The Morgan Jones Kiln
One of the newest roadside markers in the Northern Neck tells a tale of 17th century potters whose kiln dating back to 1677 was discovered in Westmoreland county. What the marker doesn’t tell us is the rebellious nature of their work.
Brides everywhere make use of bridal registries. It’s a quick and easy way to register one’s heart’s desire for the needs and luxuries, the stuff they deem necessary for their life’s newest adventure. Now let’s rewind back to the 1600’s and the brides of the Northern Neck.
Many came over from England with not much more than the clothes on their young backs. They would marry men they hadn’t known long or perhaps not at all. They would live in houses not much better than huts. Considering life expectancy in those days, building for the long haul just wasn’t the plan. Now, how to stock their rough house. They would need plates and pots and cups and the like. Some came with basic housewares. Many came here with little but a dream.
If they lived in Westmoreland County between 1677 and 1685, they may have travelled to the Pottery Kiln, belonging to Morgan Jones and partner Dennis White. Or perhaps Jones and White had a wagon and horse and travelled across the area, peddling their wares. We don’t know. What we do know is that some years back during an archeological dig for Indian relics, headed up by Dr. William Kelso, pottery shards were discovered, and later amazingly the kiln that produced the pottery was uncovered in 1973. One of the heroines of this tale is the late Virginia Sherman, a Westmoreland resident. She was responsible for piquing Dr. Kelso’s interest in the site.
There was a small problem. The site was on land soon to become a residential development. Well, Virginia Sherman persevered, got the county to raise funds to purchase the land, and then came Bill and Helen King, whose tireless efforts to have the site recognized for its historical importance resulted in the recent unveiling of a roadside marker that reads, in part, “Morgan Jones and Dennis White entered into a partnership for the making and selling of earthenware which provided utilitarian pottery to settlers in the Cheasapeake Bay area.” What the marker doesn’t tell us is that the kiln was, according to British rulers, an unlawful operation. Virginia Sherman wrote, “As the lords of trade in London didn’t permit any manufacturing in the Virginia colony, the colonists were expected to furnish the raw materials to England and then buy back English manufactured goods.” Well, apparently Jones and White weren’t about to send Virginia clay back to England.
More pottery shards of their two-man rebellion have been found at the homes of other, more famous rebels: the Lees at Statford Hall, Robert Carter at Nimini, and at the Washington birthplace. Rebels all, with very different causes. From the freedom to ply a trade, to freedom itself.
This is Thea Marshall.