The Carr China Company
was built in 1916 by Thomas Carr on the bank of the Tygart River* in Grafton, West Virginia, and made vitrified commercial china. Production continued until the fateful day in July 1952 when company owner Wheeler Bachman took exception to the news that his employees were considering unionizing, and he abruptly ordered the plant closed. Fourteen years later, on July 16 and 17, 1966, the abandoned plant burned.

After the building burned it became an attractive nuisance for vagrants and children and it was eventually bulldozed, except for the floor and one remaining portion of a wall. The rubble was left and the site became a dumping area for some local residents.

With the news that the lead-contaminated, nine-acre site was slated for cleanup*, a small group gathered there in October 2009 to walk among the remains -- the factory's back wall, thousands of bricks, stilts, undecorated bisque-fired shards and high-fired decorated shards, and saggars strewn over the overgrown property. And they spent some time digging, too -- hoping to find any treasures or clues to Carr's past hidden deep in the layers of ash and rocks and mud on the Tygart's hilly bank.

Trucks began hauling off the top layer of shards on Oct. 20, 2009, in preparation for the site cleanup -- thought to involve scraping off four feet of dirt from the entire parcel of land. Workers cut down trees that had grown up on the plant site and took down the plant walls.

Two surveyors spent a day at the site on March 18, 2010, and said their work was in preparation for the final cleanup later on in the spring.

Three slideshows illustrate the dig. The first, below, shows the general lay of the land on the Carr property. The second, on the next page, shows some of the shards. The third, on a new page, shows the property in March 2010 after the Fall 2009 cleanup and a few artifacts from that dig. (All photos copyrighted by their owners.)


Notes
*
The wikipedia indicates that the river that went by many monikers -- including Muddy River -- was formally named Tygart River in 1902 and its named was changed in 1950 to Tygart Valley River.

Click here to read a health consultation report prepared for the site (identified as EPA Facility ID WVN000306608) by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources in August 2009.

 

  • Walking the bank of the Tygart, strewn with pottery shards.
  • Another intriguing find on the steep slope.
  • Picking up shards off the hillside included picking them up off the ground and more often, using a pick to pry them loose.
  • Piles of shards overgrown with 60+ years of weeds.
  • Shards found under the roots of downed tree.
  • Another view of a downed tree and the treasures beneath.
  • After more than 60 years, shards still litter the surface.
  • Firebricks and shards tumbled down the hill and into the river and remained there all these years.
  • Onion pattern in blue peeking out from its hiding place.
  • One of the three beehive kilns.
  • One of the kiln's remaining walls, showing the doorway from the road.
  • Doorway in factory wall, inside shot of the previous photo.
  • A tumble of shards and bricks on the remains of the factory floor.
  • Brick wall.
  • Bisque-fired undecorated shards like these are scattered all over the site.
  • Bricks are everywhere.
  • A factory wall.
  • White firebricks.
  • These are most likely firebricks.
  • A lone utility pole, still standing.
  • Shards.
  • Shards running down the river bank.
  • Bisque-fired shards.
  • Firebricks and shards.
  • Remains of a mug found on the bank.
  • Mostly bisque-fired ware.
  • Mystery photo that looks like fencing, but older, metal and perched upon a heavy metal base.
  • A portion of the factory floor between the kilns and the finishing/packing area.
  • Factory walls.
  • A 'stairway' erected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for monitoring at the river.
  • Concrete piers are all that remain of the moorings for the swinging foot bridge over the Tygart that some employees used  to get to work at the plant. Buses would drop workers at the swinging bridge across the river from the factory.
  • A gauge used to measure the level of the river.
  • Two moorings like this on each side of the river held up the swinging bridge. In the background is the Corps of Engineers' gauging station that monitors the river.
  • In a shout-out to California's famed Tepco Beach, the Tygart's beach on this stretch is made up of bricks and pottery shards.
  • A gnarled tree makes it way through the shards.
  • Shards. In all these photos of shards, much of what looks like chinks of concrete are broken pieces of saggars.
  • Shards.
  • One vitrified green-lined shard stands out among all the bisque-fired pieces.
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Page 2: The shards
Page 3: After the first cleanup in 2009

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