What is: Pottery School, Pamunkey Indian Reservation, King William County, Virginia. Home of the Pamunkey Potter’s Guild since the early 1930s.
What was: Pottery production for Virginia’s indigenous peoples began roughly three millennia prior to contact with Europeans. From its beginning to approximately five decades after European contact, the ceramics of Virginia’s coastal plains consisted of small to large wide-mouthed jars with conoidal bodies and rounded bases. Ceramics were produced and used on a household basis for a multitude of purposes including cooking and storage. The period of initial European contact resulted in the first marked shift in European influence on Pamunkey pottery production in which pottery shifted from production for consumption to production for exchange.
During the nineteenth century, the Pamunkey potters had a thriving peddlers’ trade throughout the Peninsula area. Many believed that this activity was ruined by the construction of the York and Richmond Railroad in 1854 and the traumatic events surrounding the Civil War and resulting disruption of life in King William county area. Reconstruction, would, of course, take a further toll. By the beginning of the 20th century, only a handful of potters remained, but all the senior members of the community could recall a day when their grandparents made a living, at least in part, from peddling their stewing pots, milk pans, and other pottery vessels throughout the country.
Today, the Pamunkey Reservation consists of 1,200 acres. That is 7% of the land originally granted by the 1677 Treaty of Middle Plantation.