Arts in the Community Yesteryear

NC 22: The Pottery Capital of North Carolina’s Past

This is our second issue on Pottery in Randolph County, “NC Highway 22, the first “Potter’s Highway”. Renowned potter and historian Robert (Bob) Armfield highlights some of the most distinguished potteries from on and around NC Hwy 22 from Coleridge to New Salem. Before Seagrove and NC705 became famous for the pottery shops from that area, there was NC 22. The history of pottery, clay fields, and earthenware that thrived along this historic highway date as far back and the late 1600’s. Our first issue dealt with the pottery families from Coleridge up to Ramseur. In this issue,
Bob goes into detail about some of Ramseur and Franklinville potteries as well as sites across the Ramseur Brooklyn Bridge. The next issue will examine potteries through Grays Chapel, Red Cross, and up to New Salem.

My former boss Walter Auman, told me that old beer joints made good pottery shops. The building where Seagrove Pottery and Oakland Pottery started was originally beer joints. Later, our shop became the Hilltop Grocery and eventually, a personal dwelling.

When we opened the pottery in November 1977 many people were curious and wanted to tell
me of their connections to the pottery business. Looking back, it seems funny to remember three that
were close to the shop, just down the Old Siler City Road before you get to the creek.

Behind the shop, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Poindexter lived. Mr. Poindexter was a frequent visitor
and fellow craftsman, his medium being wood. The first story that I treasure came from his daughter
Evelyn, who made me aware that her husband was the grandson of potter J. Pascal Marable. We will
look at Marable more closely when we get near Cedar Falls.

Ruth McKinnon became a frequent customer and I found out shortly that she was Mrs. Auman’s
first cousin. Ruth’s father was Clarence Cole. Cole was a mover and shaker in the early art pottery
movement. Cole died young and will be remembered for his accomplishments with transition glazes,
especially chrome red and ferruginous washed salt glaze. He also built the first horizontal pug mill, using
an auger blade and the transmission of his Dodge truck.

My third visitor was Junior Staley. After I began building my groundhog kiln, Junior became
interested in being a brick mason and son of a potter. I had met his father, the Reverend Audy Staley, a
former potter, that Mrs. Auman had found alive during some of her research. Junior gave me one of his
trowels that I greatly value and will use as I now tear down the old kiln to rebuild it.

Closer to Ramseur my attention has been drawn to a potter named W .T. Hutson on whom I still
have limited information. Terry Zug in his book Turners and Burners. gives Hutson’s birth date as circa
1852 with no death date given. His work was extremely well-turned utilitarian stoneware and stamped
W. Hutson/Reed Creek PO NC.

Ramseur has its own Brooklyn Bridge. After crossing the bridge, the road split. Follow the left
towards “The Ridge” and Andrew Jackson (raven’s shop could have been found. Here he made salt
glazed utilitarian stoneware. In the 1970s Mrs. Auman stated that the walls and part of the chimney of
(raven’s groundhog kiln remained standing.

If you had taken the right fork and gone to the end of Brooklyn Ave. turned right, and right again
you would have been in the driveway of Archie and Yvonne Teague. Archie was the son of one of the
most talented potters of the twentieth century, James Goodwin Teague. Archie learned from his father
and uncle and turned pottery for C.C. Cole and later J.B. Cole where Yvonne also worked. Here Nell Cole
Graves would pay him by the hour instead of by the piece for some very difficult shapes.

In 1967 Archie, Yvonne, and Yvonne’s father, Homer Hancock opened the H&T Pottery on Mack
Rd. in Asheboro. The shop remained open until 1972 when economic conditions contributed to the
closing of a number of smaller pottery shops. Archie and Yvonne made many eye-pleasing shapes and
developed a palette of unleaded glazes with the help of Baxter Mackenzie.

For the next twenty-five years, Archie spent his working hours at the Asheboro Fire Department, but his mind never stopped thinking about what he was going to do after he retired. I met Archie in the 1980s through a mutual friend, Roger Hicks, who Archie worked with at the fire department. Mrs. Auman had told me so much about Teague that he was already my “hero” before we ever met.

One Saturday when I was having a great deal of difficulty with the arch of my kiln Roger told Archie I was stuck and he appeared and helped me in laying out the arch. He did this with a large piece of cardboard in the parking lot of the shop. He then educated me on how to build the arch. I began building the arch and expected to see Teague come to check on my progress and see if I was doing things correctly. I felt abandoned. Later, I found out from Roger that Archie was checking my progress daily. Ever being the teacher, he made sure I did everything correctly and only correcting when necessary.

