Our Heritage of Clay, Beads & Pottery

From red clay soils along valley creeks to the multi-colored Bentonite clay hills, clay can be found throughout Wayne County. Blue Valley was named for its characteristic blue (bentonite) clay that becomes a slick, sticky gumbo when wet (Murphy, 1999).

Many pioneer homes used clay in cabin construction. According to Chappell (1975), the first homes were built of logs, hewn with an axe to their proper shape and size and linked with smaller pieces held in by a mortar made with clay. The historic Elijah Cutler Behunin Cabin in Capitol Reef National Park contains a roof structure that uses wood sheathing and bentonite clay.

Many pioneers were skilled craftsmen. For instance, brickmaker David Callahan created bricks for the Lyman Schoolhouse and for homes in Lyman, Loa and Bicknell (Snow, 1953).

Clay has been used since prehistoric times in medicine, pottery, adornments, and structures. The artifact most commonly used to identify a Fremont culture site is thin-walled, gray, coil pottery. The Fremont added granular rock or sand to the wet clay to prevent cracking and ensure even drying (Murphy, 1999). Pots, bowls, jars, and small dishes have all been found in area caves and dwelling sites.

Over the next several weeks, 4-H youth in Wayne County will explore our heritage of clay, beads, and pottery. Children will be learning about clay and creating coil pots and figurines along with making beaded projects.

On Wednesday April 1 (CANCELLED) at 6PM, a free community dinner event will be held at the Wayne County Community Center. We’re seeking people who are willing to share their sources of local clay, their pottery or figurines, or beadwork. We’re also seeking people to demonstrate their pottery or beadwork skills.

If you’re planning to join us, please call the USU Extension/4-H Office at 435-836-1312 to let us know how many will participate in the 4-H program and/or the dinner.

You can help preserve our amazing past by contributing stories or historical photos to the project. Go to Facebook or contact Project Director Annette Lamb at alamb@eduscapes.com or 435-425-3415. This project is made possible through a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Entrada Institute and Wayne County USU Extension. LIKE us at facebook.com/sparkinghumanities. – Annette Lamb

Check out this article about Clay, Beads, and Pottery. Although our April 1 event has been cancelled, it will be combined with our gardening theme held April 22. Read more at at the Insider.

The remaining events for 2020 have been cancelled.

Pottery Theme
Elijah Cutler Behunin Cabin in Capitol Reef National Park