An astute financial manager, she is believed to be the first woman bank president in New Mexico and became a very beloved leader in the Farmington community. She led her bank through the depression, bought another bank to keep it solvent, and helped save many Farmington citizens from bankruptcy.
Harriet B. Sammons, believed to be the first woman bank president in New Mexico, was instrumental in the development of Farmington, New Mexico, and San Juan County, and was an integral part of the Farmington community. An avid reader who loved to entertain friends and family in the parlor of her home, which she designed herself, she was by all accounts independent, humorous, sometimes outspoken, and highly intelligent. She also possessed 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 she and her brother took jobs with the First National Bank in Farmington. Ten years later, she became the bank’s president, 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.
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.
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 illness. She exhibited the same care and love for her friends and other family members. Though she lived a very busy life, she found time to teach Latin at Farmington High School and believed strongly that Latin and mathematics were a foundation for a good education.
Sammons sold her controlling interest in the bank in 1953 and died a year later.
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 9, 1998.