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Cultural Creativity, History & Heritage in Edgefield
Speaker Series Events in Edgefield and Aiken, May 30 through June 27, 2013
Join us for eight terrific events in our speaker series this May and June. These public presentations and discussions focus on the cultural creativity, history, and heritage of the societies and pottery enterprises that flourished in the landscape of the Edgefield District of South Carolina. Looking also to broader contexts, we will consider sites of natural and archaeological significance across South Carolina, including the prehistoric Topper site investigated by Dr. Al Goodyear and the many heritage sites under the stewardship of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. We explore the remarkable accomplishments of African Americans, European Americans, and Native Americans across time. Sponsored by the Edgefield County Historical Society and funded in part by The Humanities Council of South Carolina, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities. A full program is available online, with presentations by Maggi Morehouse, Vernon Burton, John Michael Vlach, Al Goodyear, Jason Young, George Wingard, Keith Stephenson, April L. Hynes, Mark M. Newell, and Sean G. Taylor.
Archaeology Field School
Mitchell 1835 map of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, with the Edgefield District highlighted by star (archival map image courtesy Hargrett Library Digital Collections, University of Georgia, http://www.libs.uga.edu/).
The technological innovation of alkaline-glazed stoneware pottery was introduced in North America by potteries operated by Abner and John Landrum in the Edgefield, South Carolina area in the first decades of the 19th century. These technological developments by entrepreneurs of Scots-Irish heritage played out in a landscape shaped by racial difference. Numerous African-American laborers, including "Dave the Potter" who added inscriptions to his vessels, worked at these production sites. Advertisements in local newspapers in the early decades of the 1800s listed enslaved laborers with skills in pottery production. African Americans most likely participated in all phases of the production process, such as: building and maintaining the kilns; digging and transporting clay; working and grinding raw clay in "pug" mills; chopping wood for fuel; preparing glaze mixtures, tempers, and clay pastes; turning the pottery wheels and shaping the vessels; and loading and unloading the kiln firings.
As local historians Holcombe and Holcombe (1989: 22) observed, the "District's ceramic entrepreneurs would never have been able to manufacture such large quantities of Edgefield wares without the slave participation." Indeed, in the period of 1800-1820, the recorded number of enslaved African Americans in the surrounding area had increased to comprise half of the Edgefield District's population. An illegal transport of enslaved laborers on the ship Wanderer delivered 170 newly-captive Africans to the Edgefield District in 1858. The production of remarkably shaped "face vessels" at local potteries have also been analyzed as presenting evidence of the influence of stylistic traditions from cultures of West Central Africa.
This project seeks to undertake detailed archaeological investigations of principal sites in Edgefield, conduct archival research, and start a multi-year community engagement and education program related to these subjects. Archaeological field schools and research teams at such pottery sites can explore both the production facility remains and the residential sectors for the enslaved and free African-American laborers. Primary research questions include: (1) examining the distribution of work areas and residential locations in each pottery site and analyze the degree of spatial segregation due to the impacts of slavery and racism; (2) understanding differential uses and development of those work and residential spaces, as reflected in archaeological features and artifact distributions, and the degree to which variations correlate with different racial categories associated with the occupants; (3) analyzing faunal and botanical remains to explore and contrast dietary and health patterns between residential sites and the degree to which variations correlate with different racial categories associated with the occupants; and (4) understanding the development and changes over time in the technologies of pottery production at these three manufacturing sites.
Our first six-week archaeological field school, from May 23 through July 1, 2011, focused on the site of Landrumsville, later called Pottersville, where Abner Landrum started the first stoneware production facility in the Edgefield district in the early 1800s. We excavated the kiln and related production areas and conducted surveys to locate the house sites of the craftspeople and laborers who created the Pottersville village surrounding that manufacturing facility. We also convened a speaker series on Edgefield history, archaeology, and ceramics traditions. Instructors included Prof. Fennell, U. Illinois doctoral student George Calfas, University of South Carolina graduate student Brooke Kenline, and archaeologist Carl Steen of Diachronic Research Foundation, among others. The instructors and students (shown below) stayed in local housing in the Edgefield area during this six week field school, and visited nearby archaeology sites and museums on weekend trips.
