(Seguin) -- A local family this weekend will continue to share the story about its pottery making ancestors. Tickets are now on sale for the annual Wilson Pottery Foundation Spring Gala.
The gala being hosted by the Descendants of the Hiram, James, and Wallace Wilson Historical Foundation, Wilson Pottery Foundation: A Texas Heritage is scheduled for Saturday night at the Silver Center.
Joe Reid, a descendent and interim president for the foundation, says the gala shares the story of the historical pottery business which began in southern Guadalupe County in 1857.
"The story of the Wilson Pottery goes back to the mid to late 1800's. The Wilson family ancestors were brought to Texas as slaves in 1856 by the Rev. John McKinney Wilson Jr. They originally departed from North Carolina and they wound up in the Capote Community of Guadalupe County. Rev. Wilson, upon his arrival, saw that there was a market, if you, will for stone ware, because most persons who lived in Guadalupe County lived in the rural. So people needed a way to store their greens, meats and bread. Stoneware pieces were the utilitarian pieces of equipment that was available and that was used. So Rev. Wilson was not himself a potter nor did he have experience with pottery making, but he did start a pottery company, the Guadalupe Pottery Company in which he used several of his slaves to make the pottery and he had to import some folks to come in and help teach them how to make the pottery," said Reid.
Reid says the mastery behind the pottery craft by former slaves is an incredible story that needs to continue to be shared.
"After the slaves were freed in 1865, one of them, Hiram Wilson, started his own pottery company in 1869. It was known as H. Wilson Company. Now the fact that he started a business, he was an ex-slave who started a business and today is given credit as being the first African-American business man in the state of Texas. He ran his company and he sold his pottery. He made his pottery. There was privileges that were given to African Americans that they did not have when they were slaves but that they did have immediately following the Civil War. So because of Hiram's prominence as being the first black business man in the state of Texas, he reattached importance to things that are first. The pottery that he made today is considered fine art and commands four and five ticket money," said Reid.
Reid says the story and craft have since extended outside the walls of Guadalupe County and is being told and displayed throughout most of the state's prestigious museums. A local museum was also unveiled a few years ago at the Sebastopol State Historic House here in Seguin.
"Pieces of his pottery are on display in the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, in the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio, the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum in Austin and in other museums and in private collectors' galleried. Knowing that, the family members -- we created a historical foundation, the Wilson Pottery Foundation to preserve the legacy of our ancestors pottery and also to provide awareness that pottery making in the area of Seguin was very lucrative back in those days in the mid 1800's. That's one of the purposes of the museum -- is to illustrate that and also to illustrate our ancestors' history in the pottery making business," said Reid.
Upon learning the history of its ancestors, Reid says the family established the foundation in an effort to create awareness of the family and the legacy that will forever remain thanks to the pieces of pottery that still exist. As part of that foundation, the group each year invites the community to its Spring Gala.
Reid says the family is again excited to welcome one of their own as this year's guest speaker.
"We will have a gala speaker. Our guest speaker will be Dr. Karen Jackson. She lives in Houston. She is a motivational speaker as a matter of fact and she is also a family member. We're going to be very grateful to have her to come and speak with us. There will be a dinner along with the program and that will be the presentation of, I believe, it's six Potters Award recipients. A Potters Award recipient are those that we have chosen to give the award to -- who make contributions to our organization either in time or monetarily or just in supreme support of the organization in terms of always being there, in attendance or wanting to help in the preparation for the gala and so we have chosen six persons who will be recipients," said Reid.
The annual fundraising event will begin at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Silver Center. Tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for children (12 and under). Tickets are encouraged to be purchased in advance at the Seguin Area Chamber of Commerce Office. A limited amount of tickets will be sold at the door.