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Austin Treasures: Online Exhibits from the Austin History Center Austin Treasures Home Austin History Center Home

photo: country road Just Outside Austin: Rural Travis County Communities

Travis County | North Travis County | Pflugerville
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Manchaca | West Travis County | Northwest Travis County | Wheatville

The namesake of Wheatsville Grocery is the early Black community of Wheatville, founded after the Civil War just northwest of the city limits, bounded by today's streets of 24th, 26th, Leon, and San Gabriel. The area was first settled in 1869 by James Wheat, a freed slave. A number of freed slaves bought small lots in the area to get "away from the dust and filth of the city so their children would have more room to play, and...Here they [got] enough sunlight and more fresh air."

Overtaken and absorbed by the city of Austin, Wheatville was surrounded by white neighborhoods in the 1920s. Black families moved to East Austin, in accord with Austin's first plan, to be closer to schools and other services which were consolidated on the east side by the 1930s.

Group photograph of the students at the Wheatville School The Wheatville School was built by Travis County in the late 1870s at the northwest corner of Longview and 25th Streets. After serving for decades as one of the county's several schools for Black children, the building was moved in 1933 to the Rosewood School site, where it was used as a temporary school and a lunchroom. This photo of teacher J.H. Pickard's class was taken around 1907. Photograph courtesy of Carver Museum.
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Portrait of Reverend Jacob Fontaine The Reverend Jacob Fontaine was a prominent resident of the Wheatville community. He had arrived in Austin in 1839 as a slave of the Reverend Edward Fontaine, who became the pastor of St. David's Episcopal Church. As the number of Black parishioners grew following the Civil War, Jacob Fontaine helped organize the First Baptist Church Colored on the lot where the Austin History Center stands today. In later years he organized five other churches throughout Travis County, including New Hope Baptist Church in Wheatville.
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Photograph of limestone building located on corner of 24th and San Gabriel
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Reverend Jacob Fontaine lived in this building at the northwest corner of Orange (24th) and San Gabriel from 1877 until his death in 1898. In this building, Fontaine also conducted church services, operated a grocery and laundry, and published The Gold Dollar newspaper, the first Black newspaper in Austin. Rev. Fontaine also is credited with helping persuade Blacks throughout Texas to vote for Austin as the location for the State University in the election of 1881. The Franzetti family operated a grocery store in the building from 1916 to the 1960s, and the family still owns the building. As the only visible remnant of the earlier Black community of Wheatville, the building continues to remind the surrounding university population of earlier times.
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