The Belangee Surface Collections of Ulrich/Wietfeld SITE


Since the late 1960's only a few excavations have been conducted of the Ulrich -Wietfeld farm/pottery site. These include collections obtained by Jeff Ursch, and Thomas Reedy's amateur excavation in his 1976 Southern Illinois University Edwardsville thesis. A decade later, SIUE Contract Archaeologist, Bonnie Gums, conducted a comprehensive IDOT report on this site in 1989. This information was shared at several conventions of the Collectors of Illinois Pottery and Stoneware club.

An extensive archeological surface collection of the Ulrich-Wietfeld site has been conducted by COIPS member, Dennis Belangee between June, 2000 and June, 2001. His diligent efforts yielded a vast assortment of shards including the discovery of several new formations of rims and handles and one new Ulrich-Wietfeld dentate style.

The Belangee Surface Collections at this major Upper Alton pottery are most significant. A plethora of rims, shards, kiln furniture, and small pieces of the actual kiln, were recovered and saved, as the farm/pottery site fell to the bulldozer and new office buildings. Luckily and literally , these treasures were obtained before the last asphalt was laid. Pictured is a very small sample of the total collected and classified.

Western Stoneware Co., Buck Inn, Madison County, Illinois.

The Buck Inn, north Alton, pottery operated 1868 to 1875 and was located near the intersection of Alby street and Center on the north edge of Greenwood (North Alton), bordering Godfrey, Illinois. The original Buck Inn dwelling served as a stage coach stop, post office, inn, and overnight livestock drive staging area. It was a two story brick structure erected in 1837 at the north west corner of State Street and Delmar and is now occupied by a strip mall. It became a major stop and overnight layover for live stock drives coming into Alton from distant farms. After a night's layover, live stock would be driven about a mile to the Alton river front and landing for processing and sale to the local stockyards in St. Louis, Illinoistown (E. St. Louis), Cairo and other markets.

Often the inhabitants of an area referred to their post office as their residence or home. Early occupants of the Buck Inn displayed deer (buck) antlers on the front of the dwelling. Thus, a natural name for the inn was born, the "Buck" Inn . To better serve this Village a post office was established in 1868. It was kept by P.J. Melling at his house in township six, range ten. Detailed mid nineteenth century maps of Illinois depict early Alton villages including, Alton, Bozzatown, Hunterstown, Emerald, Alton Junction, Salu, and Buck Inn.. In 1870, William Hall was appointed postmaster and the post office was moved to north Alton. Then in 1875, the village of North Alton was incorporated and the name of the post office and area was then changed from Buck Inn to North Alton containing about nine hundred and fifty inhabitants.

The actual pottery was located approximately one half mile northeast of the Buck Inn. In close proximity of the Western Stoneware Company was later established the famed Alton Brick Company. One each of salt glaze, cobalt stencil marked "Western Stoneware Co./ Buck Inn, Ills," jars are known in the 2, 3, 4, gallon capacity. One marked two gallon; one marked three gallon; two marked 4 gallon; and three marked 6 gallon capacity jars are known. All jars are straight sided with rounded bolstered rims. Also, one 4 gallon straight sided shelfed jar/churn exists having a direct rim. All vessels possess smooth lug handles without finger molds with the exception of the small 2 gallon vessel that required no handles.

Upper Alton Stoneware,

Madison County, Illinois

Articles and photography by Greg Mathis


Sample of  Upper Alton vessels,  Madison County, Ill. cc: 1836 - 1876

5 Gallon Storage Jar by John Wietfeld cc: 1850

        THE Ulrich/Wietfeld Pottery, College Ave.,                Upper Alton, Illinois.

Antone Ulrich and half brother John Wietfeld immigrated from Westphalia, Prussia, to America in the early 1830's. They arrived at Upper Alton, Illinois, in 1833 and established a farm and pottery in 1836. John Wietfeld was a master potter. Little could he imagine his great significance to his hand craft in the young village of Salu within Upper Alton, Madison County, and the state of Illinois. Closing in 1876, this traditional family pottery spanned four decades. John Wietfeld exemplified and gave meaning to the adage "master" German potter. Ulrich and Wietfeld owned three tracks of land, with one containing a tributary of Coal Branch Creek near the west edge of Wood River Township where they developed a farm and a pottery located south side of College Ave., one third mile east of Seminary St. (near the historical toll gate). This property for the most part fell into the ownership of H.A. Hastings as indicated on the Madison County Atlas of 1890. In 1850 the pottery produced 3500 gallons of redware and stoneware. Listed in the 1850 census were Anthony Ulrich, John Wietfeld, Joseph Coleburg, Casper Gotten, Jacob Bachom, Henry D. Warnack, Sophia Hagerman, Richard Baker, and Henry Herman. In the 1860 census are listed Anton Ulrich, John Wietfeld, John Gahlert, John Vallh, Harz Becker, and Larry Burger. Moreover, some potters at Ulrich & Wietfeld moved onto to establish their own works as could be expected. Utilitarian salt glazed stoneware was predominantly manufactured bearing a capacity stamp within a dentated circle. Early Ulrich-Wietfeld specimens display an ovoid shape usually in the 2 gallon capacity, and are not two-toned. Other examples, likewise hand turned, bear more standardization ranging in size from 2 gallons to 6 gallons and are usually necked jars, or shelfed/jar churns, possessing everted rims. These often have about a two inch albany slip dipping from the top of the lip giving their salt glazed stoneware a distinctive appearance. This dipping served the practical purpose of better sealing the top of the item, thus preserving contents from the porous stoneware. Ulrich & Wietfeld advertised in the "Gazetteer of Madison County"(Hair 1866:XIX). Products of this pottery display great attention to detail and fine craftsmanship. The vessel above is a 5 gallon hand turned salt glaze storage jar with the distinctive Ulrich/Wietfeld "dentate" capacity stamp. cc: 1850. - This vessel is on permanent loan to the Alton Museum of History and Art, by direct descendant, great granddaughter of John Wietfeld, Jacqueline Brashear.


                                        4 GALLON BUCK INN (NORTH ALTON)  JAR