Historical Photos Capture Four Corners Life from a Hundred Years Ago

1/22/21

A box filled with large-format film and glass-plate negatives shot by an unknown photographer reveal what life was like in the Four Corners a hundred years ago.

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A treasure trove of historical negatives

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that reveal what life was like

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in the Four Corners 100 years ago

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are now seeing the light of day

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in calendars published

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by two longtime Montezuma County friends.

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You're watching the "Local News Network"

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brought to you by Keesee Motors in Cortez,

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and Serious Texas Bar-B-Q

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I'm Wendy Graham Settle.

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When Montezuma County native

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Vern Ince purchased a box

of old large format film

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and glass plate negatives

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from a Farmington pawn shop in 2010,

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he knew he had something special.

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Fascinated with Native American cultures

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ever since he found an arrowhead

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on his elementary school ball field

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in Redmond, Colorado.

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Ince discovered that the box

contained a treasure trove

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of priceless images depicting Navajo

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and western pioneer

life in the Four Corners

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from 100 years ago.

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Ince held on to the collection

for nearly eight years.

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When he finally showed the negatives

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to his longtime friend David Reineke,

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a photographer, former art teacher,

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and history buff.

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That's when they decided

to publish a calendar

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to share the images with the world.

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Ince and Reineke estimate

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the photos span about 15 to 20 years,

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from about 1920 to the mid 1930s.

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They include shots of

Navajos outside their hogans.

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A trader with a burrow loaded with hides.

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A bare-fisted boxing match in a dirt yard.

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A cowboy riding a bull during a rodeo.

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An image of a rare Bisti

style Navajo weaving,

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and an oil rig from 1922

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that may be the same rig on display

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outside the Farmington Museum

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and conference center.

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In fact the oil rig

provided the inspiration

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for the calendar's title,

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because they believe it

was used to drill oil

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near the Hogback Ridge next to Shiprock.

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And Dave and I were trying to figure out

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a name for our company, right.

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And we'd come up with everything.

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This rig drilled behind The Hogback

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right outside of Shiprock there.

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And we got to talking

about The Hogbackback.

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Back in time.

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And you said-

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Well now you said,

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"Let's call ourselves Back in Time."

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That's what you said.

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Yeah I kept saying, "Back in Time"

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and then Dave says,

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"How about 'Hogback in Time?'"

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So, we're nuts.

We looked at each other

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and said, "There we we are."

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No one seems to know

who took all the photos.

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Was he a tourist

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or a local resident who

loved taking photos?

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Perhaps he was a trading post owner

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or a journalist out to capture life

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in and around the reservation.

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All they know is that the

Farmington pawn shop owner

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who sold the collection to Ince

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had purchased the negatives

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from an elderly Navajo man in 1990.

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Reineke and Ince do know the photographer

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was skilled at using

the large format camera

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to capture the images.

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The bull rider photo

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is amazingly sharp and crisp

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as are the details in the Navajo weavings

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that the photographer captured.

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This photographer,

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unknown photographer,

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has the hold this big box

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that must weigh 50 to I

don't know how many pounds,

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with glass plates.

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And he's moving with this bull

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and clicking the pictures.

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Reineke and Ince hold out hope

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that they'll eventually discover

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the photographer's identity.

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Several longtime residents have recognized

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some of the people in photos

published in the 2020 calendar,

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and they hope to conduct

further interviews

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with their leads.

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The 2020 calendar was so popular

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that Reineke and Ince

decided to publish a second.

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To be truthful,

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not all the photos in the 2021 calendar

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are from the collection.

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It also contains a couple of

never before published photos

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from the date that the Navajo Nation

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signed the Indian Reorganization

Act treaty in 1934,

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when Indian tribes were awarded

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the right to self-governance.

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Now there was supposed to be no photos

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taken at this signing.

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See right here.

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Mr. Ashcroft wore a great big coat,

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and when no one was

looking he opened it up

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and he took a photo of that.

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That's amazing.

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The first time these two

have ever been published

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and he gave Vern four or five photographs

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that Vern brought to me.

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I did the history on all this.

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This came right out of the family photo.

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And I've never found anything

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like this online that even comes close

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to this photograph.

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That may be the only photo.

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Reineke and Ince say they're not sure

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what they plan to do next

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with a little box of negatives

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that holds a big chunk

of Four Corners history.

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They're both 77 years old

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and have families they want to enjoy.

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In the meantime

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you can purchase a

"Hogback in Time" calendar

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at various New Mexico trading posts,

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in select stores in Cortez,

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Mancos, Dolores,

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Dove Creek and Durango.

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And if you have more information,

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recognize any of the people

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or places in the calendars,

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or may know the photographer,

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contact reineke@hogbackintimeatgmail.com.

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Thanks for watching this edition

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of the "Local News Network."

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I'm Wendy Graham Settle.

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