Potter’s Mill on Main Street
This tract of land was the site of the O’Neal Pottery, where the kindly gentleman and master potter, Peter Wright McAdam, fashioned many fine articles for the households of Daphne and the surrounding area. His artistry with clay is not only local legend, but can be seen on tombstones, which are embellished with weeping willows, acorns and oak leaves. In 1869, when Peter McAdam was a small lad, he sailed with his family in a schooner from Glasgow, Scotland, to New York and then to Mobile Bay, anchoring in Montrose. His father, who was skilled in clay work, established the Montrose Pottery, which he ran with his two sons. After Peter married Florence O’Neal, the witty and winsome daughter of Captain James O’Neal, he moved to Daphne to operate the O’Neal Pottery.
When children visited the pottery, he always took time to demonstrate the potter’s wheel and to fashion animals of clay for them. A potter’s job was very labor intensive. At its peak, the pottery industry employed one third of the population on the Eastern Shore. Pickaxes were used to dig clay from the ground. Daphne clay is remarkably clean. It was processed in a mule-powered mill (a 6-foot cylinder with rotating metal claws) that cut the clay to obtain the proper consistency. This processing took up to 2 days. For each item, the specified weight of clay was cut by an assistant and handed to the potter. Within minutes, the potter transformed the shapeless lump into a pot, jar, churn, or other item and set it to dry. An average potter could make 200 one-gallon jars in a day at the O’Neal Pottery. The wood-fired kilns were partially underground with up to 8 fireboxes that had to be tended continuously for 7 days and nights to melt the glazes and finish the ware. Another 7 days were needed for cooling the kiln before the doorway could be unbricked and the pottery removed. The O’Neal pottery was located nearly at the junction of Potter’s Mill, McAdam and McMillan Avenues.