I had given stoneware little thought beyond gross chronological value on historic sites. Then I was sent to survey the Meridian Naval Air Station in Lauderdale County, in the nearly mountainous piney woods of south east Mississippi. One of my schoolmates, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Tribal Archaeologist Ken Carleton, had previously investigated a late 19th and early 20th century stoneware pottery on the base, and I conducted further investigations, as well as finding macroscopically similar sherds on neighboring historic sites. In my reading preparation for the Phase I report, I found that very little investigation had been made of the stoneware potters of the Mid-South. Thus began my interest in the topic, and over the years I have gradually and opportunistically accumulated information on the potteries of Mississippi and Arkansas, as well as reading whatever I could find from the surrounding better-documented states. The Arkansas data was published in the 2003 Arkansas Archeologist and I plan to submit the Mississippi data to Mississippi Archaeology.
Conner kiln, Benton Co. Mississippi
The Mississippi Stoneware Industry
I’ll start by saying that I am primarily a prehistoric archaeologist, and that investigating stoneware potteries is mostly a hobby for me. In 1996, I directed the survey of Meridian Naval Air Station, site of the Vestal Wedgeworth pottery. Since that time I have been gathering information on Mid-South stoneware potters, and I have published a summary for Arkansas. I have a few copies of that article available today. In contrast to the Ohio valley and some southern states like the Carolinas, Alabama, Tennessee and Texas, the Mississippi and Arkansas stoneware industries are poorly documented. In the Midsouth, only Alabama and Tennessee have been well-studied. My work has drawn on the people who have spoken today, and my findings echo theirs. Early geological surveys are the main basis for the descriptions of most of the potteries I will discuss today. By the postbellum period, the Ohio Valley was supplying most of the nation’s ceramics. In 1880, the U.S. had over 7,000 potters, a third of them immigrants. Only 340, less than 5% of all potters, were in the former Confederate states, and of these only 19 were Mississippians. By 1912, pottery accounted for less than one percent of the value of the state’s clay products, which were mostly brick and tile.
Across the Gulf South, the Wilcox formation is the primary source for stoneware clays, but some upland regions have other suitable clays. The Tuscaloosa formation outcrops in Itawamba and Monroe counties in northeast Mississippi and adjacent Marion and Lamar counties, Alabama. This area has had a concentration of traditional potters since the mid 19th century. These have been investigated and reported by James Cormany, who is here today. Tuscaloosa clays are generally sandy, sometimes with fine pebbles. Many exposures of the Tuscaloosa formation in road or railroad cuts have been used for stoneware. In 1909, Itawamba County’s small hand potteries had a very local trade, but by the time a geologist with the state, who happens to have a name associated with the folk pottery tradition, Vestal, revisited Itawamba County for a more thorough geological survey there was a railroad that allowed some export of their products. During the Depression, Vestal found a number of small “jug factories” in operation, some of them the same potters noted in 1909. The 1840 census reported only one pottery in Mississippi, Peter Cribbs of Ohio’s shop in Monroe County. Another early northeast Mississippi potter was Billy Rye, from Tennessee and later Alabama, where he used alkaline glaze. In 1909 Logan described a plastic blue clay from south of Fulton used “many years ago” by W.M Cheney. Also associated with Itawamba County is the Loyd family, who moved from Tennessee, to Marion County, Alabama, before spreading into northeast Mississippi, near Tremont, and in 1879 patented the stoneware grave marker. They sold the rights to its manufacture to other potters. Their own grave markers were salt glazed with some cobalt decoration. In the 19th century, James Davidson’s pottery at Whitney produced tombstones as well as cream colored vessels. Davidson had used Albany slip and burned in two 650 gallon kilns. He is one of the Davidson Brothers who later operated in Alabama. In 1909, the E.P. Kennedy pit and pottery factory south of Whitney produced 7000 to 8000 gallons per year. Like the Davidsons, there were numerous Kennedy potters in North Carolina. The W.A. Summerford pottery and clay pit was south of Whitney. By 1909, the clay exposure had been used for “a number of years” to make about 5000 gallons annually. The clay was mixed and then weathered in open log bins and crushed in a vertical pug mill. D.E. Summerford, near Bexar on the Mississippi-Alabama state line, made Bristol slipped, cobalt decorated stoneware throughout the Depression and until sometime around or after World War II. Around 1900, John Plunkett had a small pottery on the Bexar road, producing about 2000 gallons per year. Logan reports that Plunkett’s clay as similar to Kennedy’s. Adjacent parts of Monroe County also had several potteries in the early and mid 20th century. In 1943 Vestal and McCutcheon described the clay from Bull Mountain Creek, used by the Suggs pottery, as some of Mississippi’s best. In 1943, the Suggs operation was a small but well-equipped pottery with a brick clay bin, motor-powered wheel, and a kiln with a few hundred gallons capacity. The ware was sold locally through peddling. The Sugg family is probably another North Carolina connection. The Smithville or Mills and Son pottery, discontinued prior to 1943, used a mule-powered pugmill, kneaded by hand, and cut the kneaded balls to size throwing on a kick wheel and burning in a wood-fired kiln. Their wares included flowerpots as well as the usual jugs and churns and these wares were sold at the plant and by peddling. Mills Smithville pottery used many different clays, including an iron-stained clay dug at Johnson Hill (found to be too sandy) and a Panther Valley clay (not sandy enough). The 1947 geologic survey of Itawamba County also mentions the J.B. Young pottery.
