Hervey Brooks (Goshen CT, b.1779 – d.1873) loved the Sacred Harp. He named his two sons Isaac and Watts in honor of Isaac Watts, an 18th century publisher of Sacred Harp music. Hervey also loved to make redware. He continued the trade long after most others in the neighborhood had quit.
Hervey must have had high hopes for at least one of his sons to inherit the shop. Isaac was, in fact, his apprentice. As such Isaac shared the entire enterprise including selling clams, trading rags, logging, road repair, and of course farming, along with his potting duties. At one point Hervey had a wagon load of clocks to trade in Georgia. Isaac was tasked with the journey. Isaac made it to Georgia and promptly sent word that he would never return home!
History does not record Hervey’s initial reaction to Isaac’s letter. But an indication of Hervey’s ire appeared in his ledger: “Due from Isaac Brooks – 1 load clocks, 1 wagon, two years apprenticeship training.” Isaac owed him big! This entry stayed in Hervey’s ledger for years.
Isaac would never set foot on New England soil again. One wonders why. But years later, in the midst of the Civil War, Isaac’s daughter began sending Hervey letters via neutral packets that sailed between Charleston SC and New Haven CT. Her letters apparently softened Hervey’s wrath enough to cancel the debt. After the war, with Hervey widowed and aging, she moved up to Goshen to tend to him in his twilight years.
This bittersweet tale hardly rates a footnote in the trajectory of pottery making in America. But it does suggest a picture of someone, Hervey, so engrossed in his work that for years he was unable to see the interests of others, especially those closest to him. Ever a danger to the self employed.
Yet redemption is still possible.
Hervey Brooks, Connecticut Farmer-Potter; A Study of Earthenware from His Blotters, 1822-1860. Paul Lynn. State University of New York College at Oneonta, New York. 1969.
Early New England Potters and Their Wares. Lura Woodside Watkins. Harvard University Press/Cambridge MA. 1968.