Our next regular meeting will be October 18, 2022
Casa Chapala, 9041 Research Blvd. #100 (Hwy 183 and Burnet Rd.)

The October program will feature

Douglas K. Boyd, Senior Archeologist, Cox|McLain Environmental Consulting, speaking on

It Ain't in Your History Textbooks: African-American Blacksmiths on the Texas Frontier.

This program will look at the archeology of one blacksmith shop in Texas, and what we are learning about the important roles that African American blacksmiths played in the history of our state and our nation.

Although it lasted only two decades, from 1867 to ca. 1886, the Chisolm Trail era is steeped in cowboy and cattle drive history, folklore, and mythology. The trail’s route through Texas is known, but little research has been conducted on the towns and businesses that sprang up in support of this short-lived industry. One of the most important businesses along the Chisholm Trail, and in any frontier town, was the blacksmith shop. Blacksmithing was an essential service in rural areas, and good blacksmiths generally became prominent citizens in their communities.

The Texas Department of Transportation recently sponsored archeological and historical investigations at the Tom Cook Blacksmith Shop (41DN617), a site located in Bolivar, a small town along the Chisholm Trail route in western Denton County. Archeologists from Cox|McLain Environmental Consulting, now Stantec, investigated the site in 2020–2021. The site is especially significant because Thomas Cook, Sr., was an African American freedman who owned and operated his own blacksmith shop. He worked as a blacksmith in Bolivar from the 1870s until his death in 1898. Tom Cook was not only a successful blacksmith who raised his family in Bolivar, but he was also a minister, a freemason, and a respected member in his community.

Follow-up research reveals that Thomas Cook was not an anomaly. There were large numbers of African Americans blacksmiths working across the Southern United States in the late nineteenth century, and most learned their trade while they were enslaved. Their blacksmithing skills and ability to communicate with their customers gave them a head start upon emancipation. Freedmen blacksmiths often became prominent businessmen, church pastors, political leaders, and even civil rights activists. You won’t find their stories in most history textbooks, but it is time that we started teaching about some amazing African American blacksmiths.

Douglas K. Boyd is a senior archeologist with Cox|McLain Environmental Consulting, now Stantec, in Austin. He has a BA from West Texas State University and an MA from Texas A&M University. He has been doing archeology, mostly in Texas, for over 45 years! For most of that time, he has been involved in cultural resource management, and much of his recent work has focused on historical archeology.


William Howard Clark, left, is the great, great grandson of the blacksmith Tom Cook who lived and worked in Bolivar from the 1870s to 1898. Mr. Clark is a retired law enforcement officer, and we added him to the archeological crew digging in Bolivar. When we met him, one of his hobbies was forging knife blades but he did not know his ancestor Tom Cook was a blacksmith. Now Mr. Clark is taking blacksmithing classes and learning the technical blacksmithing skills that Tom Cook knew 130 years ago! Photo by Chelsea Stallings.


Wondering what our programs are like? View the list of speakers and topics we've had since 2006. Or watch a few of the more recent programs on our YouTube channel.

The next regular meeting will be held on our usual schedule, the third Tuesday of the month at 7pm at Casa Chapala's Austin location, 9041 Research Blvd., Suite 100 (Hwy 183 and Burnet Rd.) Meetings are held on the third Tuesday of each month, except June and December. They are free and open to the public. For those who wish to come early, we gather around 5:45 PM for dinner, drinks, and fellowship. The short business meeting starts at 7:00 PM, followed by the guest speaker's presentation.

Upcoming

TCAS members will participate in the Archeology Fair at the French Legation on October 29, 10am-2pm . Check our Facebook page or join our mailing list for information on meetings and online resources.