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SINCE  2015

The White Hall Pottery Center

      Greene County, Illinois

  • I Am a Pilgrim3:03

WHITE HALL STONEWARE COMPANY cc: 1910 (L-R) Lincoln Vermillion, Bill Elliot, Elmore Dean,   Ben Lawson on donkey, Milo Dean, Hal Galhuly, George Vermillion, and Frank Denham

                                            "POTTERY TOWN"
Many collectors of Illinois stoneware have become interested not only in the stoneware itself, but also in the history of the potter, potteries, and the actual history of the White Hall pottery center. An outstanding example of this is displayed in the following archive, a memoir of Mrs. A. F. Worcester documented in 1960. This first hand account will always be of great interest to the student of White Hall stoneware and the history of Greene County, Illinois.

Selected excerpts from a typed memoir by Mrs. A. F. Worcester in 1960. "The Town Clean Dirt Made Famous - - - Pottery Town." .........My grandfather, John Neff Ebey, pioneer potter, of Dutch parentage, grandfather born Sept. 10, 1805, in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. When three weeks old, his parents moved to near Columbus, Ohio, thence to Springfield, Illinois in 1826. There he married to Rebecca Brunk. He acquired 160 acres of land, there, upon which the state capitol now stands. Our pioneer potter resided at Manchester were my father, John V., was born in 1834. From here he moved to Ripley, where he laid out the town and named it for Ripley, Ohio. The progress of the pottery interest in Ripley is due to his efforts. From Ripley he went to Winchester, then to Chapin, coming to White Hall in 1863. Those pioneers were the parents of 10 children- 5 daughters and five sons. The sons, Leo C. , George W., John V., Charles , and William H., had all served in the Civil War. William H., was killed an action in the battle of Belmont, Missouri. Most of the sons and daughters with their young children were drawn to pottery town about 1865 to 1868. My father and Uncle Charles B.. are associated with grandfather in establishing the Ebey pottery works. One of my earliest recollections of grandfather was his twirling and rolling a small lump of clay. He loved the cool blue white substance, grandchildren, and a main pastime of walking down the east road about half a mile to ride back on a load of clay being brought to the potteries. Potteries owned and operated by our townsmen other than grandfather's in the 1870s and 1880's, were those of John King, Vermillion Brothers, Pierce Brothers, Hill and Prindlel, A.D. Ruckel, and M. C. Purdy who owned the first clay bank ever opened in the Whitehall area. W.W. Hubbs, our neighbor, owned clay banks in those years. In 1866 the manufacture of drain tile by hand-power was introduced. The Whitehall sewer pipe company introduced steam power in 1876. Some of the kilns were 42 feet in diameter, the largest in the world at the time they were installed. In 1865, David Culbertson put in a small machine for the manufacturing of tile in the pottery of the Pierce Brothers, and later established a horsepower machine and was able to put out 4000 tile per day. The passing of our grandmother Rebecca Brunk Ebey in 1873: after her death, grandfather made his home among his children. I remember that one Sunday morning, mother asked him to polish five pairs of shoes for us five children. He was glad to, but instead of getting the shoe polish, he accidentally got the stove polish, but we trotted off to Sunday school with those very shiny shoes. Our home place faced Worcester Street. The driveway lead up to the pottery, a long frame building one and a half stories. The walls were fashioned of wide planks, its floors were of the good earth. Far to the west of the pottery, rascinating to us children was the plod-plod of old Charlie in the clay grinding room. The large lumps of clay were put into the grinding machine which was in the center of the room. Old Charlie hitched to that long pole which was attached to the grinder, trampled around that beaten circular path to the urge of Uncle Bill Hogg. The large part of the pottery was where those old-time kick wheels were operated by skillful turners. The blue white clay was made into balls by the ball makers, usually young boys, the balls were proportion into various amounts from quart size to 10 gallon size jugs and jars. Placed on a rotating wheel, the turner with the rib and sponge, with which to manipulate, soon brought the lump of clay up, up, shaping it gracefully into the intended vessel. Cousin Brunk Davis was the big ware turner. Fred Shenkel turned out all sizes of milk crocks. Ware was dried both indoors and out, on long planks. When dried it was carried to the kiln, the door tightly sealed. Cord wood was used in the furnace. The burning of the ware was timed, then the sleek brown ware was taken to the ware sheds ready for shipping. Ah, the slip tub! It was on the upper floor. A large tub almost filled with a slip to glaze ware was fitted with a plunger which pumped a required amount of shiny fluid as the last word in preparing the ware for the kiln. Stoneware was everywhere, brown glaze ware. We children use the seconds for chairs, tables, and dishes for our play houses. Our back fence pickets were decorated with fruit jars, which were put there to dry and air until time to refill them with tomatoes, peaches, etc. The jar tops were grooved; into these grooves tin lids were sealed with ceiling wax. Families used the big five and 10 gallon sizes of jars to store away pickles and kraut for the winter. Housewives sat the gallon jug of sorghum on the back of the kitchen range when cold mornings so as to get the sorghum warmed up for the biscuits or pancakes? Old grandpa Lakin with whom I road miles each day on his little low-dray, until my mother became exasperated and resorted to drastic means to curb my runaway habit. As stoneware was plentiful in used for most everything, she conceived the idea of tying a jug to my ankle with a fairly long rope. Everywhere I went in the yard the jug went. That treatment was effective and lasting. Ada Vedder, Sarah Shaw, Virginia Vedder, Hattie Butler, Emma Pritchard, cousins Rebecca and Hattie Davis, and in teaching in the 1880's and the early 1890's.

