Webster Clay mines, Webster
While Josiah Wedgwood was never able to export a useable amount of clay to England from Macon County, by the 1890s, a successful clay industry developed nearby in Webster. Owned and operated by C.J. Harris, the mines extracted kaolin, a fine-grained clay used in porcelain products, like insulators for electric wires. During this period, the industry was a “pick-and-shovel” operation with pits dug as deep as 100 feet. These circular pits were lined with wood, giving the appearance of a large basket sunk deep into the earth. After the kaolin was dug and processed, it was hauled by wagon to the railroad at Dillsboro. The success of the industry encouraged others to extract clay from the region and, at one time, there were 20 mines in the area. By 1900, the industry employed 250 workers but, within another generation, the clay pits were exhausted.