New Mexico Historic Women Marker Initiative
A new roadside historic marker has been installed to honor the life and legacy of Yetta Goldsmith Kohn, a cattle rancher and businesswoman during New Mexico's Territorial Period. It is one of 64 markers sponsored by the New Mexico Historic Women Marker Initiative that feature the contributions of women to the state. This marker is located in Tucumcari along old Route 66 next to the Convention Center. A reception will follow the dedication at 4:30 pm on May 13th.
Born in Bavaria in 1843, Yetta immigrated to the United States at the age of 10. She married Samuel Kohn in about 1860 in Leavenworth, Kansas, and traveled with him to the Denver area. For several years, they worked in the cattle and wool and hides businesses there and back in Kansas and had several children. In the late 1860s, the young family traveled by stagecoach to Las Vegas, New Mexico.
There, they opened another store selling wool and hides. Yetta worked as a seamstress and was the only wife or widow listed in the 1870 census with an occupation outside the home. Samuel died in 1877 leaving Yetta a widow with four children and a business to run. Over the next several years, Yetta successfully homesteaded in La Cinta, building a grocery, running almost 4,000 head of cattle and serving as the postmistress. She and her children gradually left La Cinta for other pursuits around the country but eventually returned to New Mexico, settling in Montoya (formerly Rountree) in 1902.
Yetta and her sons developed four different businesses including a mercantile, a bank, a land company, and a ranch-what is today known as the T4 Cattle Company, still in operation and run by her descendants. Through Yetta's foresight, grit, and hard work, the family became influential locally as well as statewide. Yetta Kohn was a minority on many fronts. She was a foreign-born, Jewish woman, and a single mother who succeeded on the frontier at a time when life was perilous. She was a matriarch, rancher and entrepreneur who overcame all obstacles placed before her.
"Yetta Kohn is such a great example of the pioneer spirit - an indomitable woman, working with extraordinary diligence to create a life for her family and her community in a challenging environment. It has been a real pleasure working with her descendants on this project," said Karren Sahler, Executive Director of the Initiative.
The Initiative began with three founding members from the New Mexico Women's Forum, Pat French, Beverly Duran and Alexis Girard. It received funding from Governor Bill Richardson and the 2006 New Mexico Legislature to work with New Mexico communities to develop nominations of historically significant women for placement on new roadside markers. Prior to the Initiative, none of the state's more than 620 Official Scenic Historic Markers directly honored women and their contributions to state history.
The Initiative is a project of the New Mexico Women's Forum and is overseen by the Historic Preservation Division of the State Department of Cultural Affairs, and the New Mexico Department of Transportation. There will be at least 64 markers honoring women's lives installed throughout the state with at least one for each county and participating pueblos and tribes. Currently 30 markers have been installed including the first marker of the project dedicated to the Sisters of Loretto, in Santa Fe on December 2, 2007. The remaining 34 markers will be installed before June 15, 2010. There will be several additional dedication ceremonies over the coming weeks.
The family of Yetta Kohn will host a dedication ceremony at the new historic marker on May 13, 2010 at 4:30 p.m., with a reception to follow at the Tucumcari Convention Center Annex Liberty Room from 4:45 to 5:30 p.m. Members of the public are welcome.
Updated information on the Marker Initiative can be viewed on web on Facebook. Search for New Mexico Historic Women Marker Initiative and check "Like" to follow the work of the Initiative. There is a link to a map with all marker locations, which is updated on a regular basis. For more information, contact the Initiative's Executive Director, Karren Sahler at (505) 501-1385 or firstname.lastname@example.org.