George McJunkin

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George McJunkin (1851–1922) was an African American cowboy, amateur archaeologist and historian in New Mexico. He discovered the Folsom Site in 1908.

Born to slaves in Midway, Texas, McJunkin was approximately 14 years old when the Civil War ended. He worked as a cowboy for freighters. He reportedly learned how to read from fellow cow punchers. McJunkin taught himself to read, write, speak Spanish, play the fiddle and guitar, eventually becoming an amateur archaeologist and historian.[1] In 1868, McJunkin arrived in New Mexico and became a foreman on the Thomas Owens Pitchford Ranch.[2] McJunkin became a buffalo hunter and worked for several ranches in Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. He was also reported to be an expert bronc rider and one of the best ropers in the United States. He became foreman of the Crowfoot ranch near Folsom, New Mexico.[3]

Discovery of Folsom site[edit]

After a flood which killed 18 people in Folsom, McJunkin assessed damage to the ranch.[3] While patching fence, McJunkin entered a small canyon, where he discovered remains of a giant prehistoric bison, now contained in the Smithsonian. Between the ribs of the bison was a distinctive type of stone tool, now called a Folsom point. Recognizing the significance of the find, McJunkin left the site undisturbed and alerted archaeologists. Giant Bison of the type McJunkin discovered had gone extinct at the end of the last Ice Age; proof of a human kill established the antiquity of North America's native cultures.[4]

McJunkin's discovery of the Folsom Site changed New World archaeology, as it showed that people had inhabited North America since at least 9000 BCE, some 7000 years earlier than previously thought.[3]

At his death,[5] McJunkin was buried at the Folsom Cemetery in Folsom, New Mexico.[6]


  1. ^ "George McJunkin," Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved 10/18/07.
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ a b c Wilkinson, Brenda. "George McJunkin: A Chapter in New Mexico History". Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved 22 December 2013. 
  4. ^ Charles C. Mann. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. Knopf (2005) ISBN 1-4000-3205-9. pp 165.
  5. ^ " GEORGE McJUNKIN & ALEŠ HRDLICK" University of Hawaii. Retrieved 10/19/07.
  6. ^ "Cowboy George McJunkin," Folsom Museum. Retrieved 10/18/07.


  • Folsom, F. The Life and Legend of George McJunkin, Black Cowboy.
  • Hillerman, T. "Othello in Union County", The Great Taos Bank Robbery, 1973.
  • Kreck, C. (1999) "Out of the Shadows: George McJunkin was the forgotten man at the center of the century's most startling archaeological find", The Denver Post, Empire: Magazine of the West, Feb. 25, 1999. p. 14.