2011 field school participants at the Pottersville kiln, including instructors George Calfas, Brooke Kenline, and Carl Steen and graduate student Jamie Arjona.
Our team extends sincere thanks and appreciation to Ms. Beth Cali and her family, owners of the Pottersville site, for their hospitality. This field school was also made possible by the generous support and guidance of Bettis Rainsford, Tricia Glenn, Steve Ferrell, Leonard Todd, Greg Allen, Jill Koverman, John Vlach, Maggi Morehouse, Jamie Koelker, and Justin Guy. We also greatly appreciate the terrific support of the Joanne T. Rainsford Discovery Center, the Historical Society of Edgefield, and the Edgefield Inn. Special thanks to Sean Taylor of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and to Joe Joseph, Christopher Espenshade, and Sarah Lowry of New South Associates for their volunteer help and expertise. Tim Scarlett of Michigan Technical University, an expert in the industral archaeology investigation of kiln sites, helped us in formulating our research plan for the Pottersville production site.
Excavated contours of the Pottersville kiln, 2011.
Based on historical and archaeological studies of other groundhog kilns from later periods in the U.S., we had anticipated that the Pottersville kiln would be no more than 30 to 40 feet in length and 9 to 12 feet in width. The Pottersvile kiln proved to be 105 feet in length and 12 feet in width, as shown in the image above. The parameters of the kiln (outlined above in red) were demonstrated by excavation units along all exterior boundaries and within the kiln interior. This was a kiln operation of remarkable scale, fired with prodigious quantities of wood. The last firing of ceramic vessels was uncovered in the strata of the kiln remains.
Our team has worked to publish and communicate the results of these archaeological investigations as promptly as possible. Please see the articles already published in the South Carolina Antiquities and Historical Archaeology journals by Joe Joseph, Carl Steen, Brooke Kenline, and Nicole Isenbarger, among others, in the resource list provided below. The following is an excerpt from George Calfas' 2011 article in South Carolina Antiquities journal describing the field school excavations.
In view of the excellent results achieved by our 2011 archaeology field school, we are working on plans for additional summer field schools in coming years.While the kiln site at Pottersville has been known for decades, no one confidently knew which part of the hillside were kiln remains and which part was a waster pile. Without the assistance of geophysics, we began the project at the high point of the hill guided by stones just barely breaking through the topsoil. We felt that due to the elevation and prevailing winds this would be an ideal location for the kiln. We broke soil on the first afternoon of the field school and by the end of the day we realized that we were indeed on top of the kiln wall. The orientation of the wall was a bit different than we had expected -- something we learned to get used to with this project. Using this same "exposed" stone methodology we inserted additional units down the hill and quickly learned that we were dealing with something much larger than we had planned.
. . . . By the end of the field season, we had discovered all of the major architectural features of a kiln; exterior walls to include all four corners; flues, firebox, bag wall, firing chamber, and chimney. The Pottersville kiln does fall within the average for kiln width (12 feet wide) but the field school discovered that the kiln is a jaw-dropping 105 feet in length. The exterior wall is over 6-feet in height and the firebox is approximately 6 feet deep, 10 feet long, and 12 feet wide. The aforementioned first unit captured the left and right walls of the firing chamber. By the end of the second week the team encountered the chamber floor approximately 2.5 feet below surface level (bsl). After digging deeper and following the walls in search of terminal soil, we quickly realized that this 2.5 bsl level was the last floor utilized in the kiln and that the original floor was actually 5.5 feet bsl. We counted seven floor-building episodes in the chamber, presumably due to firing difficulties or a whole host of different production factors.
By 1820, the Edgefield District was the third most populated region in the South and an "industrial" sized kiln would have been needed to produce the colossal amount of vessels needed to store food for Edgefield's enslaved population. For example, pork was the main staple of the diet and for just its pickling and storage over 11,000 five-gallon vessels would have been needed. The length of Pottersville would have made it possible to produce the volume of vessels needed in the Edgefield District in 1820. . . . The enormous length of the Pottersville kiln opens a host of research questions, including those regarding the fueling of the kiln, the regulation of internal firing temperatures, and many more (from Calfas, "Asian Inspired Kilns in South Carolina?" South Carolina Antiquities 43: 76-77).
