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Hall of Great Westerners
Inducted in 2019
George McJunkin

George McJunkin

1851 - 1922

New Mexico

Born a slave at Rogers Prairie in southeastern Texas between Madison and Leon counties to John Sanders McJunkin who owned a small farm, George McJunkin (1851-1922), began breaking wild horses, a skill learned from local vaqueros who also taught him Spanish. After the Civil War granted him his freedom, McJunkin joined several cattle drives to Kansas on the Chisholm Trail system, working as a cook’s assistant, wrangler, and drover.

Former slave owner Gideon Roberds hired McJunkin to train horses to sell to freighters on the Santa Fe Trail. McJunkin and Roberds traveled across West Texas and New Mexico, to near Trinidad, Colorado, in the mid 1870s. In Dry Cimarron Valley McJunkin proved to be an excellent horse trainer for the Roberds ranch, which established one of the most famous Quarter Horse lineages in Colorado history.

Offered a management position at Dr. Thomas E. Owen’s Pitchfork Ranch near Clayton, New Mexico, and the Hereford Park Ranch on Johnson Mesa, McJunkin accepted. Dr. Owen was a prestigious rancher in New Mexico Territory, Colorado, the Oklahoma Panhandle, and Texas. While handling Owen’s Thoroughbred horses and working as wagon boss, George filed for a homestead claim in 1902. He then traded his homestead claim for a small herd of cattle from politician and rancher, William H. Jack. McJunkin grazed his cattle on Jack’s Crowfoot Ranch near Capulin Volcano where he became ranch foreman.

With a passion for learning, McJunkin taught himself to play the guitar and violin, and traded riding lessons to the Roberds’ sons in exchange for reading lessons. McJunkin also had a natural curiosity and regularly collected bones, fossils, and crystals. He also studied the night skies with his telescope and carried the telescope and a saddlebag full of textbooks with him wherever he went.

After the 1908 Folsom Flood, McJunkin discovered Bison antiquus bones embedded in the bank of Wild Horse Arroyo and excavated the oversized bones. Running the Crowfoot Ranch after the death of its owner he moved to a small log cabin across from Capulin Volcano in 1916. Admired and respected by the community, at his death McJunkin’s fellow cowboys used their lariats to lower his coffin in his grave.

From 1908 until his death in 1922, McJunkin attempted to find answers to the large bison fossils he found. He told fellow collectors Carl Schwachheim and Fred Howarth of his discovery and after McJunkin’s death they visited Wild Horse Arroyo to collect additional specimens. Both would ultimately be credited with the discovery of the Folsom site. In 1926, they approached the Colorado Museum of Natural History and the museum undertook an excavation of the site. In mid-July, the first Folsom spear point was found forever changing the date attributed to man’s arrival on the North American continent. In 1971, archaeologist Dr. George Agogino published McJunkin’s discovery of the Wild Horse Arroyo Folsom site.

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