William Fowler “Daddy Bill” Dorsey (May 18, 1853 - January 20, 1936 ) was an American potter and farmer. He is best known for his influence on North Georgia Pottery.

William Fowler "Daddy Bill" Dorsey

Early Life

William Fowler Dorsey (also known as "Daddy Bill") was born May 18, 1853 in Westminster, Oconee County, South Carolina. His parents, Fredrick William Manson Dorsey and Jane C. Riley Dorsey, had 5 children of which he was the fourth born.[1] In the early 1800's the Dorseys along with the Davidson and Craven Families emigrated from North Carolina to Georgia. In 1820 they settled in Mossy Creek, GA, where they founded Northeast Georgia's earliest pottery center.[2]

Daddy Bill's father, Fredrick, was born in Mossy Creek, moved to South Carolina, then moved the family back to Mossy Creek soon after Daddy Bill was born.[3] When Daddy Bill was 9 years old, his father became a Civil War casualty. At the end of the Civil War, he was 11 years old. The Civil War, his family farm, and the pottery center are the backdrop of Daddy Bill's formative years.

In 1872 Daddy Bill married Frances Luvenia Meaders (Dorsey), and together they had 10 children. He passed away on Jan 20, 1936 at the age of 82. [4]

Art and History

Daddy Bill Dorsey owned and managed a major pottery business in Mossy Creek, Georgia; i.e., southern White County at the edge of the Appalachian Mountains. This pottery center, started by his Grandfather (David Dorsey, aka, Davey or Old Man Dorsey) was the earliest pottery center in Northeast Georgia and the largest in Georgia. [5]

While he spent the bulk of his time as farmer and

manager for the pottery business, he did make

some folk art pieces. The only surviving

documented piece is a face jug which toured the nation during the Carter administration in the

Missing Pieces: Georgia Folk Art Exhibition.[6][7]

Daddy Bill trained and hired many potters who eventually founded their own pottery businesses. For example, the Hewells trained under Daddy Bill so they could start a pottery center in Gillsville, GA. Daddy Bill’s brother-in-law, John Milton Meaders, and his 6 sons were trained at Daddy Bill’s pottery business. The Meaderses also founded their own pottery business in 1893. [8] Other notable potters that worked for him are:

  • his nephew, Cheever Meaders,

  • the Brown family - Jim Brown and his sons: Willie Brown, Javan Brown, Rufus Brown), [9][10]

  • Bob Cantrell,

  • Will Hewell,

  • Page Eaton.[11]

Notable is Daddy Bills influence on face jugs. His pottery center was a nexus from which the following famous face jug potters emerged:

  • Cheever Meaders, [12]

  • Will Hewell, [13]

  • Jim Brown and his sons - Willie Brown, Javan Brown, Rufus Brown. [14]

Included among these are artists who passed their art onto their children. Some of the most famous face jug artists with a linage related to Daddy Bill’s pottery center are:

  • the Meaderses (Cheever, Cleater, Lanier, David), [15][16]

  • the Hewells of Gillsville, [17]

  • the Browns (Jerry Dolyn Brown, [18] Evan Javan Brown, Sr., [19] Jim Brown, Adolphus Brown). [20]

Civil Rights Heritage

Since Daddy Bill was 11 years old at the end of the Civil War and the fourth born child, it is doubtful he owned slaves. However, at a time when African Americans were oppressed and black potters rare, Bob Cantrell, the only known African American, Georgia potter in the 1800’s, was employed by Daddy Bill Dorsey. Cantrell began work as an unskilled runner then was promoted to a skilled turner position, so most likely he had been emancipated from slavery. [21] [22]

  1. ^ https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/47471461/william-fowler-dorsey

  2. ^ https://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/arts-culture/folk-pottery , Burrison, John A. "Folk Pottery." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 11 March 2020. Web. 08 March 2021

  3. ^ https://www.google.com/books/edition/Brothers_in_Clay/0IsCWLWU9_wC?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=daddy%20bill , pp251

  4. ^ https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/47471461/william-fowler-dorsey

  5. ^ https://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/arts-culture/folk-pottery , Burrison, John A. "Folk Pottery." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 11 March 2020. Web. 08 March 2021

  6. ^ Wadsworth, A., Columbus Museum of Arts and Crafts (Columbus, G., Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences., Atlanta Historical Society. (1976). Missing pieces: Georgia folk art, 1770-1976. Atlanta: Georgia Council for the Arts and Humanities. ) page 95

  7. ^ oral family history cited by Dr. Frances Ondee Ravan and Sarah Ravan Moore circa 1980 – as told to them by their parents and grandparents, Daddy Bill Dorsey and Ella Q Dorsey,

  8. ^ https://getd.libs.uga.edu/pdfs/jackson_kathleen_g_201412_phd.pdf , FIRE IN THE FOOTHILLS: A COLLECTIVE PORTRAIT OF THREE NORTHEAST GEORGIA FOLK POTTERS by KATHLEEN GILLESPIE JACKSON (Under the Direction of CAROLE HENRY), pp 69

  9. ^ https://media.smithsonianfolkways.org/docs/folkways/Meaders-Family-Monograph-Book.pdf , pp62,

  10. ^ http://tfaoi.org/aa/8aa/8aa121.htm , “A Face Only a Mother Could Love” Face Jug Pottery from the American South, June 19 - August 17, 2008

  11. ^ Brothers in Clay: The Story of Georgia Folk Pottery John A. Burrison, https://www.google.com/books/edition/Brothers_in_Clay/0IsCWLWU9_wC?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=daddy+bill+dorsey&pg=PA241&printsec=frontcover , pp241

  12. ^ https://media.smithsonianfolkways.org/docs/folkways/Meaders-Family-Monograph-Book.pdf pp33,

  13. ^ https://media.smithsonianfolkways.org/docs/folkways/Meaders-Family-Monograph-Book.pdf pp33,

  14. ^ https://media.smithsonianfolkways.org/docs/folkways/Meaders-Family-Monograph-Book.pdf pp33,

  15. ^ https://media.smithsonianfolkways.org/docs/folkways/Meaders-Family-Monograph-Book.pdf pp62,

  16. ^ https://en-academic.com/dic.nsf/enwiki/10462969

  17. ^ https://media.smithsonianfolkways.org/docs/folkways/Meaders-Family-Monograph-Book.pdf pp33,

  18. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Dolyn_Brown

  19. ^ https://pottery.fandom.com/wiki/Evan_Javan_Brown

  20. ^ https://media.smithsonianfolkways.org/docs/folkways/Meaders-Family-Monograph-Book.pdf pp33,

  21. ^ https://https://www.google.com/books/edition/Afro_American_Folk_Art_and_Crafts/kGTqWTfN1ecC?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=bob%20catrell , Afro-American Folk Art and Crafts, edited by William R. Ferris, pp 335

  22. ^ Brothers in Clay: The Story of Georgia Folk Pottery John A. Burrison, https://www.google.com/books/edition/Brothers_in_Clay/0IsCWLWU9_wC?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=daddy+bill+dorsey&pg=PA241&printsec=frontcover , pp252