BRICK COLLECTING .com
Hudson River Brickmaking | Brick History/How Bricks Were Made
Links | Contact Form | BOOK SHOP
Visitors' Comments/Collections/Brix Pix | Our Collection | HOME


BRICKMAKING ON CAPE COD


THE WEST BARNSTABLE BRICK COMPANY

WEST BARNSTABLE BRICK COMPANY

WEST BARNSTABLE BRICK COMPANY

"In 1878 Benjamin F. Crocker, Levi L. Goodspeed. Noah Bradford Jr. and Charles C. Crocker purchased the Fish property here, and with James F. Eldridge as superintendent, commenced the manufacture of brick, as The West Barnstable Brick Company. In 1887 a new company was formed, adding steam power and other facilities, and its capacity is now the manufacture of two million bricks annually. In 1889 the kiln sheds in the yard were extended, twenty men were given employment, and the business was extended to the full capacity of the works. The officers since 1887 have been; B. F. Crocker, president; A. D. Makepeace, treasurer: and William F. Makepeace, secretary." (From History of Barnstable County, Massachusetts, edited by Simeon L. Deyo, 1890. New York: H. W. Blake & Co.)

WEST BARNSTABLE BRICK COMPANY

Noah Bradford Jr., whose father was a potter, was a direct descendent of the Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford who explored Cape Cod before ending up in Plymouth, MA. Benjamin F. Crocker, born 1822 and his brother Charles C., born 1831, were sons of Enoch Crocker who manufactured shoes at Yarmouth Port with men from two other well-known Cape Cod families: Charles Sears and Thomas Thacher. They also ran a stage line from Yarmouth to Sandwich.

In 1887, Abel D. Makepeace (known as the "cranberry king") joined the brick company as treasurer, then became a principal owner until 1925 when Thomas Arden took over. Abel also owned the Old Village store as well as a stable and the village's first automoblie, a Stanley Steamer. He used Barnstable Bricks to build sorting sheds for his cranberry business.

Tragedy struck in 1907 when one of the workers, Elias Kaihlainem, was killed in the collapse of a bank of clay that was being undercut. A few years later, an executive of the company on his way to work was struck and killed by a train near the plant.


WEST BARNSTABLE BRICK COMPANY
West Barnstable Brick Yard in the late 1800s
(Click for a larger view.)

The West Barnstable Company had about thirty very profitable years and employed mostly Finn and Portuguese laborers. They made the larger "W.BARNSTABLE BRICK CO." brick (it is said that only 1 in 100 of these were stamped with the name) and, in the Arden years, the more standard size ones which were branded "W.B.B."

About 1932 a test hole was drilled to find out how much clay was left. "It was estimated that there was enough to last about fifty years, but an artesian well developed from the test hole and flooded all the clay pits and the company, not having funds to recover, went out of business." (From A History of the West Barnstable Brick Company, by D. G. Trayser, Feb 7, 1973.)

In Cape Cod Voyage Jim Coogan and Jack Sheedy relate another cause for the demise of W.B. Brick. In 1928 President Hoover signed into law a national standard for brick. W.B. Brick Company found itself stuck with equipment that made bricks that were one eighth of an inch too short. They were forced to buy new equipment to meet the national standard and, to cover its costs, raised its brick prices just as the country was headed for the Great Depression. In 1933, the First National Bank of Yarmouth called in a $30,000 loan and the W.B. Brick was forced into bankruptcy, never to recover. The equipment was eventually purchased by Stiles & Hart in Bridgewater, MA



WEST BARNSTABLE BRICK COMPANY power House
The Power House
(Click for a larger view.)

WEST BARNSTABLE BRICK COMPANY
West Barnstable Brick Yard in full swing in the late 1800s.
(Click for larger view.)

(B&W photos courtesy Whelden Memorial Library, W. Barnstable, MA)


WEST BARNSTABLE BRICK IN MARCONI RUINS
West Barnstable Brick in the ruins of the Marconi Wireless Station in Welfleet on Cape Cod.
For info on the Marconi Station, click the pic.

==========

Henry Ford Visits W. Barnstable Brick

One summer day, soon after the company had been bought by Thomas Arden (a Taunton insurance salesman who had run the Gay Head Brick Company in Somerset, MA), Henry Ford visited the brickyard. He was interested in an old steam engine that Arden was about to discard as the plant was being electrified. Ford did not initially identify himself but offered to buy the old engine. Arden refused payment and insisted the visitor take it as gift. The next day, when Arden arrived for work, a shiny new Fordson tractor was standing in the yard, a gift from the man from Michigan. Ford placed the engine in his museum in Dearborn, MI along with an historic windmill he obtained from West Yarmouth.

