Samuel J. Wetmore & Co. purchased the Huntington Pottery from Jonathan and Sarah Titus on February 27, 1805 for $250.93. The partnership consisted of Samuel Wetmore (1774-1823), Samuel Fleet (1768-1823), Scudder Sammis (1764-1812), and Timothy Williams (1756-1811).
UPDATE 4/12/2020: “A reason is easily seen for the flurry of new stoneware factories that appeared around 1805. From 1804 to 1812 the seizure and impressment of 10,000 American seamen into the British Navy led to a series of Congressional Acts [1806-9] that prohibited trade with England. With the Embargo Act of [p. 407] 1807 [one of the causes of the War of 1812] imports dropped to one-third, and American potters had to supply a domestic market cut off from foreign sources. … Samuel Wetmore in 1805 began the enterprise at Huntingdon, Long Island, that later would become Brown Brothers.” [L. G. G. Ramsey, F.S.A., ed. The Complete Color Encyclopedia of Antiques, London. New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc. 1962.]
Williams, the oldest of the original partnership and close in age to Jonathan Titus Jr., served in the Continental Army. He “was a patriot; taken prisoner by the British while on a secret mission for the government, 1780, but made his escape.”
At a mere seventy days, Williams may hold the record as having ownership of the Huntington Pottery for the shortest amount of time. On May 8th, 1805, Williams sold his one quarter share of the Pottery to Moses Scudder (1761-1825) for $65.25.
The Pottery was an investment rather than a trade. All parties involved were descended from or connected to the first settlers of Huntington. Even Samuel J. Wetmore, who was always assumed to be an outside investor, has an intriguing personal connection to Huntington.
The True Identity of Samuel J. Wetmore
Because of his apparent absence in any Huntington documents, Samuel J. Wetmore was always considered, in any history of the Pottery, a mere investor and Huntington outsider.
An exciting revelation in the Timothy Williams deed is that, upon close examination, the middle initial of Samuel Wetmore’s name is most obviously an “I,” and not a “J.” This is the first hint that Samuel J. Wetmore was also known as Samuel I. Wetmore, and that Samuel I. Wetmore could be Samuel Ithiel Wetmore, a Long Islander who married Liberty Prime of Huntington.
Newspaper articles, church records, and obituaries reveal connection after connection. Samuel Ithiel Wetmore and Samuel J. Wetmore were one and the same. (Click to open a detailed thesis.)
After the Revolutionary War, Samuel Wetmore’s father, Noah, a Presbyterian pastor in Connecticut and an “ardent patriot and chaplain in the American Revolution,” moved his wife Submit and their five children (including Samuel Ithiel in his adolescence) from Connecticut to Long Island, 25 miles east of Huntington. Noah Wetmore served as pastor in the Setauket Presbyterian Church from 1786 until in 1796.
In 1800 Samuel Ithiel Wetmore married Liberty Prime, the granddaughter of Ebenezer Prime, Huntington’s Presbyterian pastor and famed nemesis of the British during their occupation of Long Island.
Liberty’s father, Benjamin Youngs Prime, a well-schooled and outspoken physician, shared her grandfather’s passion for American independence. “He was the special object of the enemy’s hatred and was forced to flee with his wife and young son, Ebenezer… For several years he lived in exile in Connecticut.” It was during the family’s exile that Liberty and her sisters, Ann and Mary, were born. They returned to Huntington after the American victory in 1783, when Liberty was six. Nathaniel Prime, the fifth and last of the siblings, was born in Huntington in 1785.
Samuel and Liberty had six children between about 1801 and 1820. Sometime between 1811 and 1817 they moved to New York City where Samuel J. Wetmore was employed as the Librarian of New York Hospital. Samuel Wetmore’s brothers had already been finding success in New York City, Apollos as a businessman and Noah as the manager of New York Hospital. Even after Wetmore’s death in in 1823, his family remained city dwellers.
All in the (Pottery) Family
The family connections of all the partners of Wetmore & Co. are fascinating. (See Family Tree 1, below.)
- Moses Scudder and Scudder Sammis were “double” cousins. (Brother and sister Timothy and Elizabeth Sammis married sister and brother Elizabeth and Jonathan Scudder.)
