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SOCIETY CELEBRATES 30TH YEAR

 

April 27, 2018

OFFICERS AND BOARD MEMBERS OF THE SAN JUAN COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY. FRONT ROW LEFT TO RIGHT: LOLA (MARTINEZ) GONZALES, CATHER- INE DAVIS, MARGERY PRUITT, PATTY (BODDY) THARP, LAURALEE (WALTERS) HARPER. BACK ROW, LEFT TO RIGHT: CONNIE (WAYBOURN) PRUITT, JIM DAVIS, MARY BROOKS, CHERYL (THOMASON) LETHCO. NOT PICTURED: RICK SARVER AND MARILYN (MORGAN) MONTOYA.

The San Juan Historical Society would not have been founded had it not been for Mary McKee's frustration while trying to find an early map of the county. McKee had served as president of the local genealogical soci- ety, the Totah Tracers. She felt there was a need to consolidate and preserve documents that record the county's history. She enlisted the aid of Velma McEwen and sent out 300 letters to local residents, who she thought might have an interest in preserving this history. On Saturday, April 23, 1988, an organizational meeting was held at the Aztec High School gymnasium. McKee was elected president, Chano Jaquez was elected vice president, Melba Arnold was elected treasurer and Velma McEwen was chosen as secretary.

The Society was homeless during its first years of existence and docu-

ments were stored in homes of officers and in local churches. From 1999 to 2007, the tiny Altrurian Library building adjacent to the old county court- house in front of Aztec High School served as its home. Then the Society moved to the vacant Rio Vista School in Bloomfield. In 2011, the City of Az- tec and San Juan County split the cost of remodeling Aztec's old City Hall and firehouse and in October that year the Society held a Grand Opening of their new location at 201 N. Main.

While the Historical Society is immensely proud of its thirty year histo- ry, it owes a debt to many others who early on recognized the need to pre- serve the county's history. One of the earliest efforts goes back to February 5, 1900, when an organizational meeting of what would become The Pioneer Association of San Juan County, New Mexico was held at the Methodist Church in Farmington. While this was primarily a social organization, they did appoint a historian, Mrs. A.F. (Julia Ann Gould) Miller. Mrs. Miller was meticulous in compiling and preserving letters and manuscripts of the pioneers. As those old timers passed over the divide, the organization faded from existence.

Another notable effort to preserve the county's history took place in 1933. Olive Frazier Cornelius compiled a sizeable number of pioneer reminiscences and published them weekly over a period of six months in the Aztec Independent Review. In 1949, Julia Miller's daughter, Agnes Miller Furman, joined forces with John Arrington to form a new incarnation of The Pioneer Association of San Juan County. (Furman was born in Farmington on July 4, 1880.)

From 1953 to 1976 the Association printed up bulletins which contained pioneer histories. In 1966, Mrs. Furman compiled her mother's ear- ly day documents and some of the latter day histories into a book titled, "Tohta – An Early Day History of the Settlement of Farmington and San Juan County, New Mexico, 1875 – 1900." Another attempt to preserve the county's history began in 1962, when Eleanor MacDonald hosted the organi- zational meeting of the San Juan County Museum Association. (MacDonald was co-author with John Arrington of "The San Juan Basin – My Kingdom Was A County.") The Museum Association operates the Salmon Ruins and its Museum, Research Center and Library. The San Juan County Historical Society has actively pursued its mission to preserve the county's history and has published 17 booklets.

The Society hosts five presentations annually. They are in the evening on the second Wednesday in February, April, June, August, and October.

The Society's offices house a wide variety of research documents and if they do not have it, the volunteer staff usually knows where documents can be found. The office in Aztec is normally open on Wednesday from 10:00 AM to Noon, Friday from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM and Saturday from 10:00 AM to Noon. The phone number is 505-334-7136.

The San Juan County Historical Society is celebrating its 30th anniversa- ry in June, and everyone is invited to attend the Society' celebratory banquet at the Courtyard Marriott on June 13th. There will be a social hour from 5:30 to 6:00, followed by dinner and three speakers; Society founder Mary McKee, local artist and early Society member Tim Gordon, and San Juan County's prolific author and Society member Marilu Waybourn. May 21st is the deadline for banquet payment. For more information contact Mary Brooks at 334-4047.

 

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