Isom Dart (Cowboy)

Isom DartIsom Dart is one of those black cowboys whose adventures are often left untold. Born a slave in Arkansas and later freed by the Civil War he rode West. His pursuits ranged from rodeo rider to cattle rustler. His life came to an abrupt end when he was shot down in Cold Springs, Colorado by an unknown assailant on October 3, 1900.

Ned Huddleston (also known as Isom Dart) was born into slavery in Arkansas in 1849. His reputation as a rider, roper and bronco-buster earned him the nicknames of the “Black Fox” and the “Calico Cowboy.”  He was also a notorious Wyoming Territory outlaw.In 1861 twelve-year-old Huddleston accompanied his owner, a Confederate officer, into Texas during the Civil War. After being freed at the end of the war Huddleston headed for the southern Texas-Mexico border region where he found work at a rodeo, became a stunt rider and honed his skills as a master horseman.

Huddleston straddled both sides of the law. For a time he and a young Mexican bandit named Terresa survived as rustlers stealing horses in Mexico and selling them in Texas. Huddleston later joined a cattle drive heading northwest to Brown’s Hole in the Colorado-Wyoming area around 1871. The 6’2” Huddleston briefly found success mining gold and silver then claimed his partner cheated him out of his earnings.

After a tumultuous love affair with a Shoshone Indian woman in 1875, Huddleston joined the infamous Tip Gault Gang, a cattle and horse rustling outfit of southeastern Wyoming. After narrowly escaping death he went further west and started a new life as a hard-working man. He changed his name to Isom Dart and made a living as a bronco buster.

Isom Dart later returned to Brown’s Hole around 1890 and established his own ranch, but local cattlemen suspected he had built up his ranch herd from cattle he’d rustled from their ranches.  The ranchers hired the notorious range detective, Tom Horn, to punish Dart.  Horn ambushed and killed Isom Dart on October 3, 1900 near Brown’s Hole.  Public opinion was (and continues to be) divided about Dart’s guilt.  Some Brown’s Hole residents mourned his death, claiming Dart was killed by cattleman who wanted his land and cattle.  They saw Dart as a good-hearted, talented horseman and a top bronc stomper.  Others believed he never completely relinquished his life of cattle rustling and thus remained a menace to the community.

Tricia Martineau Wagner, Black Cowboys of the Old West (Guilford, Connecticut: The Globe Pequot Press, 2011); Dean F. Krakel, The Saga of Tom Horn: The Story of the Cattleman’s War, with Personal Narratives, Newspaper Accounts and Official Documents and Testimonies (Laramie, WY: Powder River Publishers, 1954); Arthur Cromwell, The Black Frontier (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Television, 1970).
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2014 Movie Hannah’s Law
In 2014 a movie was released with Danny Glover playing Isom Dart.
HannahsLawDVD-212x300 danny glover as isom dart isom dart 2014 Movie
Read about the movie here.
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Black Cowboys Ride Again – in New York

Black cowboys ride again – in New York

“Nearly 25% of cowboys that rode the cattle trails in the old west were black, and made important contributions to cowboy culture. “

Teaching children dignity and responsibility the cowboy way

[ image: Lessons on horseback can be transferred to daily life]It is not quite the wild west but for some modern cowboys, it is certainly a new frontier.

Amid the smoke of the city, the Federation of Urban Cowboys is working to bring the ways of the old west to the heart of New York.

Fred Brothers, President of the Federation, describes how they got started: “We all had one thing in common, a love of horses, and we were so involved with kids we decided to start a club. We never thought it was going to get this big.”

With some 40 members, the federation is the largest of a handful of cowboy groups that have established themselves here on land donated by the state. Their aim is to teach local children dignity, responsibility and the cowboy way.

That way does not shirk the important issues, and every entertainment comes with a serious message.

Drugs and guns

In inner city neighborhoods, where guns and drugs are harsh realities for children, the cowboys are determined to provide positive role models.

Read more here.

Source: BBC News

Big Amos: Nebraska’s First Cowboy

Big Amos wedding picture

Amos Harris (aka “Big Amos”) is reported to have been Nebraska’s first Black cowboy. Born south of Galveston, Texas along the Brazos River, the son of parents who were freed slaves, Harris was a big guy at 6’3″ and weighed between 250-300 pounds.