As retirement neared Archie again made one of his appearances and said he would like to begin making pottery again. I asked if he would consider making pottery for our shop. He said he would think about it. The next day he had off he came by the shop and made fifteen pitchers. We agreed on a price of a dollar apiece. The next day off, Archie said he wanted to see what he “could do.” In an hour he made sixty candleholders. That added up to sixty dollars an hour. 1 wondered if I had just gone broke? Things sold quickly and I should never have worried. A little later Yvonne began making pottery for the shop also. When Archie came to the shop, I had become complacent with my work. He realized this and challenged me to improve. He would make a new shape. I would make at it, and he would say push that shape as far into space as you can before it falls, remember you can have a piece of great beauty or it could fall. What would you be happiest with?

Good things began to come to an end and the Teague’s first built a wood-fired kiln and shop on their pottery here in Ramseur. We would often hear Archie’s truck before we saw it on Saturday mornings. He would pull in the parking lot of the shop and would sell his ware to before they could get into the shop. Good-naturedly, he and Betty Jo would get into a shouting match with each other.

Archie had land on Hwy 705 where his grandfather had made pottery in a section called Longleaf. Here he built his shop and a wood-fired kiln. Here also, he helped develop the careers of many upcoming potters. Sadly, Archie and Yvonne left us too early. We have our cherished memories of them and the pottery that helps to brighten our world.
Another extension of a well-known pottery family in Ramseur could be found on Highway 64. Juanita Luther was the granddaughter of Seagrove area potter Henry Chrisco who made utilitarian ware until the late 1930s. Juanita proudly displayed a picture of Henry in front of his shop looking at a firing of churns, crocks, and jugs. After his death, Chrisco’s shop was given to the Smithsonian Institution for display there.

Juanita, her husband Horace, and son Chris (we adopted Chris as our “fourth son”) all learned to turn pottery. Juanita tended to gravitate to smaller items such as miniature tea sets. Horace was a good turner but his lifelong interest in mechanics helped him design a rheostatic powered pottery wheel. When Horace died, I needed to pass the sad news to fellow potter Faye Baker in Seattle, Washington. She was saddened by his death but said she remembered Horace daily, when she worked on the wheel, he made for her.

Our “son Chris” spent many hours learning to firewood kilns, turning, and trying to perfect the whole pottery-making process. Today he owns Chris Luther Pottery on the Jugtown Rd. near Seagrove. Chris has developed his own style of pottery with traditional influences like his grandfather and Archie Teague.
Now, close to fifty years ago Betty Jo and I met a leather craftsman at a show. We found out he was from Ramseur and his name was Tim Cox. Tim showed an interest in pottery. Over the years he has developed that interest and makes pottery in his basement. When you enter Zack White Leather, take a look at his pottery on the front wall.
To end this month’s journey, we travel across Highway 64 and travel toward Franklinville where would have found the pottery of another Craven with a most distinguished name. Emory John Vandervere Craven (1826-1910} was a contemporary of John Anderson (raven’s sons that we have previously looked at. His salt. – glazed ware was extremely well turned and well glazed. His ware was stamped, E JV Craven. During the War Between the States, Craven served in the Confederate Navy.

Next Month, Franklinville and beyond.

Arts in the Community

The Pottery Capital of North Carolina: Part 1

Introduction by WT Cox

There is no doubt that pottery production has been an important industry in the development of Randolph County.  Today, Seagrove can boast over 200 established potteries in and around the Seagrove “area”, and a large number of them along Highway 705. Many potters prefer to have a Seagrove zip code, even if they are not located within the Town Limits. Just having “Seagrove” in their mailing address sets many potters apart from other parts of the country.  Seagrove is indeed the pottery capital of North Carolina, and perhaps the USA as well, but this has not always been the case. Back in the 19th century, the center of pottery was still Randolph County, but it was centered pretty much along Highway NC22 from Coleridge to New Salem.  This area had an abundance of clay and water… two of the elements needed for pottery making.  The “True Potter’s Highway” was actually NC 22 back a century ago.  

The history of clay and pottery making here in Randolph County goes way back, even to a time before the American Revolution.  Today, when a farmer plows into a clay field, he usually will move onto the more fertile ground because clay is not suited for growing crops.  Many years ago, those deposits of clay were very valuable.  The clay deposits were the foundation for pots and earthenware vessels that were needed for everyday life. Earthen water jugs, plates, and pots have been used for a millennium, and the people who had the skill to craft these were highly respected. One of the earliest known potteries in Randolph County was C. Webster Pottery near Coleridge. Today only a few examples of this work are available and are regarded as some of the most expensive pottery ever to be produced in North Carolina, even regarded by some collectors as “priceless.” Webster, along with other names such as Fox, McGee, Brower, Cox, and Moffitt all had established potteries here in Southern Randolph County. When the railroad opened a spur to the tie yard near Seagrove, many potters began using this as a means to transport their wares to markets throughout the country.  Eventually, the Seagrove area became established as the “place” to be if you were a potter.  

