Filmmaker Vince McDaniel is creating a feature film documentary about the New Mexico town of Blackdom. There is currently a GoFundMe campaign to support this project. You can learn more by visiting the film’s Facebook page.
Blackdom is a ghost town in Chaves County, New Mexico, that was founded by African-American settlers during the turn of the century and was 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 as well as issues with irrigation caused many of the settlers to relocate and the town became uninhabited in the mid 1920’s.
Henry Boyer, a Freedman 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 his life was threatened by the Ku Klux Klan, 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 which would be free from the hindrances that existed in the South.
The community of Blackdom was started in 1901 centered largely around Frank and Ella Boyer’s house. Frank advertised in a number of newspapers for African-American 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 (61 km2) of land. W.T. Malone, the first African American 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. 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 house of the Boyer’s was foreclosed upon and the family relocated to Vado.
Blackdom was officially incorporated in 1921. 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. There are no structures remaining in Blackdom, with the exception for the barely visible concrete foundation of the school-house. 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. Juneteenth celebrations in the community were well known as many white ranchers in the area were invited to the community for a large festival and baseball game.