The altruistic spirit was exhibited among the early pottery owners when cold severe winters came and when they were forced to close the potteries for about three months. I recall that those men, loyal to their employees, and realizing the hardships that worked on them, helped to "tide them over" the rough road by every possible means and with the cooperation of the Chapin Brothers grocers. The pamphlet issued for the Centennial was printed in distributed by A.D. Ruckel & the same one enclosed in our newsletter (issue number four, volume 2). The sewer pipe factory founded by H. H. Arnold is headed by Carleton B. Stahl, who came to White Hall near 1895. White Hall pottery works was headed then by C. A. Ruckel. Executives of both institutions were H. H. Shirley, T..M. and Hal W. Galhuly, all White Hall boys. Hill and Prindle, pottery owners, kept a full stock of groceries on Worcester Street where their employees and calyhaualers founded it a convenience to trade. Grandma Gosnelll was a frequent visitor. Her daughter was Uncle Charlie Ebey's wife, and grandma Gosnell was Grace Gosnell Pierce's grandmother, And we loved to see Grandma Cogdel come. My collection of war news 1917 to 1948, I prized the letters written appearing in the White Hall Register Republican of cousins Lt. Royal and Floyd Davis, sons of Newt and Mary Floyd Davis. Dow, cousin Fletcher's son, brother Wills two sons, Dow's son and our grandson, Dan W. Kennedy, all served in World War II. Will G. is still in the Air Force, in Germany. Silver Cornet Band of years ago, band members were Tom Grant, Fred Nevius, E. K. Shirley, Tom Thurman, Cube Vermillion, Sam Silkwood Jr., Brunk Davis, brother Dow, Frank Hill, Herbie Huggins used to hold torches for the band while they played. We boasted of an organ in every home. Grandma Nevius named our street "Organ row." The Hill, Fuller Davis, Ebey Methodists; Morris, Saxe, Hubbs, Baptists; Julia Hubbs, Farris, Ernest Morris, Glenn Saxe, brother Dow, and I, were the only ones left (her mother died) visiting sister Annie in Jacksonville, June 21, 1904, that come to attend the funeral of Aunt Jane Davis just a month before. Other, of the family, father, Will, Annie, and Nellis, have answered the Last Roll Call. Rev. Crane, being a great friend of the potters he was often in the home of Aunt Jane Davis visiting the boys, Hardin, Newt, Brunk and Fletch. About 1887 he made a visit to Pottery Town and at the request of the pastor, he occupied the pulpit at the evening service. His text was from Romans 9:21. "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel into honor, in the other dishonor ?" A spell bound audience among whom were former pottery friends, listened to that sermon one-hour and a quarter. Sunday school: Teachers when we were in the young lady years were Emma Griswold, Mina McCollister, and Nora Culbertson Mason. Started to school: only Jesse McClure Greene, Fannie Arnold Morrow and I are the remaining ones.

