Saturday a group of residents gathered in the Bacon Level community to unveil the sign that said Pottery-Making Families of Randolph County. Listed were renowned potters' names and some history.
Several roads came together in this rural area, which was an important pottery-making area.
Kenneth Mapp, who had been talking with Rep. Bob Fincher, pointed out areas the Mapp family had once owned as he mentioned wanting to write a book about his family's past in the pottery-making business.
Earlier Joey Brackner, director of Alabama Center for Traditional Culture, spoke before unveiling the marker as a group looked on and Alabama Public Television workers traveling with him recorded the event with plans for a documentary in the fall.
The handsome marker with the Alabama Great Seal topping it says: "During the 1830s, pottery-making families moved directly from the Carolinas and Georgia. Most came from the Edgefield District of western South Carolina, which boasted an important pottery-making center. Well-known Edgefield potters who were in the 1840 U.S. Census for Randolph County, Alabama, included Matthew Duncan, John, Holland and Robert Leopard and James Prothro. Other prominent potters of the antebellum period were Cyrus Cogburn, Job Falkner, Cicero D. Hudson, Elijah McPherson, Greenberry Morton, Joseph Rushton, James Pinckney Shepherd, Milton J. Ussery, and Robert Ussery. During this period, enslaved African-American potters also worked in Randolph County. After the Civil War, John Barnes, John Lehman, and Zachariah T. Ussery were important potters. Many other local families became involved in pottery making including members of the Belcher, Boggs, Boyd, Brown, Foster, Gladney, Mapp, Meacham, Muldrew, Oliver, Phillips, Pittman, Pound, Swet, Spears, Taylor, Weathers, Williams and Yates families." Then it says continued and notes it was erected by the Randolph County Historical Society May 2018
On the other side is the Alabama seal and the title Early Pottery Shops of Randolph County. It gives the history: "Pottery-making families were among the first settlers to come to this portion of east central Alabama after the acquisition of the Creek Indian lands in 1832. The earliest of these pottery shops were located here in Bacon Level and in nearby Cedric and Hickory Flat (Chambers County). These local potters produced the stoneware storage jars, jugs, churns and other pottery essentials for life on the frontier of early nineteenth-century Alabama. Their wares were coated with alkaline glaze made from wood ashes or lime which produced a green glassy finish that made the pottery both durable and suitable for food storage. The alkaline glaze was the predominant southern stoneware glaze and was brought to Randolph County by potters who emigrated from North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina. Potters from Randolph County who moved west with the American frontier established potteries in Elmore, DeKalb, Perry and Shelby counties in Alabama as well as in Mississippi and Texas."
In the afternoon the group once again met in Rock Mills where Joey Brackner helped unveil the historical marker at the old Pound homestead along with Rep. Bob Fincher and Gary and Martha Price, collectors and researcher of folk pottery in Randolph and Chambers counties.
Many of the members of the pottery families attended, including Larry and Elaine Ussery, who came from Nashville, Tenn. for this event. He is a descendant of Zachariah T. Ussery, one of the early potters.
Brackner had an Alabama Public Television crew following him around for what will be a documentary in the fall. He works for APT covering Alabama culture.
They photographed the unveiling of both markers then in Rock Mills went a short distance down the road to the old Pound pottery building. Before going to this location it was noted the Pittman pottery was further down the road beside the old Pound homeplace.
The property is now owned by Jacky Burks, both the old homeplace and old pottery barn down the road. John Pound said he is taking good care of it.
Fincher said both locations are in his legislative 37 district, which includes Randolph, Chambers and Cleburne counties.
Fincher thanked Martha and Gary Price for all their work and Randolph County Commissioners for installing the markers.
Brackner said it has been more than 100 years since these potters worked. They were great artists. Edward Rushton was a slave and a potter before and after the Civil War. German Ledyard produced items that can sit in any museum. It was noted the Pittman Brothers Pottery operated near this site in the 1890s. Martin Pittman was the superintendent and his brothers David and Wesley were potters.
At this site Will Pound employed his sons and other potters. One was Jesse Weathers, who was perhaps the most accomplished potter who worked at this site.
Shaving mugs encircled by snakes was an example of Weathers' work and are in the High Museum in Atlanta.
Rich Messer, a collector from Clanton, came for the unveiling, as well as Danny Maltbie of Albertville. They said they try go to any events involving pottery.
The marker says after the Civil War the establishment of the textile industry led to the growth of Rock Mills and subsequently potteries became established in the town. By 1900 potteries produced utilitarian wares covered in the traditional Southern ash glaze but also some utilizing the salt glaze, favored by Northern potters and the brown Albany Slip glaze which could be shipped in by railcar.
For much of the early 20th Century William "Will" Davis Pound owned and operated the biggest pottery business in Randolph County at this location from the 1890s into the years of the Great Depression.
This pottery site features a mound of broken pottery and ruins of a kiln and, to the right, a shop building that was built around WWI. Pound was a landowner, landlord and store owner, and by 1903 Pounds was the primary pottery shop in Rock Mills.
Paul Swisher brought several pieces of his pottery to show visitors. A couple could be heard telling him if he ever decided to part with any of the items to let them know.