Millers Pottery is not only one of the few remaining potteries in Alabama, but also one of the few remaining in the entire country.
There was a time when a potter was a very important member of the community in the State, as the jars they made were used to store numerous things in the refrigerator.
They would also make every-day dishes, pots and pans, as well as different types of cups that families would use in their daily life.
It is located in the small city of Brent, in Bibb County, at 2324 Highway 5.
The town of Brent has an interesting history, as in May of 1973, this small town was almost completely destroyed by an F4 tornado, which killed 5 people and injured 56 in the area.
It was on the ground for over 139 miles, making it one of the longest tracks in the State’s history.
The material that Millers Pottery uses are from clay found in the area, and the 150-yrear history of making pottery included two important traditions.
The first is the age-old traditions brought from Europe, and the second is traditions that were made and passed on from the south.
Millers Pottery all started and was taken from the history of this lost art, which dates all the way back to the Native American tribes in the area.
These early tribes passed on this art through the generations, and it is estimated that they made pottery centuries before the Europeans arrived in this country.
They would make their earthenware pots and drinking vessels, by coiling or molding clay.
However, unlike more modern pottery makers, they did not glaze their products.
When the Europeans arrived in this land that would become the United States, they made their goods a lot different than the Native Americans.
The products they made had a very smooth and glossy lead-glazed finish, but this too changed as time progressed.
During the 18th century, new European immigrants in the Mobile Bay area, brought an entirely new technology, including the following.
These new techniques quickly replaced the old procedures, and by the 1840’s, potters in the Mobile Bay area were producing an entirely new type of pottery.
They were producing high-fired stoneware with a matt-finish salt glaze, and the pots they were putting out almost looked like the skin of an orange.
In the 1850’s, French immigrant potters formally introduced this new type of glaze, including Francis LaCoste, in Baldwin County.
Millers Pottery got its beginning when Abraham Miller came to work for the LaCoste family.
Shortly after, he married Mr. LaCoste’s daughter, Francis, and he slowly started to learn the pottery business.
Soon after, he made the decision to move his family north, and settled in the central part of the state, to work in this flourishing business, near Sprott, Alabama.
Within a couple of years, he founded his own pottery, and his sons helped him start it and run it.
They produced their products with this new glazed look, and it included jugs, churns, and other everyday items that customers in the rural areas used during the early 20th century.
A few years later, Mr. Millers son William took over running the business, with the help of his other sons, Hendon and Norman.
This pottery soon became a strong and growing small enterprise in the community.
In the early 1930’s the sons Hendon and Norman took charge of the operations and worked it until 1957.
They then closed the pottery and started individual businesses, and that look like the end of Millers Pottery.
Millers Pottery looked like it was dead and gone, but in 1964 Hendon moved to the town of Brent, in Bibb County.
There he opened a small shop that was near a natural gas line and fitted his small shop with a gas-fired kiln.
By doing this, it eliminated any need for wood, and he was ready for business.
Norman then moved to Sprott, Alabama, in Perry County, northeast of Marion, where he made table wares, flowerpots, and churns.
He closed the shop in the mid 1970’s, and Hendon passed away in 1983.
His son Eric took over the shop, on Highway 5, and still runs it to this day with the help of his son Steve.
Most of the items today made by the Millers are turned on a wheel, dried for several weeks, and then fired in a kiln.
This process lasts for 3 days, and this is the same type of work that has gone on generations in this family.
Today, they market their pottery at craft shows, as well as visitors to their shop.
Thye also sell a lot of their processed clay to art supply stores and educational institutions, because of its quality.
This business was featured in a documentary called “Milers Pottery: Turning for Generations”, in 1997.
If you like pottery and have never been to Millers Pottery, you will be surprised at the quality and selection you find there.
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