The Historic Toadlena Trading Post
From their website:
The story of the Toadlena Trading Post is intricately woven within the story of Two Grey Hills rugs. It begins around 1868 when the Southwest Territories became part of the United States and the Navajo began settling on the reservation. The first white traders were fur trappers, who traded red cloth to the Navajo for access to the reservation.
Mobility was limited to horse and wagon in the 1860s, so the traders traveled throughout the arid reservation, parked by water and waited for the natives to arrive. Most posts were established at water sites for this very reason, and the names of many trading posts begin with the Navajo word for water, which is “to.” Just like Toadlena.
The wagon “posts” brought the outside world to the Navajo. They were loaded with desirable supplies, such as coffee, flour, tools and hardware. In exchange, the traders took silver jewelry, sheared wool and hand-woven Navajo textiles back to the white settlers.
Demand for Navajo rugs increased and higher prices were paid. By 1900 the traders and weavers were working together to develop marketable designs that characterized different regions of the Navajo Nation. Each was named for the trading post in its area, such as Two Grey Hills, Ganado, Teec Nos Pos and Chinle.
It is said that Joe Wilkin, a trader from nearby Crystal, sold his post on the western slope of the Chuska Mountains to J.B. Moore. Wilkin moved to the eastern side of the mountains to establish the Two Grey Hills Trading Post in 1897.
Around that same time, wagon trading was established at a nearby spring six miles west of Wilkin’s post. The wagon post was called Tohalii, which means, “water bubbling up” or “water coming up from the ground.” By 1900 Tohalii was corrupted to Toadlena.
Merit and Bob Smith built a small adobe store on the Toadlena site. 1909 brought an addition, and the post was sold to George Bloomfield. He had become familiar with the area while surveying the site for the Toadlena Boarding School. Meanwhile, Ed Davies purchased the nearby Two Grey Hills Trading Post.
Together, Bloomfield and Davies worked diligently with the local weavers to develop a high-quality textile that utilized the weavers’ preferences for hand spun yarns in natural colors—a conscious contrast to the popular commercially dyed reds of the Ganado rugs and the psychedelic Germantowns. The Toadlena/Two Grey Hills style of Navajo weaving was born.
Davies sold his Two Grey Hills trading post in 1924, which led to a succession of traders there. Bloomfield continued to work with the weavers for another 10 years, dramatically raising the status of the Toadlena/Two Grey Hills rugs. They are now considered the finest Navajo textiles of the 20th century.
Today, all the Two Grey Hills weavers from Toadlena are ancestors of those who wove for Bloomfield and Davies. Bloomfield sold the post to his daughter Grace and her husband Charles Herring in 1934. Around 1956 they sold it to Fred Carson, who sold it to R.B. Foutz Jr. in 1957 or 1958. He ran it until it closed in 1996.
Navajo rug trader Mark Winter reopened the post in July 1997 after a successful lease negotiation with the local tribe and extensive remodeling to retain the original character of the building. The post continues to serve the needs of the local families by providing goods like groceries and propane as well as banking and mail services. It caters to tourists who purchase rugs, tapestries, silver jewelry and other local handicrafts.
At Toadlena Trading Post, trade is carried on as it has for more than 100 years—the locals pay accounts monthly when wool is sheared or when a rug is finished. Winter works closely with the local weavers of Two Grey Hills continuing the support, encouragement and relationship that was established by the traders before him.
There were seven trading posts in the weaving region of Two Grey Hills, forming a semicircle with Toadlena at the apex or center:
Sanostee on the North at the base of Beautiful Mountain
Tocito (Hot Water) on the Northeast
Newcomb on the East
Sheepsprings on the South
Two Grey Hills on the center
Toadlena on the western edge.