Emily Hipp | SCDNR Heritage Trust Program | Archaeology Intern
Over the summer of 2022, I spent my time as an intern for the SCDNR Archeology team. We were tasked with working on three projects over the summer: sorting artifacts from Fort Frederick Heritage Preserve, preparing a tabby garden, and washing and mending Edgefield pottery. I, along with two other interns, worked on the Edgefield pottery. For our project, we washed jugs and pottery sherds then prepare them for mending. I have learned a lot about Edgefield and Pottersville pottery over the six weeks of my internship and have become fascinated with the history of these jugs and the people who created them.
Edgefield potters created commercial pottery to be used for storing goods and was famously known for its Alkaline-glazed stoneware. Edgefield potters researched many methods on how to make the finest pottery. Many practices and techniques were picked up from different cultures and countries, like China, England, and Africa. Alkaline-Glazed pottery was first made in America in the early 1800s in Edgefield, South Carolina. Edgefield was the perfect place to make Alkaline stoneware because it had high-quality clay similar to the clay found in China, where Alkaline-Glaze was traditionally used on stoneware. Edgefield also had kilns constructed in areas that would make use of kaolin clay found in the area. Along with kaolin, the pottery was made using sand, pine, and feldspars.
The kilns in Edgefield were also made to be quite large. Most of the kilns used to make pottery during the time were “groundhog kilns” which usually ranged from 16-20 feet in length and 6-8 feet in width. While Edgefield had these typical kilns, it also had dragon kilns. Dragon kilns were larger than groundhog kilns and could fire pottery at greater temperatures. The kiln in Edgefield was 105 feet in length and 12 feet in width. The people building this kiln most likely took inspiration from China, where dragon kilns are believed to have originated.
In the 19th century, a community known as “Pottersville” was established in Edgefield for the purpose of making stoneware pottery. The stoneware during this period also shows a very likely influence from African culture as it was made by enslaved individuals. African Americans were a part of every step of the pottery-making process, like building the kilns, digging out the clay, mixing and preparing the glaze, and shaping the vessels. The most famous individual to work in Pottersville was Dave Drake, also known as “Dave the potter”. In 1801, David Drake was born into slavery and was owned by Harvey Drake. Harvey Drake probably taught Dave how to read, write and make pottery, which would have been uncommon for the time. Dave created beautiful pots, some of which could hold up to 40 gallons, and were inscribe with poetry on some of them as well.
After High school I plan on attending college and getting a master’s degree in Anthropology.
George W. Calfas
Nineteenth century stoneware manufacturing at Pottersville, South Carolina: the discovery of a dragon kiln and the reinterpretation of a southern pottery tradition
Fennell, Christopher, Archaeology of Edgefield, South Carolina Pottery Communities. http://www.histarch.illinois.edu/Edgefield/ . Accessed on 15 July 2022
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