- Samuel Fleet married Timothy Williams’ younger sister, Rachel. After her death, Fleet married Elizabeth Gardiner.
- Timothy Williams was Jonathan Titus’s first cousin, twice removed.
And bringing the friends and family ties into the future of the Pottery:
- Elizabeth Gardiner’s nephew, Matthew Harriman Gardiner, would later partner with Moses Scudder’s nephew, Henry Lewis, to become Lewis & Gardiner, owners of the Huntington Pottery in 1827.
- Moses Scudder, as is told in his will, was a good friend of Joseph Lewis, the grandfather of Henry Lewis.
- Susanna Smith, a cousin of Scudder and Sammis, married Selah Ketcham, whose son, Isaac Scudder Ketcham, would become a Pottery owner in 1854.
As fascinating as the family ties are, they may be, some may be more random than they seem. After Richard Holbrook, Robert Williams and Daniel Whitehead formed the town of Huntington in 1653 more settlers followed. Their names included Carll, Platt, Ketcham, Gardiner, Lewis and Scudder. After 100 years of large families and intermarriage, many Huntington residents were related by birth or marriage. There were two lines of Scudders, though, and all the Pottery Scudders were from the same line.
But there’s more to the story of Samuel J. Wetmore & Co. than family ties.
The Pottery Polka
Two puzzling newspaper clippings appear during the Wetmore period of the Huntington Pottery. The first, in 1810, listed for sale, “a Manufactory for making stone and Earthenware, situated in Huntington, Long Island…” The second, in 1813, offers half or whole of the Pottery, which will be sold at auction within a month if the sale isn’t made.
Currently, there’s no evidence that the pottery, or any portion of it, was sold at auction. But there must have been reasons, personal or financial, for the apparent and mysterious change of hands in the partnership between its purchase in 1805 and its sale in 1827.
The War of 1812, which lasted until 1815, may have influenced the financial health of the Pottery. It wasn’t a ground war in the Northeast, as the Revolutionary War had been, but the Long Island Sound became a dangerous trading route.
Riverhead- In October 1814, after receiving word that an American merchantman was in danger of capture by the British, New Haven-based cutter Eagle sailed into Long Island Sound to assist the hapless vessel…With only six small cannon on board, the cutter faced the Royal Navy warship of eighteen cannon and its armed boarding barges, so Eagle beached in shallow water. The cutter’s crew hauled the ship’s guns on shore to fire on the British from the heights overlooking the sound.
[U. S. Coast Guard History]
Another factor to consider is the death of Scudder Sammis in 1812. He died in Savannah, Georgia, a “mariner…formerly Master of an New York Packet.” His presence on the Georgia coast was no doubt related to the war.
Samuel J. Wetmore eventually took an under-position to his brother Noah at New York hospital and it was his brother Apollos who acted as agent for the 1810 advertisement for the sale. Wetmore died in 1823.
Edwin Atlee Barber, a distinguished scholar of decorative ceramics, contends in one of his many books that the Pottery was owned during a time in this period by partners States & Scudder. Unfortunately, his source isn’t cited, and was absent in a personal search of his papers in the Philadelphia Museum of Art archives.
Samuel Fleet died in 1823. He and Scudder were the wealthiest of the original partners, but it’s not clear that Fleet owned any portion of the Pottery when he died.
In whatever hands the Pottery lay over the years, it was Moses Scudder alone who deeded the property to Benjamin Keeler on February 25, 1825. Scudder died the following November.
It’s the nature of historical research to sometimes uncover more questions than it answers. This is the case of Wetmore & Co. and the ownership of the Pottery between 1805 and 1827. Hopefully it will incite more research or act as a stepping point for future scholars.
Family Tree 1: Thomas Scudder to Samuel Fleet
(Not all siblings are shown)
This tree is extended in Family Tree 2: Timothy Scudder to Henry Lewis. The common ancestor that links one to the other is Timothy Scudder (1655-1740), marked in yellow on both trees.
DETAIL: Left portion of the full tree:
DETAIL: Right Portion of the full tree:
Proof of Samuel Wetmore’s Identity
Click to open PDF file: