Many of you may not have heard of George McConkin. Don’t despair, not many have heard of him at home, across New Mexico. However, he cannot harm you if you learn some facts about him and his life. On the contrary, especially since the man was able to demolish some concepts in science that seemed to nail it, he even won a media battle against one of the greatest prehistoric people of his time, which is not easy at all considering who George was and what he did.
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Without wasting time on too many introductory details, we’ll say that McJunkin was born in 1851, in a small settlement in Midway, Texas. He was a slave, and it is clear from this information that you can tell that he is a black man. He took his name from his master, as was the custom in those days, ie.. McJunkin. His father was a blacksmith, and on this occasion little George was able to see a lot of cattle, especially horses brought into the boot, even if he was fond of them. Which was pretty good, because he didn’t really have a choice anyway.
In 1865, the War of Secession ended, and George was released and left on the streets. My mother, but with some meticulous knowledge of horsemanship, walking, and herding and driving cattle, the man kept looking for work in Kansas, where there were merciless herds of cattle, and fewer men to look after them. Thus he became a cowboy, a fanqueros or, more Roman, a cowboy with a sledgehammer in his hand.
What intrigued us was that during all this time Georg Magnken displayed an extraordinary curiosity, but also a terrible desire to learn, which is not very common in the world of cowboys in the Wild West. In fact, George learned to read by giving horse riding lessons in return. Service for service. Then he began to spend his money on books and read everything with a passion that he could get, which you did not really see in the world in which he lived. He also bought a telescope to look at the stars and planets, learned Spanish, took guitar lessons… He wasn’t the only typical cowboy.
Black cowboy, archaeologist and amateur astronomer
He later learned that New Mexico paid much better than Kansas or Texas, and the demand for ranchers was high. So he got there and stayed there until his death. Well, here begins the interesting part for us. Namely, George, who became the department head at Crowfoot Farm near the small town of Folsom, New Mexico, would change the flag like no one imagined.
The man was already such a living legend in the three-state ranching world that he regularly beat up, driving flocks of hundreds or thousands of heads straight through the Comanche or Apache, where hardly anyone ventured. He knew all the places like the back of his hand. So on August 27, 1908, after a storm not seen since Mammoth Days, with catastrophic floods and horrific landslides, George McJohnken set out to do what no one thought to do through the affected area. Specifically to explore areas affected by landslides.
This is how he found some fossils that he immediately recognized as the Bison. Nor was it difficult not to recognize them, especially how many he saw in the wilderness, and how many he saw in the trenches. The problem was that the bones came from much larger specimens than the bison he was used to, and the fact that he got his hands on some other books, including some on archeology, helped him realize that the bison he found was prehistoric. . Moreover, it seems that they were trenches, and here was the great find.
To better understand what we were talking about, we will say that in 1908, the general belief in the scientific community was that North America had not been inhabited for over 4,000 years. Finding a slaughter camp nearly 10,000 years old had all the professionals in the field having a hard time. Well, that’s exactly what George McJohnken found.
The poor man collected as many fossils as possible, took a skull with him, and began to send letters to all the researchers he had heard about in newspapers and magazines or anyone else he could think of. He worked alone for years, showing everyone an interest in the fossils of antique bison, a species that was first described in 1852, just a year after it was born, by paleontologist Joseph Lady.
On top of all this, no one answered his messages and no one even bothered to make a trip to investigate the place. Only in 1926 did Karl Schwachem, a researcher who had received McJunkin’s letters for many years, visited the site. It didn’t take long to dig into the site to discover not only other bison remains, but even a prehistoric extrusion embedded in one of the bones. The information reached J.D. Figgins, an employee of the Colorado Museum of Natural History, established in 1900, who realized that the find was a major one and that poor George wasn’t deceiving when he told everyone about the age of the fossils.
George McConkin vs. Perceptions of Time
J.D. Figgins then published a study in Scientific American, in which he claimed the impossible, that is, the fact that North America was inhabited much earlier than anyone had thought. Here, however, he met Ales Hrdlika, then a trustee of the Smithsonian Institution, a man who had an installation only 4,000 years ago. Among us, Hrdlička was a figure in the prehistoric world from the beginning of the twentieth century, and it was not a good idea to contradict him, because you risk tarnishing your reputation for life. Which kind of did Figgins. Hrdlička hit the ground running with him, debunking his assumptions, and things seemed to stay the same even then.
It took another discovery, made by a teenager named Ridgeley Whiteman in 1929, for archaeologists to discover another slaughter camp. This was happening next to the small settlement of Clovis in New Mexico. Not only were there remains of bison, but there were also camels, woolly mammoths, and prehistoric horses, all accompanied by artifacts that are nearly 13,000 years old. Faced with the new evidence, Hrdlička backed down, but didn’t talk much about it either.
In conclusion, we will say that the peaks discovered at the site indicated by George McJohnken proved to be defining a completely unknown material culture. She was baptized Folsom, after a small nearby settlement. Their age was about 9000-10000 years. In the case of artifacts near Clovis, well, the starting point was the identification of another ancient culture, called the Clovis culture itself.
And there is another thing yet. George McJohnken had died four years ago when Shawachim decided to investigate the location he had referred to. He never learned the impact his discovery had. The name of the former slave, by way of detail, is not mentioned anywhere in the profile studies of more than 50 years. Even if, as it became clear, George McGinkin had radically changed what was known about humanity’s past on American soil.
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Folsom F. , 1973, The Life and Legend of George McJunkin: Black Cowboy, Ed. E. P. Dutton, 162 p.
Wanger T., 2010, Black Cowboys of the Old West: True, Sensational, And Little-Known Stories From History, First Edition, Ed. TwoDot, 200 p.