Hawthorn Pottery Co. helped shape a community

The small southern Clarion County community of Hawthorn was built around a gristmill but found fame around a potter’s wheel.

According to the “History of Clarion County,” in 1810 Adam Mohney bought 1,600 acres of land in Clarion County from Holland Land Co. Jake Mohney, a nephew of Adam Mohney, bought 500 acres of the land where Hawthorn now stands and built his home there. After Mohney’s death, some of the land was purchased by W.C. Sloan and laid out in lots.

James Kerr built the first store in 1830. In it was installed the first post office and the settlement became Kerr’s Station.

There was talk of building a gristmill, so the little settlement was made into a town and called Millville. The gristmill was not built and there was another Millville in Pennsylvania. To avoid confusion, the name was changed to West Millville.

David McCargo, a Scotch railroader, changed the name of the town to Hawthorn, naming it for the shrub of the same name that grows in Scotland.

The early industries in Hawthorn have vanished; the canning factory, hotels and even the coal mines are gone, but one industry lives on: Hawthorn Pottery Co.

A printed account recalls the life and death of the industry.

For a period ranging roughly from 1899 to 1920, Hawthorn was the site of the Hawthorn Pottery Co., one of the leading small industries of the Redbank Valley.

Hawthorn Pottery got its start in 1894, when W.T. Putney and E.A. Hamilton purchased the land, buildings and pottery-making equipment from George Alabaster, who operated Pioneer Pottery in New Bethlehem on the west end of Penn Street. A fire destroyed his factory in February 1902, causing about $8,000 in damage.

William Gould, a young man who was assisting in putting out the fire, was injured when a smokestack fell on him. The newspaper account said he suffered a severe bruise to the head and bit his tongue so hard he could not speak.

The pottery relied on local materials, using potters clay from the Red Bank Creek and paying 20 cents per (long) ton: 2,240 pounds.

Over the next several years, additional buildings were added and a railroad siding was built to serve the pottery. The company also opened offices in the Bissell Block in Pittsburgh, a major center of the class and crockery trade for the region.

During the early 1920s, the pottery passed into the hands of American Clay Products Co., of Zanesville, Ohio. In 1928, the pottery ceased operations and the facilities were sold.

The main products of the pottery were crocks and jugs. The former ranged in size from 1 to 15 gallons and the jugs varied in size from half-gallon to 5 gallons.

While no longer prized for their utilitarian function of food and beverage storage and preservation, the crocks and jugs have become sought-after collectors’ items. The products of Hawthorn Pottery are easily recognized by their uniform light gray color and the name of the pottery.

While crocks and jugs were the mainstay of the pottery, a number of other products were produced on a smaller scale, including water coolers, pitchers, and umbrella stands. A few other novelty and specialty items were also produced, including reclining lions and assorted small animals.

Hawthorn Pottery items can be found at antique shops and flea markets. They can also be found at auctions in central Pennsylvania and online auctions.