I was born at the trading post down on the San Juan River. It was located about 20 miles south and west of Shiprock, N.M. My dad had built the trading post, and we lived there for six or seven years.
The trading post and the living quarters were all together. Our dad had built them out of logs with a sod roof; we lived in one end and the store was in the other. The building had a dirt floor, and all the supplies were freighted in with horse and wagon. They had four horses to each wagon, and all items were brought in late in the fall to last until spring. Joe Hatch was the clerk that worked in the store for our dad. My dad was very interested in the Indians and liked to trade with them. They called our dad their Indian name for him – it was “Natsa-ho” and meant “big eyes.”
We had the standard supplies that could be found at any trading post. I remember the “julep.” the “signatures” and Arbuckles Coffee. The coffee came in little packages about one pound and would be in the bean as it was not ground yet. Everyone had their own grinder that hung on the wall, and you just turned the handle, and it would start grinding the coffee beans, the coffee would go into a little drawer and we had coffee. Each of these packages had a “signature” on it, and you could redeem them for gifts. Mother would get sheets, pillows, table clothes and curtains. We kids would get toys and other things. Each of us had a little “breast pin”; every kid had one of those little pins! Sometimes we would even get clothes, baby clothes and things that they could get with these “signatures.” You could get lamps also.
We also had a lot of flour sacks. and that was the underwear and the baby diapers. Our underwear could be ”Montezuma Patent” or whatever happened to be on the flour sacks. Our dad always had candy as the Indians liked that. and he also had the “Julep” instead of pop. It came in barrels. and it sold for about 5 cents a bottle. Whenever any supplies were brought in, there was always several barrels of “Julep” for the Indians to buy.
My dad spent most of his life as an Indian trader. When he wasn’t running one of these posts for somebody, he would be freighting for them. He would haul supplies down to Bluff City and down to Shiprock. It would take a day and a half to go to Shiprock with the big loads in the wagon and using four horses. On occasion there would be two wagons.
Sometimes in the fall they would bring potatoes, flour and other times it would just be a whole load of canned goods. Us kids used to go sometimes. Dad always carried a bedroll which had canvas and quilts, and we would just make it out for beds, roll it up in the morning and go on from there. We would go down, maybe half way to Shiprock and stop around the “Hogback” and stay all night. It took so long back then where now it only takes a few hours to go to Shiprock. Back then it would take a day and a half to drive down there in the wagon, unload the freight and we would start back, camp again near “Hogback” and get home late the next night.
At that time the Indians made all of their own clothes; they always had good velvet, unbleached muslin and calico. The men made their own clothing that were sewn by hand. The pants would be made out of calico that was thin, and they would line them with muslin. The Indians really liked velvet for the clothes; the shirts were made of velvet and they would line them. They would sew nickels or dimes, if they had the money; also quarters and half dollars were put on the shirts. They would have them all down the sleeves and around the neck and sometimes the hem.
Women had the velvet skirts; it was important they have those pretty colors – red, purple and all bright colors. The women made their own skirts and would use about eight widths so their skirts would be very full, ending with a flounce about 18 inches from the bottom, and the skirts went clear to the ground. They would twist them until they would hang just right! They made all of their own moccasins out of deerskin or buckskin.
The interview with Mrs. Allie Baer is published in Montezuma County Historical Society book “Great Sage Plain to Timberline-Our Pioneer Ancestors,” Volume I. The February issue will continue with Meadows Trading Post. Direct questions or corrections to June Head at 565-3880.