|Transcript of Interview of Reid Voss, Walter Auman and Dorothy Cole Auman|
|Interviewees:||Reid Voss, Walter Auman and Dorothy Auman|
|Interviewer:||Michelle A. Francis|
|Date of Interview:||February 22, 1983|
|Location of Interview:||Seagrove, N.C.|
[We are here today, February 22,1983, to talk about] Shepherd Mountain Pottery. Mr. Voss, would you say your name?
Reid Voss, and I live in Whispering Pines, North Carolina.
What is Shepherd Mountain Pottery?
It's a type of early potter, pottery, and it is still a mystery as to who the potters were. There was a theory that they were probably connected with the early Moravian potters. We were not able to completely prove that, uh, during the excavation. I took part in the first-year excavations, with Alain Outlaw as the archaeologist. We did find some indications that it probably was not connected with the Moravian potters because we found stove tiles that had military-type figures, or home guard-type figures. Knowing the Moravians, uh, well, they were against almost everything that was military. And it's not likely, we feel, that they would have made stove tiles with that type of figure on it.
What time period are we talking about?
Between 1750 and 1800, something like that.
In 1800? Where is the pottery located? Where was it located?
Yeah, Shepherd's Mountain is between Asheboro and Lexington. The mountain itself lies on the north side of that road.
The north side of 64?
Of 64. The site of the pottery is where, is on land that belongs to a church group, I believe, in High Point. And, the caretakers had found, or their children had found, bits of pottery in a garden plot. At first they thought it was Indian pottery, until someone looked at it and they found it was decorated-type pottery. And then, on closer examination we found at least two kiln sites. We excavated one of them that first year.
What year was that?
I believe it was about 1975 or '76, somewhere in that time period. The following year Dr. McLean from Laurinburg, brought these students up and finished excavating the site. Here again, they found items that related the site to the late 1700 period. But again, we never found any item that was signed or had enough initials or anything of that nature that we could attribute the site to any of the early potters from the Seagrove area. There has been some more study of those bits and pieces I think since the excavation, but I'm not sure that any more definite conclusions have been reached.
Who funded the excavation? Was it done through the State of North Carolina?
Most of the funding, I think, was by Dot and Walter Auman with some help from the merchants in the area, and the people in Asheboro.
It must have been a very exciting find when they realized that it wasn't Indian pottery, that it was, you know . . .
Yes, and the, uh, that first year, we found a pit, a refuse pit, that was just absolutely full of bits and pieces. Some of the pottery was very delicately made, and some pieces were decorated a little bit. We never found anything highly decorated. But it was a good grade of pottery and an excellent potter.
So they were skilled craftsmen.
They were skilled, very skilled craftsmen.
You found the stove tile that had the militia-type figure on it. What else did you find that was more or less intact?
We found pipes. I believe that was about all that we found intact. I think there are probably enough pieces that we could reconstruct some of the smaller pieces, particularly the saucers or something of that nature.
Has anybody done any archival research to find out who owned the land in the 1750s and 1770s?
Yes, that's been done by the local historical association. And they've run into a lot of blank walls, also. They weren't able to pin down the actual land owners during that period. I'm sure there must have been trade from that site into the Winston-Salem area, because it's right on the trade route from Fayetteville to Salem. But, I don't think that it was a part of the, any of the Moravian tradition. It's more like what you would find in the Jugtown area than it is in the Moravian area.
Well it could be that that was just an extension of this area. Another one of the older families.
Did you ever get another report on the Mount Shepherd site?
I was asking him if any. . .
Not from him.
Not from Alain?
It seems that archival research would turn up some information on who lived in the area, so that you could try and, you know, deduct from there that, um. . . .
We did. We did that. We found the possibility of--there was three potters living in the area during this time. One of it was a Dix, uh, Andrews, and a Beard.
A Dix and an Andrews and a Beard.
Yes, they were living in the area, and Beard is an uncle of, we found some pottery by that name.
Some signed pieces?
Yes, over at, in the, uh, well more in the Guilford area, wasn't it--in the High Point, Jamestown areathey were turning out. And, Andrews, we had a piece of his and found that he had first 1ived over here in Chatham County and had moved from there, and this was his son, then, that had moved over to this area. So that's the Beard and the . . .