Our thanks to the South Carolina Humanities Council and National Endowment for the Humanities for grant support for two projects on Edgefield ceramics and archaeology. Congratulations to the Edgefield County Historical Society, as the sponsoring organization for these projects, and to George Calfas as Project Director and author of the grant proposals. The first project consisted of a five-part speaker series convened in Edgefield in the Summer of 2011, entitled "Pottersville: 200 Years of Pottery Production in the Edgefield District." The second project is entitled "Pottersville: Home of Alkaline Glazed Stoneware," and has the following description on the S.C. Humanities Council web site: "create a short documentary film of 8 to 10 minutes showcasing the alkaline-glazed stoneware tradition that is so important in Edgefield County. The film will be presented at the Joanne T. Rainsford Discovery Center in Edgefield, the McKissick Museum in Columbia, at regional historical society meetings, as well as on several websites, including SCETVís KnowItAll.org, which reaches K-12 classrooms across the state" (http://schumanities.org/home). This project produced a 15-minute documentary with the goal of sharing the rich history of the pottery communities of Edgefield, the accomplishments of African-American and European-American artisans in those industries, and to document the 2011 Archaeological Fieldschool at Pottersville. You can watch it now online.
Use the following resources to learn more:
Agha, Andrew, and Nicole M. Isenbarger (2011). "Recently Discovered Marked Colonoware from Dean Hall Plantation, Berkeley County, South Carolina," in "Crosses to Bear: Cross Marks as African Symbols in Southern Pottery," thematic forum of articles edited by Charles R. Ewen. Historical Archaeology 45(2): 184-187.
Baldwin, Cinda K. (1993). Great & Noble Jar: Traditional Stoneware of South Carolina. University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA.
Burton, Orville Vernon (1985). In My Father's House are Many Mansions: Family and Community in Edgefield, South Carolina. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC.
Burton, Orville Vernon (1998). Edgefield, South Carolina, Home of Dave the Potter. In "I Made This Jar . . ." The Life and Works of the Enslaved African-American Potter, Dave, edited by Jill B. Koverman, pp. 39-52. McKissick Museum, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.
Castille, George J. (1988). Archaeological Survey of Alkaline-Glazed Pottery Kiln Sites in the Old Edgefield District, South Carolina. Report submitted to the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. McKissick Museum and South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.
Chaney, Michael A. (2008). Fugitive Vision: Slave Image and Black Identity in Antebellum Narrative. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN.
de Groft, Aaron (1998). Eloquent Vessels/Politics of Power: The Heroic Stoneware of "Dave the Potter." Winterthur Portfolio 33(4): 249-260.
Fennell, Christopher (2011). "Literate Inversions and Cultural Metaphors in Edgefield Stoneware," in "Crosses to Bear: Cross Marks as African Symbols in Southern Pottery," thematic forum of articles edited by Charles R. Ewen. Historical Archaeology 45(2): 156-162.
Ferguson, Leland G. (2011). "Crosses, Secrets, and Lies: A Response to J. W. Joseph," in "Crosses to Bear: Cross Marks as African Symbols in Southern Pottery," thematic forum of articles edited by Charles R. Ewen. Historical Archaeology 45(2): 163-165.
Goldberg, Arthur F., and James P. Witowski (2006). "Beneath His Magic Touch: The Dated Vessels of the African-American Slave Dave," in Ceramics in America, edited by Robert Hunter, pp. 58-92. Chipstone Foundation, Milwaukee, WI.
Greer, Georgeanna (1981). American Stonewares, the Art and Craft of Utilitarian Potters. Schiffer Publishing, Exton, PA.
Gundaker, Grey (2011). "The Kongo Cosmogram in Historical Archaeology and the Moral Compass of Dave the Potter," in "Crosses to Bear: Cross Marks as African Symbols in Southern Pottery," thematic forum of articles edited by Charles R. Ewen. Historical Archaeology 45(2): 176-183.
Holcombe, Joe L., and Fred E. Holcombe (1986). South Carolina Potters and Their Wares: The Landrums of Pottersville. South Carolina Antiquities 18(1&2): 47-62.
Holcombe, Joe L., and Fred E. Holcombe (1989). South Carolina Potters and Their Wares: The History of Pottery Manufacture in Edgefield Districtís Big Horse Section, Part I (ca. 1810-1825). South Carolina Antiquities 21(1&2): 11-30.
