Yesteryear

Pottery of North Carolina

Like many towns on the Deep River, one cannot imagine how busy Franklinville was and how many potters it could support. One of the oldest was Enock Spinks Craven {1810-1893). Craven produced salt-glazed utilitarian stoneware and taught his nephew James Madison Hayes (1832-1922) to make pottery in his shop. Hayes made
pottery in Franklinville before moving to New Salem in 1870.

Hayes may have been one of the unluckiest soldiers in the Civil War. In his book, The Randolph Hornets In The Civil War, Wally Jarrell includes a picture of the heavily bearded Hayes, who enlisted in Company M on Monday 6 March 1862. Hays was captured and imprisoned three times and released twice before the end of the war.

I visited Lindsey Lambeth at The North Carolina Pottery Center in Seagrove to get pictures of both Craven and Hays’’ pots. Lindsey made the valuable observation that he wished both potters had stamps with deeper indentations for it is difficult at times to read their names.

When I think of 19th century Franklinville potters, the “3Ms” come to my mind. The “3Ms” is a term that I coined for the Marable, Moffitt, and McCoy families of potters. All of which were related by marriage. Many years ago, I received a phone call from Dorothy Auman. She told me to drop everything and meet her near Moffitt’s Mill. She did not elaborate, but upon arriving I found that a bulldozer had unearthed the pottery site of Jesse Moffitt. The hillside was covered with pottery sherds and jug necks made by three different potters. The three potters were Jesse, and his sons Manley Robinson Moffitt (1835-1913) and Elijah Kelly Moffitt (1836-1910).

There is only so much room on a farm or pottery and as one generation grows and starts their own family, it becomes necessary that some leave their homes. Kelly Moffitt left the Moffitt’s Mill area and moved to Franklinville, while his brother Manley first established a pottery near Flags Springs United Methodist Church, before moving near his brother in Franklinville. Both turned high-quality salt-glazed utilitarian stoneware. Manley’s son, William Jasper Moffitt {1864-1936) was the last Moffitt to turn ware in the Franklinville area. His ware was marked Willy J. Moffitt. Willy J. was the great grandfather of local funeral homeowner, Bill Craven.

The second of the “3M” family of potters will be found in Cedar Falls. John Pascal Marable (1856-1932) was the grandson and namesake of potter Pascal McCoy. He is probably the most important potter that many are unaware of. Marable was a journeyman potter who had a route, filling one shop and then going to the next. He did not build his own shop until 1925, just seven years before his death. Beside turning quality stoneware, Marable’s importance as a teacher was instrumental in the emergence of two families that would bridge the change from utilitarian stoneware to art pottery.

Melvin Owens told me that his grandfather’s shop was one that employed Marable, and it was Marable who taught Owen’s sons, James Henry {1866-1923) and Rufus {1872-1948) to turn pottery. These two Owens potters had 9 sons who would be instrumental in the art pottery movement.

While I was working at Seagrove Pottery, I had the pleasure of meeting James Auman on one of his infrequent trips to North Carolina. He was interested in seeing the Potters Museum and I was able to be his guide.

Mr. Auman gave me an education about his family’s contribution to North Carolina pottery and the clay that became known as Auman clay. According to Cole family lore, Benjamin Franklin Cole had a dream about a pure white clay. The next morning, he set out with a bucket and shovel, found the clay, and traded his land for it. Frank Cole sold his shop to Jerome Auman, who would continue to make pottery there with the help of Pascal Marable.

The Auman clay was sought after because of its color and surface texture. Around the turn of the century, white China became attainable to some and the potters tried their best to imitate it. The Auman clay was excellent to create the look the homeowner desired. The clay was problematic, often cracking while turning and also drying. Only the best turner could produce the shapes they desired.

James Auman was pleased to see examples of his family’s work and even identified some that he had turned. We moved along to the stoneware and he saw a jug signed JP MaraBle. In his excitement, he told me that Pascal worked for his grandfather and was instrumental in his sons learning to turn ware. Thus, the second family Marable educated that would make the change from utilitarian to art ware. Auman described Marable as tall and thin and related a story of his family’s fondness for Marable. Long after Marable left the Auman’s employment he received a visit and was taken on a picnic by the entire Auman clan, who had boarded cars and traveled from Seagrove to Cedar Falls. At the end of the Sunday afternoon Marable did not want them to leave, and this was the last time that they would see him alive. Wally Jarrell identified another soldier-potter in the Grays Chapel area. His name was William Clay Routh (1835-1910) and he enlisted in Company Mon 10 June 1861. In 1870 he and Manley Robinson Moffitt filed an Article of Agreement to produce stoneware pottery. Throughout his life he is listed as a farmer and potter on the census records. Routh stamped his ware WC Ruth. He is buried at Grays Chapel United Methodist Church.

Joseph Sand Pottery can be found at 2555 George York Rd. Randleman, NC. This is a little confusing to me because the shop seems closer to Central Falls. Joseph apprenticed under Mark Hewitt in Pittsboro, NC. Hewitt is an interesting character. His father worked for Spode in England and he was one of the last apprentices of Michael Cardew, one of the greatest English potters of the 20th century. Sand is known for his extremely large pots. He has sales a number of times a year and you can receive information about them at www.josephsandpottery.com. His wood fired kiln reminds me of an overturned boat.

Hal and Elanor Pugh have done an amazing job of documenting the Quaker potters in the New Salem area forms the late 18th to early 19th century. These potters were producing lead glazed earthenware, some with intricate slip decorations. Peter Dicks, Henry Watkins, and William Dennis all made pottery here. Peter Dicks was perhaps the first potter in the area and possibly influenced William Dennis in the pottery trade, who in turn influenced Watkins. All were neighbors and were members in good standing of the Friends Meeting. Being a staunch abolitionist William Dennis took a freed black, George Newby, as an apprentice in 1813. Newby’s apprenticeship was completed around 1822, the year that Dennis left North Carolina for Richmond, Indiana.


James Madison Hays moved to New Salem and eventually purchased the Dennis pottery property. He and his brother Eli continued to produce the utilitarian salt glazed ware that he had made in Franklinville.

Today on the Dennis pottery site Hal and Eleanor Pugh have their New Salem Pottery and produce slip decorated earthenware reminiscent of early Quaked slipware. The pottery can be found at 789 New Salem Rd. Randleman, NC 27316 or online at www.newsalempottery.com. Their scholarship and craftmanship is seen in every pot that they produce. From our start in Coleridge to our ending in New Salem we have seen a history of pottery that is still being made today. Our earliest earthenware potters are found near Coleridge and New Salem. Families like the Cravens, who begin near Coleridge eventually move into the Seagrove area near highway 705. J. D. Craven, who was born near our house goes to the area around Longleaf and teaches the Hancock, Chrisco, and Teague families to make pottery. Pascal Marable helps to establish the Auman and Owens potters. Perhaps the Highway 22 corridor should be recognized as once being the center of pottery production in Randolph County with Ramseur being as its epicenter.

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