Okay, and then the Dix, has been, uh, the genealogical work has been done on the Dix and it shows them coming in and out for periods of time, you know. But that does not mean to say that there was not other or another major, main potter there.
We didn't find in any of the land records, though, an of those names connected with that actual real estate at Shepherd Mountain.
Beard was there. Andrews was there.
And Dix was just this side of there.
Oh, I, that's a new development for me. Last I heard, that. . .
Well, I guess, okay, uh, see Bobbie Griggs did this. She mapped this out. On it. Uh, this, is the earliest kiln site that has been found anywhere south of Virginia.
Yeah, south of Salem.
Well, they never found a kiln site. And this is why Salem latched on to this one so, you know, but they wanted to claim it. But it was falsely claimed, that was a false claim that they put on that.
I don't see how th--well, the pieces that we found up there were just not like the Moravian pieces at all.
Not like theirs. Uh, there was a strong indication that it couldn't be Germanic, you know, training that the potter had, especially the one who did the decoration. But now, when you get, when we, when we got those shards washed and divided them out, there was a potter who I would call a very poor potter. You know, his pieces were not even, they were thin down low and thick at the top, this type of thing. Then there was a potter that would have been just ordinary potter who was out there making pie dishes and crocks and, and things for the public to to use. And then we found this man who was, we found shards who, who was doing very artistic-type flower decoration on well-potted pieces.
So actually you can tell that there were three potters.
There was, there was, that's what our conclusion--looking at the shards, came to--that there at, uh, now you can, uh,
Could it, excuse me. Could it have been one potter who developed over the years?
No, I [unintelligible].
I think that it would have, probably, the man that owned the place was the one who was doing it for a living, and this artistic guy probably was traveling through.
And then, the uneven pieces were apprentices or farmer potters.
Yes, somebody that just locally lived around there and would like to try their hand at it.
Well, if there were two kiln sites, it must have been pretty established pottery. Wouldn't you think?
Well, we thought so at the time, with as many shards as there was there--they made pots, let me tell you! (Laughter) Bushels and bushels and bushels and bushels of 'em.
In addition to the two kiln sites, there was a clay storage, pit, and, what was that other pit that, was tested there? Do you remember? There were two kiln sites, a clay storage, and there was one other. . .
Where the bricks were laying?
We never did figure out what, you know, what it was used for. I don't know. It was a structure that had brick on the edge, along the sides and the front of it.
Could it have just been a foundation, a brick foundation for something?
It wasn't quite wide enough, I would say, for a foundation.
It was just actually one brick, one brick wide, you know.
It may have been another clay storage, but it didn't, well, if that's what it was used for, all the clay was gone, because we didn't find any. . .
. . .traces of it.
. . .any more clay there.
Would it have been possible, or likely, that Andrews and Beard were using the same pottery? They were two potters using the same pottery?
There's a possibility, but there is so much history that is not known, until, uh, I would say t-he chances are that he was an unknown potter--a potter passing through that moved on to the west, southwest, you know, through that section, and vast, vast amounts of people did, including potters.
They would go and they would come, just like that. Now we tracked, we was able to trace the Dix family, and it was a, it was uncanny the way those people would go west and come back. Stay here for two or three years and go back west, stay out there for maybe two or three years and come back. You know, it was a mobile, much more mobile society at that time than even we are today, as far as taking up residency at places.
What are the dates now on, on these people. Uh, I've said between 1750 and 1800. Do these names, now, fall in that same period?
Fall into that. Yes. Now the Beard is the latest of 'em. Um, they were, the Beard was like 1790, 1787 to 1792. In that section.
Do you remember his first name? Beard's first name?
Uh, don't ask me things like that, I can't even remember my own name hardly.
That's all right.
I couldn't even remember yours to introduce you. Uh, let's see. Thomas Andrews.
It was a Zachariah Dix.
And a Peter Dix.
That was his son?
Two, I believe they were brothers, came in. And, uh, then there was a Benjamin Beard and a John Beard there. But, uh, I still think that eventually, as people--we've got so many more local people who are researching papers and materials like deeds, that never bothered to read the fine print of the deed, like whose land joined whose land, you know, this sort of thing. They would read who bought the land and who sold the land, and maybe the witnesses and maybe the chain bearers, but the fine print in it. . .
