Saturday, March 20, 2010

Loyd-style stoneware or pottery grave markers

A Photographic Essay

UPDATE: See additional information and correction at

by Terry Thornton

Various forms of Loyd-style pottery grave markers are found in the Hill Country of north-western Alabama and north-eastern Mississippi. Almost all older cemeteries in this region have one of more of these patented Loyd-style markers.

The use of local clays by Hill Country potters to make pottery grave markers was a process perfected by William Payne Loyd and William Dickinson Loyd of Tremont, Itawamba County, MS. On June 10, 1879, they received U.S. Patent # 216,427 for making a tombstone or grave marker from clay fired into stoneware/pottery. Their patented technique was licensed to several other pottery shops.

Slight differences are apparent in the markers from potter to potter --- but the overwhelming majority of the surviving stoneware grave markers show the typical slab of light (Bristol slip) glazed stoneware embellished with cobalt blue markings done with a stylus or with letter embossing molds

On occasion Loyd-style markers show the work of more creative potters and a few such markers are decorated with stylized drawings and figures. See examples posted by Mona Mills at Itawamba Connections:
The following photographs show additional attempts to use pottery grave markers. No attempt was made to determine who fired these examples from local clay or when --- nor is there any attempt made to determine which forms inspired the Loyds or if the marker is a copy of the patented Loyd process by a potter who wished to emulate the Loyd-maker without using the patented process.

Example 1. The following close-up of Levi C. Clouse's pottery marker shows a Bristol slip/wash on a reddish clay decorated freely with cobalt blue with hand-lettered manuscript writing. Damage to the marker has removed some of the overglaze revealing the clay color below. tawamba County, Mississippi.

Example 2. The following photograph of Thomas Minyard pottery marker is a typical example of the Loyd-process. The base no longer survives on Mr. Minyard's marker --- but the typical Bristol slip with cobalt-blue writing remains vivid. Itawamba County, Mississippi.

Example 3. The following photograph shows a brownish glaze (Albany slip ?) with brown writing on a typically shaped Loyd-marker which was uncovered recently in a Hill Country cemetery.
According to Itawamba County historian, Bob Franks, only one other brown glazed with brown writing Loyd-style marker has been found in the county. Franks speculates that the Loyds may have experimented with various colors and glazes and that there was not much market for brown. [Note: The photograph does not capture the brownish color of this marker very well. The marker was removed from beneath a layer of dirt and moss and photographed without cleaning.]. Itawamba County, Mississippi.

Example 4. Below is shown a typical Loyd-style marker from the same cemetery as Example
3. It too was uncovered from beneath a large rock where it was partcally covered with dirt and a layer of forest rubble. Note the typical glazing and colors. Itawamba County, Mississippi.

Example 5. The photographs below shows an Loyd-style pottery grave marker and its base. The base, which is a turned piece of pottery holds the pressed/slab marker upright. The two
pieces are shown as found, separated, in photograph A. When rejoined, a typical intact Loyd-style pottery grave marker is much like that shown in photograph B. Monroe County, Mississippi.

Example 6. The following three photographs show a pottery marker that may have been influenced by the patented Loyd-style marker. Clearly a turned pottery base, the marker
consists of an round slab of fired clay that is decorated with both line work and applied pottery elements. The slab portion is joined to the based with a metal fastener. Unfortunately most of the applied elements to this one-of-a-kind pottery marker have been lost. Photograph A shows this small stoneware marker from the back and side; Photograph B shows it from the front and Photograph C is a close up of the slab. It is not known who made this stoneware marker; it is located in a traditional African-American portion of a cemetery in northern Monroe County, Mississippi.

Example 7
. Compare the shape of the slab portion of the Loyd-style marker in Example 7 to Example 8. Various changes in shape, size, and lettering to the manufacturing process occurred over time which enables some pottery experts to determine which specific potter made a specific grave marker. Itawamba County, Mississippi

Example 8. Itawamba County, Mississippi.

See also Hill Country Kiln: Firing the Potter's Clay, April 27, 2007, by Terry Thornton in Hill Country of Monroe County Mississippi, Volume 1. Post # 3.).

Photographs of Loyd-style grave marker. Copyright © 2010. William T. "Terry" Thornton, Fulton, Mississippi. All Rights Reserved.

No comments: