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The Pottery at "Crow's Nest"

Anne W. Cissel

It might surprise some people to learn that the camping grounds west of Thurmont, known as "Crow's Nest" was once the site of a famous pottery. The earthernware products turned out by its potters are highly prized by collectors from museums of Americana to private enthusiasts.

Lynn Pottery began in 1845 when Jacob Lynn purchased the site not far from Hunting Creek. There is no evidence that Lynn himself was a potter, but he hired the craftsmen and sold their work. The most famous of these artists in clay were Anthony Bacher and James Mackley. The wares they turned out was mostly utilitarian objects like pitchers, flower pots and bowls; the lead and manganese glazed exterior sometimes decorated with modeled birds and flowers. Their products are pictured in The Pottery of the Shenandoah Valley Region, published by the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts.

James Mackley was born in Middleburg, Carroll Co in 1843, but was working at the pottery in the 1860's, mastering Bacher's style and techniques. Although some of their work is signed, it is hard to distinguish unsigned work. Bacher left Mechanicstown to establish a works at Winchester, Va., but was persuaded to return and operate the Lynn Pottery with Mr. Mackley, at least until 1882 when Mr. Mackley retired. Mr. Bacher's later work is mostly associated with the Winchester pottery.

William W. Lynn took over the ownership of the pottery importing artisens from Pennsylvania and the Shenandoah region. As late as 1901 the "Catoctin Clarion" mentions a firing of the new kiln of pottery by a Mr. Baker at the "old Lynn place". By that date the pottery was just a small piece of Ann Norris' 100 acre farm.

The old log and stone house was named "Crows Nest" by it next owner W.L. Firor.

In 1914 it was a popular summer boarding house hosted by Albert Gernand. Under the sponsorship of Joseph Gernand and his sister Mrs Frances G. Weller it became the first chartered Youth Hostel in the State of Maryland in 1940.

Today, Crow's Nest is a well known campsite for hikers, fisherman and others enjoying the area's recreational opportunities. There is little evidence of its prior use, although shards of pottery still surface from time to time. In 2001 as part of the 250th anniversary celebration of Thurmont, the Thurmont Historical Society organized a showing of some of the original pieces. Many were on loan from The Historical Society of Frederick County and the private collections of local Mackley heirs. These simple earthernwares demonstrate the skill of the talented artisans associated with Mechancistown's pottery.

If you have any Information or historical news clippings on business or Place in the Thurmont Area, Please send them to us so we can included them in our archives. E-mail us at: history@mythurmont.net

Read more articles by Anne Cissel