Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Davenports in Utah

Davenport family histories say that Thomas, Sarah, and their children arrived in Salt Lake City on October 8th, 1852. They left for the Iron Mission pretty quickly after reaching Utah, since they arrived in Parowan on November 4, 1852.

The Davenports took a bit of time to get their house and shop set up, but they fired a kiln of pottery in November of 1853. Almost all of it failed. The same happened at the second firing in 1856 and the kiln was nearly a total loss. The third try was in the spring of 1857 and about 1/3 of the kiln was good. By 1858, they fired with complete success (according to family history, based on a summary written in Thomas's diary). Some time during this period, Thomas also changed the source of his raw material. A traveler told him about a better clay source, which he adopted for his work.

This is what fascinates me about the Davenports' lives-- how did they figure that out? How did he learn about the clays? How did he figure out how to build and operate a kiln? To make glaze from scratch?

Thomas and Sarah traveled to Salt Lake City in late October of 1856 and received their Church endowments the following month. They returned to Parowan in the spring of 1857. I have often wondered if he met with other potters in Salt Lake City during that trip to talk about his technical problems and visit their facilities. A number of English-born immigrant potters had current operations in Salt Lake, including Alfred Cordon, who had been in charge of the Church-supported Deseret Pottery factory between 1851 and its closing in 1853. Alfred Cordon was also one of the bishops in charge of answering inquiries from newly arrived immigrants about the remote settlements (Deseret News 18-Sept-1852, p. 1). I don't yet know where Alfred Cordon was in 1857, however, so we'll see what I can learn.

Thomas may also have interacted with the Danish immigrant potters. Niels Jensen and his three apprentices, Jacob Hansen, Frederick Hansen, and Frederick Petersen, had arrived in Salt Lake City and begun making pottery in the fall of 1852. The potters at Jensen's shop experienced more practical success than the English immigrants who had attempted to set up their factory based upon a the industrial pattern from Stoke-on-Trent. Of course, Thomas and Sarah may also have spent time with Horace Roberts and his family in Provo. Like the Jensen's, the Roberts family had been operating their pot shop since 1852.

Thomas and Sarah took this trip for sacred business related to their Church duties. During their travels, they passed back over the landscape between Parowan and Salt Lake City. I also find it useful to think of them traveling over a technoscape, where they passed nodes of information about potting. I am trying to figure out what role that played in the evolution of Thomas's technical prowess.

Besides working at their pottery, Thomas, Sarah, and their children were active in Parowan's community. They were subscribers to help build the Rock Church, 1867-1870. The family history claims that he was the director of the Parowan branch of the United Order, 1875-1876. The UO was a religious-inspired plan to create utopian communities. The Parowan UO didn't last past one year, however, but Thomas also served the community as alderman, city councilor, and treasurer.

In the 1860s, Thomas and his son William worked with others to try and open a coal vein, which would have been very useful for the pottery, but the deposit didn't work out.

I'm going to be researching descriptions of the family house and property and I'll try to post information about that as soon as I can.


  1. Hi! My name is Lorna Grim and I live in Louisville, Kentucky and my sister has been working on my mother's side of the geneaology tree and just got back from visiting England and found out a lot about Alfred Cordon who I youngest daughter's middle name is named after Cordon. Alfred Cordon was my grandmother's grandpa. So here I am looking up all kinds of information on him. I'd like to hear back from you! Thank you, Lorna Grim grimw @att.net

  2. My sister is working on my mother's side of our geneaology tree and we just discovered that Alfred Cordon is our great great grandfather. My youngest daughter middle name is cordon who I named her after my grandma's middle name Blanche Cordon Toombs. I have been looking up information about Alfred Cordon and came across this information from you.. Lorna Grim

  3. I am also related to Alfred Cordon- my father's great great great great grandfather from the Emma Parker line.

  4. In 1857, Alfred Cordon was serving as bishop in Willard, Box Elder County, Utah. He is my great great grandfather. Alfred Cordon - Ralph Roland Cordon - Edgar Cordon - Nolan Ralph Cordon - Derek Lane Cordon