Turning to the Eocene age Wilcox formation clays of central Mississippi, the stoneware manufacturers of Marshall County were some of the largest and most successful to have operated in Mississippi. Holly Springs was a railroad junction ideally suited for mass marketing, and there are some vague indications of antebellum potting there. As these were industrial than folk potteries, I will limit my discussion of the Holly Springs potteries. There were three main operations, that of the Smyths, from County Fermanagh, northern Ireland, and the larger factory run and largely staffed by men from the German states. The Smyth family arrived in Mississippi around 1869, after passing through Illinois and Missouri. Their initial 1870 investment was around $600, but by 1880 they employed 10 men and had an annual production of $4500. Stamped vessels from Sam and Pat Smyth’s factory are displayed at the Marshall County Historical Museum. Two of Patrick’s sons were also potters, but two younger sons were farm laborers, and by 1900 he was retired to a farm. The 1870 census lists a second Holly Springs potter, H.W. Steinbiss, who likewise employed 2 men, and produced $3000 worth of stoneware on a $1000 investment. By 1880, Steinbiss had tripled his capitalization and employed 18 hands. By this time the annual production was worth $15,000. The 1900 census shows Albert Herr, one of the 1880 potters, as a manufacturer of stoneware. The operation was successful enough that Herr, and the manager, Joshua Leach of Tennessee, sent their children to school and placed them in commercial and mercantile operations. Unlike the Smyths, none of their children worked in the pottery, but other several Southern white youths did. By 1909-1915, the Holly Springs Stoneware Co., Mississippi’s only active steam-powered pottery, produced an extensive line of stoneware with a chaser or wet pan, turning and molding machinery and coal-fired down-draught “beehive” kilns with an annual capacity of half a million gallons. The products had a white body and Albany slipped rim. A third large factory in Holly Springs prior to WWI, the Allison Stoneware Co., used a steel vertical pug mill, 2 throwing wheels, Albany slip and two circular kilns. This may be the successor to the Smyth operation.
Near Ashland in adjacent Benton County, two generations of the Conners family produced pottery in the mid 20th century. This is one of the two Mississippi “folk” potteries documented by the Smithsonian Institution, but the influence of the industrial pottery was strong. Their 1959 kiln stands beside Highway 72. The elder Conner was from St. Louis, but left home at 17 to become a potter at Holly Springs. After working at many potteries in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Oregon, he settling in Texas, became a manager and helped build the first large beehive kilns at Marshall Pottery, and his sons learned to throw in the Marshall shop, which originated from a Missouri and Arkansas potting family, the Wilburs. In 1940, Conners moved back to north Mississippi, and began their own pottery. The son’s military service forced the operation to close until 1946, but in the 1950s and 60s, the shop had 35 workers making jiggered, cast and turned ware for gardens and charcoal stoves as well as some traditional utilitarian forms.
