VIDEO: The Antioch Colony
The Antioch Colony dates back to the 1860’s. It was a rural farming community formed during reconstruction by a group of freed slaves. Although freed from slavery, it was still difficult for African-Americans to purchase land. In 1859, Joseph F. Rowley, an anglo businessman, purchased 490 acres along Onion Creek. He began selling the property to former slaves for $5 an acre. In many of the deeds, it was said that African-American owners could not sell the property without Rowley’s consent. It’s believed Rowley did this to protect the new landowners from losing their property. When Rowley moved out of State the stipulation was rescinded and was filed in Hays County in 1913.
Minnie Nelson and Winnie Moyer have lived in the Antioch Community for most of their lives. They are descendants of the Antioch Colony’s early settlers. Today, the 81-year-old twin sisters live across from each other just off of Old Black Colony Road, on land that has been in their family for decades.
“We were born and raised here in Buda. My father and my mother had 11 children. My sister and I were the twins in the family. So five boys and six girls” said Minnie Nelson.
"My Daddy was a good Christian and so was my Mama. They loved each other and they did whatever they could for whatever races it was that wanted something from them'" said Winnie Moyer.
George and Emma Harper, Minnie and Winnie's parents, were one of several families who made up the Antioch Colony.
“Back in 1948 my father bought 10 and a half acres. My father and mother were farmers. They were Christian parents. Wherever he planted something, it grew. He was blessed with farming. We also raised sugarcane, corn, and cotton. My father also hired help to bail the hay,” said Nelson.
Minnie and her siblings worked hard on the farm and they were expected to do a little bit of everything.
“I participated in practically everything that was going on at the farm. I milked cows, slopped hogs, fed the chickens, drove a tractor and bailed hay.”
The Antioch Colony provided community for the Harper family.
“We had quite a few opportunities in doing things and growing up. We didn’t go to Buda too much because we had not need for it. There were certain places you could go and certain places you couldn’t.”
The colony had its own school that used to stand on property off of Old Black Colony Road. In 1874, Elias and Clarisa Bunton, who were original settlers of Antioch, donated the land for the school.
“They had a two room school. One side was the for younger children and the other side was for the older children. We had two teachers, one for each side. We had a brick school and it was built by some of the mason men in the colony.”
Due to segregation, students had to go to high school in Austin. Schools in Buda were desegregated in the late 1960s.
Church was a big part of life in the Antioch Colony.
“We had a Methodist Church and a Baptist church.One Sunday would be the Baptist program. The next Sunday would be the Methodist program. That’s how we participated with each church.”
The Antioch Colony was self-reliant. Aside from work purposes, most families had little reason to go into town.
“We didn’t go to Buda too much because we had not need for it. There were certain places you could go in and certain places you couldn’t, said Nelson. The white people, my Mother worked for them and my Daddy worked for them. They were very kind and intelligent people. We had some around that acted crazy. They would come over and buy syrup from my Dad. We didn’t have any problems with them. My Daddy ran into difficulty with some of the men."
Minnie and Winnie’s father had a simple piece of advice for his family on how to deal with racism.
“When people out there say something stupid, ignore them. God will take care of it. If they slander your name, ignore them." I was reading the paper and all the prejudiced people that we communicated with, I didn’t realize they were prejudiced. But we had a lot of white people stand up for this colony.”
That’s why years later, it was disheartening for the Harper family to find out that some of the people who stood up for the colony, actually had a very different view.
"I was reading the paper and all the prejudice people that we communicated with, I didn’t realize they were prejudiced. “A lot of people and the residents of Buda were against desegregation.”
By the time the 1950’s rolled around, many residents started moving away from the colony in search of better employment opportunities, including the Harper family. They moved to Arizona.
“It started changing when they didn’t have jobs and couldn’t go to school here. People moved out and died out, left their property and other people picked up the taxes on their property.”
But George Harper never sold his property. In the 1970’s, former residents began returning to Antioch, including Minnie and Winnie.
“I would dream about home. I kept dreaming and dreaming of me moving and I didn’t know why. So that was the reason, to salvage the land that was still here”
"Before daddy died we had five or six contractors came here and tried to get Daddy and Mama to move to a rest home. I said Mister, my brother and sisters ain’t going to sell you their property. I said, Daddy ain’t going to sell you his,” said Moyer.
That’s because for the Harper family, and others in the Antioch Colony, you can’t put a price on history.
"I thank God I’m here. I wouldn’t want to move no where else. I don’t care what they would want to give me."
Along Old Black Colony Road you will find the Antioch Community Cemetery. It is the final resting place of the first African American settlers in Hays County. Some of the oldest grave stones date back to the 1860's. George and Emma Harper, Minnie and Winnie’s parents, are also buried here. Minnie and Winnie say the legacy of the original settlers of Antioch, along with all of the families who made up the colony, lives on today. They don't want their history forgotten.”
And that means keeping historic names, like Old Black Colony Road.
“Everyone lives here now. But it is the estate of the black colony, so why get rid of it," said Nelson.
“God didn’t put me here to do all these things I have did and things that I have went through just to be here. He’s watching over us. I want the youngsters to realize, our youngsters, how important it was to want to be somebody," said Moyer.
“I want them to know that they are still here. We still have a few here trying to hold up the blood stained banner. And we are going to until the lord sees fit.”
MORE ABOUT THE ANTIOCH COMMUNITY CEMETERY
Located near Onion Creek on Old Black Colony Road is the Antioch Community Cemetery. The land for the cemetery was originally owned by Joseph F. Rowley, who sold it to African-American citizens for the purpose of colonizing, erecting a church and establishing a cemetery. (Hays County Historical Commission)
The Hays County Historical Commission will soon place a historical plaque at the site. It is being paid for by the commission's cemetery preservation fund. The plaque is expected to be placed at the cemetery in early 2019.
To locate the cemetery from Downtown Buda, take FM 967 toward Dripping Springs. Go .4 mile, and turn to the left immediately after crossing Onion Creek onto Cole Springs Road (County Rd 148). Follow this road for .1 mile to junction of Old Black Colony Road (County Rd. 147) and go approximately one-half mile farther. The cemetery will be on your right just before the road makes a sharp turn to the right.