Since 1653 the settlers of Huntington, Long Island struggled to establish a pottery. But their clay was no good. In the mid 1700′s Adam Staats, a newly emigrated Dutch stoneware potter, identified the ungainly local clay as stoneware, useless for lead glazed redware. On October 22, 1751 the town agreed to let Staats dig, at one shilling per cord, “…from a walnut sapling on ye side of ye bank to the eastward of Jehiel Seamer’s northerly to a rock near low water mark to carry away as much as he can gitt to ye west of said bounds…”
Staats moved to Norwich, CT in 1772 with fellow potter Christopher Leffingwell. But his move to Greenwich, CT shortly thereafter resulted in the first sustained stoneware pottery in New England (Grace Parker was the first stoneware potter in New England, but her shop failed soon after her passing). Wherever he went, Staats imported clay from his Long Island deposits. He Anglicized his name to Adam States as business grew, but he was always known as “the Dutch Potter.”
One of the Dutch Potter’s many apprentices was a lad named Abraham Mead. Apparently Abraham soaked up his lessons like a sponge. As legend has it, early on in his apprenticeship young Abraham took advantage of a prolonged absence by his master to fire a kiln all by himself. Adam came home early (of course) just as Abraham was salting the kiln at the end of the firing. Rather than punish the lad, Adam proudly exclaimed “He’s got it! He’s got it!”
Abraham Mead eventually took over the shop. Being in a port city, Mead, like Staats before him, was able to thrive by shipping his wares far and wide along the coast in his own barges. But being in a port city also meant that business ground to a halt during the blockade years of the Revolutionary War. Afterward, Mead picked up the pieces and kept the shop going.
Mead was active in Greenwich society. He was town treasurer for many years. He also took great interest in the local Congregational Church. At one point he paid the church’s outstanding mortgage by donating an entire boatload of pottery for the purpose. People called him “the Deacon Potter.”
The only question is, was this Deacon-hood bestowed before or after the mortgage settlement?
Early New England Potters and Their Wares. Lura Woodside Watkins. Harvard Univ Press/Cambridge MA. 1968.
The Art of the Potter. Diana and J. Garrison Stradling. Main Street-Universe Books/New York. 1977.