. . .is very important.
. . .Mm-hum. And, and it takes, oh, it takes a lot of time to go through these. Well, Bobbie Griggs has done a lot of this, the genealogical group in, in Randolph County, uh, organized themselves, actually, into a genealogical society. And they have made great strides in going through this type of material. They have taken it on themselves to do this. And when they run across some of these types of things that is known to be useful information to somebody, they set it aside.
So you should get some good information.
So, eventually, I think, I think the answers will come.
There is more and more interest now in genealogy , too, which is going to help, I think, eventually put this together.
What is being done with the site now?
Well, what we finished, we finished digging it, as far as I'm concerned. I'm, I feel like there's nothing else there to dig for. Is that. . .?
That's the way I feel.
That's the way I feel. And this first summer, see, we worked on it for two years, they did.
1975 was the first year?
Yes, I guess it was '75, wasn't it, that y'all worked?
I was . . .
He couldn't remember either.
I couldn't remember either.
I think it was '75 and then '76, yes. Because we got the, we got a thousand dollars from the Bicentennial fund to pay these, uh, Dr. Andrews, to bring his crew up there.
Okay, so those dates are right. But they started in it on the early summer, really it was the early summer of '75 and this is when the real thing turned up. They found, it was the kiln that they excavated. They did the real thing. He and Bobbie Griggs and, uh, . . .
. . .Alain Outlaw, and they took photographs of it. They did it right, 'cause he's a, he's a, uh, professional?
Professional amateur, then. Well, at least he has had experience in it, and he knew. And so did Alain Outlaw, too. And of course, Bobbie was just, uh, she's a genealogist and she does a lot of research work, but she followed along with them pretty well. It was really good.
That first year was a community effort. We had a lot of volunteers that would come out and work with us. I brought some of my neighbors a time or two, and everybody enjoyed it. And we, that was when we did find the big refuse pit where there were bushels of shards. And when we found these, we found a stove tile that year, and found the pipes that year, too, I believe.
Well, all the major things was found that year, along with the kiln site. The major things was found. Uh, the way this started was the, this land is on the Methodist Camp Ground at a place called Mount Shepherd. It's called Mount Shepherd Camp Ground there. The caretaker's children were very interested in Indian artifacts and there were scores and scores of, of, arrow points, all types of things that the Indians had used. Now this land, understand, is very rough terrain, and people had not been in there, uh, local civilization hadn't touched it and messed it up. A few hunters had gone through, you know, this sort of thing, but as far as, as far as bulldozers and this sort of stuff, it was okay. They bulldozed a road up through there and that's how they began finding all these arrowheads, really, was these kids got out there on this new road that had been pushed up there. But, uh, one of the (turns to Reid Voss to ask a name for reference). Uh, Margaret Nantz carried a group of cub scouters, I believe it it was, out to the camp ground up there, and they's going to do some, what cub scouters do, you know (laughter). And the children of the caretakers there were of the same age, so she simply invited them along with her own, her troup. And they was going to do some wild life type thing. But in the conversation, with these caretaker's children, the Farlow children, uh, these children began bringing out the arrowheads that they had found and showing them to the cub scout group. Well, they brought out a box of pottery shards that they had picked up, and showed them to Margatet Nantz. And Margaret said had they brought them down and let us see them? And they thought they was Indian pottery. And she knew that we was interested in all types of local findings on pottery. So when Margaret got back home she called me and we immediately just went right on up there. And we was really expecting to find some really nice Indian shards, you know. Boy, was we surprised!
For one thing, an Indian, at that day in time, never turned pottery on the wheel, and was very obviously been turned on the wheel. And another thing, an Indian at that time had never glazed his pots, so the glazing indicated that it was not Indian, but it was certainly white men work. So, they took us to the pile of rocks where it was. And talk about excited now! 'Cause this was the earliest kiln site that we had found at all. We didn't at that time even realize how, that it was this early. We kept thinking that, say, second quarter of 1800s is what we kept thinking. But then as we kept investigating, we found that it was earlier than that.
How did they date it? How were they able to date it?
Well. . .
As being, you know, prior to 1800?
