Rodeo, New Mexico
April 4, 2004
But bring Hollywood to Monument Valley they did. Harry, a federal sheep inspector in Colorado, first came here in 1921 soon after his marriage hoping to settle here, but no land was available. It belonged to the Paiute in Utah and Navajo in Arizona. In 1923, the Paiute accepted Utah’s offer to trade their Monument Valley land for land further north. The Paiute land in Monument Valley was now available for homesteading, and the Gouldings jumped at the chance. For $320, they bought 650 acres of Monument Valley land. They began trading in 1924 out of tents and finished building their two-story trading post in 1928. Ten years later, Monument Valley was chosen by John Ford as the location to shoot his new movie "Stagecoach." It’s less well known that two earlier movies were shot here, but after "Stagecoach," Monument Valley became a very popular location for many more movies, TV shows, and commercials. All this activity necessitated the building of a lodge as well as two stone cabins.
Harry Goulding died in 1981, having set up a trust for Leone which guaranteed her lifetime income. The lodge remained privately owned and has expanded. A restaurant and gift shop were added. The trading post was designated a State Historical Site in 1989 and became a museum . The trading post is downstairs and the Gouldings’ apartment upstairs, with much original furniture and memorabilia of those early times. Leone died in 1992, returning to Monument Valley for the last 5 years of her life.
Be sure to watch Legends of Navajo Country, an hour-long docu-film recounting Kit Carson’s less-than-admirable role in the Navajos’ Long Walk. Also dramatized is the story of Ernest Mitchell and James Merrick, who stole silver from a mine deep in Indian territory of Monument Valley in the late 1800s. After they frittered away their fortune, they returned for more silver, but this time were caught and killed, most likely by Paiutes or Utes. I found it ironic that for their misadventures, a butte was named after Merrick, and Mitchell had not only a butte but also an entire mesa named after him.
As for the Gouldings, I can’t quite figure out how I feel about them. To their credit, they funded the building of a nearby clinic/ hospital for the residents of the valley and apparently were fair in their trading. Undoubtedly, their presence created jobs. It’s understandable that Harry wished to provide for his wife for the remainder of her life after he died. I can’t help but wonder, though, why, without any children of their own, their compound remains in private, profit-making hands. It might have been a nice gesture to donate their compound to the Navajo Nation.
From journal Walking in Beauty -- Monument Valley