Despite his stature Amos Harris was a kind and good-natured man who spoke 5 languages and was referred to as “Prince of a man” and as “One of God’s true noblemen.” Harris often carried a raw-hide rope which he’d braided himself and was considered to be one of the best ropers in the Nebraska Sandhills.

Harris married two times. His first wife was Eliza Young, daughter of R. Young of Bollus, Nebraska. He married her in 1897. In 1904 Amos went to Wheeler county and took a 400 acre claim west of Lake Erickson. They started a ranch on the Calamus River, north of Brewster where he raised and sold cattle.

Though greatly admired for his work ethic and prowess as a cowboy, Harris lost his ranch to a homesteader. He and his wife, Eliza, moved to Ord (Nebraska) where Eliza died.

Amos remarried a woman about 18 years his junior named Elizabeth Jane Fears in 1908. They settled down to homestead a ranch in Wheeler County where she also later died.

Amos Harris is buried in the Grand Island Cemetery. He reportedly, died of natural causes (perhaps precipitated by multiple strokes) or of lead poisoning (the exact cause of death is unknown) Feb. 23, 1911 and is buried at the Grand Island cemetery. A tombstone, donated by the Black community of Grand Island was erected at his grave-site. ‪#‎BlackHistory‬ ‪#‎BlackCowboys‬

Source: Ebony Horsewomen

More on Big Amos
Amos Harris, more affectionately known as”Big Amos” or “Nigger Amos”, is said to have been Nebraska’s first negro cowboy. He was reported to weigh between 250 pounds and 300 pounds, and was 6 foot 3 inches tall. He spoke 5 languages and it was reported that he was born south of Galveston, Texas, on the Brazos River, the son of freed slave parents. He was known as “One of God’s True Nobelmen”. He carried a raw-hide rope which he, himself, had braided. He was considered to be one of the best ropers in the Sandhills.

Legend has it that he drove 5 herds of cattle up form Texas over the Chisholm Trail to Nebraska in 1878 as a member of the famous Olive crew. He was reported to be only 15 when he started this trade. It is reported that they dorve over 15,ooo head of Texas cattle to the open range in Custer county and along the Dismal River. From here, Amos Harris began his colorful careet as a cowboy in the central counties of Nebraska. It was on one of these trips, that he brought and sold cattle to the Ed Cook and Tower Ranch at Ainsworth.

Read more here.

Source: RootsWeb

More About Big Amos from Blaine County, Nebraska

Irwin Dodge (left) ‹ who stood 6 foot, 1 inch tall, and ranched east of Elyria ‹ was one of Amos Harris¹ good friends. The above picture of the two was taken when Amos was about 40 years old.

As Amos Harris could neither read not write, very little of his life in known.  He didn’t know when or where he was born.

      It is said he came from Texas with the Olive Brothers in 1878 on a cattle drive.  For a short time, he stayed with the Clive Brothers near the head of the North Loup River.  Later, he, George Sawyer, and Bob Ross worked on the Figure Four Ranch which was also near the head of the North Loup River.

     He carried a raw-hide rope which he had braided.  He was considered to be on of the best ropers in the sandhills.

     With George Sawyer doing the writing, a wedding was arranged with a black girl living near Rockville, Nebraska.

     Mr. Harris had a “shack” on the North Loup, south-west of the confluence of Goose Creek and the North Loup River where the William Jensen ranch in now.

     The Brewster Democrat in 1898 States:  “Mrs. Amos Harris came in on the stage from Halsey to Purdum.  Mr. Harris received six hundred head of cattle that would be summered between Hawley Flats and Purdum.  He did not own the cattle but was responsible to see that they didn’t drift too far from river water as he had no windmills or large tanks.

     Amos was a big man, weighing over two hundred pounds.  He was very witty and much liked by everyone.  He was called “Nigger Amos” but in an affectionate manner.

     My grandmother, Mrs. C. B. W. Cox, served meals in Brewster for twenty-five cents.  Amos Harris ate there when he was in town.  He never came in the front door, always to the back and would eat with my grandmother at the kitchen table.  Amos had been brought up in this tradition from the South.

     Mr. Harris died in Grand Island, Nebraska, in 1911 and was buried there.  The black people in Grand Island bought the headstone for his grave.  Only his name and date of death are on the stone as no birthdate was known.

Read more here.

SOURCE: Blaine County History, Vol. 1, 1988, Curtis Publishing, by Tim Cox, F260,  p. 314.

