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Bolivar Archeological Project

Community archeology project connects a nineteenth century freedman and blacksmith with his living descendants

  • 35K+

    Artifacts Recovered

  • 4

    Generations Involved

  • 40+

    Public Events Held

  • Bolivar, Texas

    Bolivar, Texas

Involving descendants and other key stakeholders in developing a collaborative approach to archeology

While widening FM (Farm-to-Market) 455 in Denton County, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) discovered and evaluated numerous archeological sites. Two of these sites, the late nineteenth century Sartin Hotel and the Tom Cook Blacksmith Shop, required intensive investigations. TxDOT reached out to our archeologist to help.

Bolivar was once a frontier town on the Chisholm Trail, a route used to drive Texas cattle to Kansas railheads from 1867 to about 1886. Located here, the blacksmith shop in particular is significant because it was owned and operated by a freedman, Tom Cook, and is the only African American-owned blacksmith site excavated in Texas.

TxDOT and our team reached out to local stakeholders—descendants, local residents, researchers and professional blacksmiths—and the Denton County African American community to develop a collaborative approach to the project. Along with other stakeholders, descendants have had an active role in the project, participating in fieldwork, helping conduct archival research, and especially providing information on family genealogy.

Tom Cook’s great-great-grandson, a retired law enforcement officer and one of our employees, helped excavate the sites and discovered blacksmithing tools used by his ancestor.

At a Glance

  • Texas Department of Transportation
Council of Texas Archeologist, E. Mott Davis Award for Excellence in Public Outreach, 2021
Beyond the Road, TxDOT Designation
Meet Our Team

Doug Boyd, Senior Archaeologist

I advocate for the principle that publicly funded archeology should produce value for local communities and any site-linked descendants.

Doug Boyd

Senior Archaeologist

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