ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When Joseph and Augusta Yott built their house on what is now 12th Street, New Mexico was not yet a state and the population of Bernalillo County had only recently crept past 20,000.
The year was 1894. A lot has changed since then but the house remains and inside it Yott relatives remain as well.
The Yotts became a prominent family in New Mexico, laying the groundwork for what would become the Youth Symphony and helping to start the Albuquerque Civic Symphony. They also owned a beauty salon, dry cleaners and had ties to the Curtiss Candy Co., which invented the Baby Ruth and Butterfinger candy bars.
The home was placed on the state’s historic landmark registry in 1975. The two-story rectangular adobe home with a pitched roof is set back a few dozen feet from 12th Street, with a chainlink fence and a row of shrubs providing a buffer to the road.
A curved gravel driveway greets visitors to what is officially the front of the house but the family no longer enters there. Instead they use a back door that puts guests into the dining room.
Noticeable from the front is what looks like a wrap-around porch that was built in 1905. The family, at some point, enclosed the porch and made it part of the house. To the south of the home is a detached adobe building that contains a garage and workshop.
Behind the house is the barn built in 1897, another garage, an old pump house, a windmill, several trees and a large field used for farming until recently. An acequia runs along the sound end of the property, providing water for irrigation.
Arrival from Chicago
The Yott family’s journey to the Territory of New Mexico occurred partly for the same reason it did for many other families at that time – tuberculosis. The family traveled south from Chicago in the late 1800s after a member of the family contracted the sometimes fatal condition. One of the great fires of Chicago had also obliterated Joseph Yott’s business, so shortly after that in 1894 the family packed up and came to Albuquerque.
They bought the five-acre North Valley property and started building the two-story adobe house passers-by can see from the road to this day.
The U.S. Census puts the current population of Bernalillo County at approximately 677,000, but at the time the area the Yotts decided to call home wasn’t yet a bustling, dense, urban neighborhood. In fact, it wasn’t even a neighborhood. The property is located on the west side of 12th Street just south of Candelaria and was then mostly farmland, with each property sprawling over multiple acres.
The nomination paperwork for the historic registry describes the setting. The last known member of the Albuquerque clan bearing the Yott name, Vivian Yott Reeves, prepared the nomination packet.
“Arriving in 1894, he (Joseph) settled in the country north of Albuquerque,” it says. “In 1894-1895, he built a two-story house which would have fit well into the Illinois country-side, only this house was made of two foot thick adobe walls.”
According to a newspaper article, the acequia levee broke in June 1903 and flooded the entire property. Two newspaper articles from that time describe the impact on the Yott property.
“He (Joseph Yott) has moved out and his place is surrounded by several feet of water,” it said. “He was seen and stated that the water crept upon him at 6:30 yesterday evening. Without any further parleying, he and wife commenced moving out, leaving the residence and outhouses to the mercy of the flood.”
Another article describes his doubts about the fate of his home.
“… and Mr. Yott was seen wading in the water, carrying out the remaining household effects from his residence, which is still surrounded by water,” the article stated. “He fears that the house will fall as soon as the water recedes, while others are of the opinion that it will not.”
The “others” were correct. The home’s stone foundation may have saved it from washing away.
Vivian Yott Reeves was the granddaughter of Joseph and she died in August at the age of 97. Her parents were LeRoy (the son of Joseph and Augusta) and Sarah Yott. Sarah married LeRoy in 1918 after the death of her first husband, Harold Moore. Yott Reeves’ parents were both talented musicians helping start the symphonies in the early 1930s. LeRoy Yott supported his family by working for the Curtiss Candy Co. as a salesman.
Yott Reeves owned the home until her death and it has now passed to her nephew Kip Moore, who has turned over stewardship of the property to his son, Clayton Moore, and Clayton’s wife, Susie.
Clayton Moore said he has no intention of selling the family property and plans to make repairs.
“I didn’t want to the be the one in the family to get rid of it,” he said. “My grandpa grew up in this house.”
Decades of memories
According to Clayton and his father Kip, Yott Reeves was extremely private and didn’t like speaking about the family’s history in private or public. After her death in August, the family began sorting through decades of belongings found throughout the house and in the barn the family built in 1897. They decided they wanted to share the family’s history with the community.
Clayton and Susie moved to Albuquerque from Dallas in 2014 after Vivian Yott Reeves, who lived in California, asked them if they would take care of the house. The couple has had the task of not only sorting through Vivian’s personal belongings but sifting through enormous amounts of family and community history since her passing.
Clayton’s grandfather, Marion, was Vivian’s half-brother, son of Sarah Yott from her first marriage.
Among the items found in the barn were letters from Otto Schnering, the founder of Curtiss Candy. Schnering was the nephew of Joseph and Augusta Yott. The letters span a number of years and were written to Vivian and her parents. The letters discussed family events such as deaths, births, weddings and illnesses and the business. Along with the letters, they found several tin signs from the candy company, signs advertising Yott music lessons and boxes of old photos.
‘New old history’
Historian Susan Schwartz has been trying for years to get information about the Yott family. Schwartz, the vice president of Historic Albuquerque Inc., has spent the past several years researching the history of the families buried at the Historic Fairview Cemetery, one of the city’s first cemeteries. It contains the remains of some of Albuquerque’s most prominent and well-known former residents, including many members of the Yott clan.
It’s how Schwartz first came across the family and attempted to learn more by contacting Yott Reeves, the only known living relative. She hit a roadblock when Yott Reeves declined to talk. Schwartz said Yott Reeves was reluctant and apprehensive about sharing her story with the public.
The family’s willingness to now come forward, she said, is an exciting day in the local historical community. According to Schwartz, the family owned one of the first barber shops in the city and one of the first beauty salons.
“I call it new old history,” she said. “Most people when I say Yott have not heard of them. It’s a wonderful discovery for Albuquerque.”