Europeans settle the backcountry
The first English settlers lived along the North Carolina coast.
About 100 years later they begin to move inland to the backcountry. The backcountry is the area where the Piedmont meets the Coastal Plains. At the same time groups of Scotch-Irish and Germans followed the Great Wagon Road and settled in the backcountry.

The mild climate, good farming soil, and cheap land prices made the backcountry a good place to settle. The settlers found the land had good deposits of clay. They used the clay to make pots, jugs, and crocks for use on the farm and in the house. Towns with stores were rare, so the settlers had to make most of the things they needed for everyday life.

The Moravians of Salem
In 1753 the Moravians came to the backcountry. They were a group of Germans who formed a religious community called Wachovia. The Moravians established the town of Salem. This is now part of the present-day city of Winston-Salem.

The Moravian community included many talented craftsmen. Craftsmen are people who are skilled at making useful items. One of the most talented of the Moravian craftsmen was the potters. The potters made and sold all types of beautiful and useful objects.

New methods of making pottery
Potters were always experimenting to make better products. They would try different mixtures of clay and methods of glazing and firing. In the early 1800s, potters found a type of clay that could be used to make stronger pottery. This new type of pottery was called Stoneware. Because stoneware pottery was hard and did not break easily, potters could make larger vessels. They also could transport their products longer distances for sale and trade.

Large veins of clay were found in the Catawba valley and around the small town Seagrove. By the mid-1800s, these two areas had turned into pottery centers with a thriving stoneware business.

Cross Creek trading center
As the population grew through the early 1800s, more people needed pottery. Many people in the Piedmont purchased from potters in the backcountry. Others bought pottery imported from Europe or the North. The town of Cross Creek became a trading center for the Coastal Plain.

A variety of goods were imported from England and traveled up the Cape Fear River. Items such as fine English china were available at general stores in Cross Creek.

The Bird & Fish Potter
One small factory started making pottery in Cross Creek. A prominent potter by the name of Chester Webster and his two brothers moved to Cross Creek from Connecticut to work in the pottery. The Websters were known for their pottery decorated with birds and fish. Today, 150 years later only a few dozen of their beautiful vessels exists.