The Catawba still know some alternate clay holes by name or vague location. Doris Blue remembered a lost clay hole: "I remember they used to come down below Edna's to get clay below where we lived then. [Sarah Harris] was a tall lady, and all the old ladies were so thin, so slim. These old ladies would come down the hill going down below Edna's to get clay and all of them would have these skirts on and long aprons. They'd go down there and get their clay, and each of them would come back with their aprons folded up. The clay would be in their aprons, and Aunt Sarah, we always called these old ladies aunt, was one of them" (Doris Blue, interview, 20 March 1980, BC). Although this clay resource was used by the older generation, the last of whom died in the 1960s, its location is now lost. Between 1979 and i993, several unsuccessful attempts to locate this unnamed clay hole were made.
A second lost clay hole is located below the house site now occupied by the Robbins family. Although its general location is known, this resource remains unused. Earl and Viola Robbins prefer to cross the river and dig clay at Nisbet Bottoms (Earl Robbins, interview, 13 May i987, BC). A clay hole is easily lost in a forested area. The trees grow quickly and appearances change from season to season. A path may be altered, overgrown with weeds, and one layer of autumn leaves will easily cover a clay hole.
A pipe clay hole that is no longer used but is well documented is the Deerlick Clay Hole. It was located in a ditch along the main reservation road (now Indian Trail Road) not far below the junction of Indian Trail and Tom Steven Road. According to Edith Brown, the Deerlick Clay Hole was covered when the road was paved (Edith Brown, interview, 21 April 1977, BC). According to some informants, a side road named Deerlick Road may mark this location (Earl Robbins, interview, 11 May 1987, BC). The Ben Harris Clay Hole is another named source. This pipe clay hole was named for its owner/finder. It was abandoned in the i960s when Ben Harris's daughters stopped working in clay. By all accounts, Ben Harris clay was of a good quality (Edith Brown, interview, 21 April 1977, BC).
Two additional pipe clay holes that have been lost in recent years are the Patterson Bottoms and Brady Clay Hole. The Patterson resource was once used by Edith Brown and was probably either owned by or found by a member of the Patterson family (Edith Brown, interview, 21 April 1977, BC). More is known about the Brady Clay Hole, which was named for Nancy Harris Brady who went west at the turn of the twentieth century (Georgia Harris, interview, 15 April 1977, BC). Georgia Harris recalled that pieces made from this pipe clay burned a lovely red: "I visited the Brady Clay Hole as a child once. I know where it might be, but I could never find it. Edith Brown and Richard Harris say they could find it, but I doubt that seriously" (Georgia Harris, interview, 16 February 1977, BC). The problem with the Brady Clay Hole is that the clay was found in a drainage ditch in an open field (Edith Brown, interview, 21 April 1977, BC). Today this area is forested. If the bottoms are ever cleared for farming again, the Brady Clay Hole may be found.
Another major pan clay hole abandoned by the potters in recent years is the Collins Clay Hole. It was located a short walk from the reservation. All of those who used Collins clay praised its quality. Edith Brown recalled going there with her grandmother, Sarah Harris: "That was good clay. The pan was white, and it had lots of little bones in it. You had to pick them out. I don't know what they was. We called it bones. It was stiff clay" (The term "stiff" refers to the ability of the clay to stand up during construction) (Edith Brown, interview, 21 April 1977, BC).
During the 1970s, Georgia Harris located and used a vein of pan clay in a drainage ditch along the road in front of her home. Located just a few yards from her door, this source solved some problems in obtaining pan clay. It is similar to Blue pan clay in quality. Mrs. Harris preferred to take her pan clay from the Blue Clay Hole in Lancaster County (Georgia Harris, interview, 24 March 1977, BC). She was also concerned that this hole might become known and the potters would come digging clay in her yard.
Was this article helpful?