History of Jugtown

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Jugtown was located in Richland Township. This area was rich in historical significance. There was a military stockade located here, early Indian campgrounds, and the first county poor farm. It was also the scene of cattle drives from Texas and a stagecoach road.

Allen Petty bought the land in 1867 for $0.75 an acre. The soil was especially fine for growing watermelons and fruit trees. There were several large orchards in the area. The railroad came in 1880-82.

In 1880 Frank Rist established a tile and jug factory near Forest Grove. As many as one hundred families moved there to work in the kilns. Forest Grove School had ninety students. In 1878 the Baptists established a mission church in a log barn. This became Forest Grove Church in 1888. Land for the first church, school, and cemetery was donated by Peter Carr.

The community of Jugtown was at its peak between 1880 and 1900. Jim "Strawberry" Brown opened a store in his home. Later he moved it to a separate building.

The first recorded mention of the pottery factory is found in the Barton County Business Directory compiled by B.F. Mann.

Workers were needed to dig the clay, cut firewood, man the kilns, etc. The factory made jugs, canning jars, dishes, bricks, and drainage tiles. Bricks from Jugtown were used to build the Lamar College. When that building was torn down, the bricks were subsequently used in the Memorial Hall.

The clay, orange or gray in color, came from Muddy Creek and Pettis Creek. The early potters used foot-powered wheels. Later steam engines, powered by coal from nearby pits, were used for the wheels.

Kilns were approximately ten feet wide, thirty or forty feet long, and probably tall enough to stand in. They were fired by oak wood. Pottery stayed in the kiln three or four days. Glazing was done by burning apple wood or by throwing salt on the pieces.

One of the legends associated with Jugtown concerns Lafe and Charley Rist. Hired as woodcutters, they preferred hunting instead. One story says that enough pheasant were shot in the area to keep the fine restaurants in Kansas City amply supplied.

In 1900 glass jars took the place of pottery. The factory then changed to drainage tiles, some of which is still in use in the surrounding fields. Between 1915 and 1917 the kilns were finally closed.

A large number of pieces of pottery were on display. Much of this had been dug up by Ralph Schmitt, who now owns land in the area. The barrels of old guns, also found nearby, may date from the military stockade. A collection of arrowheads points to the presence of Indians at some time.

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