"The West Barnstable Brick Company has recently installed a new pumping outfit. It has a ten-inch suction pipe. The motor power is furnished by the Fordson tractor presented to the company's owner Thomas Arden by Henry Ford. The company has orders for brick which will carry them until late in the season." (From the "Barnstable Patriot" archives, 1928)

==========

From the Archives of The Barnstable Patriot

1898
The most severe storm in years set in at about 9 o'clock Saturday evening and by midnight was a howling gale. All day Sunday the gale continued accompanied with sleet and rain. The wind blew at a velocity of sixty to seventy miles an hour and trees, chimneys, windmills and fences were laid low all about town. The telegraph wires are down in every direction and communication with the outside world is completely cut off. At the Brickyard at West Barnstable about 300 feet of railroad track was washed out.

1908
Elias Kaihlanen, a laborer at the West Barnstable Brick Company plant here, was instantly killed at noon Thursday by being buried under a bank of clay. His fellow workmen made frantic efforts to dig away the clay with the hope that the man's life might be saved, but he was dead when they reached him. It is the first accident at the brickyard in all the years it has been running.

1920
The large two-story double house situated nearly opposite the Catholic church and owned by the West Barnstable Brick Co. was totally destroyed by fire about 9:30 o'clock Thursday evening. It was occupied by two Finn families, who, as soon as the fire was discovered, set about rescuing their personal belongings, and were so fortunate as to save all their furnishings. The fire, however, utterly consumed the building. One of the families has found a home in one of the buildings on the premises while the other family was temporarily cared for by Mr. Neilo Atwood. This house was an old landmark and was at one time occupied by James Eldridge, who was the manager of the brickyard business.

1949
Mr. George B. Morris, Hyannis potter, has called attention of the editor to the fact that there were located, at the site of the old brickyard in West Barnstable, three different potteries, at different times, dating back to 1820 or earlier.

==========

Historic Property Offered For Sale

The West Barnstable Brick Company has deep roots in the town of Barnstable. The W BARNSTABLE BRICK logo can be found on the home page of the West Barnstable Civic Association. The brick is also used as a logo for their publication "The Cornerstone."

According to an article in the Barnstable Patriot, the land where the brickyard was located was up for sale in 2008. Due to its historic nature, the Town of Barnstable was offered first refusal for the 17 acres located north of Route 6A, backing up to the Great Marshes. The land is on the Old King's Highway directly across from Our Lady of Hope Church (which was built with West Barnstable brick). The original brick company office is now a private residence. In the area of the actual brickyard, behind a popular gift shop featuring crystal items and jewelry, there are walking trails, the foundation of the brick factory and a freshwater pond (formed from the artesian well drilling). The historic Cape Cod Central Railroad passes through the property. The brick company used the railroad for shipping.

In December 2008, members of the Barnstable Community Preservation Committee toured the property. A recent article in the Barnstable Patriot reads: "Now the broad cart paths, down which donkeys carried clay from pits to the factory building, are used by the Pogorelc family to walk to scenic outlooks and observe wildlife. They, too, have made their mark on the land; and like their predecessors have decided it's time to move on. 'We have reached a time in our life when we need to relax and plan our next 25 years,' Bob and Barbara Pogorelc wrote in a fact sheet prepared for the CPC's visit. 'We feel that this property should be in public hands to preserve the natural beauty and history.'"

WEST BARNSTABLE BRICK YARD TODAY
West Barnstable Brickyard Area Today
(just above Rte. 6A is the pond created from the test-boring,
above that is Brickyard Creek which empties into Cape Cod Bay)

==========

Only about 1 in 100 Branded

Tom Kingman, with the Cataumet Healing Center writes that he found W. Barnstable Bricks in October, 2008 in the demolition pile of a chimney of an old seasonal home built between 1878 and 1932. Both W. Barnstable and Cook brick were used in the chimney with fireplaces on both first and second floors. The second floor bricks were W. Barnstable Brick and joined with a fine red cement while the first floor brick were Cook brick joined with a white cement. Both cements were exceptionally weak and just turned to powder. The majority of white cemented brick were not embossed or stamped with the Cook name. A good guess would be that there was one Cook embossed brick for every 100 non-embossed white cemented bricks. There was about the same frequency as branded to non-branded with the W. Barnstable Bricks. (Ed note: Cook bricks were made in Bridgewater, MA.)

