Working with Trinity University history professor, and History Department Chair, Dr. Carey Latimore, Ph.D., and his students this semester has provided opportunities for field research in the San Antonio and south Texas region. We recently visited the Sweet Home African American settlement less than forty five minutes from downtown San Antonio. Mr. James Ussery, Mrs. Connie Quarles, and Mrs. Betty Young were gracious hosts at the Sweet Home Rosenwald School. Each shared personal memories of days growing up in the community. Each offered amazing details regarding the school band, softball team, girls gardening class, boys gardening class, mattress making in the girls home
economics class, and the produce canning plant. They described various ways that families and members of the settlement shared resources, skills, knowledge, and practical wisdom to maintain the community. Sustainable practices such as harvesting rain water from the school roof and use of local materials were part of everyday life. All retain vivid recollections of attending the Rosenwald School. They explained that the school served African American families from miles around, and outside the county. This made it necessary for a number of the male students to find room and board with nearby families and girls to stay in the dormitory across the road. Mr. Ussery also took time to guide
the students to the original Sweet Home Cemetery and point out the original church site, initially known as Elm Creek Baptist Church. The church name was changed to Sweet Home Baptist Church after a storm damaged the first structure and the congregation moved to its present site in 1906. The initial settlement formed around the Elm Creek Church beginning in 1864, and was one of the charter members of the Guadalupe Baptist District Association which formed in 1873. At one point the association covered more than a dozen counties, and more than 3,500 square miles. A number of San Antonio’s African American churches, such as Mt. Zion First Baptist, were active association members. Though many Sweet Home descendants eventually moved to the city of San Antonio and beyond, significant physical and cultural traces of the community remain.