Descendants of famous potter David Drake introduced on Dave Day!
EDGEFIELD — One by one, independent researcher and genealogist April Hynes called their names, and one by one, the descendants of David Drake stood up.
Some wiped tears from their eyes as they were introduced to the audience during a Dave Day! program at the Edgefield Clay Studio on Saturday.
Until recently, none of the men, women, boys and girls knew they were related to Drake, who also was known as Dave the Potter.
And nobody had identified any of Drake’s living descendants until Hynes did her research.
An enslaved African-American, Drake made jugs, storage jars and other stoneware vessels in the 1800s that now are valuable, highly prized by collectors and exhibited in museums.
Sometimes Drake put his name on the pieces and decorated them with short poems.
During the spring, Drake was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame. Both the Dave Day! in Aiken on Friday and the Dave Day! in Edgefield were held to celebrate that honor.
“We are so elated,” said Daisy Whitner, who found out she was related to Drake during a phone call she received from Hynes. “We had no idea.”
Nearly 30 descendants of Drake were at the Edgefield Clay Studio for Dave Day!
“We’re from Washington, D.C., and Maryland,” Whitner said. “There are engineers, educators, accountants, human resource specialists and writers in our family.”
Whitner’s sister, Pauline Baker, described the experience of learning that she was related to Drake as a big surprise and welcome news.
“We had said for years we were going to look into our history, but it was a lot more talk than action because you get caught up in doing what you need to do in your life,” Baker said. “When April called Daisy, we were like, ‘Oh my goodness, we’ve discovered a gold mine.’ We immediately started googling Dave the Potter, Dave the Slave and David Drake, and we printed out everything. We were totally overwhelmed, but it made us want to find out more.”
Before presenting Drake’s descendants, Hynes talked about how she tracked them down starting with information gathered by Leonard Todd, who wrote the book “Carolina Clay: The Life and Legend of the Slave Potter Dave.”
“What Leonard was able to uncover is that in the first public records for newly-freed men, Dave took the formal name David Drake and was living with a possible daughter,” Hynes said. “From there, Leonard found possible grandchildren.”
And Todd also turned up other kinfolk from the past.
Then Hynes began looking for Drake’s relatives who were alive, making numerous phone calls that proved to be dead ends before she was successful in her quest.
In addition to Hynes, Todd, historian Wayne O’Bryant and Dr. Arthur Goldberg, a ceramics scholar and pottery collector, also discussed Drake and his legacy during the Dave Day! program at the Edgefield Clay Studio.
In addition, the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters performed.
There also were Dave Day! festivities that took place in Courthouse Square.
In Aiken on Friday at the Aiken County Historical Museum, there was a showing of the film “Discovering Dave: Spirit Captured in Clay” and a workshop for children, who wrote and read rhymes inspired by Drake’s poetry.
A proclamation, signed by Aiken County Council Chairman Ronnie Young, declared that Friday was “Dave Day!” and urged “all citizens to participate in events being held to honor ‘Dave the Potter.’”
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C, she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.