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Sun, 08.11.1901

Blackdom, New Mexico is Founded

Blackdom Townsite Plaque

*Blackdom, New Mexico is celebrated on this date in 1901. This was one of many Black settlements formed in 19th-century Reconstruction-era America.

Sometimes referred to as a freedom colony, it was in Chaves County, New Mexico. The Blackdom site is located eight miles (13 km) west of Dexter and 18 miles (29 km) south of Roswell. The altitude is 3,638 feet (1,109 m). Founded by Frank and Ella Boyer under the requirements of the Homestead Act, the town experienced significant growth in the first decades, with settlers from throughout the United States moving to the community.

Boyer’s father served with the army during the Mexican American War. He was raised hearing stories from his father Henry about New Mexico. When his life was threatened by the Ku Klux Klan, his father had encouraged him to move to the West for his safety. In 1896, young Boyer traveled to New Mexico with two students on foot picking up day labor work along the way. Ella and their four children followed in 1901. Boyer's idea was to establish a self-sustaining community that would be free from the Jim Crow South.

The community of Blackdom was centered largely around Frank and Ella Boyer's house. He advertised in several newspapers for Black homesteaders to join the community and by 1908, the community had 25 families with about 300 people and several businesses (including a blacksmith shop, a hotel, a weekly newspaper, and a Baptist church) on 15,000 acres (61 km2) of land. W.T. Malone, the first Black to pass the New Mexico Bar exam, was one of the early settlers from Mississippi. The community was the first solely African American community in the New Mexico Territory. Juneteenth celebrations in the community were well-known, and many white ranchers in the area were invited to the community for a large festival and baseball game.

The year 1916 saw worms infest many of the crops, alkali buildup in the soil, and the sudden depletion of the natural wells of the Artesia aquifer that had provided most of the water for the farms. A drought followed and caused many of the settlers to relocate moving to Roswell, Dexter, and Las Cruces. In 1921, the Boyers' house was foreclosed upon, and the family relocated to Vado, NM.

Blackdom was to be 40 acres and 166 lots in the original plan. However, by the time it was recognized as a town, most of the population had relocated because of the water problems. Blackdom was officially incorporated in 1921, it is now considered a ghost town. No structures are remaining in Blackdom, except for the barely visible concrete foundation of the schoolhouse. However, The Blackdom Baptist Church building was sold in the 1920s and moved to the town of Cottonwood in Eddy County, where it is now a private home.

October 26, 2002, was proclaimed Blackdom Day by the governor of New Mexico, and a historical marker was erected at a rest stop on Highway 285, between Roswell and Artesia. Former Blackdom residents and descendants of settlers were present for the dedication ceremony. Local and state community leaders have worked to establish a memorial site in or near Roswell to commemorate the community of Blackdom. Archeological examinations of the homestead have been directed by the New Mexico State Highway and Transportation Authority.

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