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Mark of the Potter
About North Georgia

Introduction

Soque River at Mark of the Potter
Although Mark of the Potter came into being in the Spring of 1969, use of the site dates back to both the Cherokee and the Creek Indians. Settlers arrived shortly after the fourth land lottery and almost immediately build a mill to take advantage of the water power of the Soque River. Milling on the site continued until 1969. Inside the reconstructed mill folk art and pottery from North Georgia are sold and four different potters offer live demonstrations of turning pots in the rear of the store.

Behind the store the Soque River still collects in a mill dam as to some substantial fish. Under the rear porch a historic mill wheel reminds patrons of the store's humble beginnings as a mill dating back to 1821.

History

Other than pottery shards and arrowheads, little is known of the Cherokee and Creek occupation of the area. The Creek gave the Soque River its name, and believed it was the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River. When the Cherokee took over the area they named the river Chota.


Hill's Mill's

Falls behind Mark of the Potter from Scenic 197
When the Cherokee ceded this land in 1817 it was distributed in the fourth land lottery (1820). Because of the drop in altitude over such a short distance the Soque was the perfect place for a mill and several opened up on its banks, including separate mills operated by William Daniel Hill and Issac Hill. These were commonly referred to as "Hills Mills."

One of the Hills Mills was built on the site of Mark of the Potter, the other was a short distance upstream. The downstream mill had a grist mill, where mostly wheat and corn were ground into flour. Other grains that were occasionally ground were oats, barley, buckwheat and maize(grits). The downstream mill also had an upright saw to mill wood. The upstream mill had an upright saw and powered finishing tools to build furniture.

In 1909 owner Ruth Hill, a descendant of the original owners died. Operations continued until 1923, but then dwindled until 1925, when production at the mill on the site of Mark of the Potter ceased. At this time the mill was boarded up and a new owner sought.

Watts Era

Front of Mark of the Potter from Scenic 197
In 1928 Alan and Robert Watts, a father and son team of millers bought the mill with the intention that Robert would run this mill while Alan ("Grandpa") would continue running his mills near Lake Burton. The Watts invested time and money getting the old mill up and running, but knew that the 100+ year-old building had serious structural problems. In the early 1930's they began working on a new mill adjacent to Hill's Mill's.

Alan chiseled new grinding stones while Robert worked on a foundation with a new idea in mind. A wheel would be driven by water but would then generate an electric current to drive the mill. Soon, area residents were hired to finish the mill and a new millrace was added. The changeover was so well-planned that in a single day they stopped grinding at Hill's Mills and began grinding at Watt's Mill. By 1940 Robert added a dry goods store across the road and a new parking lot, which is still in use today.

Mark of the Potter

Mark of the Potter parking from Scenic 197
Flooding of the Soque damages Watts Mill and closed it forever in the mid-1960's (probably 1965). Robert Watts died in 1967 and the mill was sold to John and Glen LaRowe in 1968. Tourism had been on the increase as northeast Georgia began to promote itself to attract visitors along U. S. 441 (to the east of Mark of the Potter) and Alpine Helen to the west.

For 17 years the LaRowe's stamped their "mark" on Northeast Georgia. Along with there own work they featured the work of others, including that of Jay Bucek, a potter who also taught at Agnes Scott College in Decatur. While Jay worked on promoting Mark of the Potter, he also realized that the store relied on attracting tourists to northeast Georgia, so he worked with the state in the local travel association. After running "Mark" for 21 years, Jay passed away in 2010.

Visiting

Shelves in Mark of the Potter
Traveling north on Scenic 197 visitors pull off to the right in the parking lot built by Robert Watts in 1940. From here its a short walk to Watts Mill, now home to Mark of the Potter. Step up onto the front porch and through the low doorway into the sales area. Counter space for the cashiers gives way to shelves and shelves of pottery.

Of course, pottery standards like mugs always get premium space, as do placesettings, but delve into the body of the shop to find the decorative pieces that potters love to create. Each of these carries the "Mark" of one of four in house potters, or perhaps the mark of a local potter.

Potter at wheel
The fun part of the tour begins when you're watching one of the potters take a turn at the wheel, perhaps spinning a decorative vase or simply a mug. They discuss their work openly, perhaps telling why they regularly dip their fingers in a bowl of water that's never too far away (water increases the clay's plasticity). Garroted from the potters wheel the work end up on a firing shelf, headed to the nearby commercial kiln.

The kiln dries the clay, reducing the plasticity and making chemical changes to the structure of the clay. Fired clay is called ceramics. From the kiln the shelves move to a drying and finishing area, then placed on the for sale racks when the process in complete.

The back porch allows access to the mill portion of Mark of the Potter. Visitors can watch the trout (no fishing allowed), and may see some of the wildlife that finds its way to the pool.

Contact information

Mark of the Potter
9982 Highway 197 N
Clarkesville, GA 30523-2036
(706) 947-3440

Website:Mark of the Potter

County: Habersham County

Mark of the Potter





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