The Ebey pottery works was transferred by my father in his brother Charles B. in 1882 to D. C Banta, who in 1883 deeded and those lots and pottery to A.D. Ruckel who had operated a pottery since 1870, which was located across the C and A tracks near the grain elevator. Mr. Ruckel invented and erected the first flash wall kiln used in White Hall and it was afterward came to use in the stoneware world. A machine for making pots had been invented by Gaylord Martin of Ripley in 1899, and this machine was utilized Mr. Ruckel. This marked the beginning of the end of the old kick wheel in turning ware by hand.; (taken from Clay Products). In 1936 C. A., and Nora Ruckel, owners of the s A.D. Ruckel company transferred their well-established business to a worthy employee, R. F. Barnett, former bookkeeper and manager. Going back to the 1870s and 1880s when there were seven potteries turning out ware in Pottery Town: in 1863,grandfather, the house which he had built in Chapin was moved by wagon road, over hills, across strains, to pottery town. And was our grandparents first home there, the two-story house which stands on East Bridgeport Street. Grandfather moved the pottery building across, in sections, as he did the house, setting it up on the site where the A.D. Ruckel pottery now is located. In-laws: Mike and Emma Galhuly, neighbors: Will and Jennie Strong, the Banchleys, the Harrisons, the O. F. Griswolds, the Pritchard's and Perkinses. Married about the time Fred and I were: Charles and Emma Chapman, Elmer and Leona Griswold, Dick and Annie White, Melvin and Clara Owings Black, Fred and Ada Pierce, Will and Edith Pritchard, Ed and Ollie King, Elmer and Cora Winn, Will and Leona Teeter. In 1894: Nov. 20, pioneer potter, departed this late life at the age of 88 years at the home of Aunt Jane Davis. The singers were Mrs. M. B. Ross, Della Boone Henry, Mrs. W. N. Rutledge and Ellan Duncan Silkwood. Pottery Agustus Pierce, .M.C. Purdy, M. Pittinger, H. C. Morris, and W.W. Hubbs, bore his body to its resting place. And in 1937 we visited White Hall. We spend a few hours at the sewer pipe factory where H. W.. Galhuly piloted us around, as we made a selection of crocks, brown and blue casseroles, a straight-up pink crock which serves as a drinking bowl for the dogs. We prized the blue pitcher which we used everyday. The tall blue vases which stands on our mantle. On our way home, near the towns of Lebanon and Springfield, Missouri, roadside displays of Ruckel pottery. August 3, 1950, Ebey reunion gathered in Winchester. George II had left Pennsylvania in 1826, coming to Sagamon County with the youngest of his family of 11 children; Roseanne , John Neff (my grandfather), and George III, the older ones either deceased are married. His death, in 1847, at the home of George III one mile north of Winchester where my son owned extensive farmlands and operated a pottery for many years on the Winchester -- Jacksonville highway. The pottery is laid waste. Uncle George" like grandfather, sold no jugs to saloon keepers. On the pottery were sheds, in large letters, flared these words: "Prohibition Forever."

Ebey re-union, August 3, 1950: my daughter, my granddaughter, and her little one, the fifth, sisth, seventh and eighth generations, dating from George I. Visit to pottery town: a few minutes with the Averys, Emma Chapman, Fred King, Jesse Harrison, Will Teeter, Hal Galguly, Carlton Stall. We drove to the Ruckel pottery: We met and talked with the son of Charles Weis, an early day printer. Upstairs was Earl Liming, using molds in a corner was a relic, a kick wheel which was last used by our pottery friend Bert Nevius. We saw a jug made by Hill and Prindle on March 23, 1883 and presented to Tom Davidson. Over to one side was a jug probably the largest in United States, turned on Christmas day, 1895, my cousin Brunk Davis. As we stood on the porch of Mr. Barnett's office, I realize the house is the H. C. Morrow home, next door to my childhood home which was moved years ago, as the Ruckel pottery taken over in 1883 grew. I envision W. W. Hubbs driving his big yellow horse into his back lot, on coming home from the clay bank. Mr. Barnett, told me that the blue ware had been discontinued since the war. So, with a box of crocks of the inevitable white kind which he Mr. Weis packed, we began our journey West.

.... "Happy carefree children, Scampered up-and-down the streets,
Where joy and freedom reigned, in…….. The streets of Pottery Town!"