A Pause for Benjamin Keeler:
Connecticut native Benjamin Keeler had a short but profitable stint (1825-1827) as owner of the Huntington Pottery. He’d purchased it from Moses Scudder in 1825 for $1300 and sold to the partnership of Lewis & Gardiner in 1827 for $3100. [Corbett]
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, …]
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. (see Jonathan Titas and the Revolution.) Henry and Mary Ann enjoyed 28 years of a productive marriage, having nine children over the course of nineteen years.
Lewis and Gardiner became brothers-in-law about two years before their partnership in the Pottery business. Matthew Gardiner married Lewis’s youngest sister, Martha. Matthew and Martha’s only living child, Julia Ann was born in 1828.
Lewis without Gardiner
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.
For some time, the pottery marks continued to bear the mark, “Lewis & Gardiner.” It was only years later that stoneware would bear the mark “H. Lewis,” “Lewis,” or “Lewis & Lewis.”
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] Another of Lewis’s potters was German-born Frederick J. Caire whose family had grown the pottery trade in Poughkeepsie since their immigration in 1840.
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.]
The elder Henry’s wife, Mary, died in 1845. According the 1850 US Census, Henry Lewis was no longer a potter. He was a farmer living with four grown daughters and his son William (13). At about that time, Henry Lewis, along with his daughters, Hannah, Mary, and Helen, and his sons Daniel and William, travelled west to make a home in the Kansas territory.
According to the same 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. With Henry gone, this unearths a 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.
Henry Lewis had been living in Kansas for four years when his son, Henry Scudder Lewis, died in Huntington on February 11, 1854. The younger Henry’s death at 34 must have precipitated the sale of the Pottery that same year to Frederick J. Caire, Caire’s father-in-law, Isaac Scudder Ketcham, and Francis S. Hoyt.
The Lewis claim to the Huntington Pottery had 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.
In 1850, while his sons were living together and running the Pottery in Huntington, widower Henry Lewis, along with his daughters, Hannah, Mary, and Helen, and his sons Daniel and William, travelled west to make a home in Kansas.
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.
A 1922 Oregon obituary of Henry Lewis’s daughter, Helen, sheds a very colorful light on the lives of the Lewis family in 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.]
This obituary puts Lewis in Kansas in 1849, contradicting the census data within a fair margin of error. The 1860 census confirms that Henry Lewis shared his Kansas residence 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]
It’s here that Lewis’s former partner Matthew Gardiner comes back into the picture. 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.
New and Noteworthy
Henry Lewis moved from Huntington to Kansas in 1850.
Henry Lewis’s sons, Henry Scudder Lewis and John R. Lewis, where young men when one or both of them carried on the business of the Pottery after their father’s departure in 1850.
The mark “Lewis and Lewis” assumed to indicate father and son, may refer to the Lewis brothers.
Henry Scudder Lewis died in February 1856, the same year that the Pottery was sold to Ketcham, Caire and Hoyt.
A Sampling of Lewis & Gardiner Stoneware
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