H. Wilson & Company Legacy Revisited

Preserving Ceramic Legacies… One Potter at a Time. 

Seven Gallon Jar

Future posts are intended to encourage conversations with potters, collectors, scholars, and enthusiast. The first potters of interest are The Wilson Potters of Seguin, Texas, between 1857-1903.
In 1991, I learned of John McKamie (McKamey) Wilson’s slave potters through a casual conversation with my professor, John Bough Miller in graduate school. However; in 2013, I learned the legacy of those slave potters, Hyrum (Hiram), James, Wallace, Andrew, and George.

William J. Hill Texas Artisans and Artists Archive. MFAH Collection https://lnkd.in/ejajEK2 (accessed 3 January 2019) 

Five Gallon Jar

Reconstruction (1865-1877), was a Golden Age of African American Achievement across the United States, especially on the new Texas Frontier.

In 1857, John McKamie (McKamey) Wilson, Jr., a teacher and Presbyterian Minister, opened the Guadalupe Pottery Business in Capote, TX (12 miles east of Seguin, TX). In 1869, he sold the business to M. J. Durham.

Between 1867-69, emancipated slaves from the Guadalupe Pottery Business established The H. Wilson and Co. Pottery Business under the leadership of Hyrum (Hiram) Wilson. It is believed to be the first African American owned business in the State of Texas.

Attributed to Guadalupe Pottery Company, also known as the “Wilson First Site,”
American, active c. 1857–1869
Five-Gallon Jar
Salt-glazed stoneware
16 × 11 1/4 in. diameter (40.6 × 28.6 cm)
The Bayou Bend Collection, a gift of William J. Hill

William J. Hill Texas Artisans and Artists Archive. MFAH Collection. https://lnkd.in/eUFR_kS (accessed 31 March 2019).

Jug

In the 1860s, The Edgefield District of South Carolina greatly influenced the potting traditions on the Texas Frontier. Potters migrated from the different pottery communities in the Eastern United States as well as Europe. Archaeological evidence from John McKamie Wilson’s Guadalupe Pottery Business indicated the forming and surfacing techniques were consistent with the pottery production in the Edgefield District.

Between 1867-69, The H. Wilson & Co. Pottery Business (established by emancipated slaves), developed a unique pottery style that is easily recognizable from the traditional stoneware of Edgefield District and local potteries in Texas. The noted changes were the handles and rims of the pots; but the most notable change from the previous pottery business was the name, “H. Wilson & Co.” stamped across the shoulder. Contemporary collectors easily distinguish the stamped pottery from other Southern and Texas pottery businesses.

H. Wilson & Co., American, c. 1869–1884
Jug
Salt-glazed stoneware
11 1/2 × 7 in. diameter
The Bayou Bend Collection,

William J. Hill Texas Artisans and Artists Archive. MFAH Collection. https://lnkd.in/e4acx54 (accessed 07 April 2019)

Five Gallon Jar

John McKamie Wilson (former slave owner) was a role model for Hyrum (Hiram) Wilson, co-founder of H. Wilson and Co. Pottery Business. However, it was the mentorship and financial support of Reverend Leonard Isley, a Baptist Missionary from Bangor, Maine, who provided the resources Hyrum (Hiram) needed to purchase large tracts of land in the Capote Hills (In Praise Hiram by Laverne Lewis Britt, 2005). The land was resold as homesteads which soon developed into a harmonious community. 10 acres were reserved for a church, a school, and a cemetery. The cemetery is still active.

H. Wilson & Co., also known as the “Wilson Second Site,” American, c. 1869–1884 Five-Gallon Jar
c. 1869–1884
Salt-glazed stoneware

17 × 10 in. diameter (43.2 × 25.4cm)
The Bayou Bend Collection, museum purchase funded by Patty and Allen Gage

William J. Hill Texas Artisans and Artists Archive. MFAH Collection. https://lnkd.in/er7S7hY (accessed 14 April 2019)

 

Three Gallon Jar

H. Wilson & Co. Pottery Business continued to thrive after Hyrum (Hiram) Wilson’s death in 1884. Research to date indicates the H. Wilson and Co. Business merged with The Durham and Chandler Pottery Business or the remaining potters joined them.

In 1869, M. J. Durham (a former potter at the Guadalupe Pottery Business), purchased the assets from the former owner John McKamie Wilson. He and partner John Chandler (a former slave) reopened at a new location as the Durham and Chandler Pottery Business. Scholars refer to this location as the Wilson Third Site.

H. Wilson & Co., also known as the “Wilson Second Site,” American,c. 1869–1884 Three-Gallon Churn
c. 1869–1884
Salt-glazed stoneware
15 1/4 × 8 in. diameter (38.7 × 20.3 cm)
The Bayou Bend Collection, gift of William J. Hill.

William J. Hill Texas Artisans and Artists Archive. MFAH Collection.
https://lnkd.in/e4qjaG7
(accessed 21 April 2019)

Durham Chander Wilson Pottery

The Durham-Chandler-Wilson Pottery Business (referred to as Wilson’s Third Site) continued to thrive until 1903 when the Salt Creek flood damaged the equipment in the Capote Hills of Guadalupe County, Texas.

The following chart denoted the style changes from the First Site in 1857-1869 to the Third Sites in 1869-1903.

Pottery selected from the William J. Hill Texas Artisans and Artists Archive. MFAH Collection. https://lnkd.in/dSEAjEB (accessed 28 April 2019)

 

Itinerant Potters

Itinerant (Tramp) Potters were the “YouTubers” of the late 19th Century. Distinctive styles emerged as they shared ideas and techniques from one location to the next. Isaac (I) Suttles of La Vernia, Texas, also worked for the Durham-Chandler-Wilson Pottery Business. Note the similarities in the rims of the jugs and the jars.

 

Pottery selected from the William J. Hill Texas Artisans and Artists Archive. MFAH Collection. https://lnkd.in/dSEAjEB (accessed 05 May 2019)

American Stoneware

The Art and Craft of Utilitarian Potters

by Georgeanna Greer

The Wilson Pottery Sites were dormant for more than half a century except for looters. Rediscovery dates for the sites are unclear, but a network of Antique Dealers/Collectors all point to the same source, Dr. Georgeanna H. Greer, the author of American Stonewares: The Art and Craft of Utilitarian Potters. Greer writes, “Ten years of working at throwing pots upon a wheel has brought me to the realization that this was a much more difficult craft than it had first appeared. I then understood that those who toy with this craft late in life are rank amateurs when compared with the craftsmen who made it their means of livelihood.”

 

In Helen Thompson’s article Going, Going Gone, published in TexasMonthly Magazine, 1992, she credits Dr. Greer with discovering the H. Wilson & Co. Pottery Site, she stated:

She roamed … rural Texas, and pieced together the shards of a forgotten history. In Texas her discovery of the Wilson pottery (a pre–Civil War enterprise in Seguin run by a family of slaves)…

https://lnkd.in/eU5EGGj (Accessed May 11, 2019)