Harriet B. Sammons was an independent, humorous, sometimes outspoken, intelligent person. She was an avid reader who loved to entertain friends and family in the parlor of her home that she designed. She also had an empathy and humanity that permeated her life’s work as a banker.
Sammons arrived in Farmington in 1908. She began her career in 1912 when, with her brother, she took a job with the First National Bank in Farmington. Ten years later, she became the bank’s president, which was a position she held for the next twenty-nine years until her retirement in 1951. She is reputed to be the first woman bank president in New Mexico.
As an astute financial manager, she is most known for leading her bank through the depression. During that time she bought out the San Juan National Bank; thus keeping it solvent and saving many Farmington citizens from bankruptcy. She supported the newly formed United Indian Traders Association. Her leadership helped the community survive the effects of the depression that befell many other communities. She sold her controlling interest in the bank in 1953 and died a year later.
Sammons was noted for her wry wit and generosity. For example, she was known to send monetary gifts to friends. Given her success during the depression, a written note accompanied her gifts that instructed the recipient that the money was to “be spent foolishly.”
She was married to a physician, George Sammons, who retired early when he diagnosed himself with Alzheimer’s disease. Harriet cared for him through the deteriorating process. She exhibited the same care and love for her friends and other family. No doubt she lived a busy life. Somehow, she found time to teach Latin at Farmington High School. She thought that Latin and mathematics were a foundation for a good education.
As of this writing, there is some question about her middle name. Some recall that it was “Bell” or “Belle.” Others remember “Bertha.”
Harriet B. Sammons was an intricate part of the Farmington community. She was instrumental in development of Farmington and San Juan County.
Farmington Daily Times. January 26, 1952. Farmington Museum Archives.
Debbie Doggett, Director, Farmington Museum. Diana Ohlson, former Director, Farmington Museum.
Charles “Bud” Tansey Interview, Oral History, Northern Arizona University, Brad Cole, interview. March 10, 1998.