North Dakota Pottery Collectors Society




Trenton Trades
By Arley and Bonnie Olson


In the spring of 1943 the Civilian Public Service (CPS) established a non-military camp (CPS Camp #94) near Trenton, North Dakota southwest of Williston, North Dakota and it ran thru April 1946. CPS was an alternative service for conscientious objectors (CO) who opposed World War II. This camp was run by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and worked for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Soil conservation was the type of service this camp provided. CPS Camp #94 along with WPA, CCC, Bureau of Reclamation and private contractors worked on the Buford-Trenton Irrigation and Land Development Project which was started in 1939. This consisted of leveling over 13,000 acres of Missouri River bottom land, digging irrigation ditches, and building over a hundred farm units. Each unit included a barn, a house, auxiliary buildings and a water supply. There were about 150 men in the camp.  

 To occupy the men’s after work hours, spare time programs were established. Harold “Hal” Riegger a CO draftee who had completed his resident work on his masters at Ohio State University in 1939 in ceramics started a camp ceramics program (Trenton Trades). Trenton Trades allowed the men to explore their creative talents in pottery and was the outgrowth of one of the spare time programs. Other programs were woodworking, metalworking, music, lapidary, jewelry, weaving and photography.

 The pottery shop and most of the equipment was built from scrap or second hand materials. The kiln was built by hand and used weed burners as an inexpensive burner solution. Most of their clay came from western North Dakota. The single fired salt glazed process was both affordable and suited to the needs as improvisation was the mode of operation. The men learned how to throw and made their own dinnerware, although some preferred using molds or jiggering.   



The pottery was marked with the incised words Trenton Trades with some having the date and artist. Some of the pottery also used an incised mark of twin elevators, as the land mark of Trenton was their two elevators.


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Last modified: 07/11/2020