Have you heard of Blackdom, New Mexico? Chances are slim, I myself never heard of the all-black settlement that was founded in 1901 in territorial New Mexico. Blackdom was literally located in the backyard of Dexter, a small farming community in Chaves County where I was raised. It was about two years ago or so when a researcher came to the Caroline E. Stras Research Room seeking information about the settlement and soon after I was consumed and I wanted to know more about the establishment.
With the current Black Lives Matter movement, I thought that this post was timely and believe it was the ideal time to share information about the settlement. I would like to point out that it is critical that within the archival profession to capture the history of underrepresented/marginalized groups. With that being said, I would like to share the history of Blackdom.
As I was researching, I came to learn that Blackdom was home to Francis (Frank) Boyer, Daniel Keyes and their families. The settlement was located in Southwest New Mexico – 18 miles south of Roswell and 8 miles west of Dexter and it was the state’s first black community. Frank was interested in relocating to New Mexico due to the stories that his father Henry Boyer would share with the family. Henry Boyer was claimed to have worked as a wagoner on expeditions along the Old Santa Fe Trail in the 1840s. When Henry returned to his home state he insisted that Frank go and check out New Mexico to establish the soon-to-be settlement of Blackdom.
Families from Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi, Ohio and other neighboring states settled at Blackdom. Families relocated to Blackdom because both Boyer and Keyes ventured off to other states to solicit potential residents by showing them photographs of the land to entice them to make the move to the rural region. During the course of research, I discovered that Blackdom had a post office, general store, and a school that housed grades 1-8. The school served as a multi-purpose building as church services were also conducted in the building. The settlement flourished and at one time 300 people resided in Blackdom, but in 1920 the settlement faced harsh conditions due to lack of water since natural wells were depleted which was the major water source. With lack of water it led to the demise of the settlement and soon after inhabitants vacated the establishment. Due to Blackdom’s shortcomings, Frank Boyer left Blackdom and ventured off to the southern part of the state to Vado, New Mexico for a new start, but descendants of the Boyer family reside in the area. Today, there is a roadside historical marker and stone ruins left of the community that once served as the first Black settlement situated in southern rural New Mexico.
To learn and explore further about Blackdom, visit the Caroline E. Stras Research Room and browse the Morgan Nelson papers (RG2016-040, box 13) plus additional sources can be located in the Rio Grande Historical Information File and Subject Index. In addition, images illustrating the Boyer family can be found in the Archives Photographic Collection database.