Contact Us | Donations & Comments | Our store

WILSON POTTERY FOUNDATION

The Descendants of Hiram, James, and Wallace Wilson Historical Foundation DBA Wilson Pottery Foundation

History

 

The History of Wilson Pottery and the Endeavors of the Post Slavery Potters

 

In the second half of the 19th Century, from 1857 to 1903, Wilson Pottery was manufactured in the Capote Hills, which is located approximately 10 miles East of Seguin in Guadalupe County. At that time, there were three Potteries involving Wilsons as Potters. The first was identified archeologically as 41-GU-6, John McKamie Wilson's Guadalupe Pottery; the second, 41-GU-5, H. Wilson & Co.; and the third, 41-GU-4, Durham-Chandler-Wilson.

 

The pottery business in the area began in 1857 when Reverend John McKamie Wilson, Jr., a Presbyterian Minister, moved into the area bringing with him his family and 20 slaves. He hailed from Burke County, North Carolina, spending some time in Fulton, Missouri and then moving to Texas in 1856 to maintain his slaves, undeterred by the laws against slave ownership.

 

Finding the type of clay needed to produce quality utilitarian pottery drove his decision to settle his slaves in Capote to form the pottery business. Not being a potter himself, he hired professional potters to teach his slaves the pottery craft. Thus the Wilsons, while still in bondage, learned the craft, and became quite skilled at it, and the business prospered. Having been successful potters while in bondage, it was the logical next step to form a similar business, once they were free. This is exactly what they did.

 

The Wilson Pottery

 

All of the Wilson Pottery is rare, of high quality, and highly collectible. It is pottery that the public shows great interest in. Numerous pottery exhibitions have been held in Fine Arts Museums and some even have permanent collections. For example, there are currently exhibitions at The Witte and Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio and The Bob Bullock Texas History Museum in Austin. The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston sponsored an exhibition about the Wilson Potters and their pottery. The Curator, Michael Brown, gave a lecture as well as wrote a very well received book about the potters entitled, MFAH The Wilson Potters, An African-American Enterprise in 19th-Century Texas. The book published in conjunction with the exhibition in November 3, 2002 - March 3, 2003 and has the same name as the exhibition.

 

We are in need of benefactors to help fund the purchase of the pottery for the Wilson Pottery Museum. There are collectors willing to sell, but at a price out of range for most to attain. According to reports, the Wilson Pottery business was prolific and flourished throughout the south and southwest, reaching as far as California. Statistical information recorded accounts for as many as 1,000 pieces remaining as collectors items. Not only is the pottery produced by these post slavery potters greatly appreciated, but the potters have also been recognized as the first African-American Entrepreneurs in Texas. The Public Schools of Texas also include them in their seventh grade History Text.

 

While Hiram Wilson's endeavors were varied and his life was cut short, James and Wallace remained potters until the close of the Wilson Pottery business in 1903. Almost a hundred years after the potters from the third site terminated their business, our family applied and received a Grant from the Texas Historical Commission to acquire this historic site for preservation. We have acquired the third pottery site, 41-Gu-4. It is our desire to have a living museum, that is, to try to duplicate as much as possible in terms of what took place here when the site was active. This site is located on approximately five acres, with the pottery site proper enclosed with fencing to help preserve its historic value. Plans for the surrounding area are to build an Information Center, a park with picnic area, and a beautiful garden with plants for sale to help finance the site.Besides the purposed living museum at the pottery site, which would be a show and tell operation, we have been blessed by the City of Seguin with the Matthies House at 320 W. Nolte as a home for a museum. It is located in the Walnut Branch Park Restoration Project area, which is being restored to encourage tourism and economic growth in the city.

 

Mission Statement

Our mission is to research, acquire, and preserve that part of Texas History made by the Wilson potters during the 19th Century. This includes, but is not limited to, the acquisition and restoration of the historic pottery sites, collecting Wilson pottery and artifacts, as well as the pottery of contemporary Texas potters, and displaying all for the enjoyment and enlightenment of all Texans, tourists, and school children.

Current Objectives

Our current objectives are set forth to share with the public at large the rich heritage of the Wilson Family. We are pleased to announce that progress is being made in all three objectives, which include:

  • Acquiring and restoring pottery sites
  • Collecting Wilson Pottery and artifacts
  • Raising funds to house a museum of Wilson artifacts and memorabilia

© Wilson Pottery Foundation, All Rights Reserved |Login

Capote Church
Example of a Wilson Pottery Jar
Pottery Site