Elliott: Daisy the center of tile, ceramic manufacturing in Hamilton County

Elliott: Daisy the center of tile, ceramic manufacturing in Hamilton County

July 15th, 2018 by Sam D. Elliott in Opinion Columns
A worker stands by a display of porcelain tile manufactured at the Hood Tile Co. in Daisy.

A worker stands by a display of porcelain...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

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After Hamilton County's organization in 1819, the first county court was held at the tavern and stock stand of Hasten Poe, at a location known at the time as Poe's Crossroads. From there, a turnpike ran from the Tennessee River Valley on the east side of Walden's Ridge across to Dunlap in the Sequatchie Valley. Poe's was a way station along a route of the Trail of Tears late in 1838 and a base for Union Col. John T. Wilder's "Lightning Brigade" as it probed toward Chattanooga in August 1863. As late as 1876, however, a study published by the State of Tennessee noted only a few small farms along the road from Poe's Crossroads to Dunlap.

The late 1860s and the decade of the 1870s saw coal mining operations develop to the north of Poe's at Soddy, and for a while, at Sale Creek. As the area around Poe's was similarly close to Walden's Ridge, it is not surprising that efforts would be made to mine coal there as well. Accordingly, in late 1880, Thomas Parkes (sometimes spelled "Parks"), a Confederate veteran from Middle Tennessee who was primarily in the insurance business, began an operation working a seam of coal there under the name of the Hamilton County Coal Co., which was apparently soon changed to the Daisy Coal Mining Co., after Mr. Parkes' teenage daughter, Daisy. In 1881 the small community that sprung up around the mining operation, which included the site of Poe's Crossroads, became known as Daisy.

While the Daisy mine had periods of productivity, other industries eventually developed in that small community. The first of these was the Chattanooga Pottery Co., which began in February 1891. Its charter stated the company was to engage in the "manufacture of stoneware, jugs, pots, fire-brick, tiles and all other products incident to the pottery business." While there were several investors, the "hands-on" owner was James W. Berry, the company's president, who provided the land for the plant in exchange for 370 shares of the company's stock.

The new business got into operation quickly, producing its first carload of stoneware by mid-May 1891. Billed as the "Largest Pottery in the South," the business had two large buildings, 160 feet by 50 feet and 162 feet by 60 feet, the latter of which had two stories. There were warehouses, kilns and the "highest grade of machinery." Berry continued as president until about 1900, when he was replaced by Dwight P. Montague, who also operated Chattanooga Fire Clay works, near the present-day Cameron Harbor.

A series of major changes began in 1902. Charles H. Herty, who worked for the United States Bureau of Forestry, developed and patented a cup and gutter system to collect the pine resin necessary to produce turpentine. When Chattanooga Pottery's manager, C.L. Krager, persuaded Herty that his operation could produce the cups, Herty and other investors bought the business, retaining Krager as manager. Herty essentially left in 1905 for a teaching position, but the next year the company name was changed from Chattanooga Pottery to the "Herty Turpentine Cup Company."

In 1916, renowned ceramic manufacturer B. Mifflin Hood leased existing plants at Daisy and eventually developed two other sites, at a cost exceeding $40,000. The experienced Krager went to work for Hood, whose business manufactured ceramics used by the federal government during World War I. By the 1930s, the Hood and Herty companies together had four significant operations at Daisy, and the 1930 census showed more than 200 persons working there.

Two more enterprises of this nature also operated at Daisy, but were not as significant or long-lasting as the Chattanooga Pottery/Herty and Hood concerns.

The Herty concern continued to make cups, as well as drain and building tiles, until the plant was destroyed by fire in 1941. In November 2016, however, Saint-Gobain NorPro, the current operator of the Hood Tile site, celebrated the 100th anniversary of B. Mifflin Hood's operations in Daisy, which is now Soddy-Daisy. A news release at that time indicated that the 27 employees on the site manufacture support media and ceramic packings to support refining, natural gas processing and chemical processing industries.

Daisy Parkes died in 1904 at age 36. It is unknown if she ever visited the town bearing her name.

Sam D. Elliott, a local attorney and historian, is the author or editor of several books and essays, including award-winning biographies of Gov. Isham G. Harris and Gen. John C. Brown. For more information, visit Chattahistoricalassoc.org.

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