Wilcox clay also outcrops in Calhoun County, where it was used in the 1880s in B.F. Ussery’s small pottery. He seems to have had more than one kiln site. Lafayette Glass may also have been associated with the Ussery pottery in his last years. Like so many of the potters we have heard about today, the itinerant Glass was a factor in the dissemination of the potting trade. Glass was born in Tennessee in 1830, in the 1850s and 60s he worked in many potteries in Texas and Arkansas. Before the Civil War, Glass bought the slave potter Oliver Harris and Glass and the Freedman Harris continued to work together after the Civil War, when they moved to Benton, Arkansas, and were instrumental in the development of that central Arkansas town’s major pottery industry. Like the products of the many northeast Mississippi shops, most Benton products are white slipped and sometimes cobalt decorated. By 1880 Lafayette Glass was living in Yalobusha County, Mississippi, with B.F. Ussery, where he died before 1890. Usserys also potted in Alabama in the 19th century, so it is not unexpected that he followed family’s Carolina tradition of alkaline glazing.
Slightly further south along the trend of the Wilcox formation we find one of Mississippi’s main concentrations of small-scale folk potteries. In 1907, there was a small hand pottery at Cumberland in Webster County that had closed by 1909. This may be the same pottery as J.P. Thomas’ that used an iron-spotted clay from Cumberland for around 2000 gallons a year of brown slipped stoneware. By 1909, three generations of the Loyd family had made stoneware in a small hand pottery in Winston County. Apparently this is the same Loyd family already discussed in connection with the Tuscaloosa clays of north Mississippi and Alabama. A railroad ran through central Winston County, so there may have been some far-flung marketing of the Loyd and Stewart products. The Stewart operation in Louisville in Winston County has been one of Mississippi’s most successful multi-generational traditional stoneware potteries. In 1909, Logan noted “Homer Stewart’s small hand pottery produced 4,000 gallons a year of Albany-slipped ware with a 500 gallon-capacity updraught kiln. Homer Stewart established his Winston County pottery around 1890 and three of Homer’s sons became potters and a daughter married an employee who was a member of the Brown potting family of Alabama. The Smithsonian Institution interviewed Homer’s son Gerald, and this study of the 1980s shop provides many important details about the modern traditional potteries. There have been at least 4 shop locations associated with the Stewart family in the 20th century, but none have been documented archaeologically.
Logan notes that “other small potteries have existed in this neighborhood for short periods” and the WPA county history mentions two other early Winston County potters. Holland Leopard and his son Thad had a “jug factory” in southwest Winston County by the 1860s. Other Leopard have been alkaline glaze potters between the East Coast and Texas. C.T. Crowell began to throw pots in east Winston County at the age of 15 in 1876. He hauled his wares in wagons for sale “over surrounding counties” until he retired in 1932. The 1938 county history also states that there have been potters in Winston County almost from its establishment, and that one was near Betheden. A late 19th century pottery near Betheden was discovered by archaeological survey on the Tombigbee National Forest. 22-Wi-692 has a dense concentration of brick, kiln furniture, salt slag and stoneware sherds. Some churn/crock shoulder sherds are stamped “GWM.” In 2002, I conducted testing of this site, documenting a standstone and brick trench kiln with sand floor and an extensive waster dump. Spacers are square to rectangular and cut from rolled slabs and thrown saggars were used. The ware was grey-bodied and salt glazed. Churns and jugs are the main forms identified, but reed-stem pipes and cemetery ware were also produced. The materials recovered are highly reminiscent of those the Arkansas Archeological Survey has recovered from Dallas County, Arkansas, sites associated with the Byrd family and the men they trained, in ware, technology, salt glazing, and kiln furniture. Dallas County in southwest Arkansas has the largest exposure of the Wilcox in that state.
In the next county to the east, Noxubee, in1868 two Freedmen, Bill Jones and Mike Grimate, from Alabama, discovered a good clay, began a shop and sold their wares in the surrounding countryside. The Jones and Grimate families, the only black potters so far documented in Mississippi, worked in the trade on a small scale until at least 1926. Continuing to the south, in Neshoba County, a pottery was established by Darling B. Yates who died in 1861. The Rushing pottery near laurel in Jones County also began in themed 19th century.
