Where have you gone, Folsom Jim? Some stories need to be told

A Word to the Wise
By: Tom Rupp
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I recently read that “Folsom Jim” Phillips passed away at the age of 99. He grew up near Folsom (what it was back then) and, according to the report I read, “his own life was as colorful as the Gold Rush tales he spun for anyone who would listen.” He was also instrumental in restoring what is now the Folsom History museum on Sutter Street. Now that is a shame. I never met Folsom Jim. I would have loved to listen to him and his stories of “prospecting for gold and running horse teams for dredging companies.” That possibility is gone forever. Another part of our past is gone, restored only by the written word or an occasional photograph. I know someone in North Carolina named H. W. Jernigan. He is 90 and still going. Get this — his father was born in 1850. That is not a misprint. His father was 70 years old when H.W. came into the world. H.W. told me that his father used to tell him the story of seeing General Tecumseh Sherman coming through Dunn, North Carolina, after the Civil War. And this man is still alive, relating this story. In 1937, three generations of his same family all had representatives in the same high school graduating class. In other words, his father had grandchildren and great-grandchildren who graduated with his son H.W. These are amazing facts. Every area has its history, related by folks like H.W. and Folsom Jim. Trouble is, as the poet Alan Seeger said, we have “a rendezvous with death.” We do not last forever. We are forever marching forward, forward, away from the past we increasingly forget and into an unknown future. Did you happen to catch my piece about Claire Bowers in the September 2 issue? If not, look it up on our online page. She graduated from Folsom High in 1942. Then Editor Don Chaddock posted a photo of Folsom residents Don and Roy Sturm from years gone by. Where are these fellows? There are stories here that need to be told. A community is dynamic, not static. It is a living thing and lately Folsom has been especially alive. We are changing, growing, becoming. But in the midst of all of this change, we must keep alive the memories of the past. After all, the future is built on the past, is it not? Tom Rupp can be reached at or through his blog at