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Toadlena Trading Post

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Tó Háá líni or “Artesian Spring”
1911–1927, George Bloomfield; 1927 second phase of construction, George Bloomfield, Julius Bainbridge, John Natani Begay, Enos Natani, Lee Police, Sam Shorty, Slim Jumbo, and Jumbo Bitsilly. Approximately 17 miles west of U.S. 491 by way of Navajo Rte. 19 and Navajo Rte. 5001.

Bob and Merritt Smith established the Toadlena Trading Post in 1909, but the Bloomfield family and a crew of Diné stonemasons constructed the current trading post building, one of the most picturesque examples on the Navajo Reservation. George Bloomfield, who purchased the business in 1911, also played an important role in developing the Two Grey Hills weaving style. Between 1915 and 1925, Bloomfield collaborated with Ed Davies, the trader at the nearby Two Grey Hills Trading Post to promote textiles woven from natural, undyed wool. Two Grey Hills-style rugs, with their distinctive brown, tan, grey, black, and white designs include some of the most exceptional works of Diné art ever created.

George and Lucy Bloomfield were Mormons, a group who developed trade relations with the Diné even before the tribe was removed to Bosque Redondo in southeastern New Mexico in 1864. In fact, as the historian Frank McNitt has observed, “the Mormons were the first American traders to the Navajos of any consequence.” As the trading post system evolved after the creation of the Navajo Reservation in 1868, several trading dynasties were founded by Mormon families including the Lees, the Tanners, the Foutzes, and the Burnhams. The Bloomfields acted as traders and missionaries at Toadlena while raising a large family, many of whom eventually managed trading posts across Navajoland.

The beautiful sandstone walls of the Toadlena Trading Post were constructed in 1927 by Julius Bainbridge, John Natani Begay, Enos Natani, Lee Police, Sam Shorty, Slim Jumbo, and Jumbo Bitsilly. The trading post’s interior is remarkable as one of only two on the reservation that retains the historic “bull-pen” arrangement in which merchandise is kept on shelves behind the sales counters (most trading post interiors were converted to accommodate self-service during the mid-twentieth century). The Toadlena Trading Post is also noted for its weaving museum, which displays an outstanding collection of Diné textiles.

References

Berkholz, Richard C. Old Trading Posts of the Four Corners. Lake City, CO: Western Reflections Publishing Company, 2007.

Kelley, Klara B., and Harris Francis. Navajoland Trading Post Encyclopedia. Window Rock, AZ: Navajo Nation Historic Preservation Department, 2018.

Makeda, Lillian, and Klara Kelly, “The Borrego Pass Trading Post Historic District,” McKinley County, New Mexico. National Register of Historic Places Inventory–Nomination Form, 2012. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.

Spears Architects, AIA. Historic Trading Posts of Northwest New Mexico. Santa Fe: New Mexico Historic Preservation Division, 1993.

Winter, Mark. The Master Weavers: Celebrating One Hundred Years of Navajo Textile Artists from the Toadlena/Two Grey Hills Region. Toadlena, NM: Historic Toadlena Trading Post, 2011.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Lillian Makeda
Coordinator: 
Christopher Mead
Regina N. Emmer
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Data

Timeline

  • 1909

    Established
  • 1911

    First phase of existing trading post building constructed
  • 1911

    Second phase constructed
  • 1927

    Third phase constructed

What's Nearby

Citation

Lillian Makeda, "Toadlena Trading Post", [Newcomb, New Mexico], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/NM-01-045-0149-01.

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