Bolivar: The Once Wild West
Nestled at the intersection of two highways in Denton County is a small Texas town. Today, Bolivar is a small residential area in northwest Denton County with about 30 homes in Bolivar proper, but in the late 19th century it was a burgeoning frontier town on the edge of the old west.
Archeologists have uncovered artifacts from a transportation project in an area which was once historically part of Bolivar. The artifacts tell the story of this frontier town and show how TxDOT goes Beyond the Road to plan around the state’s cultural environment. (Learn more about our historic preservation process here.)
What We’re Digging Up
- Archeologists are unearthing the Sartin Hotel, established in the early 1880s. Archeologists have uncovered remnants of the hotel foundation, a water well, lamp glass, a bronze spool, cast iron stove, brass hand bell, ceramic drinking jug, miscellaneous hotel hardware and more!
- Tom Cook, a formerly enslaved African American on the frontier, owned a blacksmith shop that is now being excavated by TxDOT. Tom Cook was recognized in a 1918 Denton County history book as one of the best citizens who “never failed to answer the roll call in a time of danger…”
- Archeologists are recovering discarded broken wagon parts, forged horse and mule shoes, forged showing nails, hardware, tools and a ceramic smoking pipe.
Check back here for updates on our weekly excavation.
TxDOT is actively working with various groups to identify anyone connected or interested to these sites.
- The direct descendants of Tom Cook, including his great-,great-grandson and great-,great-,great-granddaughter, are actively involved in site visits and excavations of his blacksmith shop. Archeologists also hope to gain understanding of: 1) What kind of blacksmith was Tom Cook? 2) Who were his likely clientele? 3) How did he gain his skills as a blacksmith? Was it during his previous enslavement in South Carolina?
- Volunteers from the North Texas Archeological Society are working alongside TxDOT at the site excavations.
- Other interested parties include the Denton County African American Museum, NAACP’s Denton County chapter, the Sanger Historical Society, the Oral History Program at the University of North Texas, the Denton County Genealogical Society, Sanger Mayor Thomas Muir and more.
If you are interested in participating in the project, please contact us here.
TxDOT proposes to widen FM 455 between Sanger to the east and Bolivar to the west. The project is scheduled to begin after August 2022 and is being coordinated with the Bolivar archaeology project.