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Blackdom


Blackdom is a ghost town in Chaves County, New Mexico, founded by African-American settlers in 1901 and abandoned in the mid-1920s. 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. A drought starting in 1916 caused many of the settlers to relocate and the town became uninhabited in 1921.

Henry Boyer, a free man from Pullam, Georgia, was a wagoner with the army units of Stephen W. Kearny during the Mexican-American War in 1846. Henry's son, Frank Boyer, was raised hearing stories from his father about New Mexico before being educated at Morehouse College and Fisk University. While at school, he learned about the legal requirements for homesteading. Frank started teaching in Georgia and soon married Ella Louise Boyer (née McGruder), herself a teacher graduated from the Haines Institute. Frank began encouraging African-Americans to report and challenge abuses in the Jim Crow-era South. When the Ku Klux Klan threatened his life, Frank's father encouraged him to move to the West for his safety. In 1896, Frank traveled to New Mexico with two students, Daniel Keyes (who married Ella's sister Willie Frances) and one with the last name of Ragsdale, on foot picking up day labor work along the way. Ella and their four children followed in 1901. Frank's idea was to found a self-sustaining community that would be free from the hindrances that existed in the South.

The community was the first solely African-American community in the New Mexico Territory and in 1901, centered largely on Frank and Ella Boyer's house. Frank advertised in a number of newspapers for homesteaders to join the community and by 1908, the community had 25 families with about 300 people and a number of businesses (including a blacksmith shop, a hotel, a weekly newspaper, and a Baptist church) on 15,000 acres of land. One of the early settlers from Mississippi was George W. Malone, who became the first African American to pass the New Mexico Bar exam in 1916. Mr. Malone had, despite the times, passed the Mississippi Bar in 1910.

The year 1916 saw worms infest much 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. Settlers began leaving the area, moving to Roswell, Dexter, and Las Cruces. In 1921, the Boyer's house foreclosed and the family relocated to Vado.

Blackdom was officially incorporated in 1921. It 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. There are no structures remaining in Blackdom, with the exception 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 governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson, 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 on hand for the dedication ceremony. Local and state community leaders are working to establish a memorial site in or near Roswell to mark the community of Blackdom. Archeological examinations of the homestead have been directed by the New Mexico State Highway and Transportation Authority.


Sources:

New Mexico Black Lawyers Association, personal correspondence, 2/24/2014.
Julyan, Robert. Place Names of New Mexico, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
“The Town of Blackdom”. City of Albuquerque, retrieved 1/17/2014.
"Blackdom, New Mexico Baptist Church". New Mexico Wanderings. Retrieved 9/10/2012.
“Blackdom”. KNME TV. Retrieved 9/10/2012
Rodriguez, Helena (January 17, 2010). "Memorial to be built for Little-Known Black Community". Clovis News Journal.
Weisman, Regee N. "Glimpses of Late Frontier Life in New Mexico's Southern Pecos Valley". Museum of New Mexico. Retrieved 9/10/2012
Wikipedia Commons, retrieved 12/30/2013.