Thursday, October 22, 2009

154 Years Ago This Week

A little while ago, Noel Carmack emailed me about our research on the Davenport Pottery. Mr. Carmack teaches painting and drawing at the College of Eastern Utah. He wrote to me because he and Charles M. Hatch are just finishing a manuscript for publication with USU Press. They have edited the journals of James Henry Martineau, an early resident of Parowan and a surveyor.

Mr. Carmack wrote to me that he'd discovered something in Martineau's diary and he wanted to exchange information. In particular, he said to me that on October 29, 1855, Martineau had written:

"Oct. 29/To day, Thomas Davenport opened his kiln of Pottery. This is the first ever made south of Provo. I got two jars, some bowls and two meat dishes."

I was very excited by this reference because this diary entry had captured the exact day when the Davenports opened their first kiln of ware produced at their shop in Parowan. Readers that have been following the blog will remember Thomas's words transcribed from his now missing diary:

"I arrived in Parowan on November 4, [1852]. . . . I farmed and worked at my pottery trade until November 1855. I burned my first kiln, but it was nearly all broken. . . . I had another son born, but he only lived until August and died of the flu. . . . I burned another kiln of pottery but it was mostly broken. In the fall of 1856 we [Thomas and Sarah Burrows Davenport] got our endowments at Salt Lake City and stayed there until the spring of 1857. I then burned another kiln and about one third of these pieces were good. In 1851 [sic; 1859?] I built a house with six rooms and we moved into it. I had now learned to burn my ware without breaking it" (Nielsen 1963: 103).

Martineau's diary shows us that this transcription of Thomas Davenport's diary is probably accurate and that the Davenports opened their first kiln on October 29th, 1855------ 154 years ago (next week)! We also know that it took almost exactly three years to the day for the Davenport family to set up their household, farm, and shop until the first kiln firing.

My deep thanks to Noel for emailing me with this information.


  1. I almost forgot to add that Mr. Martineau's comment also changed the way I thought about the Davenport's progress toward being successful potters. If he was able to get a couple of pottery vessels of different types, perhaps the failure rate in the kiln was not 95% as I had guessed based upon the diary entry. Perhaps more of the 1855 pots survived and entered social exchange than I'd anticipated.


  2. Came across this in my research to find out info ona 5 1/4" pitcher marked "HATCH PAROWAN UT" on bottom. Cream in color with drippings in darker color all around pitcher. Interesting info to have. If anyone knows more about the item I have, I would appreciate hearing from you.Got from estate in NC. My piece may have come from another pottery - just trying to find out all I can about it& value if possible.

    1. Hi Ms. McMillan. I just noticed your comment on my blog! I'm sorry that it has taken me two months to reply to your note. Over the years, I have heard from people about Mr. Amos Hatch's pottery. Mr. Hatch was a potter and the principal of the Parowan High School. He made his pottery, both wheel thrown and slip cast, using local Parowan clay. Oral history holds that he used the same clay bed as the Davenport family, following their old road. I think, if one hikes up the canyon there to the prospect marked on the USGS quad topo map, you can still see the metal chute that Mr. Hatch built to shovel raw clay into a wagon.

      Some information about Mr. Hatch:

      They have examples of his ware at the Old Rock Church Museum in Parowan, run by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers.