Adam States of Connecticut

Before any current record of pottery manufacture in Huntington, the quality of Long Island clay was recognized by potter Adam States (his Dutch name Anglicized from Staats). States used Long Island clay to create, most likely, the first sustainable stoneware manufactory in New England.

For the Europeans who settled in the “new world,” stoneware farm and kitchen vessels, plentiful in Europe, were an ocean away. The settlers were obliged to marry their old lifestyle with new resources. In New England, the spotty manufacturer of redware soon evolved into local industries. But stoneware, long known to be more sturdy and less brittle than local redware, was in demand. By 1740, stoneware could be imported from Virginia, Philadelphia, New York City, and “mainland” New York.
Isaac Parker, had the idea to corner the market on stoneware production in Massachusetts. He failed.

Nor was the failure surprising, since New England afforded no stoneware clay and was put to the expense of getting it from New York. Indeed, the major source of supply for all American stoneware was for many years the rich deposit of fine blue clay centered at South Amboy, New Jersey, and extending to Staten Island and Long Island. [L. G. G. Ramsey, F.S.A., ed. The Complete Color Encyclopedia of Antiques. Preface by Bevis Hillier, Editor of The Connoisseur. Compiled by The Connoisseur, London. New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc. 1962. Revised and Expanded Edition.]

The political claim to Long Island was often disputed. The Dutch settlers of New York City expanded into the eastern portion of the island but further west, family and trade connections flowed to and from Connecticut, across the Long Island Sound.
Adam States bridged that gap. He brought knowledge of stoneware from the Netherlands, adapted the production in New York and New Jersey and used Long Island clay to produce stoneware in Connecticut.

Adam States signed a lease with the Town of Huntington in 1751 to load as much clay as he could from Long Island’s north shore, paying on demand, as long as he didn’t buy more than he could use. After five years, if States made a home in Huntington, he could continue to extract more clay.

States married Elizabeth Geldener in New York City in 1744, when he was 26. The birth of their children plots the points of Adam’s entrepreneurial endeavors. The first two were born in New York and Pennsylvania in 1746 and 1748. The next four were born in Greenwich, CT between 1751 and 1758. (See Family Tree, below.) The Connecticut births coincide with Adam’s five-year commitment to buy Huntington clay, which he shipped to the Connecticut town of Greenwich, a short distance across the sound. 

1. Huntington, LI  2. Greenwich, CT  3. Norwich, CT  4. Stonington, CT
[Connecticut and Parts Adjacent; Covens et Mortier et Covens, junior; LCCN 73691554]

When The “Dutch Potter” died in 1769, fourteen-year-old Adam States Jr. was apprenticed to his uncle, Peter Staats, who owned a pottery in Norwich, CT. Following his apprenticeship, Adam Jr. married Esther Noyes and established his own pottery in Stonington, CT.

The lease recorded in the Huntington Town Records identifies “adam States of hors neck In ye County of fairfield In ye Colony of Connecticut In new England.” There is no definitive evidence of States living on Long Island, but confusion may have ensued as both Huntington and Greenwich, CT have areas known as Horse Neck.

Down the hill, set back from the road and almost surrounded by a garden, where the vines and trellises nearly cover the whole front of the mansion, is the house long known as the States home, as Mr. Adam States, a Hollander, came here and married Mr. James Noyes’ daughter, Esther; she died in a few years leaving children, and Mr. States married her sister Mary who was the widow of John Pendleton; later he married Cynthia Brown and still continued to live here. This land was part of the farm of Mr. James Noyes, which extended over to the farm now known as the Adam States, Jr. place, but it is quite probable that Mr. Noyes built this house for his daughter Esther, upon her marriage with Mr. States, in 1778, so it has been known as the States place for a hundred and twenty-five years. Mr. Erastus Wentworth of Norwich, Connecticut, married Mr. States’ daughter Esther, and after her death married Cynthia, who was then living at this place alone with her brother Ichabod. Here was once a brick kiln, where all kinds of earthen ware was made by the States’s; this one was managed by the father, and another was carried on at Stonington village by his sons; it was located at Kiln Wharf, or Shin Bone Alley, below the Capt. Williams house. Later the kiln at the States place was carried on by “Uncle Wentworth” as he was familiarly called. [Wheeler, Grace Dennison, The Homes of Our Ancestors in Stonington, Conn., Salem, Mass. Newcomb & Gauss, Printers., 1903]

A. STATES (Adam States Jr.), Stonington, 1778-1823
Collection Karen Rae Levine

Adam States Jr.’s cousin William (the son of Peter States) ran the pottery on “Shin Bone Alley” in Stonington, CT from 1811 until his death in 1823. The sons of Adam Jr. involved in this pottery were likely Adam III and Ichabod. When William died, Ichabod States brought on a partner, Joshua Swan and they operated as Swan & States until 1834.

SWAN & STATES, Stonington, 1823-1834
Collection Karen Rae Levine

Meanwhile, in nearby Norwich, in 1814, Adam Jr.’s young son-in-law, Erastus Wentworth, purchased a Pottery with Peleg Armstrong. “Armstrong & Wentworth” produced pottery there until 1834. (See Family Tree, below)

Armstrong & Wentworth (Collection Karen Rae Levine)
Pottery at Norwich, Norwich, ca. 1830. This drawing purports to show an 18th-century pottery in Norwich. The building with the smoking chimney is the kiln where the pottery was fired. CONNECTICUT HISTORICAL SOCIETY, X.1986.23.0

Adam States Jr. died in 1826, just a few years before the end of his family’s contribution to the production of stoneware in Connecticut.

Pottery Display at the Stonington Historical Society, Old Lighthouse Museum, 7 Water St, Stonington, CT

Meanwhile, the Huntington Pottery began to take shape.


States Family Tree, including Wentworth and Armstrong

Sources Watkins, Laura Woodside; Early New England Potters and Their Wares, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1950“Stonington Pottery,” Stonington Historical SocietyDixon, Sierra, “From Kiln to Collection: Norwich Pottery and Its Makers,” Norwich Historical Society, Jan 3, 2014

7 thoughts on “Adam States of Connecticut

  1. Thank you for sharing. I just found this, I’m a descendant of Matthias States. Matthias’ son Samuel and grandson Adam were also both potters by trade. It feels so amazing to uncover this piece of my heritage. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My mother’s maiden name is States and Matthias is my great grandfather also. I have been researching my Staats/States family for 19 years and back when I started I was driving trucks all over the east coast. I wish I would have known this back then as I could have gone out of my way to look through all these places out there back then. Quite the history on these States relatives of mine!


  2. Hi Andy, You are very welcome! I’m so happy that you could make such a personal connection. I didn’t know that Matthias’s sons were also a potters and that’s very interesting for me. So thank you too!


  3. How exciting it is to find this article. Thank you so much. Adam and Elizabeth States are my 5th Great Grandparents on my grandmother Alice States Bowser’s side. I have been working on our family tree for years and this is a huge piece of information to add which I just recently found out about. Hopefully you realize how helpful you have been to those of us researching our family. It is greatly appreciated.


    1. Hi Cheryl, You are so very welcome. You’re the third States descendent to contact me. I had no idea that what I shared would be so important to your genealogical research but I’m very excited that it is. Enjoy your research!


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