Seagrove is a town in Randolph County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 228 at the 2010 census. It was named after a railroad official when the area was connected by rail. The center of population of North Carolina is located a few miles east of Seagrove.
Seagrove is notable for its many potteries, and it is sometimes referred to as the "pottery capital of North Carolina", or pottery capital of the world. In this usage, the name Seagrove not only refers to the town proper, but includes several other communities that are part of the pottery tradition along and near the "North Carolina Pottery Highway" (NC-705). Over 100 potteries are located in Seagrove and the neighboring towns of Star, Whynot, Erect, Westmoore, Happy Hollow, and Robbins. Seagrove is also home to the North Carolina Pottery Center, which was established on November 7, 1998 and has since received visitors across the continent and around the world.
Seagrove was named for Edwin G. Seagraves, a railroad official who was responsible for routing a railroad through the area. According to local sources, after a unanimous decision to name the station after Seagraves, the town name resulted from a sign painter running out of space and simply dropping the 's' from the end of the name. Also the painter misspelled Seagraves as Seagrove. The railroad served Seagrove until December 31, 1951. The old train depot later was adapted as a pottery museum.
In 1849, construction began of Plank Road, which was long and made of planks , wide, and thick. The road carried horseback riders, wagons, and stagecoaches. A toll was charged of one cent per mile (1.6 km) for a wagon and four horses. Toll revenues declined after construction of the railroad, and by 1862 much of Plank Road was abandoned.
A school funded by members of the community was established on April 3, 1911. The school moved to a new site in 1918 and again in 1926. The school burned on March 24, 1934, and was subsequently rebuilt. The small Seagrove school accepted students from elementary to high school until the fall of 1970.
That year high school students were reassigned to the new Southwestern Randolph High School. In the fall of 1990, Seagrove students in the 6th through 8th grades began attending Southwestern Randolph Middle School. Today, the building is known as Seagrove Elementary School and serves students only from Kindergarten until the 5th grade.
Seagrove's pottery tradition dates back to the 18th century before the American Revolution. Many of the first Seagrove potters were English and German immigrants. They primarily produced functional, glazed earthenware. Due to the high quality of the local clay and transportation access for traders, Seagrove became known for its pottery.
The popularity of Seagrove pottery fell off during the Industrial Revolution and the advent of modern food preparation. For a time whisky jugs were a successful source of income, but the beverage was outlawed. The potteries continued their decline in the early 20th century.
Around 1920, a new market developed as the pottery became popular with Northern tourists visiting nearby Pinehurst. The new tourist industry marked a general change from utilitarian pottery to more decorative ware. After another decline from the 1950s through 1970s, a renewed interest in traditional pottery developed. In 1982 a group of concerned individuals founded the North Carolina Museum of Traditional Pottery and organized the Seagrove Pottery Festival, an annual event held each year the weekend before Thanksgiving.
Some of the oldest, historic pottery locations still in operation include the "Original" Owens Pottery founded in 1895 and Jugtown Pottery founded in 1921. Jugtown Pottery was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
Seagrove has a tradition in food products, and was home for many years to Luck's Incorporated, founded in the 1950s as Mountain View Cannery in the 1950s by Ivey B. Luck, Alfred Spencer & H. Clay Presnell. When Spencer and Presnell sold out to Luck, the establishment became known as Luck's. Luck's specialized in pinto beans and other canned vegetables and food products, and employed many Seagrove families. Bought out by American Home Products and then later by Conagra Foods and Arizona Canning Company, the Luck's plant closed in 2002. The plant has mostly been abandoned, except it is used for the "Celebration of Seagrove Potters" every November.