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George Fletcher (Cowboy)

George Fletcher was born in 1890 in St. Mary’s, Kansas. Fletcher came west on the old Oregon Trail from Missouri with his family at the turn of the 20th century, nearly 30 years after the last pioneers used the Oregon Trail.

The Fletcher family settled in a small western town of Pendleton, Oregon. George FletcherFletcher built friendships and relationships among the local American Indians on the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Eastern Oregon. The tribes adopted Fletcher as one of their own. He learned about the tribes’ culture and language, and most importantly their horsemanship, all of which the federal government did not want the Indians to practice on the reservation, because the government believed the Indians should be farmers and Christians to survive in today’s world.

Fletcher entered his first rodeo event at a Fourth of July Celebration in Pendleton, Oregon, which he placed second in the bronco busting contest. This was to be the initial beginnings of what would become the Pendleton Round-Up in 1910.

Read more about George Fletcher here.
Source: National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum

The Disputed Champion

The Pendleton Round-Up is the home to the rodeo world’s longest running controversy – the riding judges’ decision during the 1911 bronc riding contest. It was a controversy steeped in racism, and the locals still argue about the incident nearly a century later. George Fletcher, one of the few black cowboys in the Pacific Northwest, rode three of the rodeo’s toughest broncs in a single afternoon.

Despite Fletcher’s phenomenal showing that day the judges awarded the championship instead to a white cowboy. The overwhelmingly white crowd of spectators who had been rooting for Fletcher nearly rioted over the judges’ blatantly racist ruling. One creative rodeo official maintained the peace when he took up a collection that benefited the black cowboy with more money than he would have won in the regular competition.

Read more here.
Source: Rodeo Soul

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Bill Pickett (Cowboy)

PICKETT, WILLIAM (1870?-1932)

Bill Pickett

The originator of rodeo steer wrestling, or bulldogging, Bill Pickett is believed to have been born December 5, 1870, in Travis County, Texas, about thirty miles north of Austin. He was one of thirteen children of Thomas Jefferson Pickett and Mary Virginia Elizabeth Gilbert Pickett.

After acquiring a fifth-grade education, Bill Pickett went to work on a ranch. He soon learned to “bulldog” a steer by grasping it by the horns, twisting its neck, biting its nose or its upper lip, and making it fall on its side; this biting technique he had learned by observing how herder dogs controlled steers. Soon he and his four brothers (B. W., J. J., C. H., and B. F.), established their own horse breaking business in Taylor, Texas. Pickett Brothers Bronco Busters and Rough Riders advertised “catching and taming wild cattle a speciality.”

Bill Pickett entered his first rodeo in 1888 at the fair in Taylor. By the early 1900s he was a popular rodeo performer, competing against white contestants in hundreds of rodeos around the West. In order to enter these events, Pickett was often identified as being an Indian, not an African American. His “bite-’em-down” technique of felling a steer evolved into steer wrestling, which remains one of rodeo’s most important events.

Read more here:
Oklahoma Historical Society

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Bill Pickett

“Bulldogging” Bill Pickett biting a cow’s lip

William (Will, Bill) Pickett was a legendary cowboy from Taylor, Texas of black and Indian descent who invented the sport of “Bulldogging.”  He was born on December 5, 1870 at the Jenks-Branch Community on the Travis County line. He died April 2, 1932, near Ponca City, Oklahoma.

From 1905 to 1931, the Millerbrothers’ 101 Ranch Wild West Show was one of the great shows in the tradition begun by William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody in

1883. 101 Ranch Show introduced bulldogging (steer wrestling), an exciting rodeo event invented by Bill Pickett, one of the show’s stars.

Riding his horse, Spradley, Pickett came alongside a Longhorn steer, dropped to the steer’s head,

Biting another cow’s lip!

twisted its head toward the sky, and bit its upper lip to get full control. Cowdogs of the Bulldog breed were known to bite the lips of cattle to subdue them. That’s how Pickett’s technique got the name “bulldogging.” As the event became more popular among rodeo cowboys, the lip biting became increasingly less popular until it disappeared from steer wrestling altogether. Bill Pickett, however, became an immortal rodeo cowboy, and his fame has grown since his death.

He died in 1932 as a result of injuries received from working horses at the 101 Ranch. His grave is on what is left of the 101 Ranch property near Ponca City, Oklahoma. Pickett was inducted into the National Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1972 for his contribution to the sport.