In the early days, most pottery produced here was utility pieces.  They were water jugs, dishes, pots, and vessels used for everyday life.  The skilled craftsmen that turned and fired these primitive pieces in salt glaze kills would never have dreamed that their creations would be regarded in such high esteem as they are today.  Most potters did not bother to sign their names to their pots… only a mark or thumbprint was used to identify the individual potter.   Historians today are able to identify many of these early pots by their style and types of glaze.  Today, pottery is mostly made for ornamental purposes, but still, a good portion is used for dinnerware. A good example of the diversity in pottery making today is the works of Ramseur’s craftsman & potter Bob Armfield and Coleridge’s potter & folk artist Stacey Lambert. Bob’s Oakland Pottery creates some of the most desirable jugs, churns, and decorative pieces representing Randolph pottery’s traditional salt glaze style. Stacey is a great potter, but his work is mainly folk art and is fired using electric kilns. Both styles of pottery are highly prized and are unique to Randolph County. 

Bob Armfield had researched the history of early pottery in Randolph County, especially the NC Highway 22 corridor that was regarded at the Pottery Highway. Mr. Armfield has taught pottery at Randolph Community College for several years and is regarded as a master potter, turning some of the most delicate and intricate pieces. His Oakland Pottery is open to the public and located just south of Ramseur on NC 22.  The following is the first part of a three-part documentary Bob has done on the History of Pottery in Randolph County.  The first section is from the Coleridge area up to Ramseur.   We will be going all the way to New Salem in the upcoming next two issues.

Early Randolph County Potters

A Documentary By Bob Armfield

Today, Seagrove NC is considered the “pottery capital” of the United States with a couple of hundred shops scattered around the town and throughout the surrounding area. In 1974, there were fewer than ten established pottery shops in Seagrove. The rapid growth of pottery shops and stores that support them represent a major increase in the last 50 years. Today, most of the shops are located on or near Highway 705 that runs from Seagrove to Robbins. This has not always been the case.

In earlier times we might need to look at another road that runs from Coleridge to New Salem, with Ramseur in the center.  This is Highway NC 22.

First, let me introduce myself.  My name is Bob Armfield and I became interested in pottery through a computer error that placed me into a pottery class instead of the jewelry class that I wanted to take.  In the hope of graduation, I took the class and learned about the potters in the Seagrove area.

My wife Betty Jo and I came to Randolph County to teach and told my aunt and uncle, Evelyn and Cecil Cos that we wanted to visit some of the potteries; They provided us with a map and sent us on our way into the Seagrove area.  We saw so much that day and talked to an interesting character, Mr. M.L. Owen, who was building a potter’s wheel.  I told Mr. Owen I would love to have a wheel and he told me that he would be happy to build one for me (the Owen Special still sits in my turning room today).  Unfortunately, I had no place to put it.

My problem was shortly solved when Bill Johnson said he had a building that I could use.  When we walked behind the house, I found an old tobacco barn, chicken house, and mule stable under a number of very old oak trees.  These trees plus the fact that the property was part of the original Oakland Farm gave the shop its name.  Yes, this is the same building that I tried to plug the three-foot black snake into the electrical outlet.

The building served its purpose but soon became too small and I was told of an upcoming auction at the old Hilltop Grocery. Many of us will remember going there to get a coke and a pack of nabs.  I went to the auction with $3000 cash and a dream that I might be able to purchase the building for that small amount.  The auction started out fast and furious and I placed my bid of $2950.  I was ready to go home when Joe Lineberry stepped out of the crowd and said, “Boys, let him have it, he needs it,” and not another bid was heard.  We had a shop and fifty dollars to get the pottery started.

We opened in November 1977 at our present location and joined the potters that came before on the Highway 22 corridor.  Beginning at the first shop people began to come in and talk about their relative who had mate pottery.  The potters that will be discussed in this article will come from these conversations with our neighbors.  Beginning in Coleridge, we will travel north and end near New Salem.  

My Aunt Evelyn was one of the first to tell me my connection to North Carolina pottery.  I found that her father made pottery in Moore County.  William Murphy Williams learned to make pottery from an uncle.  Before her death, she gave me two pieces that he had made and last year Mr. Tim Carnford found a third that he graciously sold to me. 

We moved our church membership to Jordan Memorial when we moved to Ramseur in 1976 and became reacquainted with Madge Kivett. When I was younger, I would go into Craven Kivett and purchase clothing when I stayed with my aunt and uncle. Miss Madge found out about my interest in pottery and took the time to tell me about her family in Coleridge. She told of going to her grandfather’s home on Back Branch near Concord Cemetery and finding many pottery sherds in the creek. 

