Extremely rare hand decorated pitcher.
One natural resource found in Rusk County provided an abundance of raw material for the development of industry in the county. When pioneers arrived in Rusk County in the early 1800's, they found a variety of clays suitable for brick making, tiles, statuary and pottery. Pottery making is one of the world's oldest crafts, with examples of pottery traced back as far as the 7th century BC. Amongst the earliest finds are artistic figures, images of people and animals, and household implements including breakers and dishes. Anthropologists often use the techniques and patterns found in ancient burial sites to form an accurate picture of society through the ages. Earthenware (jugs, churns, and vessels of all kinds) made in Rusk County found a ready market. Some of the early potters were Brown, Leopard, Rushton, Prothro and Russell. Many of Henderson's downtown buildings were made from bricks baked in the kiln of the Howard Brothers, and many early plantations included kilns for brick making and pottery. One of these early plantation owners was Taylor Brown Sr., who came from Alabama in 1839 to take advantage of an offer from the Republic of Texas to people willing to move their families to Texas. He was searching for a piece of property that could be made into a self-sustaining plantation. Brown settled on a piece of property located on the old Henderson-to-Tyler highway. On this property he constructed Brown's Lake and installed an overshot waterwheel that powered a pottery plant, grist and wheat mill, cotton gin and cabinet factory. The millrace is still visible on the property and clay from the pit was used in this century by Henderson Clay Products Company (now Boral Brick). Henderson Clay Products opened for business on April 21, 1947, and grew to become one of the largest brick making businesses in the United States. Brick from Henderson Clay was used in construction of the Astrodome in Houston. Besides Brown, one of the earliest known Rusk County potters was John Leopard, who operated a pottery 1850-1870 in the Roquemore community located on the Pine Hill Road (Farm-to-Market Road 2867) in the west corner of the road leading to Hunt Cemetery. Legend tells that a group of potters followed a vein of clay from South Carolina through Alabama to Texas. Family histories seem to bear out this legend, as many of Rusk County's potters trace their roots to South Carolina and Alabama. Leopard was one of these South Carolina potters who was born in South Carolinas and migrated to Texas. His grave is located in a pasture east of the Hunt Cemetery. Located near the old Leopard pottery is the site of another early pottery belonging to another South Carolina family that migrated to Alabama. Members of this family moved to Dangerfield at some time between 1850 and 1855, but returned to Alabama. Joseph Clifford Demerval Rushton (Cliff) came to Rusk County about 1869 after service in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He was a potter, following in his father's footsteps. Great-great granddaughter, Mary Frank Dunn related that Rushton worked for a time in the Brown pottery factory before he bought a farm and built a jug factory beyond Hunt Cemetery. "The Rushtons and the Hunts are related families," said Dunn. "Cliff Rushton's pottery is signed 'JR." The Hunts were another early Rusk County pottery-making family who settled along the vein of clay found in the Roquemore area. Their factory was located near the intersection of Farm-to-Market Roads 840 and 2867. John Fleming Hunt learned his craft at the age of 18 under the tutelage of an old Negro man, according to Fay Hunt. Clay for the Hunt Jug Factory was of a high quality, and after the business closed, an 18-acre clay pit site was purchased by Henderson Clay Products. A potter herself, Fay Hunt learned the trade and worked in the family business before it closed. Many of the firm's secrets were known to her, including how to distinguish the unmarked pottery. "Many people find a Rusk County jug marked 'JH' and think they have a piece of Hunt pottery when what they really have is a piece made by James W. (Jim) Haden," said Hunt. "John Hunt never signed his pottery, but there is a secret marking which only I know." Operated from 1890 until 1932, the factory was closed for a while during the 1930's but reopened during the World War II years of the 1940's, after which it was again closed. Another Henderson clay-based industry was the Henderson Pottery Works. A deed recorded in 1891 shows the property sold to a J.F. Dawson, and lists several property sites in an around Henderson including a plot located near the old Brown kiln. Early records show it to be owned by Russell Pottery & M.B. Griffith, believed to be former owners of the Henderson Pottery Works property, although pottery auction legends date this pottery between 1900-1909. A pottery display at the Depot Museum shows examples of churns, jugs and other pottery used in early Rusk County homes.