New Mexico September 16, 2016
A New Mexico Ghost Town That You’ve Never Heard Of Uncovers An Untold Story Of America’s History
Have you ever heard of Blackdom?
Chances are, you answered in the negative. After all, the history of many New Mexican ghost towns fades with time. One of the reasons ghost towns fascinate us is because they represent the dreams of the past.
But, those who established Blackdom dreamed bigger than most. You see, Blackdom was the first all-black settlement in the New Mexico Territory.
The town was founded around 1902 (different sources list conflicting dates) and was located 18 miles southwest of Roswell. From then until the mid-1920s, about 300 people lived here. Blackdom represented an opportunity to those who wanted to shape their own destiny at a time when choices for African Americans were extremely limited.
The story begins with a man named Frank Boyer, who grew up hearing tales of New Mexico from his father who had served in the area during the Mexican-American War. Although Boyer was raised in Georgia, his father’s stories stuck with him.
After graduating from Morehouse College, Boyer married a teacher named Ella. The couple had three sons and a daughter. They had a shared goal: to create an all-black settlement.
Boyer and one of his students, a man named Dan Keyes, walked close to 2000 miles in order to reach the New Mexico Territory. He was separated from his family for three years before they were able to come out West.
The Boyers lived in Dexter and supported themselves through farming hay and alfalfa. They never forgot their mission and worked on plans for the town they hoped to establish.
Thanks to the Homestead Acts, land was free, providing the homesteader lived there for a minimum of a year and worked to improve the land. At the time of settlement, the land around Blackdom was much easier to farm and there appeared to be plenty of water.
The Boyers moved into a two-room home in Blackdom and placed newspaper ads, encouraging other settlers to join them. And people did just that.
Blackdom had a church that did double duty as a schoolhouse (pictured), along with a general store, and post office. The community was doing well despite the harsh winds that gusted across the plains.
The town hosted annual Juneteenth festivities and invited white ranchers living nearby to join the celebration, which included food and a baseball game.
Blackdom might still be around today, if it weren’t for a run of bad luck. In 1916,
worms destroyed the crops, then water in the area grew scarce. It became too difficult for settlers to improve the land, per the requirements of the Homestead Act.
Blackdom was only officially incorporated in 1921 but, by that time, the town was already floundering. The settlers scattered across New Mexico. The Boyers held on until the end, when the bank foreclosed on their property.
Today, this is all the remains of the town.
Efforts are underway to create a movie about Blackdom.
Here is information on the project.
In the meantime, if you’d like to know more about Blackdom, New Mexico PBS devoted an episode of “Colores” to the town.
Can you think of any other lost stories in New Mexico that deserve to be told?
If you’re a fan of abandoned places like this one, consider visiting these
New Mexico ghost towns.