Person

Oliver Toussaint Jackson

Man in a suit sitting at a desk
Oliver T. Jackson, founder of Dearfield Colorado

Quick Facts

Oliver Toussaint (O.T.) Jackson was a entrepreneur and founder of Dearfield, Colorado.

In 1910 Jackson formed the Negro Townsite and Land Company. To do this he used his political connections and drew inspiration from Booker T. Washington’s work on self-help. The Townsite Company failed, but Jackson persisted, founding Dearfield in 1911.

Jackson faced resistance from black leaders because of his close ties to Democrats. At that time, many still associated Democrats with slavery and post-bellum repression.

Despite the many challenges, Jackson claimed land in what later became Dearfield. He used his homestead of 320 acres to form the initial settlement.  

His tireless promotion resulted in residents building forty-four wooden houses. The town also had two churches, a schoolhouse, a doctor’s office, a cement factory, and a filling station in the first five years. By 1918, Dearfield was a vibrant community.

Jackson remained Dearfield’s central figure. His entrepreneurial spirit grew as the community flourished. He helped many of the new homesteaders who had little previous agricultural experience. As the town grew, Jackson opened the Lunchroom, which became the community center.

The Dust Bowl forced most Dearfield homesteaders to seek work in the city. Jackson remained, rebranding Dearfield as a “Valley Resort” for African Americans from Denver. During World War II, Jackson offered to sell Dearfield to the federal government for use as an internment camp for Japanese-Americans. Both plans failed, and most of the town was torn down, the lumber reused.

O.T. Jackson and his wife Minerva remained. His house, built in 1918, still stands, though in great disrepair.

Learn more about Black Homesteading in America.

Homestead National Historical Park

Last updated: November 2, 2021