==========

More about the Finns and Abel Makepeace

(from "The Finns on Cape Cod" by Eugene Van Cleef)

A gentleman by the name of Franklin Crocker owned a cranberry bog in the village of Hyannis, located on what is now known as Ocean Beach Drive. Crocker was instrumental in importing the first Finn who settled in the village in 1890, putting him to work on the bog. Subsequently, the property was sold to Mr. Makepeace, whose business acumen and alert mind led, in a relatively few years, to his becoming the "cranberry king" of the cape and the United States. In 1887 he produced 16,000 barrels of cranberries.

Makepeace early recognized the value of the Finn as a worker. On one occasion, it is reported, he observed three men struggling frantically to move a tree stump, when two Finns happened along and, seeing the vain efforts, waved the workers aside and walked off with the stump. Although the story savors of exaggeration, in principle it may be accepted at face value. However that may be, Mr. Makepeace had to go to Boston from time to time to get new workmen for his growing business. Whenever he could induce a few Finns to return to the cape with him he did so. Other Finns, exhibiting the clannish propensities of their group, filtered into this region slowly as they learned of the presence of fellow-countrymen and the chance to earn a living.

The first permanent group settlement seems to have been made at West Barnstable, where the largest group resides today (ed. note: this was written in 1933). One of the first settlers in this group, Emil Lundquist, from Ustad, near Turku (Abo), Finland, still survives. His father, who came over two years before him, is said to have been the first Finn in the village. His name implies Swedish blood, but his mother was a Finn. Lundquist reached West Barnstable forty-three years ago and first worked on the railroad. Then he shifted to a brick plant in West Barnstable - the only one on the cape, and a haven for Finns for many years. The sequence of jobs is typical of the Finns who did not go to the bogs at once. Many of those who first toiled at railroads or brick-making, eventually cultivated cranberries.

Published in New England Quarterly VI, p. 597-601. 1933.

==========

Click Here to Read
"A History of the West Barnstable Brick Company"

by D. G. Trayser, Feb 7, 1973.
(Courtesy Whelden Memorial Library, W. Barnstable, MA)


JOSIAH THOMPSON--BRICK KILN ROAD

In Highways and Byways of Falmouth published by the Town of Falmouth, MA, the origin of the name of a major thoroughfare, Brick Kiln Road is given: "One of the town's more ancient ways, being specifically mentioned in the records of 1712 which reserved to the proprietors the right to dig clay and burn bricks 'where people are wont to dig.' Josiah Thompson maintained a brick kiln and manufactured scouring brick as late as 1896."

According to Names of the Land" by Eugene Green, "From the early 1700s, there was a kiln near the road to fire clay into bricks. Josiah Thompson, the last to make bricks, had his kiln in the 1800s on Forest Hill just off the road."

From Yucatan Adventure.com we learn that: Josiah Thompson built one of the first vacation cottages on Cape Cod. He was in the brick trade and later moved the family's summer residence to West Falmouth, lured by the rich clay deposits he found there. He built a brick kiln and a lofty house. As a side note, his son, Edward Herbert Thompson is responsible for lure of Chichen Itza, the restored city of the ancient Maya, as a tourist attaction.

Clarence J. Anderson, a now deceased local historian for Falmouth wrote about the first Europeans to arrive on the Cape. They "had no brick to build their chimneys. For their first log cabins they built chimneys and fireplaces of stone and plastered them with lime made from crushed clam shells. In a few years (they) quickly learned that local timber had much value in their homeland of England, so they started shipping timber there. The ships had to be ballasted in the empty hold with stone when coming back. They soon found they could ballast their ships with English brick. In this way they were paid both ways as stone would only be thrown overboard when they got back here. This created a good trade as brick was needed for chimneys here.

Falmouth's English settlers also began making bricks at the clay pits on Brick Kiln Road on what is now know as the Thompson property. This continued for several years but the brick from there was of very poor quality--it was bright red in color, very soft and powdery and it could not stand the weather above the roof line.

There are some houses in Falmouth today that contain Brick Kiln Road brick but most are gone. Ballast brick can still be found all over Falmouth in chimney foundations and cellars. Ballast brick is still as good as when it was made some 300 years ago.

The English imported brick was known by two names--1) wheatstraw, or 2) ballast brick. In shipping it here, layers of wheat straw were layed between layers of brick to keep them from breaking up when the ships pitched in rough weather. The size of English brick was determined from time to time by the King of England. During the time ballast brick was being brought over here, the size was 7 inches by 3 3/4 inches and 1 3/4 inches.

Brick Kiln Road brick died out early, as better quality brick was being made in West Barnstable, which became the key source for people here. Later, brickmaking ceased on Cape Cod as good bricks were made in New York and Pennslyvania."


