The tale of the Huntington Pottery from 1854 until its demise in 1904 has many facets. In addition to the history of the wares, there are the stories of the people who owned it, the people who turned the pots, and the interweaving of the families who did both. A beautiful crock acquired by Mark R Smith with a Brown Brothers 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.
As the ownership of the Long Island Pottery transitioned from Huntington entrepreneurs to families of prolific potters from across the northeast, Julia became the glue that bonded them. She was the granddaughter of Isaac Scudder Ketcham, a Huntingtonian and a descendent of some of the previous owners of the Huntington Pottery. She was the daughter of Frederick J. Caire of the Caire family of Poughkeepsie potters. And she married George Brown, the last owner of the Huntington Pottery, who was born in Somerset, Massachusetts.
Julia Ketcham and Frederick J Caire
Julia’s father, Frederick J 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 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.
On April 12, 1854, the Poughkeepsie/Huntington connection was “sealed” when Frederick and Lucy became the parents of twins, Julia and John. That same year the connection was literally and figuratively “stamped” when Julia’s father, Frederick Caire, and her grandfather, Isaac Scudder Ketcham, became two of the co-owners of the Huntington Pottery.
Between 1854 and 1863, there were changes in the partnership of Pottery owners. Besides Isaac Ketcham and Frederick Caire, other partners included Francis S Hoyt and Julia’s younger brother Henry Scudder Ketcham. But among all the partners there was only one potter, and the stamp used throughout that time was “Fredrick J. Caire, Huntington L.I.”
The Brown family
In 1863 there was a new boy in town. When Julia was 9, the Brown Brothers bought the Huntington Pottery from Frederick Caire, Isaac Scudder Ketcham, and Henry Scudder Ketcham (Julia’s father, grandfather, and brother).
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.
Ten years later, George Brown Sr. 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.
The Browns had been a family of three since George and Eunice’s daughter Carrie died in 1866, and young George was already 22. Could the construction of a new house have been in anticipation of an addition to the family?
Julia 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. 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.
When George and Julia’s daughter Carrie was born on July 19, 1880, there was already a little girl in the house. In 1879, Eunice Brown had taken as a foster child her late sister’s three-year-old granddaughter, Georgianna Bennet Sherman.
George and Julia’s second child, Emilie was born on August 13, 1882, and William Caire Brown arrived on September 8, 1886. Their children were the living representation of the amalgamation of the three Pottery conglomerates of Huntington, Poughkeepsie, and Somerset.
Another symbolic progeny was Robert Gilmore Caire (1886-1960) whose parents were Frederick son, Lewis Henry Caire, and Emily Brown, the daughter of Stephen Brown, the second brother of the Brown Brothers partnership. I had the good fortune to have a conversation with Robert Gilmore Caire Jr. (1927-2017). He enjoyed researching his ancestry and was well-aware of his connection to the Pottery.
The first ten years of George and Julia Brown’s married life, from their wedding in 1875 to the birth of their son in 1886, were tainted with heartbreak. The family bible records the death of an “infant daughter” and an “infant son.” That Julia lost two babies before they could be named must have compounded the tragic loss of one of her living children.
William Caire Brown, George and Julia’s youngest child and only son, died when he was 16 months old. Julia passed away ten months later, on November 22, 1888. She was 34. Carrie and Emilie, only eight and six, were left in the care of their father, George W., and their grandparents, George and Eunice.
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, Harold. At 19 she gave birth to a second son, Charles Henry. Emilie Brown Johnson died six days after Charles was born.
Emilie’s children didn’t grow up in George Brown’s home. The boys seemed to have been shuffled among aunts and uncles on the Johnson side of the family, and it doesn’t appear that they stayed for any long period of time with their father, Louis, who remarried in 1906.
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 years old. Harold died in a motorcycle accident when he was 20. In 1934, George W Brown left nothing to his grandson Charles, the only living descendant of himself and his wife, Julia Caire Brown.
Emilie’s son, Charles Henry Johnson, and his wife Mary raised their three children, Charles Jr., Robert, and Harold, in Huntington. By the time of his death in 1997, he had 32 great-grandchildren. Most are scattered across the country, but a few still live in Huntington. In an interview, Charles H Johnson Jr. (b. 1931) 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. Mr. Johnson was kind enough to send me his grandparents’ original marriage certificate (above).
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 potters, died in 1934. Julia’s daughter, Carrie Brown, never married and after her father died in 1934, she lived alone in the house until her death in 1976, when she was 95 years old.
Julia Caire Brown’s children were born and died in the house that George Brown built on the harbor just north of the Pottery. The house deteriorated over the years while Carrie lived there, but new owners revived the house, and I am, as its current owner, trying to revive its history as best I can.
The Pottery buildings are long gone but Julia’s role in connecting three Pottery families is remembered.