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Lock 16 Pottery


Lock No. 16 pottery to be displayed at library

From Muskingum Valley Review, December 10, 2000


            Unusual local pottery, handmade at Lock No. 16 during the years 1935 to 1938 is on display in the lobby of the Matamoras Public Library.  This is the first time the Beavertown Lock 16 Pottery has been displayed since it was made. 

            At the end of the Depression, times were hard in southeastern Ohio and other parts of Appalachia. 

            In order to help the esprit de corp of the rural people, the U.S. government planned several programs, both to help the citizens and to provide jobs for some of them.

            One of the centers where programs were planned was at Lock No. 16, Beavertown, Ohio, several miles south of Matamoras on State Route 7.  Lockmaster at No. 16 was Nelson Beare who, with his wife Virginia and daughter Ethel May, lived in one of the spacious lockhouses. 

            Ethel May Beare Noland vividly remembers the pottery program.  She described it as being under the auspices of the Government Extension Program, as a means “to help people express their creativity after the end of the Depression.”

            Women as far downriver as Wade, as far upriver as Matamoras, eagerly met every week or two at the Locks.  A teacher was furnished and he instructed them in molding the clay, in painting, glazes, and art forms.  Some molds were used, but most of the pottery was designed by the women who make it.

            After each art session was over, the potter took the collection of weekly creations away with him to put in a kiln.  The women were excited, waiting to see how their pottery would turn out.  Would it be perfect … or would it be cracked or broken?  Would the colors be good?

            Most of the pottery that has survived those 65 years since it was made is beautiful.  Large and small, dark and light, and of many different colors, each piece was a testimony to the creativity of country women who had never worked with clay before.  There are pieces of black, white, blue and pink.  However, most of the pottery is in earth tones of brown and green.

            Women who lived in this area and whose pottery is on display are: Virginia Beare, Beavertown; Maud Cochran, Grandview; Iva Deshler, Wade; Margaret McMahan, Leith; Ethel May Noland, Beavertown; now of Marietta; and Minnie Smurr, Beavertown.

            Local collectors of this unusual regional pottery are Hope Barnhouse, David and Linda Cochran, Helen McMahan, Richard and Mary McMahan and Ethel May Noland.

            Librarian Carol Gay urges everyone to stop at the library and view the Beavertown Lock No. 16 Pottery.  Many people did not realize that there was a locally made pottery and have not seen it before.