Holcombe, Joe L., and Fred E. Holcombe (1998). Archaeological Findings. In "I Made This Jar . . ." The Life and Works of the Enslaved African-American Potter, Dave, edited by Jill B. Koverman, pp. 72-81. McKissick Museum, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.
Horne, Catherine W., editor (1990). Crossroads of Clay: The Southern Alkaline-Glazed Stoneware Tradition. McKissick Museum, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.
Joseph, J. W. (2007). One More Look into the Water -- Colonoware in South Carolina Rivers and Charleston's Market Economy. African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter June, University of Illinois website, http://www.diaspora.uiuc.edu/news0607/news0607.html#2.
Joseph, J. W. (2011). "'All of Cross' -- African Potters, Marks, and Meanings of Folk Pottery in Edgefield District, South Carolina," in "Crosses to Bear: Cross Marks as African Symbols in Southern Pottery," thematic forum of articles edited by Charles R. Ewen. Historical Archaeology 45(2): 134-155.
Kenline, Brooke (2012). Capitalist Entrepreneurs and Industrial Slavery in the Rural Antebellum South. Master's Thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.
Koverman, Jill B., editor (1998). "I Made This Jar . . ." The Life and Works of the Enslaved African-American Potter, Dave. McKissick Museum, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.
Koverman, Jill B. (1998). Dave's Verse as Social Response. In "I Made This Jar . . ." The Life and Works of the Enslaved African-American Potter, Dave, Jill B. Koverman, editor, pp. 82-92. McKissick Museum, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.
Montgomery, Charles J. (1908). Survivors from the Cargo of the Negro Slave Yacht "Wanderer." American Anthropologist 10(4): 611-623, with a note by Frederick Starr.
Mills, Robert (1825). Atlas of the State of South Carolina. F. Lucas, Baltimore, MD.
Mills, Robert (1826). Statistics of South Carolina. Hurlbut & Lloyd, Charleston, SC.
National Park Service (2009). National Register of Historic Places. Pottersville, Edgefield County, South Carolina, Record No. 141573, National Register Information System No. 75001698, entered Jan. 17, 1975. National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service, Washington, DC., website http://nrhp.focus.nps.gov.
Newell, Mark M., and Peter Lenzo (2006). Making Faces: Archaeological Evidence of African-American Face Jug Production. In Ceramics in America, edited by Robert Hunter, pp. 123-138. Chipstone Foundation, Milwaukee, WI.
South, Stanley (1991). Early Research and Publications on Alkaline-Glazed Pottery. South Carolina Antiquities 23(1&2): 43-45.
Steen, Carl (1994). An Archaeological Survey of the Pottery Production Sites in the Old Edgefield District of South Carolina. Report submitted to the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. Diachronic Research Foundation, Columbia, SC.
Steen, Carl (2011c). "Cosmograms, Crosses, and Xs: Context and Inference," in "Crosses to Bear: Cross Marks as African Symbols in Southern Pottery," thematic forum of articles edited by Charles R. Ewen. Historical Archaeology 45(2): 166-175.
Thompson, Robert F. (1969). African Influence on the Art of the United States. In Black Studies in the University: A Symposium, edited by Armstead L. Robinson, Craig C. Foster, and Donald H. Ogilvie, pp. 112-170. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.
Thompson, Robert F. (1983). Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy. Random House, New York, NY.
Thompson, Robert F. (1990). Kongo Influences on African-American Artistic Culture. In Africanisms in American Culture, edited by Joseph E. Holloway, pp. 148-184. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN.
Todd, Leonard (2008). Carolina Clay: The Life and Legend of the Slave Potter Dave. W. W. Norton, New York, NY.
Vlach, John M. (1990a). The Afro-American Tradition in Decorative Arts. University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA.
Vlach, John M. (1990b). International Encounters at the Crossroads of Clay: European, Asian, and African Influences on Edgefield Pottery. In Crossroads of Clay: The Southern Alkaline-Glazed Stoneware Tradition, edited by Catherine W. Horne, pp. 17-39. McKissick Museum, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.
Vlach, John M. (1991). By the Work of Their Hands: Studies in Afro-American Folklife. University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA.
Wells, Tom H. (1967). The Slave Ship "Wanderer." University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA.