At the turn of the century, about 20 Mormon families lived in the Tuba City, Moenkopi Wash, Reservoir Wash and Moenave areas of northern Arizona. The families farmed and raised livestock and followed the church practice of tithing — giving one tenth of the increase in their income or goods each year to the Mormon Church.
Families paid their tithing in wheat, flour, eggs, cattle and similar goods, or in work dedicating each tenth day to service for the church community, building roads, irrigation ditches, schools and church buildings. The tithing house was used to store foodstuffs, which were given out to those in need.
Nearly all the items that were given to the church and stored at the house were handed right back out to the needy. In one town, the following items were donated to the tithing house in one week: 12 eggs, 13.5 pounds of meal, 6 pounds of beef, 4.25 pounds of butter and 34 pounds of flour. The following items were given out by the bishop: 12 eggs, 13 pounds of meal, 6 pounds of beef, 3.25 pounds of butter and 34 pounds of flour.
In 1900, the federal government forced the settlers out in order to expand the Navajo Reservation. Only a few of the white settlers had clear title to the land; they were allowed to stay.
Charles H. Algert, a young Pennsylvanian, who had been a trader at Canyon Diablo before opening a post in Tuba City, kept his trading post. Sam Preston, then training as a trader with Algert, also stayed. Two missionaries from the Gospel Union of Kansas City, Miss., who lived half way between Tuba City and Moenkopi at a woolen mill, were also allowed to stay.
The remaining families had only squatters’ possessory rights to the land, and they were forced to move. They were paid for their improvements, which included fruit trees, shade trees, irrigation ditches, drainage ditches, water rights, homes, chicken coops, corrals, wells and grapevines. In all, the settlers were paid $45,000.
In 1905, Algert sold his land and trading post to the Babbitt family of Flagstaff. Preston, who by then was an experienced trader with the Navajos and Hopis, was retained as a partner and manager. He worked there for many years. Algert moved on to the Blue Canyon area and continued to work as a trader.
— Bonnie Greer. Photo courtesy of the Cline Library, Northern Arizona University.