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GOD & TEXAS: H. Wilson & Co. Pottery

“Yours, for God and humanity.” This was the profound and customary closing to letters written by Pastor Hiram Wilson. Why is he remembered today in Texas History? 


Born in 1836, Hiram was one of 19 slaves that Presbyterian minister John McKamey Wilson brought from North Carolina to Capote, Texas (near Seguin). In 1857, Rev. John Wilson opened a pottery shop with slaves Hiram and James as the principal craftsmen. Upon Emancipation, Hiram and his brothers James and Wallace, founded their own pottery business, H. Wilson & Co.


Today, H. Wilson & Co. is widely considered to be Texas’ first Black-owned business. They produced practical stoneware like jugs, crocks, and jars. Amazingly, these upstart entrepreneurs initiated innovative techniques including horseshoe shaped handgrips which lessened the possibility of broken handles. They also marked their wares with the company name to promote and identify their unique products.


Over 150 years later, H. Wilson & Co. pottery items are treasures that are found predominantly in private collections, prestigious antique shops, and select museums. All H. Wilson & Co. pottery is rare, of superior quality, and highly collectable. This pottery has been featured at The Bob Bullock Museum in Austin, the Witte Museum in San Antonio, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.


But for Hiram Wilson, the pottery business had a higher purpose than financial gain. Wilson used his profits to help emancipated slaves get established in life. Hiram purchased large tracts of land for the settlement of the town of Capote, setting aside 10 acres for a church, school, and cemetery. Much of the remaining land was given to former slaves to launch farms and businesses. 


As a dedicated minister, Wilson founded the Capote Baptist Church and served as the first pastor. Hiram’s brother James bought the first organ for the church. Hiram was often invited to preach at other churches including Seguin’s Second Baptist Church, and churches in Toronto, Canada, and Boston, Massachusetts. 


Hiram was fond of writing letters to other ministers to update them on his activities. In one letter that was written while he was still a slave in 1852, Wilson wrote: “On Saturday last I called at a house where I expected to find distress and supplied a poor woman with provisions who told me she had nothing in the house to eat but a morsel of cornbread and her husband was out in the woods with crippled hands which had been frozen, trying to chop and earn something to live on. On relieving this family which I had to go in debt to do - I had hardly time to turn round till I was applied to for the relief of another poor man of a large family.”

Hiram Wilson signed the letter, “Yours, for God and humanity.” 


Wilson represents the core moralities of Christianity. Jesus said in John 15:13 NIV: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.” May we also say, “Yours, for God and humanity.”

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