Memoir in Honor of Franklin Folsom

I first became acquainted with Franklin Folsom’s writing skills when I was studying several caves in New Mexico for possible archaeological sites–the Bureau of Land Management had recently named a cave near Ft. Stanton after me. I bought Franklin’s book, Exploring American Caves: History, Geology, Lore and Location, to learn more about cave research.

I met Franklin when we worked together trying to bring George McJunkin out of the realm of folklore into reality in the late 1960s. I had long before decided that McJunkin was a real person, and not a fictional character as some had suggested, and I had visited the Folsom, N.M., area and obtained a number of interviews with people who knew of McJunkin. I later sent this material to Franklin Folsom, who was a well-established historical researcher and writer with a special interest in archaeology.

Our first meeting established a friendship that lasted until his death. He and his wife, Mary Elting, who often collaborated with him, continued my initial work. They spent several years doing research before publishing The Life and Legend of George McJunkin, Black Cowboy, establishing that McJunkin was the man who found the Folsom site in 1908. We were eager to find as much information on McJunkin as possible–a difficult problem because he died in 1922.

Our association taught me better investigative and interview techniques. I was quickly impressed by Folsom’s warm and open personality and his dedication to the work of separating facts from folklore. He was more than a friend, he was my teacher in this type of research. We worked together without any conflict; we shared our information and worked with maximum cooperation.

He was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University, and he graduated from the University of Colorado in 1928. For a time he worked as a Rocky Mountain guide, an experience that must have developed his walking skills, for he enjoyed walking. At an advanced age he walked across the United 2 Views of World Peace march.

He wrote more than 80 books, some of which made the best-seller list. His books were instructive, but more important, they were able to be read by the general reading public. A number of his books were for children.

His books that helped me most in my field of anthropology included America’s Ancient Treasures, Famous Pioneers, Red Power in the Rio Grande: The Native American Revolution of 1680, and Science and the Secret of Man’s Past. Books written with his wife included If You Lived in the Days of the Wild Mammoth Hunters and The Story of Archaeology of the Americas.

Though now deceased, Franklin will live for generations in the hearts and minds of all who are interested in spelunking or the Indian past of the Southwest. And I will never forget this man or our long association.

–George A. Agogino

Related Links

  • “Clovis man – Giving credit where it’s due”, Jerry Large, Seattle Times, Feb. 1997. Large writes “A professor at Eastern New Mexico University went to Folsom and started asking around. He eventually pieced together McJunkin’s story.” referring to George Agogino’s research on George McJunkin.
  • Capulin National Monument: Under the Volcano with Folsom Man”.
  • “A Bitter Tale of Old Bones: Finding the First American Meant Fighting the Status Quo , Scientific American, Discovering Archeology, Issue 6, Nov./Dec. 1999.
  • Photos from “Out of the Shadows: George McJunkin was the forgotten man at the center of the century’s most startling archaeological find”, Carol Kreck, The Denver Post, Empire: Magazine of the West, Feb. 25, 1999, p. 14.


Modified by Alice M. Agogino, 13 September 2000. Obtained from: Center for the Study of First Americans