Bill Pickett was the second of thirteen children born to Thomas Jefferson and Mary Virginia Elizabeth (Gilbert) Pickett, both of whom were former slaves. He began his career as a cowboy after completing the fifth grade. Bill soon began giving exhibitions of his roping, riding and bulldogging skills, passing a hat for donations.

By 1888, his family had moved to Taylor, Texas, and Bill performed in the town’s first fair that year. He and his brothers started a horse-breaking business in Taylor, and Bill was a member of the national guard and a deacon of the Baptist church. In December 1890, Bill married Maggie Turner.

Known by the nicknames “The Dusky Demon” and “The Bull-Dogger,” Pickett gave exhibitions in Texas and throughout the West. His performance in 1904 at the Cheyenne Frontier Days (America’s best-known rodeo) was considered extraordinary and spectacular. He signed on with the 101 Ranch show in 1905, becoming a full-time ranch employee in 1907. The next year, he moved his wife and children to Oklahoma.

He later performed in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, South America, and England, and became the first black cowboy movie star. Had he not been banned from competing with white rodeo contestants, Pickett might have become one of the greatest record-setters in his sport. He was often identified as an Indian, or some other ethnic background other than black, to be allowed to compete.

Bill Pickett died April 2, 1932, after being kicked in the head by a horse. Famed humorist Will Rogers announced the funeral of his friend on his radio show. In 1989, years after being honored by the National Rodeo Hall of Fame, Pickett was inducted into the Prorodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy at Colorado Springs, Colorado. A 1994 U.S. postage stamp meant to honor Pickett accidentally showed one of his brothers.

Bill Pickett on a U.S. Postage StampBill Pickett on a U.S. Postage Stamp


Old Bill Pickett’s gone away,
Over the great divide,
To the place where all the preachers say,
Both saint and sinner abide.

If they check his brand like I think they will
It’s a runnin’ hoss they’ll give to Bill.
Some good wild steers ’till he gets his fill,
And a great big crowd to watch him ride.

Old Bill Pickett’s a long time gone,
Left me here to sing this song.
Old Bill Pickett’s a long time gone,
Left me here to sing this song.

Old Bill Pickett was a mighty black man,
And he rode for the One-O-One.
Way down yonder in the Cherokee Land,
Around when the West was won.

He’d jump a steer from a runnin’ hoss
And throw him down with a mighty toss
He worked for many, but he had no boss
He’s the last of the great cowhands

Way down south in Mexico
He took a great big dare
To try and hold a fightin’ bull
To see how he would fare

He grabbed Old Toro by the horns
Grabbed the bull’s nose in his jaws
That crowd never seen such a thing before
For an hour and a half they cheered

With the great Will Rogers and Wild Tom Mix
He rode in the rodeo
For all who paid their fifty cents
They gave a great big show

For all who paid to come and see
Bill wrestled steers with his teeth
We’ve never seen such a mighty feat
‘Cause he left us long ago

Way down on the Miller ranch
In the year of thirty two
Bill Pickett roped a sorrel stud
To see what he could do

That sorrel stomped and jumped and bucked,
And tromped Bill’s body in the dust.
At seventy-three, Bill was out of luck.
He took eleven days to die.

They laid him down in a six-by-three,
Beneath the land he knew.
And they left a cross for the world to see,
said, “Of his kind we’ve seen few.”

That night for Bill they drank some wine,
And old Zack Miller wrote these lines:
And left ‘em here for me to find,
To put to music and sing to you.


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Addison Jones (Cowboy)

Article reprint granted by Kate Kelly

Addison Jones (ca. 1845-1926), Black Cowboy and Range Boss

  • Known as the “most noted Negro cowboy that ever ‘topped off’ a horse”
  • Became well-known in a world of anonymous cowhands

Just as white faA_cattle_round-up_in_Arizona,_-cutting_out-_the_cows_and_calves,_by_Underwood_&_Underwoodmilies looked west for a better life, so too did African-Americans—once they were free. About half a million black men, women, and children moved to Texas and Oklahoma during the middle of the 19th century.  To some extent, Texas, Oklahoma, and other areas in the west gave them a little more freedom than they had elsewhere in the country.

Life in the West involved ranching and cowhands. Cowboy life required long, lonely hours, and it was hard on the body.  Most cowboys had to break their share of horses which often involved big falls, broken bones, torn ligaments, and even lungs pulled loose from the chest wall because of the shock to the body of the horse’s violent bucking.  For that reason, many of the cowboys—black and white—worked freelance and many burned out after a few years, retiring by their late 30s.

