton says. “I also grew up watching Wild West shows and movies (because my parents and grandparents watched Westerns), so I’ve always been fascinated by the Wild West. What began as an interest in history and aesthetics (old graveyards are beautiful and historically fascinating) has now materialized into a book series.”
The pair visited more than a dozen graveyards and had to pare it down for the book.
Moulton says choosing which ones made the book was a combination of history and photography because the premise of the series is really history and photography.
“We looked for cemeteries that connected to New Mexico history, particularly related to the railroad, mining and gun-slinging (the Wild West!),” she says. “One thread in this book is Billy the Kid because I’m a fangirl (I blame ‘Young Guns I and II’). Another thread is Route 60, which parallels the original route of the Transcontinental Railroad.”
Moulton and Tatterson picked some of their favorite sites along their journey.
“For me it’s more about the graveyards as a whole – as a photographer, the sense of place they give.”
Tatterson’s favorites are Shakespeare and Quemado, although she enjoyed exploring all of them and learning about the history.
“I think that is what has made photographing this series of books so interesting, the history,” Tatterson says. “Prior to these books, since 2008, I had been photographing America’s abandoned locations and towns, but working with Heather on the graveyard books has brought the towns to life for me in a different way. I’ve learned so much about the people who lived and worked in the places I’ve photographed.”
Tatterson says as far as individual sites, the graves of Rita Hill and her family, who are buried in the actual town of Shakespeare, will always be with her.
“Their graves are situated atop a hill at the end of the former town’s main street,” Tatterson says.
With Moulton’s love for Billy the Kid, his grave is at No. 1.
“My second favorite individual site is the alleged elephant in Quemado at the Catholic Cemetery (a story told to us by four young tour guides/Quemado residents),” Moulton says. “It may be a tall tale, but it’s a great tall tale.”
After that, seeing Pat Garrett and Katherine Antrim (Billy the Kid’s mom) was amazing – and completed her Billy the Kid tour of New Mexico.
“One of my favorite graveyards is Kelly,” Moulton says. “So many of the wooden graves were deteriorating among the trees and scrub brush, and it was near the abandoned mine. It really encompassed the mining history of New Mexico; plus, it’s in the mountains, so the view is spectacular.