Two local men write book about area potteries
PARKERSBURG — A chance meeting by two people with a common interest in area potteries has led to a collaboration on a book.
“Excelsior and Beyond: A History of Parkersburg Area Potteries” is the work of Mark Suek, a former newspaper reporter, and Jim Stage, a councilman in Williamstown and a co-owner of the Williamstown Antique Mall.
“Jim and I met, by happenstance, three years ago when Dreama (Suek’s wife) and I visited Williamstown Antique Mall, which he co-owns,” Suek said. “We noticed the Donaghho jars and that led to discussions and a friendship,” Suek said.
The national interest in the first book, written three years ago, was a pleasant surprise, Stage said.
“The first book went all over the country,” he said.
Stage said he has researched Donaghho since the 1960s, amassing a tremendous amount of information since that time.
After publication of the first book, additional information came to light about from readers and other sources, Stage said.
“I thought I better get that story told,” he said.
Suek came along and the collaboration started.
“Excelsior and Beyond” is not a sequel to the first book.
“Rather, it complements the first work,” Suek said. “We started work in June and finished in mid-November.”
While building upon “The Donaghho Story” and including new information, “Excelsior and Beyond” corrects the factual errors that have become part of local lore and oral history, Suek said.
“Excelsior and Beyond” includes the Pilcher/Market Street Pottery and South Side Pottery, two other potteries in Parkersburg few people know about, the story of the Coe & Flowers pottery in Porterfield, potteries in Marietta and the major potteries in Ohio and West Virginia from 1849-1906, Suek said.
Photographs of stoneware from 12 major potteries in West Virginia, in the time period covered by the book, are featured in the book.
Alexander Polk Donaghho, Walter Donaghho and other famous stoneware makers including Nathaniel Clark, Dan Mercer, Donaghho employees and interesting customers are biographed in the book. “Excelsior and Beyond” describes the relationship between Sen. Johnson N. Camden and the Donaghhos.
“The book is historical in nature, but can also serve as a reference book in that it includes more than 125 photographs and images,” Suek said. “The book also has sections on collecting stoneware, the step-by-step process Donaghho utilized to manufacture stoneware and different types of glazes used.”
Excelsior was located at Murdoch and Emerson avenues. A.P. Donaghho’s second home site is now Worthington Creek Apartments. Market Manor apartments are located on the Pilcher/Market Street pottery site.
“Our book discusses the current usage of these sites and includes present-day photographs,” Suek said. “We also offer driving directions to these sites in the book. The home of Walter Donaghho, A.P. Donaghho’s son and business partner, still stands and a photo of it is in the book.”
The pandemic presented problems, but the only challenge was deciding when to stop, Suek said.
“It seemed like, each time we thought we had the book complete, another piece of information or photo would crop-up,” he said.
The self-published book, being locally printed through Consolidated Graphic Communications, will be available soon and will be $39.95 with shipping for an additional $8.50. It will be sold through the Williamstown Antique Mall.
Pre-orders are being taken by calling the mall at 304 375-6315, Stage said. Hours are 10-6 Monday to Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday.
“We expect the first 100 copies any day,” Suek said. “We have standing orders for the first 65 copies.”
Suek is a professional researcher at Chemours and writes feature stories for “Classic Toy Trains”magazine. He was a sportswriter, columnist and copy editor at “The Parkersburg Sentinel” from 1981-89.
Stage is a veteran who retired from Fenton Art Glass and B.F. Goodrich.
The book is designed to appeal to stoneware collectors, Dan Mercer collectors and persons with an interest in local history.
Stage and Suek don’t have definitive plans for another book, but members of the West Virginia Stoneware Facebook page have been asking for a book on West Virginia pottery. The book would be a major undertaking, Suek said.
Most of the design work and all of the production on the book was done by Shawn Stage, Stage’s adult son.
Bonnie Taylor, an employee of the Williamstown Antique Mall, was among the main photographers. Dreama Alderman-Suek was the chief proofreader.
Jess Mancini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org