In a world where cowboys were mostly anonymous ranch hands, the fact that Addison Jones became a legend speaks volumes about the level of his skills and the respect he commanded.  He is mentioned in memoirs by cattlemen and other cowboys who worked with him on the Littlefield Ranch in northwest Texas, in the panhandle.

Early Life

mr-addison-jones-rangebossLittle is known about Addison Jones’ early life.  On his death certificate, his wife (whom he met late in life) wrote that he was born in 1845 in Gonzales County, Texas.  This would make sense for his chosen profession (or the profession that chose him) as Gonzales County was the starting point for many of the first cattle drives. Boys who grew up in the area grew up riding horses and caring for cattle.

Addison Jones eventually became a range boss for a crew of African-American cowboys, working for George Littlefield.  (One writer speculates that the Littlefields were comfortable with an all-black workforce because they had lived in the South and probably had slaves.)

The Littlefield family began ranching in west Texas before the Civil War. One of the sons, George Littlefield, joined the Confederacy but he was seriously wounded at the Battle of Mossy Creek in 1863, and he returned to recuperate and eventually run the family ranch.  Most cowmen in the “trailing business” made their money by running other men’s cattle to market; Littlefield decided to invest in his own cattle.  The risks were greater but so were the rewards.  His business went well and so did his land investments  In 1877 he established the LIT  Ranch in the panhandle of Texas near Tascosa; four years later he sold that property for $248,000. George went on to acquire other properties and become a legendary cattleman, banker, and philanthropist.

Littlefield’s fortune depended on having the best cattle and the best men to handle them, and Addison Jones was part of this crew.

Skilled Cowboy

Addison Jones was clearly a fine cowboy.  While most men had their specialties—roping or bronc riding, or managing the cattle on the trail, Addison excelled in all areas, and he became a legend throughout  west Texas and eastern New Mexico.   When he showed up at a roundup, everyone was relieved because he could top off horses that other cowboys feared, and unlike most cowboys whose bodies couldn’t take the punishment once they reached their late thirties, Jones was still working for Littlefield, “taking the sap” out of high spirited horses until he was in his early 70s.

J. Evetts Haley was a historian who traveled through the west documenting the lifestyles of cowboys. Haley is quoted in Black Cowboys of Texas, a collection of articles edited by Sara R. Massey, on a roping technique Addison used:

“He [Jones] would tie a rope hard and fast around his hips, hem a horse up in the corner of a corral or in the open pasture, rope him around the neck as he went past at full speed, and where another man would have been dragged to death, Add [nickname]  would, by sheer will and power on the end of the rope, invariably flatten the horse out on the ground.”

Haley noted that anyone who saw it stood in amazement that it was humanly possible. The trick required strength, skill, confidence, an understanding of the animal, and impeccable timing

Addison’s fame was furthered when N. Howard Thorp composed and popularized a song that celebrated Jones’ talent for remembering and identifying more branding marks and earmarks than most cowmen were capable of. The song was entitled “Whose Old Cow?”  Thorp later wrote of him: “he was one of the best cowhands on the Pecos River.”

White vs. Black Cowboys

Black cowboys who worked on the range enjoyed certain freedoms and often received pay parity with the white cowboys, they were still considered “less than.”  Black cowboys knew in advance that the less pleasant tasks were always given to them. This meant taking night watches, fording the streams first to test the waters, and being responsible for horse breaking, which was difficult, unpredictable, and dangerous work.   Even the “broken” horses often needed to “topped off” in the morning; this involved one of the black cowboys getting on the more spirited mounts to get the early morning bucking out of their systems.

And while the white and black men could co-exist decently on the range where there was constant work to do, life in town was very different.   If black cowboys were permitted into a barroom, they had to stay one end of the bar; they were frequently subject to being taunted or spat upon, and violence was threatened and did occur. Their lives were also very lonely. White prostitutes were definitely off limits, and there were few African-American women in the West.  Mexican men were very possessive of their women, so black cowboys had little opportunity to have any sort of normal life.

Because Jones held a respected position with Littlefield, he usually didn’t run into any problems, but one day he was visiting a neighboring ranch to check on some LFD (Littlefield) horses.  The day was hot, and Jones was thirsty and the water bucket was empty. Cowboy etiquette was that you re-fill the bucket to leave for others, but at this particular ranch the hose that fed the bucket required a man to use his mouth to get the water flowing by suction.  Addison put his mouth to the hose so the water would flow and he could refill the bucket.  He was immediately whacked on the back of the head by one of the white cowboys.  When Jones regained consciousness, he got up and went back to the Littlefield Ranch.  Even a cowboy like Addison Jones knew not too push some limits.