I, I can give you the one example, which is not a definite type thing, but they found some coins in the 1770- 80 period, I think, uh, this was the year that Dr. McLean was there with the St. Andrews people. I've forgotten now what the exact dates were. That was one way I think they supported what we had assumed from the stove tiles and the pipes, I believe were other indications of that period.
Also, the kiln shape. The kiln shape had changed enormously after, say 1825, what, the kiln shape had changed. This was a round kiln with many fire boxes around it, multiple fire boxes around it. Whereas after that, then kilns began being rectangle in shape instead of round. This is very indigenous of the early kilns that they have been digging up in England. Now this is not meaning to say that it was, uh,. . .
Well, it doesn't mean to say that other parts of the world didn't use round kilns, too. Now that I don't know. I just happen to know that they've dug several kilns in England so similar to this one until, it just looks like the same handiwork almost.
When you all went up there to where the pile of rocks was, did you know that you were at a kiln site?
Oh yeah! Uh-huh.
It was that obvious that that's what it was.
To someone that didn't know, that hadn't been around kilns and things, though, would have never recognized it.
You remember that Mr. Morgan that we come out? You know he said he stood a many a time on that pile of rock and listened to the rabbits run. Uh, or his dogs run the rabbits, really.
But, uh, it was up on sort of a knoll, and it looked more like where a chimley [sic] might have fallen down. This, this, it looked more like a chimley than anything else because it was rock. But then as we began digging out, the, uh the inside of that had glazing on it you see. So this was very, it showed proof beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was a kiln. But, when we found it, the first thing of course we wanted to do would be to make sure that it was as important as we thought it was. So we asked, um, several of the archaeologists around. The two state archaeologists came. Well, we had five here and they all said, "yes," it was worth doing something about. And this was when we had called from Old Salem asking for an archaeologistwe thought there was one up there--and they sent a man that didn't know beans about archaeology. He ran his fingers through the pile of shards that we'd already picked up, you know, surface shards, and he says, "Ah, Old Salem," just that, jam, just like that (she snaps her fingers). You know, just labeled it right now, which is so unfair because, if, what was the point of digging it?
Yeah, he didn't know whether it was pottery, stoneware, salt glaze, or what it was.
He didn't know anything.
He had a small amount of knowledge of pottery.
So all through the thing it was almost like a fight with Old Salem people, um, to do it. . .
Not to label it but to be sure.
Until you'd done the research.
Right! That's right. To research it at least. And we asked them and begged them to come in with us and help us do this, but they didn't do that. They simply assumed that it was part of theirs and wrote numbers of articles which, uh, were false, really false, on it. And it still is not, it still is not finished as far as the research on it. It still remains an unknown, uh, ownership of the pottery there. But the very fact that we found an early kiln site here was quite important in itself.
I would think so. What was your step after you had the five archaeologists look?
Okay, we began thinking in terms of trying to protect it because there'd been so much publicity, you know, the papers got ahold of it, and we felt like it being a public grounds there, that everybody that went up there would take home boxes of it and we wanted to keep as much as possible. So, we got the, uh, what group of people was that, Walter?
It was the soldiers that was up here on maneuvers from Fort Bragg.
They agreed to go and put the fence up around it.
If we'd furnish the material.
And so we furnished the wire and the posts.
Was it a chain link fence?
No, it was just a welded wire fence.
A high, welded wire fence.
As far as I know, it's still there, uh, that is. But it did protect it. If feel like that it did protect it. But your original question a while ago was what's happened to it now. Okay, now after the first summer when they found so many, they did the majority of it. Then the next summer, Dr. Andrews, uh, Dr. M. . .
. . .McLean from St. Andrews.
. . .McLean from St. Andrews came up with his group of summer students and sort of combed the yard, more or less the other areas, and they did not turn up enough things really that made any difference. But at least we know it did.
Well, the weather was so bad till they didn't work really over there very much.
Anyway, after they left then, we said, "Okay, we've got out you know, the shards that we have and we've got boxes and boxes of these." The foundation of the kiln was left intact, when they excavated it, it was there, so we didn't want the weather to wear down the brick and the rocks and disintegrate that. So we taken, uh. . .
A piece of plastic though, first didn't we? A huge sheet of plastic, covered it all up, and then Walter and somedid you go with them?