The Vestal and then later Wedgeworth Pottery is one of the few Mississippi potteries to have been archaeological tested. This pottery at Lockhart in Lauderdale County changed hands several times after it was begun by Vestal around 1870. Vestal’s establishment was upgraded to a steam pottery and Wedgeworth’s large line included milk pans, pitchers, spittoons, safe stands or ant guards, flowerpots, ornamental terracotta, and tombstones. The Wedgeworth pottery, which had crated and shipped on the Mobile & Ohio railroad, was out operation by 1909. Gums’ study of the Mobile Bay potteries describes the Scottish McAdam family, who worked briefly at the Lockhart pottery, in1880-81. This vagrancy of potters across wide regions, is a recurrent theme in the lives of many Southern potters. An letter from James McAdam describes the Lockhart pottery as a “large factory; I can make 2 or 3 dollars per day—and Johnnie can make about 11/2 dollars per day—he is improving fast. They also had a free house where they were “happier than we have been since we came to America,” but by 1881, James was working at the Pinson, Tennessee, pottery. There was apparently also a Meridian Stoneware Company plant in Meridian itself around the turn of the last century and Lauderdale County clay was also shipped by rail to a Cuba, Alabama, plant which used this clay for many years.
In south Mississippi, the Miocene age Pascagoula and Hattiesburg formations of the Gulf Coastal Plain also supported potteries early in the history of the state, but since I am from north Mississippi, I haven’t been able to document much about them. Unmarked stoneware is said to have been made in Rankin and Marion Counties in the 1850s, and at the Natchez landing by 1848. Corps of Engineers work there has found some wasters from this pottery. The Gulf Coast counties of Harrison and Jackson have also had minor ceramic industries, perhaps comparable to those Gums has described from Mobile Bay. The most important was the Mayers shop in Biloxi from the 1850s till around 1900.
Implications for Mississippi Archaeology
Stoneware first attracted my interest because its manufacture and use is indicative of a past lifestyle that emphasized self-sufficiency. It is a common belief that the South hasn’t produced much of worth besides raw materials—mostly cotton and lumber--but the manufacture of stoneware was one of the few local industries in the rural South.
Some Southern historians have said that the Scotch-Irish stockmen, and their small farmer descendants, had a great deal of “self-reliance” and that the Black tenants who grew Mississippi’s cotton relied on someone else to supply their needs and wants. But is this true? Stoneware was used in a time when most people, if they had such things as yeast bread, butter, pickles, wine, beer, molasses, and preserves at all, typically made them at home. I hope the last page of the handout will get some of you to thinking in terms of function and the role of stoneware in households. In addition to the population schedules, Federal Censuses collected statistics on agricultural production. Comparison of population to the production of such things as milk, garden produce, wine and hops could produce figures that would stand as a surrogate for per capita use of stoneware.
The stereotype of the descendant of the Ulstermen as hunters, cowboys and less romantically today, hog drovers, abounds in descriptions of the Old Southwest. Pork, from hog-killing and the smokehouse to fatback in the peas, is undoubtedly a central icon in Southern memorials of the recent past, but on closer examination, a bowl of corn bread-and-buttermilk may run a close second in recollections of “home down on the farm”. Milk and butter production have a distinctive signature in the archaeological record--bowls or milkpans for cooling and scalding milk, churns, and butter storage crocks. By neglecting stoneware, we neglect many of the main issues that archaeology can address, from consumer choice and marketing networks to household supply and foodways. The materialism of archaeology has a role to play in reconciling myth with historical reality by examining physical aspects of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Delta sharecroppers have, no less than the Scotch-Irish, been constructed as a historical myth. The purported dependence of the tenant on the plantation commissary and of the planter on bankers, cotton factors, and the urban supply hubs are two facets of this story as popularly construed. A diet of cornbread and bacon unrelieved with fresh or commercial produce is an aspect of the myth that has Black tenants as pure commercial laborers without time or means to provide themselves food to supplement the “furnish” of their landlord. Yet many of the recent Sunflower River survey tenant house sites had high proportions of stoneware. Delta sharecropping has barely been investigated archaeologically. If we did, would we find that the tenants were making wine and beer, or that some had milkcows? Would we find that their stoneware was made in the steam-powered factories of the Ohio Valley, or on kick wheels in the clearings of the Mississippi hills?
Birmingham Art Museum
Folk Pottery/Stoneware Symposium
Stoneware Potters and Potteries in Mississippi
Firm or potter town/locality county date
(early Adams County potter) Natchez Adams 1845-1854?
Allison Pottery Co. Holly Springs Marshall ca. 1907
J.S. Brongs? Holly Springs Marshall 1880
Horace V. Brown Louisville Winston 1935-1940
William B. Brush Tippah 1850
Charles T. Conner Holly Springs Marshall ca. 1900
Charles T. Conner Ashland Benton 1940-1950s
Howard Conner Ashland Benton 1946-1970s
Peter Cribbs Monroe 1829-1830s
C.T. Crowell ? Winston 1876-1932
W.M. Cheney Fulton Itawamba late 19th cen.
