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Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church at 17370 Sweed Road, Washington, TX 77880-5106 US - African American Catholic Community

African American Catholic Community

Believed to be the oldest African American Catholic community in Texas, this settlement traces its history to the late 1840s. The Spann families migrated to Hidalgo from South Carolina in 1948, bringing several slaves to the area.

A Catholic mission was established for the new settlers and the slave families worshipped with them at a log cabin called the Holy Rosary or Old Spann Chapel. The old Catholic cemetery, located near the log cabin, was the Spann family cemetery. The Spanns and the Sweeds (the slave families) are buried there, and it is still in use today.

In 1888 Martin Francis Huhn organized a mission specifically for the African American community, conducting Mass monthly in the log chapel. A separate chapel was constructed in 1936 by Father George Elmendorf and named Sacred Heart. In 1969 a church building and community hall were constructed at Post Oak on land deeded from the Spann descendants to the Seeds. The church structure named Blessed Virgin Mary Chapel. A new church building was completed in 1995 to serve the African American community in the Brenham area, descendants of the original Sweed families.

From Texas Historical Commission sign posted on site of current church.


The Catholic community at Washington was served intermittently over the years by visiting priests, some of whom risked their lives to make visits. Martha Sweed Walker, the community’s matriarch, recalled that one priest was beaten by whites angry at his association with the black Catholics. At other times, priests had to sneak under cover of darkness in order to visit the families.

Excerpt from a News8 Austin article, “Austin Diocese: In the beginning…” written by Brad Owens of the Catholic Spirit


The current church, built in 1995 is located on Sweed Road (CR 100) off SH 105 in Washington County, Texas. Our community consists of approximately 35 families, all descendants of the original Sweed families. We continue to be a small, but active community,  are served by an assigned priest and celebrate Mass twice a week


 We invite you to come and celebrate Eucharist with us.



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