Got a load of sand and dumped in on top of this plastic which, if anybody wants to go back in there now, it will show them the sand is not native soil and it will show where the foreign sand ended and where the new soil would begin. So if anybody wants to go back to it. I had high hopes at one time of the Methodist church redoing it, you know. Just re . . .
Rebuilding, reconstructing it.
Rebuilding it and doing a little pottery shop out there if for nothing else other than the use of their summer camp there which would be just great. And at one time the potters down in here agreed to help them. That's been several years ago now.
So the site's sort of been returned back to its natural state.
Right, the fence is still up around it. We turned the key over to the, to the people in there, the caretakers.
Then you just excavated one kiln site, or did you do both of them?
We did the one the first year, and then Dr. McLean's group did the second one the next year. However, they didn't find very much in that second kiln. The first one had most of the, uh, well, I'd say the best evidence.
Did you put plastic in the second one, and sand to stabilize it?
I'm not sure. Do you remember?
There was nothing there to save.
There wasn't nothing there to . . .
We simply left the hole.
I think what had happened, that kiln may have. . .
. . .been older?
Probably older and may have fallen in and then they used stone from it when they rebuilt the kiln.
There was really nothing there to save.
There was really nothing there as far as archives is concerned to tell a story on anything either.
Well, after you got the Army to build, to put up the fence for you, what did you do then? Did you try to seek money for the excavation?
Oh yes, oh yes. But it ended up . . .
. . . being volunteer effort?
Yes, he volunteered to come up and do what he could with it. And we got a hold of this Alain Outlaw.
Who is Alain Outlaw? I mean, is he a local archaeologist?
At that time he was still working on his degree and I reckon he was between semesters or something that summer. And he agreed to work on this site. I don't know where he is now. He later took a job in South Carolina, didn't he? Or was it Virginia?
He went to school in Florida.
Yes, the last time I heard of him he was in Florida. But I believe, now, let me think. Didn't somebody tell us he was back at Virginia working under this Bill Keslow?
I heard that he was.
Yeah, I heard he was back in Virginia. But to get back to your question, I would say the Seagrove potters were the ones who financed it, one way or another. Dot and Walter went out and tapped on a lot of peoples' shoulders and some of the civic organizations donated some money and time, too. And of course a lot of the people here were interested and did a lot of the actual work. But, you were the big financers, I'm sure.
Well, you know, when your facing with dropping the whole thing or having to go out that day and get something,, you simply went and got it and asked questions later (laughter). I'm glad we did. I'm glad we did. It was a major, major finding for the pottery. I think. . .
I would think it would be a significant archaeological finding for the State as well. It being the earliest kiln site.
It was, but we couldn't get them to do anything.
Oh, they agreed that it was, but they just, uh, they didn't, they wouldn't do a thing.
Several people came up and looked. They were more interested really in talking about it than really helping. A lot of those people have already moved on to other jobs, fortunately I think for us. I don't reckon we ever got a penny out of the State to help on the financing, did we?
The North Carolina Arts Guild, uh, the North Carolina Arts Council gave us some money.
Yeah, and then the bicentennial year we got some money from the local, from the local commission.
From the county. But it came through the federal government. It was part of the--every county got so much money that year and they didn't know what to do with theirs except do something like this with it. In return we had to give them all rights, actually.
That was $2,500 all told, that they got rights.
Huh-uh, $1,000 is what--they got, yes, $2,500, but we got $1,000 out of that. And that's who got the plaque started, you know, to sell. Sell these plaques to make the $1,000 back for the county, this sort of thing, And I guess it was paid back to them, as far as I know.
Are you familiar with the plaque they're talking about?
Dwight Holland gave me one. He had some extras. They made a nice commemorative plaque, I thought.
I think it's interesting to bring out how it was difficult to get that stove tile reproduced. Several different ceramic places tried it and during the curing process, the tile would warp and curve on them. So, even back in the time. . .
It is thick!
. . .yeah, these were made, they knew how to fire it so that it could actually be used as a stove tile and not warp and crack. I talked to one of the, the individual who owns the ceramic tile place in, where, Lexington or Thomasville?