Cumberland Pottery Cumberland Webster ca. 1907
James Davidson Pottery Miston Itawamba ca. 1907
Waldo Davis Holly Springs Marshall
Davis Bros. Smithville Monroe
Lafayette Glass ? Calhoun/ ca. 1880
H.H. Glover Holly Springs Marshall 1880
Mike Grimate ? Noxubee by 1867-1920s
Albert and CJ Herr Holly Springs Marshall ca. 1870-1930
Holly Springs Stoneware Co. Holly Springs Marshall ca. 1907
John C. Humphries Itawamba 1875-1900
EJ Humphries Itawamba 1900-1920s
H. and/or E.P. Kennedy Pottery Miston Itawamba ca. 1907
Bill Jones ? Noxubee by 1867-1920s
Charley Ketson Holly Springs Marshall 1880
John W. Kettson, apprentice Holly Springs Marshall 1880
Solon King & B.P. Mills Gulfport Harrison 1927
Martin Knabel Holly Springs Marshall 1870
Lauderdale Pottery Lauderdale Lauderdale 20th cen
H.P. Lavender Lauderdale Lauderdale 20th cen
Joshua Leach, manager Holly Springs Marshall 1900
Holland Leopard Winston ca. 1850-
Thad Leopard ? Winston til ca. 1900
Henry Littleton/Littlejohn, laborer Holly Springs Marshall 1900
Loyd Pottery Webster Winston ca. 1907
J.A.M. Loyd ? Winston ca. 1909
Lockhart Pottery Co. Lockhart Lauderdale ca. 1907
James, John and Peter McAdams Lockhart Lauderdale part of 1880
(early Marion County potter) Hart Marion ca. 1859
(early Marshall County potter) Marshall ca. 1854
Mayer & Son Biloxi Harrison 1856-1890
Joseph F. Mayer Biloxi Harrison 1890-1900
Meridian Stoneware Co. Meridian Lauderdale prior to 1909
Mills & Son Smithville Monroe
(early Monroe County potter) ? Monroe 1840
Bart/Brit Moore, laborer Holly Springs Marshall 1900
Charles Pallis?, fireman/foreman? Holly Springs Marshall 1900
Peppertown Pottery ? Itawamba 20th c.?
Plunket & Sallis Tremont Itawamba ca. 1907
John Plunket ? Itawamba ca. 1909
(early Rankin County potter) Brandon Rankin ca. 1854
BJ and OE Rushton Laurel Jones prior to 1860
Billy Rye Smithville Monroe ca. 1860
Scruggs ???Pottery Smithville Monroe
Tom Schwab, laborer Holly Springs Marshall 1900
Anton Schoob (Schaab) Jackson Marshall 1870s
Shearwater Ocean Springs Jackson 20th cen.
Smith & Bros. Holly Springs Marshall 1870
Smithville Pottery Smithville Monroe
S. Smyth & Bro. Holly Springs Marshall 1870
P.J. Smyth, Manufacturer Holly Springs Marshall 1880
Patrick J. Smyth Holly Springs Marshall 1870-1880
Samuel Smyth Holly Springs Marshall 1870-1880
J.P. Smyth (Peter) Holly Springs Marshall 1880
A.J. Smyth (James) Holly Springs Marshall 1880
H.W. Steinbiss & Co. Holly Springs Marshall 1880
Stewart Pottery Perkinsville Winston ca. 1907
Homer W. Stewart Louisville Winston 1888-1932
James Thomas Stewart Louisville Winston 1930s
Winfred Stewart Louisville Winston 1930s
Gerald Stewart Louisville Winston 1965-1980s
Bill Stewart Louisville Winston late 20th cen.
Augustus Strocher? Holly Springs Marshall 1870
Suggs Smithville Monroe 1930s
Summerford Pottery Miston Itawamba ca. 1907
D.E. Summerford RFD Bexar Itawamba
J.P. Thomas Cumberland Webster prior to 1909
Ben Frank Ussery Water Valley Yalobusha ca. 1875-80s
Vestal Lockhart Lauderdale ca. 1870
Frank Vickner/Dickner? Holly Springs Marshall 1870
William Wedgeworth Lockhart Lauderdale prior 1908
“GWM” (22-Wi-692) Betheden Winston ca. 1900?
