Quay County pioneering woman honored with marker

By Thomas Garcia: Quay County Sun

The members of the Cultural Properties Review Committee met Friday and approved a state Historical Marker honoring Yetta Kohn that will be placed in Quay County.

Kohn’s granddaughter is Yetta Bidegain of Tucumcari.

“It’s an honor for her to be considered for the marker,” said Bidegain. “I live a private life and was not pushing for the marker but I am happy that she has been chosen.”

The marker text and history will read:

“Born in Bavaria, widowed in Las Vegas (N.M.) she was left with four children and a store. In true frontier style she opened more stores, became a postmistress, started a bank, and operated a ferry across the Canadian River at La Cinta. With the little money she made Yetta bought land that became the T-4 Cattle Company run by her descendants today.”

The marker came about through the New Mexico Historic Women’s Marker Initiative. Its goal is to recognize women who helped shape New Mexico’s state history. In the 2006 legislative session, funding was approved for 54 historical markers for historic women of New Mexico.

“I first had the idea for the historical marker for women 10 years ago,” said Patricia French, chair of the Historic Women’s Marker Initiative. “There was only a handful of women that were mentioned on the historical markers throughout New Mexico. I felt that the history of the state should be balanced between man and women.”

With the funding two historians have been hired to research the submission entries. Kohn’s submission for a marker came from one of these researchers, historian Thomas Chavez.

Chavez first researched Kohn when he was working on a Jewish Pioneers of New Mexico exhibit for the Palace of the Governors. After several years of research, Chavez said he thought Kohn was a perfect candidate for a historical marker. Chavez said the accomplishments that Kohn achieved while being a single mother in a time when Billy the Kid was still causing havoc was incredible.
“She was an extraordinary woman,” said Chavez. “One would be hard pressed to find someone who could do all the things she did with the means that she had available to her at the time.”

The selection committee will review all applications and choose the women to be submitted to the Cultural Properties Review Committee to determine whether the applicants meet the criteria and the proposed text is acceptable. Then one historic woman per county (33 total); 19 to represent each Native American pueblo, and one each for the Navajo and Apache tribes will be chosen for a historical marker.

“We received hundreds of submissions and wish we could do more than one marker per county,” said French. “We encourage people to continue sending in submissions and if we get more funding we will add more markers.”

Yetta Kohn 1843-1917
l Yetta Kohn was born March 9, 1843 in Bavaria, Germany, as Yetta Goldsmith.
l 1858: She married Sammuel Kohn and lived in Levenworth, Kan. Later she moved to Cherry Creek (present day Denver), and eventually settled in Las Vegas. N.M. The she opened a hide trading store.
l 1883: She purchased 1/14 interest of the Martito Lopez De Chavez Lands within the Montoya Land Grant. The family sold the business and moved to La Cinta (near present day Conchas) and opened a general store. With her three sons and daughter, she formed Yetta Kohn and Co. which later became known as the 4V ranch. Kohn deeded the land to Louis Salzbacher and moved back to Levenworth.
l 1902: She and her family purchased a mercantile store in Montoya, and later opening a bank to expand the mercantile. She bought sections of land with profits earned, and eventually traded the Mercantile for land owned by the Vidal Ortega family. The accumulated land later became the T4 Ranch which is still run by her descendants today.

New Mexico Historical Markers
Any one can submit text and a location for a historical marker.
For more information call the Cultural Properties Review Committee at (505) 827-4378.