Monday, February 16, 2009

William Payne Loyd, Itawamba Potter

There's a story behind these lovely and unique cobalt blue designs, and if you will patiently follow the story below, you'll understand how they came to be atop a desolate hill in Itawamba County.

William Payne Loyd was brother to my great-great grandfather, Isham James Loyd. The Loyd family came to what was then Marion County, Alabama from Lincoln County, Tennessee just after 1840. Charity Payne Loyd, widowed a few years earlier, led her family of nine children - that's right nine - from Tennessee to Alabama. The youngest child, Elizabeth Merinda, was barely a year old, maybe two. Charity's oldest child was William Payne Loyd, named after her father. Middle child was my ancestor, Isham who dabbled in pottery, but not to the extent of his older brothers.

William Payne Loyd married Thursa Martin in Lincoln County on April 12, 1840, and shortly thereafter they joined the other members of the Loyd family on their trek to Alabama where they settled around Pine Springs, near Detroit in present-day Lamar County. I've often reflected on the strength of Charity Loyd to move away from her own mother and brothers, with her very young family of nine children, to a new and distant place. She must have been well-loved and well-admired because she had many descendants named after her. She died in 1858 and is buried at Pine Springs Cemetery.

Back to William, however. His wife Thursa may have been the daughter of George W. Martin. In the 1850 census, there were a couple of potters living next to Charity Loyd at Pine Springs: George W. Martin and Barton (Britton?) Weeks. George was living in Lincoln County, Tennessee - same as the Loyds - in the previous 1840 census, and there is a record of a George Martin buying land from Charity's brother-in-law, William White, in Lincoln County.

William Payne Loyd moved his family to Winston County, Mississippi where they are found in the 1850 census. His occupation is given as potter in the census, and living with the young family was another potter, F. G. Hendricks. Around 1856 and 1858, William was joined in Winston County by his brother, Lawson Lancelot Loyd, also a potter. Although William did not stay in Winston County, Lawson did. He died there in 1880, and his descendants continued making pottery for at least another couple of generations. In fact, one of Lawson's children married into another family of potters, the Stewarts, and one of Lawson's grandchildren can be found in the 1820 census living next to the widow of Biloxi's now-famous "Mad Potter," George Ohr.

By 1860, William was in Itawamba County living near Tremont, and again his occupation is given as potter. There were several pottery operations along the state line during the latter part of the 1800s, but William Payne Loyd and his son William D. Loyd were known for their patented gravemarkers. Prior to the availability of the Loyd marker, families had to create their own crude markers, or if they had the money, they could order a marker from out of the county and bear the additional expense to have it shipped to them, sometimes from as far away as Mobile. The gravemarkers created and produced by the Loyds were both affordable and accessible to most everyone, and even today, over hundred years later, their markers appear brand new. Unfortunately, the clay material of the markers made them more prone to breakage from lawn mowers and tree limbs so finding a perfect Loyd marker can be uncommon.

After receiving the Loyds received a patent for their unique design of gravemarkers, other pottery operations in the area began turning out these markers. One way to distinguish the Loyd-made markers from those made by other potters is by the design the Loyds put at the triangular top of their markers. The photos above are wonderful (and rare) examples of Loyd markers, and after finding them in an abandoned graveyard, I just had to share them with you. The beautiful cobalt blue design and lettering on these markers look as if they were just produced yesterday instead of 130 years ago.

To read more about this family's invention, please see Bob Franks' interesting article at the Itawamba County Historical Society's webblog. Terry Thornton also has great information about the Loyds and other Itawamba potters at his Hill Country blog. Thank you, Don Dulaney, for providing the photos when my camera's battery died.


Bob Franks said...

Thanks for the information about the Loyd family Mona. And the photos are outstanding. These are the first Loyd pottery monuments I have seen with drawings inside the triangle at the top.

Janice Tracy said...

Mona, thank you for sharing this wonderful story about these rare pottery markers. They are not only unique, but with their cobalt blue designs, they are truly works of art.

Don Dulaney said...

Wow. I had no idea. Thanks for the information. Great Story.

Terry Thornton said...

Thanks Mona for this excellent look at the Loyd patented pottery grave markers. Necessity is the mother of invention --- and pottery grave markers were the result!

I appreciate your photos of these rare Loyd markers --- most of the other potters who used the Loyd process under license didn't decorate their markers. But the vivid blue colors and markings are as clear today as when the marker was fired in the kiln more than a century ago.

Terry Thornton

Anonymous said...

Mona or Terry, most of us who have visited in the cemeteries of the area and observed/admired these pottery markers over the years might have the same question that I have. Was the decorations a form of free hand art or did they have some form of die that stamped the etchings before the "eternal" blue was painted into/on the markers? I have always wondered about the carving on the elaborate monuments of more than a hundred years ago. Surely there is a good story somewhere about how the art decorating as formed. bettye

LPM said...

I've never seen pottery grave markers, but they are so pretty, and your story is fascinating! What a interesting family you have. There's always a great name(s) in there somewhere too, i.e. Lancelot!

Mona Robinson Mills said...

Bettye, I believe that these artistic decorations are unique to each marker rather than stamped or duplicated. In fact, these are the only Loyd pottery markers that I have seen with this type of decoration, and each of the ones in this cemetery are different. There is a smaller, twig or leaf symbol that I've found on smaller Loyd markers in other places but even these are rare.

Cindy said...

This story is fantastic! They truly are works of art and just beautiful.

Thanks for stopping by my blog - I've enjoyed reading yours.

Brenda M. Franklin said...

Mona, My husband's parents are buried in the Pine Springs cemetary.In his young days, Jerry mowed the cemetary. He remembers well seeing the markers at Pine Springs as well as others in the area. Jerry Brown pottery family was next door to him growing up. Jerry is 6 or 7th gen potter. Wonder if there is any connection to the Loyds. Brenda Franklin

Mona Robinson Mills said...

Brenda, I haven't found any connection between the Browns and the Loyds but there certainly could be one. Pine Springs is on my list of cemeteries that I *need* to visit to pay my respects to Charity Loyd, my GGG grandmother. What a small word we live in - I'm sure Jerry was careful to mow around those precious markers!