'One-of-a-kind' church still standing in Guadalupe County

Built by former slaves, Capote Baptist Church in need of restoration

By Jessie Degollado - Reporter

Built by "freedmen" as former slaves were known back then, Capote Baptist Church near Seguin is still standing after 144 years.

“This is kind of one-of-a kind, very rare, “ said Everett Fly, both an architect and landscape architect known for preserving African-American landmarks.

Fly, who is from San Antonio, was honored last year by President Barak Obama with the National Humanities Medal for his work around the country.

He was called on to assist the descendants of Hiram Wilson, who founded Capote Baptist Church in 1872, with their efforts to someday get a historical designation from the state of Texas.

Wilson was a slave who became a potter. His pieces of work are still in high demand. Many are on display the Sebastopol House in Seguin.

Fly oversaw the exploratory work beginning in 2012, revealing the building’s construction and what would be needed for an authentic restoration.

Fly said, “It would be a costly effort that we believe worthwhile.”

He said Capote is one of the few original, African-American churches left, many dating back to the end of the Civil War. “We know who the living descendants are, who the original pioneers are and we can, as they say, connect all those dots,” Fly said. 

Fly said he still remembers driving past the white, wood-frame church 40 years ago.

“Just to be able to see it, whole and complete, undisturbed, was very striking,” Fly said.

When he returned, Fly said the effects of time were obvious.

He said not only had the building’s pier and beam foundation settled six inches, there was a wild vine overtaking one end of the church.

Fly said the building also was remodeled at one point, with a drop ceiling and sheetrock that were removed to reveal the original interior. He said there was no architect, no engineer in those days, only the on-the-job skills the freedmen had learned from others.

Fly said as an example, he found they used a framing technique dating back to the cathedrals of France in the 1400s.

“It’s exactly the same structural system, but they used native materials, pine siding and cedar posts,” Fly said.
Fly said if the church is restored, “I think it would be a great educational resource.”

Feeling the presence of her great grandfather who founded the church, Cheryl Mims said as she sat in one of the church pews, “This is something we need to do for you.”

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