History of Bybee Pottery
The oldest existing pottery west of the Alleghenies, Bybee Pottery is located in the small rural town of Bybee, among the southern hills of Madison County, Kentucky. The old log building has housed the equipment and business of the Bybee Pottery for over a century. It stands as a landmark of pioneered days. Legend states that this pottery was originally established in 1809, and actual sales records prove its existence as a thriving industry as early as 1845.
The process of mining the clay, grinding it in the antique pug mill, throwing and shaping it by hand into articles of ornamental and practical use on the potter's wheel, is very much the same today as it was over a century ago.
The clay used by the pottery is found in ample deposits approximately three miles from Bybee. This clay is open-pit mined several feet beneath rich Kentucky topsoil. History records that this same clay was mined by the first settlers of Kentucky, then taken to Fort Boonesborough to be used for making crude dishes.
The clay, mixed with water, is ground in the old pug mill and stored in an ancient vault where it is kept moist and pliable. It is weighed on old balances to secure uniformity, and then thrown by the potter and shaped into the desired form. Each piece is allowed to dry completely, then it is glazed and fired in a kiln heated to 2200 degrees. Emerging from the kiln, the clay, now a finished piece of pottery, is ready for sale.
Walter Cornelison, successor to Webster, James Eli, Walter and Earnest Cornelison, is the fifth generation Cornelison to own and operate Bybee Pottery.
Walter's children, Robert, Paula, and James are the sixth generation in Bybee Pottery. After working as an apprentice under his uncle, Walter Cornelison, Ron Stambaugh brought a little bit of Bybee pottery to Middletown, Kentucky, a suburb of Louisville.