Darling B. Yates Pearl Valley Neshoba ca. 1860
J.B. Young Tremont Itawamba
Stoneware Potters and Potteries in Arkansas
O.C. & T.H. Atchison Malvern Hot Spring 1888-98
Mathew Barthel Pulaski 1870
Barthel & Derx Pulaski 1870
W.H. Bennett Benton Saline 1890-1900
Bird (Byrd) Brothers (3DA12) Leola Dallas ca. 1843-62
Bird Brothers, later John Welch (3DA9) Dallas 1851/52-1891
James Bird (3HS162) Hot Spring ca. 1844
James Byrd Grant 1844
Joseph Byrd Dallas by 1843
Nathaniel Byrd Dallas
William Bird (3DA542) Dallas 1843-1851/52
Black& Simmemon Paragould Greene ca. 1898
F.W. Bush Benton Saline 1879-81
H.T. Caldwell & Co. ca. 1860
Caldwell family Cane Hill Washington 1860s
Robert A. Caldwell (3SB597) Greenwood Sebastian 1869/70-1885
Henry T. Caldwell Sebastian 1960s
Henry T. Caldwell Benton Saline 1870s
D.S. Collins & Co. Texarkana Miller ca. 1888-92
George W. Cranston Franklin 1860
John M. and JRHP Craven (Cravin) Independence 1860
Wm. S. Crawley Washington ca. 1846-74
Joseph Cribbs Spring Hill Hempstead prior to 1849
Nathaniel Culberson (3DA21) Princeton Dallas 1858-1865
Nathan Cumbie/Comby Cornish/Carnis Sebastaian ca. 1885-1891
E.L. Davis Scott 1850
Leonard Derx (Derricks) Pulaski 1870
J.W. and W.H. Donaldson Franklin 1860
Eagle Pottery Co. Benton Saline 1906
Garner & Grubbs(Mft.) Rector Clay 1897-1898
James Garrison Conway 1860
Lafayette Glass Mansfield Sebastian ca. 1858
Lafayette Glass Murfeesboro Pike ca. 1860
Laffayette Glass and Oliver Harris (3DA543) Dallas 1860-1870s
Lafayette Glass Benton Saline ca. 1868-79
Oliver C. Harris (Hanson) Benton Saline 1870s
Samuel Henderson Benton Saline 1884-96
E.L. Herrick Benton Saline 1891-97
John F. Hyten Benton Saline 1871-82
Hyten Brothers Benton Saline 1895-1912
Anthony Stevens/Interstate Pottery Texarkana Miller 1906
H.H. Leopard Van Buren 1860
Doss and Jeff Reeves (3CY119) Rector Clay 1897-1898
J.S. Robertson Story Montgomery ca. 1898
James & Robinson Oden Montgomery 1906
McConnell-Osborne Cornish/Carnis Sebastian 1880s
E.A. Nunn & Co. Malvern Hot Spring 1874-92
E.A. Nunn (3DA540) Dallas mid 1870s
John Pearson Scott 1850
Chs. & H.A. Rodenbaugh Benton Saline 1886-1900
3SH15 (Sharp Co.) Sharp mid 19th c.
Alexander Sehone Scott 1850
L. M. Simmons White 1870
Spring Hill Pottery Co. Spring Hill Hempstead 1906
Abbott L. Todd Carroll 1850
Tyler & Sharks Benton Saline 1879-81
John C. Welch (3DA8) Dallas late 19th-early 20th
John Welch Princeton Dallas 1862-74, 1891-early 1900s
A.E. Wilbur Benton Saline 1876-87
A.D. Wilbur Texarkana Miller 1890s
Wilbur & Roark (3WA208) Boonesboro Washington 1875?-1888
J.D. Wilbur Boonesboro/Cane Hill Washington ca. 1884
Frank Woolsey Benton Saline 1882-95
Historic Uses of Stoneware in the Kitchen and Smokehouse
Pickled Vegetables and Preserved Fruits. Pickling of summer garden produce may have been one of the prime uses of stoneware. Highly seasoned products relieved dry, smoked, and salted meats and allowed some vegetable food in the winter. Like many of the traditional preparations, the processes are often elaborate, requiring much time investment, scheduling, and in many cases, commercial products such as sugar and salt that were not produced on all or most farms. Many of the receipts (cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbage (sour kraut)…) are variations on a theme. Pickling with vinegar and/or salt was complemented by preserving fruit with sugar. Fruit jars were smaller than storage/processing crocks.
