A Pause for Benjamin Keeler:
Connecticut native Benjamin Keeler had a short but profitable stint (1825-1827) as owner of the Huntington Pottery. Keeler “… was engaged in the coasting trade, and was also connected with a pottery at Huntington, Long Island, but during the latter portion of his life was a farmer.” [Commemorative biographical record of Fairfield County, …]
On to Lewis & Gardiner:
Before Keeler, the owners of the Pottery had been prominent Huntingtonians, their families intertwined by birth or marriage. The 1827 purchase by Henry Lewis and Matthew Harriman Gardiner brought Huntington’s dynasty of Pottery owners back to the helm. Samuel J. Wetmore & Co. had included Moses Scudder and Samuel Fleet. Lewis was the nephew of Scudder and Gardiner, the nephew of Fleet. (See Family Tree 2: Scudder to Lewis, below.)
Henry Lewis, the older of the partners, married Mary Ann Platt, the granddaughter of Mary Carll Platt, or “The Widow Platt,” who hosted General George Washington at her tavern in 1790. Henry and Mary Ann enjoyed 28 years of a productive marriage, having nine children over the course of nineteen years.
Lewis and Gardiner were brothers-in-law. About two years before their business partnership, Matthew Gardiner married Lewis’s youngest sister, Martha. Matthew and Martha’s only living child, Julia Ann was born in 1828.
The partnership of Lewis and Gardiner was short-lived. About two years after the they purchased the Pottery, Matthew Gardiner relinquished his share of the business.
Henry Lewis hired George Merrill, a young potter from Southold who continued making pots in Huntington, heedless of the ownership, until his death in 1872. [Corbett]
Lewis brought his son, Henry Scudder Lewis, into the Pottery business. An 1848 issue of the Long Islander makes the younger Henry’s immersion in the business clear:
Our acknowledgements are due H. S. Lewis, Esq., for a present of a beautiful pitcher and spittoon, of a new variety of ware, manufactured in this village. They were specimens of ware called “variegated,” which is made by a combination of stone and earthenware material — is handsome in appearance, and combines durability with cheapness. Mr. Lewis intends manufacturing this kind of ware into the various articles usually made with either earthen or stone. [The Long Islander, January 28, 1848, p.2.]
According to the 1850 US Census, the residence of Henry Scudder Lewis (31) included his wife and child and his brother, John Rogers Lewis (24). Both men are listed as potters. This unearths a small chance that the stoneware mark of “Lewis & Lewis,” often assumed to indicate Henry Lewis in partnership with one of his sons, could be attributed to the brothers Lewis. Also, the designation of “potter,” as opposed to “pottery manufacturer” in these census records is interesting. These gentlemen, unlike the owners before them, might actually have turned a pot.
The elder Henry’s wife, Mary, died in 1845. By 1850, Henry Lewis was no longer a potter. He was a farmer living with four grown daughters and his son William (13). Soon after the census was taken, Henry Lewis, along with his daughters, Hannah, Mary, and Helen, and his sons Daniel and William, traveled west to make a home in Kansas. Julia Gardiner Vail, Matthew Gardiner’s daughter, and Henry Lewis’s niece, might have played a small role in the Lewis family’s politically motivated westward journey. More about this in the next section, Henry Lewis: Beyond the Pottery.
Henry Scudder Lewis died in Huntington in 1854, which may have precipitated the sale of the Pottery to Isaac Scudder Ketcham and Francis S. Hoyt that same year. The Lewis claim to the Huntington Pottery lasted 28 years.
Henry Lewis: Beyond the Pottery
Henry Lewis was a staunch abolitionist and the later part of his life was intertwined with a part of US history that took place far from the island his great grandparents had settled. A 1922 Oregon obituary of Henry Lewis’s daughter, Helen, sheds a very colorful light on the former potter’s move to Kansas.
