Stoneware produced in the early 19th century by the man who brought the process to Union County is now on display at the Union County Museum.
“The Union County Museum is proud to announce the opening of our new Thomas Owensby stoneware exhibit,” Director Ola Jean said in a statement announcing the display. “Thomas Owensby, who had trained in Edgefield, carried the alkaline-glazed stoneware tradition into the Union district in the first half (circa 1820) of the nineteenth century. The Owensby collection on display is comprised of approximately 40 pieces. Included in the exhibit are fine examples of his single and double handled alkaline-glazed jugs and jars, two exceptionally rare examples of serving pitchers and a very rare example of a ‘buggy’ bottle.
“This is the most complete and finest example of Thomas Owensby shop pottery currently known anywhere,” she said. “The Owensby collection will be on display through September. Other Union County potters, who had intermarried into the Owensby family, will be on display at a later date.”
Kelly said the pottery on display is owned by a private collector who approached the museum about having an exhibit. She said he agreed to let the museum display his collection on the condition of his remaining anonymous.
The collector will also provide the museum with examples of the work the potters who married into Owensby’s family.
“The other families whose work will be on display will the Whelchel family, of whom Samuel is probably the best known potter,” Kelly said. “We will also display the work of the Boyle family. This is the family of Rochelle Boyle who was sheriff of Union County.”
July At The Museum
Kelly also issued the July activity report for the museum which she said had 207 registered visitors.
In addition to Union County residents who visited the museum and signed its register, Kelly said there were visitors from other parts of South Carolina including Boiling Springs, Charleston, Gaffney, Gray Court, Greer, Lexington, Moore, Newberry, Pauline, Rock Hill, Roebuck, Sharon, Spartanburg and Summerville.
Also signing the register were a total of 48 visitors from outside South Carolina. In addition to signing their names, visitors are also asked to list where they are from, and Kelly said the visitors from outside South Carolina who signed the register were from California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia. There were, however, no visitors from outside the United States.
Visitors are encouraged to sign the register, both on their initial visit and on all subsequents visits. Kelly said this enables the museum to keep track of the number and variety of visitors it receives each month. She said the number of visitors are also included in the reports the museum sends the City of Union and Union County which providing funding for the museum.
In addition to signing their names and listing where they are from, visitors also have the option of writing comments about their experience at the museum and many do. As in previous months, those who visited the museum had only good things to say about their experience.
• “Loved the museum, learned so much.” — Indiana
• “Very beautiful and Informative.” — Texas
• “It was absolutely amazing, so much history, fantastic, thank you.” — Florida
• “Fantastic resources, Union should be proud.” — School Teacher assisting college age daughter with research
• “Thanks for the memories.” — Union
In addition to the main floor which houses most of the artifacts on display, the museum has a meeting room in its basement that is available for use by local and area organizations. In July, the room was used by the Catawba Regional Council on Aging.
“They had a seminar for people who had just reached retirement age,” Kelly said. “They talked about things like Medicare, and the options to them.”
July was also the month for the annual CSI Youth Camp at USC Union which gives children ages 9-13 the opportunity to try their hand at crime scene investigation.
During this year’s CSI Camp, the young crime scene investigators also visited the museum. Kelly said the museum was contacted by the university about tour by the participants in the camp. She said during the tour, the children and youth asked a number of questions about the museum and she tried about clues and gathering them.
Cross Keys House
The museum is owned by the Union County Historical Society which also owns the Cross Keys House.
The house is one of 23 sites on the Union County Historic Trail which runs throughout much of Union County. The house was visited in 1865 by Confederate President Jefferson Davis during his flight from Richmond, Va., the capital of the Confederate States of America, after it fell to the Union army near the end of the Civil War.
Kelly said the City of Union television station, Channel 14, is filming segments on the Historic Trail and this month they were filming at Cross Keys House.
MAP Gets Under Way
At the end of July, the museum was selected by the American Association of Museums to participated in the Museum Accreditation Process (MAP). Only 4.5 percent of American museums are accredited by the Association, among them the Metropolitan Museum in New York City and the Charleston, Museum in Charleston. The Association is the only organization in the United States that accredits museums.
MAP involved four phases, the first being the application process, and the second the self assessment phase which the Kelly said the museum is in the process of completing.
“The completed self-assessment document will assist in museum planning and a copy will be given to our peer reviewer — a visit by a professional in the museum field which will occur next at a later date,” Kelly said. “This is a step toward museum accreditation. A grant of $4,000 has been awarded to pay for this process.”
For more information about the Union County Museum, its displays, genealogical research facilities, meeting room and other services, call (864) 429-5081 or visit us at www.unioncountymuseum.com. The museum is located at 127 W. Main St., Union, and is open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturday 2-5 p.m.