From 1854 until 1863 the Huntington Pottery was owned by a partnership that included, at different points in time, Isaac Scudder Ketcham, Frederick J. Caire, Henry Scudder Ketcham, and Francis S. Hoyt. In 1863 the Brown Brothers (George, Stephen and Thomas) purchased the pottery. By 1873, George was the last of the brothers in the Pottery partnership, and along with his son, George W., he continued production until the Pottery’s demise in 1904.
A beautiful crock acquired by Mark R. Smith with a Brown Brother stamp and the inscription “Julia 1871” inspired me to tell what I knew of the people of that period through the perspective of Julia Ketcham Caire.
Julia, by birth and marriage, is the familial bond that unites a legacy of Huntington, Poughkeepsie and Massachusetts potters in the final fifty years of the Pottery’s operation.
Isaac Scudder Ketcham was a Huntingtonian descended from some of the previous owners of the Huntington Pottery. He and his young German-born son-in-law, Frederick J. Caire, were among the first of the partners who purchased the Pottery from Lewis & Gardiner in 1854. Young Frederick was almost certainly not an initial investor, but throughout this period, 1854-1863, it was Frederick Caire’s mark that adorned the stoneware.
Frederick J. Caire
Frederick Caire belonged to a family of potters who emigrated from Germany. John B. Caire and Frederick’s four brothers, Jacob, George, Lewis, and Adam, established themselves as successful Pottery owners in Poughkeepsie, NY.
Frederick, however, was lured to Long Island. In 1850, when he was 22, he was employed as a potter in Huntington, and he lived as a boarder with Pottery owners Isaac and Julia Ketcham, and their 19-year-old daughter, Lucy. Whether by fate or by design, Frederick Caire married Lucy Ketcham on July 24, 1853. Poughkeepsie and Huntington were, so to speak, joined in matrimony.
In 1854, the same year as the Pottery purchase, Frederick and Lucy became the parents of twins, Julia Adalia and John Scudder Ketcham. Julia and John, and later their brother Lewis Henry Ketcham, became the “offspring” of the Huntington and Poughkeepsie Potteries
Among the partnership of Pottery owners was Huntington mariner Francis S. Hoyt (1816-1870). Hoyt was born in Connecticut and had a connection to Norwalk potter Lewis Tuttle. Later on, Henry Scudder Ketcham joined the firm, and according to newspaper accounts, was an active part of the business.
In 1863, Julia’s father, grandfather, and uncle (Frederick Caire, Isaac Scudder Ketcham and Henry Scudder Ketcham), sold the pottery to the Brown Brothers (George, Stephen and Thomas).
George Brown, the senior of the Brown Brothers, had owned the Pottery in Somerset, Massachusetts, and it was from there he brought to Huntington his wife Eunice, their two-year-old daughter Carrie, and 12-year-old son, George W.
At that time, the pottery business must have taken center stage in Julia’s life for all of her nine years. When the Brown Brothers took over, she and George W Brown, the new boy in town, must have had at least this in common.
By 1873, George Brown Sr. was the sole owner of the Huntington Pottery. That year he built a large house on the harbor just north of the Pottery. It had a wrap-around porch, and a basement kitchen equipped the modern convenience of a wood burning cook stove.
Julia Caire and George Brown
It probably wasn’t love at first sight when Julia Caire and George Brown met as children, but love had certainly blossomed over the years.
This “Brown Brother” crock might well have been a gift from George to 17-year-old Julia. Julia’s mother died in 1861, and as the only woman in a household that included her father and two brothers, a personalized kitchen container might have been a gift that signified respect and appreciation.
“A carpenter might build a special item, a mechanic fix a cherished device, a writer craft a poem, a painter create a portrait, all to capture a young ladies affection. To me it seems quite reasonable that George Jr. being in the pottery industry made Julia a pot.” – Mark R. Smith
On New Year’s Eve, 1875 George and Julia married, and a new generation of the Brown family began to fill the empty bedrooms in the house on the harbor just north of the pottery.
Julia and George Brown’s Children
(According to the Breed bible, there was also an Infant Girl and Infant Boy.)
It’s interesting to note that when Carrie was born there was already a little girl in the house. In 1879, Eunice Breed Brown had taken as a foster child her late sister’s three-year-old granddaughter, Georgianna Bennet Sherman.
William Caire Brown, George and Julia’s youngest child and only son, died when he was 16 months old.
Julia, a young mother at 34, passed away ten months later. Carrie and Emilie, only eight and six, were left in the care of their father, George W. Brown, and their grandparents, George and Eunice Brown.
George and Julia’s Legacy
In 1900, George and Julia’s daughter, Emilie, married Louis Johnson, the son of Edward Johnson, a Pottery employee.
In 1901, when Emily was 18, she had her first child, George Harold (called Harold). At 19, she gave birth to a second son, Charles Henry. Emilie Brown Johnson died six days after Charles was born, leaving her two infant sons motherless. The cause of her death is listed as Bright’s Disease.
As the days of the Huntington Pottery came to its close in 1904, so did its legacy.
Emilie’s sons weren’t involved in the Pottery. They didn’t grow up in George Brown’s home and it doesn’t appear that they stayed for any long period of time with their father, Louis, who remarried in 1906. Harold and Charles seemed to have been shuffled among aunts and uncles on the Johnson side of the family.
Living members of the Johnson family have affirmed that the relationship between George Brown’s family and Emilie’s children became strained. In 1912, George Brown Sr. left $400 in a trust for his two great-grandsons for use until they were 21. Charles must have utilized this small inheritance in full, but in yet another family tragedy, Harold died in a motorcycle accident when he was 20.
When George W. Brown died in 1934, he left all of his assets to his single daughter, Carrie, and nothing to his only living grandchild, Charles Henry Johnson. Perhaps it would have been different if Julia had survived.
Charles Johnson and his wife Mary raised their three children, Charles Jr., Robert, and Harold, in Huntington. Most of his descendents are scattered across the country, but a few still live in Huntington.
In a 2015 interview, Charles Johnson Jr. said his family knew they were related to the Brown family and the Pottery, but except for shrugging off the loss of an inheritance, no one seemed to give it much thought. He also expressed a fondness for his uncle, Louis Farrell Johnson, the son of Louis Johnson and his second wife, Sarah.
Life and Death after the Pottery
The Huntington Pottery closed its doors in 1904.
George and Eunice Brown died in 1912 and 1913, and George W Brown, the last of the Huntington Pottery owners, died in 1934. His daughter, Carrie Brown, never married. After her father died she lived alone in the house until her death in 1976, when she was 95 years old.
Julia Caire Brown’s children were born in the house that George Brown built on the harbor just north of the Pottery, and all but Emilie died there. The house deteriorated over the years while her daughter Carrie lived there, but new owners revived it.
The Pottery buildings are long gone but Julia’s role in connecting three Pottery families is remembered.