Believed to be the oldest African American Catholic community in Texas, this settlement traces its history to the late 1840s, when the Spann family migrated with their slaves to the area from South Carolina. The settlers and the enslaved worshipped together at first in a log cabin called the Holy Rosary or the Old Spann Chapel, and the nearby Old Catholic cemetery, which is still active, contains markers for both the Spann family and their slaves, the Sweeds. African American Catholics formed their own distinct congregation here in 1888 under the leadership of Father Martin Francis Huhn, who conducted Mass in the same log building once used by the original settlers and slaves. Descendants of the Spann and Sweed families continued to share a connection through their Catholic heritage. In 1969, land deeded to descendants of the Sweed family by the Spann family became the site of a new church building, the Blessed Virgin Mary Chapel, and a hall for the African American Catholic community.
In 1995, the community constructed the newest church building in Washington, pictured above, which continues to serve the region’s Black Catholics, including descendants of the Sweed family.
Watch the following video to learn more about Freedmen's Communities in Texas. This video was produced for inclusion in the African Americans in Texas mobile tour found in our Texas Time Travel Tours mobile app. For more information about the mobile tour and African American cultural heritage in Texas, visit the African American Heritage theme page at the following link: http://texastimetravel.com/travel-themes/main-african-american-heritage