Beef, Pork and Lard. For dried beef, meat is cut with the grain, to be placed in a large cask or a tight jar. For each 100 pounds of meat, 5 pounds of salt, 3 pounds of sugar, and 2 ounces of saltpeter (sodium nitrite) is required, to be rubbed on the meat before it is tightly packed into the container. The process calls for letting the meat stand 3 days at a time, with it being removed and rubbed with a third of the preservative compound 3 successive times. After this pickling, it is to be hung to smoke and dry. Beef tongues can be preserved with a similar mixture of salt, saltpeter, and molasses, in a porcelain or earthen vessel. The meat should be packed closely, held down with a weight, and turned every other day for two weeks before being wrapped in paper to be stored in a cool, dry place. In an alternate method, boiled, salted, and chopped beef, seasoned with black pepper, could be packed in a stone jar, covered with cloves of garlic, and sealed with melted suet. When the jar cooled, it should be covered with a cloth and stored in a cool place. Chopped and spiced picked meat is known as tasso and is the filling for Red River valley meat pies.
Milk, Butter and Buttermilk. Immediately after the cow is milked, strain the milk into clean pans and set over a moderate fire until it is scalding hot, but not boiling. Set it aside to cool for 24 hours, then skim off the cream, saving the milk for other use. A small amount of butter could be made by beating the cream with a spoon in a basin rather than by churning. After the butter forms, the product must be worked with water to clean away the remaining milk, then salted (a tablespoonful to the pound) and packed in a crock or bowl and covered with clean muslin to be kept in a cool place. Butter jars were generally smaller and cylindrical, sometimes with a drainhole. Large quantities of these rolls of wrapped butter could be preserved in jars of brine, with sugar and saltpeter added. To ensure that the rolls remained under the surface, the crock should have a weight placed over the mouth (such as a plate).
Eggs. Eggs were preserved in April, May and June, when they are abundant and cheap for use later in the year when they are scarce and expensive. The method preserves them 6 to 10 months. A 5-gallon crock should be cleaned, scalded, and dried before being filled with 10-12 quarts of boiled water with 1 quart of water glass (sodium silicate) so that the eggs are covered at least 2” deep. The crock should be covered with a tight lid and/or wax paper and stored in a cool dry place. Alternately, 2 pounds of unslaked lime in five gallons of boiled water could be used. After letting stand, the clear fluid should be poured off of the lime sediment, to be used in place of a sodium silicate solution.
Yeast. A recipe for increasing yeast for making wheaten products calls for a mash of hops, potatoes, sugar, and salt, which is boiled and cooled overnight before a teacup of yeast is stirred in the yeast jar, covered tightly, and set in the cellar. It should last 2 weeks in warm weather and longer when cold.
Vinegar. Vinegar, an essential to picking processes, was one of the products that could be made at home. Apple cores and peelings are put in an earthen jar and covered with cold water with a cup of molasses added to each gallon of water. After 3 weeks, it should be strained and bottled.
Wine and Beer. Wine results from the same process as vinegar, but the fermentation is arrested earlier. “Blackberry cordial”, a low alcohol cider, is made of crushed ripe berries. To each quart of crushed berries a quart of boiling water is added, after it has stood 24 hours, being stirred a few times, it is strained. Two pounds of sugar are added to each gallon. The jugs should be corked or sealed tightly and are ready for use in two months. Beer made from grain was also fermented in crocks.
Whiskey, Water and Molasses. Jugs were commonly used to transport and store these liquids. Stoneware has also been used for watercoolers, which are fitter with spigots and sometimes filters.
Charcoal stoves. These tin buckets with unglazed stoneware liners have many uses, such as cooking on boats and heating sad irons.
Marshall, Texas, Pottery. Bristol glazed cobalt banded and stamped one gallon stoneware water cooler, late 20th century. Typical late maker/address/capacity stamp. Tape indicates one foot. Many southeastern potters have worked at this large factory, one of the last surviving industrial stoneware manufacturers.
Photo and jar Kent Smith, Tech-it-Out.
Contact: Mary Evelyn Starr
Box 39, Sledge MS 38670
Phone (662) 444-5254
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