The shards dated back many years. “Miss” Madge was related to Peter Craven who in 1761 brought his family to Coleridge where he was given 571 acres and according to family legend, farmed and made pottery. There are no known Peter Craven pots and some say he did not make pottery. I tend to believe that there is always some element of truth in legend and the Georgia branch of the Craven family claims to have a lead-glazed fat lamp and pot made by the family patriarch.

Peter Craven eventually owned thousands of acres and we find Craven potters in a large swatch centering at the Craven homeplace. Peter’s son Thomas, grandson Solomon, and great-grandson Yancy Craven continued to make pottery there at the Peter Craven homestead.

Solomon Craven learned of a talented potter in Fayetteville and requested he come to Coleridge and make pottery for him. The pottery was long called the work of the Bird-Fish man. Today we know it was made by Chester Webster who worked for Solomon, his son Yancy, and later for himself. His home was across from the old Craven homestead. Webster’s decorated works sell for thousands of dollars today.

Yancy Craven was not only made pottery and farmed, but added a tailor’s shop, blacksmith shop, brickyard, and general store to his repertoire. There is a canning jar in the Ramseur Museum, though unsigned, which was made by Yancy Craven. It was given to the museum by Miss Madge.

Craven land was so vast that members tended to spread out from the homeplace. Going north from Coleridge and today a right turn on the Parks Crossroad Road and find another group of potters before getting to Hwy 64. 

What do potters need the most? The answer is clay. If one looks at the land between Jim Green’s and Johnny Cox’s there is a low-lying area that Mr. Cox took me to. It was at one time a brickyard. An interesting aside was that Bill Johnson found a sherd of Chester Websters in the area. I dug clay there but always had to keep a sharp eye out for a very unpleasant bull.

Turn right on Burgess Kivett Rd. and you are in the area of John Anderson Craven’s (1801-1872) kiln site. Craven and his sons, Jacob Doris (J.D.), William Nicholas (W.N.), Thomas Wesley (T.W.), and John Anderson (J.A.) made pottery there. J.D., W.N., and T.W. left their father’s shop and made ware near Moffit’s Mill before each becoming independent leaving only J.A. working near their father.

A few more miles toward Hwy 64 and a turn on Kildee Church Rd., where Himer Fox made ware for himself and J.F. Brower. In his recent book A History of Freemasonry and the Masonic Lodges in Randolph and Moore County, Wally Jarrell identifies a number of potters that made pottery with Masonic markings, and most came from this area. John Anderson Craven, Thomas Wesley Craven, John Anderson Craven the younger, Himer Fox, and John Franklin Brower used the Masonic Square and Compass on some of their wares. Mr. Jarrell also identifies the lodges where they were brothers. Mr. Ray Gilliland called me and asked if I could find some information on J. F. Brower a number of years ago. This was no problem and I went by to see Ray and Mrs. Gilliland and he proudly showed me a piece of Brower’s work with the Square and Compass, which he was very proud of. Mr. Gilliland was a Brother at the Marietta Lodge in Ramseur.

Backtracking to Hwy. 22 and crossing the river one of the major clay ponds that many local potters used was the Holly Spring Pond. My mentor, M.L. Owens found the pond around 1939 but could not find it later, when he and his son looked for it. He always said that he and I would go back to where he thought it was and we would find it. Melvin is now gone and the location of the clay pond is still a mystery. If any of the readers of the paper knows where the pond is please get in touch with the paper.

A very talented young lady from the Holly Spring area that has taken up pottery is Tara McGee. I had the privilege of having Tara in one of my classes when I taught at Randolph Community College and she has gone on to make some fabulous work. You can see some of Tara’s work at

Join us in next month’s issue, as we will travel to Ramseur and beyond. Click here to view.

Arts in the Community

Jesse Lynn

Blue Heron Bead and Craft Works is founded by NC artist, Jesse Lynn. She has been designing one-of-a-kind jewelry and accessory creations for women and men in this particular media for over 10 years. Each unique piece is assembled using a variety of media including hardware, new, old, re-purposed and re-claimed items along with high quality findings and chain. Elements are combined with J. B. Weld, jump rings, rivets and wire. By using common and uncommon items together, each creation is as unique as the wearer.

Find her around the Web:

Arts in the Community

Jeanette Egan – Wood Burning Artist

As a wood burning artist for several years, Jeanette incorporated acquired artistic skills into creating one of a kind pieces to tell a story. Her primary focus is to create custom artwork that inspires, encourages and brings a smile. She is Featured Artist March 2019 for Fox News Art and Crafts segment of “Roy’s Folks”. She utilizes salvaged wood, processing as much of the wood as possible to create a variety of sizes and multiple uses for the art. She enjoys teaching workshops on the art of Pyrography as a means of relaxation and self-expression.
Find her around the Web:
Business: J. Egan Designs
Instagram: @j.egan_designs