Keeping history alive: Crews work to stabilize root cellar used by white settlers

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times

BLOOMFIELD — Crews at Salmon Ruins Museum are working to stabilize a root cellar that was used by early white settlers.

The mostly subterranean structure stored fruit and vegetables at George Salmon's settlement in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It was constructed partially using stones taken from the Salmon Ruins — an ancestral Puebloan site located adjacent to Salmon's homestead.

Robinson Lewis applies mortar around a rock, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, while working to stabilize an old root cellar at Salmon Ruins Museum near Bloomfield.

The root cellar is one of four buildings at Salmon Ruins Museum that were part of the Salmon homestead. The other buildings include the house, the bunk house and the carriage house.

The root cellar has one wall made of jacal — upright poles plastered with adobe — and another wall made of stone masonry. It also has planking to support the dirt. 

New mortar dries, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, on a wall of the root cellar at Salmon Ruins Museum.

Much of the mortar at the root cellar needs to be replaced and a section of the roof has collapsed.

The new mortar is made from soil collected at a neighboring property owned by the San Juan County Museum Association. The soil has the right proportions of sand, clay and silt to form a strong mortar.

Once the stabilization work has been completed, visitors will be able to walk inside the root cellar and get a glimpse of what life was like more than a century ago.

"We feel that this is an important component of the Salmon homestead," said Larry Baker, the executive director of the San Juan County Archaeological Research Center and Library at Salmon Ruins.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at

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Mike Jim smooths mortar with his hand, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, while working to stabilize a portion of a root cellar wall at Salmon Ruins Museum near Bloomfield.