By the time Webster Eaton (1839-1907) arrived in Nebraska in 1872, he was already an experienced newspaperman. A native of Brighton, New York, Eaton served in the Union Army for three years during the Civil War. He established the first newspaper in Montgomery County, Iowa, the Red Oak Express, with the first issue off the press on March 28, 1868. Little more than a year later he moved to Kearney, Nebraska, where he edited and published the Kearney Daily Press. He sold that paper in 1875 when he was appointed to run the U.S. Land Office in Bloomington, Franklin County.
In May 1880 Webster Eaton bought the Lincoln Globe, a weekly paper which he turned into a four-page daily, and operated as editor and publisher. A brother, O. V. Eaton (1843-1905), soon joined him in Lincoln, and the two cooperated to found the Lincoln Pottery Works, constructed during the winter and spring of 1881. O. V. as a young man had learned the potter’s trade in Rochester, New York. He followed Webster to Iowa, working in potteries in Red Oak and Hamburg.
However, as the pottery factory at Lincoln took shape, the Globe declined. Webster Eaton took a partner and co-editor in January 1881. In July he gave up his interest entirely, and the paper soon ceased operation. Webster continued to be involved in the Lincoln Pottery Works, but in 1882 he also accepted employment in Lincoln’s main post office, describing himself in later years as a journalist and entrepreneur.
The Lincoln Pottery Works during the 1880s and early 1890s was largely under the supervision of O. V. Eaton, who lived near the factory site on South First Street. The two brothers shared an interest in the Republican Party, and as the pottery works became well established, O. V. entered local politics. He was elected to the Lincoln School Board for the 1892-93 term and after a year off in 1894, served continuously until 1898.
However, the Eatons were unable to face the challenges of economic depression during the 1890s and rising competition from new kinds of containers. A business loan obtained in 1896 was not repaid in full, and in 1901 the company was declared to be in default. A sheriff’s sale on June 20, 1901, sold the company for $860 and closed all claims against it.
The company may have remained in operation to sell existing stock after the sheriff’s sale, although it could not have lasted long. The factory building was gone by 1905. O. V. Eaton continued to live nearby, remaining active in community affairs. He died in 1905 and his brother, Webster, died in 1907. For more information on the Eatons, see “The Lincoln Pottery Works: A Historical Perspective,” by Peter Bleed and Christopher M. Schoen, in the Spring 1990 issue of Nebraska History.