Miss Lewis was a resident of Kansas during the days before the civil war when the state was torn with strife over the slavery question. John Brown, the famous abolitionist, was a warm friend of her family, and Miss Lewis had a number of stories about his adventures. Several times the Lewis family concealed Brown when the ‘border ruffians’ were on his trail. Miss Lewis was born in Huntington, L. I., March 20, 1831. With her father and brothers she moved to Kansas in 1849. [The Oregonian, May 5, 1922, p.5.]
It would take a man of great conviction to uproot himself from an ancestral town and move, in his late 50’s, halfway across North America to live in a State where he knew there would be danger and violence.
The year of Henry Lewis’s move to Kansas is about 1850. The US Census has him living in Huntington in 1850. His daughter’s 1922 obituary puts the move at 1849. The 1860 census confirms Henry Lewis’s residence in Kansas that he shared with four of his children: Mary, Helen, Daniel, and William. His family in Kansas also included his daughter Hannah and her husband, Phillip Fowler.
Henry Lewis’s long-held belief in the abolition of slavery is made quite clear by the given names of his two youngest sons, Daniel Webster and William Wirt.
In the years leading up to the civil war, Daniel Webster was a congressman, a senator and the Secretary of State. William Wirt was a US Attorney General and presidential candidate. Both Webster and Wirt, along with Henry Clay of Kentucky, were fierce opponents of President Andrew Jackson. The passion that Webster, Wirt and Clay had in common was their opposition to slavery and their determination to maintain the expanding country as a single union.
As it happens, Daniel Webster was no stranger to Long Island. He vacationed regularly with the Vail family in a town near the Pottery.
It was Webster’s custom to stay for weeks at a time in the quaint little Smithtown rusticating and relaxing from past legislative battles, and perhaps preparing for others. [South Side Signal, Babylon, NY, October 12, 1904]
Matthew Gardiner’s daughter (and Henry Lewis’s niece) Julia, married Jeremiah Vail of Smithtown, and both are buried there. It’s possible that Henry Lewis, connected to the Vail family by way of his niece, had more than an ideological connection to Webster. Perhaps they were acquainted.
On the political front, the 1820 uproar caused by the admission of Missouri to the union as a slave state was quelled by Henry Clay’s “Missouri Compromise,” which balanced the divided union by the addition of Maine as a free state. Thirty years later, Yankees like Henry Lewis began migrating to Kansas where they might, as residents, have the influence necessary to bring the territory into the union as a free state.
The Kansas-Nebraska act of 1854, giving new States their slavery status based on the popular majority, incited a war within the Kansas territory between pro-slavery “Boarder Ruffians” and anti-slavery “Free-Soilers.” John Brown, purported to have been hidden by Henry Lewis during the conflict, was the passionate and reactionary leader of the Free-Soilers.
Kansas entered the union as a free state in 1861 but the long and violent era of “Bleeding Kansas” signaled the onset of a Civil War that raged between 1861 and 1865.
Henry Lewis, the politically fierce Huntington potter, died in Douglas, Kansas on November 14, 1863. He was 70 years old.
Noteworthy for the Huntington Pottery is the time of Henry Lewis’s exit, and the involvement of his son (or sons) after he left. Noteworthy in the context of US history, is the role that Henry Lewis and his family played in the troubled time of a divided nation.
A Sampling of Lewis & Gardiner Stoneware
Another blog will include more details about the Lewis & Gardiner wares, including styles, marks, composition and age, and these will come from authors and collectors with much more experience and knowledge than I have. As an appetizer, I’ll share the pieces in my collection.
Great care and detail were given to this crock, in its turning and its decoration. As a custom order, this would have been a costly gift. Who is Hannah Gardiner? One guess is the wife of Matthew Gardiner’s oldest brother, Orlando.
Family Tree 2: Timothy Scudder to Henry Lewis
This tree is an extension of Family Tree 1: Thomas Scudder to Samuel Fleet. The common ancestor that links one to the other is Timothy Scudder (1655-1740), marked in yellow on both trees.
DETAIL: Left side of Family Tree:
Detail: Right Side of Family Tree