Day Trips: Sebastopol House Historic Site, Seguin
Historic limecrete mansion honors Black entrepreneurship
By Gerald E. McLeod, Fri., Aug. 7, 2020
Sebastopol House Historic Site in Seguin pays tribute to the labors of Black Texans. The two-story concrete mansion was built with slave labor, and as a museum it houses an extensive collection of freedmen-made Wilson Pottery items.
Produced southeast of Seguin, Wilson Pottery is highly prized by collectors. There were three versions of Wilson Pottery between 1857 and 1903.
Wilson Pottery was established by the Rev. John Wilson, a Presbyterian minister and educator. When he arrived in Texas from North Carolina he found a lack of stoneware, which was used for everything from food storage to chamber pots. Not a potter himself, Wilson had the slaves he owned trained in the style of Edgefield pottery of South Carolina.
After Emancipation, Hiram, James, George, and Andrew Wilson opened their own company. Hiram is credited with being the first African American entrepreneur in Texas after the Civil War. He also started a church, store, and school.
The third Wilson Pottery was run by M.J. Durham and John Chandler, who went into business with the Wilson brothers after Hiram's death in 1884. Durham-Chandler-Wilson Pottery continued until 1903.
Early Wilson pottery is noted for its use of alkaline-based glaze and its utilitarian ovoid shape. Hiram exclusively used a salt glaze. The pottery is known for a top and rim that provided a better seal and handles on the heavy stoneware.
Sebastopol House Historic Site is at 704 Zorn St. in Seguin. The flat-roofed home was built in 1856 using limecrete (limestone and concrete), a mixture of gravelly clay and lime. It is one of 20 such houses still in existence in Seguin. The museum opens Thursday through Sunday from 9am to 4pm. Admission is free.
1,511th in a series. Follow “Day Trips & Beyond,” a travel blog, at austinchronicle.com/daily/travel.