I learned something doing research for this newsletter. I don’t know how many times I heard my father say in different talks that Klagetoh Trading Post was owned by Don Lorenzo Hubbell, the man who owned the Hubbell Trading Post in Ganado and more than a dozen other posts.
It made sense, as the post was on the road between Chambers, Arizona and Ganado and the colors most common in rugs from the post were the same red, black, grey and white favored by Hubbell for his weavers.
It turns out that was wrong, and I have no idea where Dad got that in his mind. The post was started in 1927 by a Bilagaana (white man) from Fort Defiance named Nils Hogner. He was known as Blue Eyes. He was an artist and apparently didn’t have much involvement with the post after it started. Dorothy Hubbell claimed that without his Navajo wife Teckla, the post would not have survived.
There are some writers that claim Teckla was Swedish, but most people seemed to agree she was a tough Navajo businesswoman. It was a hard place to do business and in 1930 they were forced to mortgage the post to Navajo Chee Dodge. They redeemed the ownership the next year.
Hogner left in the early ‘30s and after a couple of years, Teckla sold the post to Laura Rush and her son, William. in 1936, they sold it to the well-known trader Albert Lee and Lee’s wife’s brother Lon Wheeler, ran it for him. Albert also had posts at Ganado and Salina Springs. My friend, Byron Hunter, who ran the Heard Museum Shop, once worked at the Ganado post for Lee.
Lon ended up running several other trading posts around the reservation. Following these traders is a little like following a checker game with a five-year-old. Lee’s brother Lester ended up owning the post in the early 1950s. In the late ‘50s and ‘60s, Pat Grove, whose wife was also a Wheeler, had the post. It finally closed in the 1990s.
But the community wanted a store, and someone convinced Navajo trader Jan Yellowhorse Jones, whose family had a store at Lupton, to open the post with Navajo manager George Wauneka running the place. In 2000, Anna Newby, who was a Navajo teacher, took it over for a while and now it is a convenience store.
None of this is really important except to understand that running a trading post was not easy. Profits could be hard to come by and the work was difficult. Selling supplies, buying and selling rugs, livestock, wool and transporting animals by rail after driving them over muddy roads was not an easy lifestyle. But there were people who thrived on the lifestyle and Klagetoh saw its share of them.
Somehow, the weaving pattern that became popular and is most often associated with the Klagetoh Trading Post was that of a red, black, grey and white rug that featured a central diamond design. Of course, you could find about any pattern anywhere on the reservation, but this seemed to show up more often than not at Klagetoh. Today, of course, they don’t buy and sell rugs there, but the pattern still carries the same name.
It’s one of my favorites.