Personal Life

In 1899 Addison Jones met Rosa Haskins, a cook at a rooming house in Roswell, New Mexico.  When they married, Addison was 54 and Rosa was 36.  Jones eventually retired, and the couple lived in Roswell, New Mexico.  He died in 1926.

The Roswell sheriff noted that Addison died knowing than he had been recognized as one of the really great cowmen of Texas and New Mexico.

Source: America Comes Alive
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Addison Jones

“Mr. Add” (1845-1926) was one of the cowboys who rode the Goodnight Loving Trail in New Mexico.

Experience as a range boss made Add an expert.  He became famous among the cattlemen of the southwest and eventually became the subject of a cowboy song. Howard Thorp said, “the song concerns a critter found in one roundup and claimed by no one.  Add was a dictionary on earmarks and brands.  However, he was puzzled on this one and he read the tally of the brands: She’s got O Block an’ Lightnin’ Rod, Nine Forty-Six an’ A Bar Eleven,  Rafter Cross an’ de double prod, Terrapin an’ Ninety-Seven; Half Circle A an’ Three PZ; BWL, Bar xvv, Bar N Cross an’ ALC. Since none of the cow punchers claimed the critter, Add said, “I’ll just add my own band, cause one more brand or less won’t do no harm”.

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George McJunkin (Cowboy)

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

George McJunkinBorn to slaves in Midway, Texas, McJunkin was approximately 14 years old when the Civil War ended. He worked as an oxen driver 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.  In 1868, McJunkin arrived in New Mexico and became a foreman on the Thomas Owens Pitchford Ranch.  In later life McJunkin became a buffalo hunter and worked for several ranches in Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. He was also reported to be an expert bronco rider and one of the best ropers in the United States.

McJunkin’s discovery of the Folsom Site led to a pivotal advance in New World archaeology. While patching fence on the ranch where he worked, 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.

At his death,[McJunkin was buried at the Folsom Cemetery in Folsom, New Mexico.
Source: Wikipedia

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George McJunkin: A Chapter in New Mexico History
George McJunkin3George McJunkin was born a slave near Midway, Texas in 1851.  George was freed at the age of 14 after the Civil War ended.  He was already fluent in Spanish, experienced with horses, and used to helping his father in his blacksmith shop, but he had never had the opportunity to learn to read.  He left home to join a cattle drive, ended up in northeastern New Mexico, and never returned to Texas.  Along the way he stopped to help a man dig a well.  He earned a handful of quarters, the first money he had ever been paid for his work.  He used it to buy the first footwear he had ever worn – a used pair of cowboy boots.

His skills increased with each new job he took on, and eventually word got around that he was one of the best horse breakers and cowboys in New Mexico.  He traded lessons in breaking horses for lessons in reading, and soon began reading anything he could get his hands on.  He had always been curious about the natural world around him and was particularly interested in science.

McJunkin was the foreman of the Crowfoot Ranch when the great flood of 1908 hit nearby Folsom, New Mexico.  At least 15 people were killed in the flood, including the telephone operator, who died at her switchboard trying to warn people.  Afterwards, McJunkin was out riding, assessing the damage.  Wild Horse Arroyo had become deeply incised, and he saw something protruding from the surface.  He recognized them as bison bones, but they were much larger than modern bison.  George realized that the find was significant and tried to get an expert to look at his discovery, but it did not happen until after his death in 1922.

Scientists later studied the Folsom Site, and their findings rocked the scientific world.  What they discovered were the remains of a Bison antiquus at a Paleo-Indian site dating back as far as 9000 BCE, where ancient bison had been killed by early peoples using special tools, now referred to as Folsom points. With this find, scientists were able to establish a human presence in North America about 7,000 years earlier than had previously been thought.

Eventually, McJunkin was given credit for his find.  His hunger for knowledge and his persistence eventually earned him a special place in history, although he didn’t live to see it.  George McJunkin was a remarkable man whose discovery re-wrote the books on early man in North America.  His intellectual curiosity and determination continue to inspire a new generation of archaeologists.

Source: Brenda Wilkinson
BLM Socorro Field Office Archeologist

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