And he said they tried several firings before they could ever get anything that was satisfactory. They were warping. Now, it may have been a difference in the clay or it may have been a difference--I'm sure there was a difference in the way they had to fire it.
Where is the tile now, the original?
All the original pieces that was taken out is in the hands of the, uh, Methodist Church who own the land, and this is by rights. You know, it's theirs, anything that comes out is theirs. It's on display if you want to look at it, in the lodge at the camp site and there's been different people gone to take pictures of it, this sort of thing. And you know, they're cooperative, I'm not trying to say they hogged it. This was theirs, and in my estimation, they should take care of it. It's theirs.
Is that open all the time, the lodge?
Well, the caretaker lives right there, so you just have to go by the house.
I would like to take some slides.
I'm trying to think, there was something about the pipes that turned out to be important. I can't remember now what the detail was. Was it about the face on the pipe?
It was the face on the pipe. Mm-hum. These were stopped being made, these face pipes like this, with faces on them, uh, at a certain period. And I almost said, but I'm not real sure so that's another book work we need to look up. I hate to say exact dates when I'm not sure of them.
What date, about?
Mm-hum. So any time that an archaeologist, uh, picks up. . . .(tape stops)(Begin Side 2)
Okay, you were saying that. . .
The site is interesting from several standpoints, not only genealogy but the fact that you found the three different classifications of pottery, very fine, well made and decorated pottery; then utilitarian-type pottery; and then you had farmer pottery or apprentice-type pottery. And all of them tell a story that would be so interesting if you could tie it in with. . .
. . . with the people in there. . .
It would be.
Another thing, too, that's interesting. It's a fact that this was a community and after we found this site, other, you know, Joey and those kids that was with Dr. McLean, tromped out through the woods and all and found where houses had been years and years and years ago. And it was a main road, it was a main thoroughfare going up through there and people 1ived along there. It was a very early, it was one of the earliest communities in Randolph County. Now, you take that date and. . .
It would have to be.
And look how it was completely left. Isn't that astounding that the whole community was left, the roads were changed and then it went back to the wilds.
And the old Indian trading paths went right by it, too.
Yes, this was why the white people started using it.
And today, your uh, there's farming from Highway 64 up to about where the church is. From there then, all the way back for miles and miles, there's nothing but woodland. But there were settlements and there's bound to have been farm land back in there with the settlement.
Well that was, you know, you're talking about around 1770s. That was wilderness, Randolph County was. I mean, it wasn't just country like we think of it today!
That part of it was. And most of their, most of, they did a lot of hunting and things like that.
It as like frontier, frontier land. People were moving. You really probably didn't have as much migration during that period as you did right after the Revolutionary War when people really started moving through there. I wonder what the name of that community would have been. If there was a pottery there and there were houses, there were other, probably a trading post. It's surprising that something hasn't survived in records, you know, in old papers about that, if it was that large a place.
There might to have been, but a lot of the records were destroyed during the Civil War. In the South.
Wasn't there a story on part of that property, that, it uh, belonged to an Indian family? I can't remember now whether I heard that about the Mount Shepherd site or some other site. Do you recall anything on that?
Um, I'm trying to put together this business of the, who last owned it and gave it to the church for a campsite. It was, uh, what family was that? Oh dear.
I can't remember now.
Boy, my mind just goes blank.
Welcome to the club!
Well, this would be, certainly one question that you would ask Bobbie. If you'd talk to her on that, she'd, she's sharp as a tack when it comes to--At the time that we found this kiln site, there had not been but two kiln sites earlier than this found, that had been made known, in America, uh, in the east.
Let's see, there was the Poor Pottery up here on the. . .
No, it was one other one. Okay, okay. It was one other one and it was that Poor Potter of Yorktown. That's right.
That's right. Okay, we found this one and before we got this one excavated, then they found the other one up there in the, on the, uh, between Virginia and Washington.
It was somewhere on the James River in there wasn't it?
Yeah, so they went right ahead and excavated it.
But they found very few shards compared to what there were over here. There were just bushels and bushels of 'em that came out of this kiln site.
This is why we know it stood there more than just a few years, more than like four, five years. That it was a long- standing pottery. Because there was so many shards.
Very established. Plus two kiln sites would indicate, too, wouldn't it, that it was an established pottery?