A BRICKYARD IN SANDWICH

In the area known as Town Neck, along the shore of Cape Cod Bay, a lens of fine clay suitable for brick-making was discovered, perhaps as early as 1790 when construction of houses and mills picked up in earnest. Russell Lovell, in Sandwich, A Cape Cod Town (p. 258), says there is a reference to a brick kiln at Town Neck in connection with the bombardment of this coast in 1812 by the British. "The British kept a watchful eye on the brickyard at Town Neck in Sandwich," according to town archivist Barbara Gill. "For some reason they thought it was a hotbed of sorts." In a letter to the Cape Cod Times dated 11/22/1937 George Burbank of the Sandwich Historical Society wrote, "The English frigate, Commodore Harty, of 74 guns, observed the brick kiln on Town Neck, took it for a fort of undetermined strength and dared not come nearer than five miles from shore."

100 Tupper Road

In 1815 a brick house was built at 100 Tupper Road and to this day is the only brick house in Sandwich. It is said to have been built by Simeon Leonard, then the owner of the Town Neck brickyard. Lovell writes: "In 1819 the town appointed an officer whose title was 'Surveyor of Brick.'" Although there was only one brick house, the yard provided foundation materials for many Federal period buildings throughout the town.

The first deed referring to the brick kiln so far known is dated 1828 when the owners were David Benson and Simeon Leonard. The property was two acres bounded by the shore to the east, private land at the marsh, and by the proprietors' lands.

Deming Jarves

The next owner of the brickyard was Cyrus Smith who, in 1829, sold it to Deming Jarves, founder of the the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company (located in "Jarvesville"). Jarves used the Town Neck yard to produce brick for the numerous factory buildings located just across the marsh from the kiln. According to Lovell (p. 331), there was a narrow but solid bridge running from Town Neck across the marsh to Jarvesville near State Street. "This bridge was especially for use of a narrow one-horse wagon which brought bricks from the kiln over to Jarvesville."

Deming Jarves was the main principal of the glass company until 1858, when he resigned over a dispute with its Board of Directors. Deming and his son, John, began another glass company just down the street called the Cape Cod Glass Works. At least 500,000 bricks needed to construct the buildings and chimneys of this new factory mere made at the Town Neck yard.

When the "Pot Room" of the Boston and Sandwich Glass Factory was torn down in 1937, its bricks were used as facing for a new building being constructed on Main Street in Hyannis for the Cape Cod Standard Times (today’s Cape Cod Times).

In the Sandwich Town Archives is a copy of the deed for Jarves’ purchase of the Brick Yard, dated October 3, 1829:

"I, Cyrus Smith of Sandwich in the County of Barnstable, State Massachusetts in consideration of seventy dollars paid by Deming Jarves of Boston in the County of Suffolk the receipt whereof I do hereby acknowledge, do hereby give, grant, sell and convey unto the said Deming Jarves an undivided half of a certain piece of land own'd in common with said Jarves & is bounded as follows. North by the Sea shore, East by the lands of John Dillingham and the heirs of John Dillingham deceased, South & West by Town Neck so call'd and is known by the name of the Brick Yard & is so occupied, containing two acres more or less and is the lot which I purchased jointly with said Jarves, one half of David Benson Oct. 6, 1828 & is recorded in Barnstable records Oct. 7, 1828, 3o Book folio 123, the other half of Wm Fessenden Dec 8, 1828 & is recorded July 15, 1829. 2o Book folio 121 -- the said lot to be held subject to the order of the Attorney appointed by said Smith agreeable to an indenture made and executed the 3 day, October 1829. ... In Witness Whereof, I the said Cyrus Smith and Lucy, wife of said Cyrus in relinquishment of her right of Dower have hereunto set Hand & Seal on this ninth day of October in the year of our LORD, One thousand eight hundred and twenty nine."


SOURCES CONSULTED:

Webmaster Note:
I would like to acknowledge the invaluable research assistance on this project by Mary Sicchio of the
Falmouth Historical Society archives.
Thanks also to Tom Kingman, Pocasset MA
The Wheldon Library, Barnstable, MA provided the photos and:
A History of the West Barnstable Brick Company, by D. G. Trayser, Feb 7, 1973.

Other sources:
The Historical Society of the Town of Barnstable, Newsletter, March, 1997
History of Barnstable County, Massachusetts, edited by Simeon L. Deyo, 1890. New York: H. W. Blake & Co.)
capecodhistory.us
West Barnstable Civic Association
"The Barnstable Patriot"
YucatanAdventure.com
"Cape Cod Today"
TracyCrocker.com
New England Quarterly
Coogan, Jim and Sheedy, Jack, Cape Cod Voyage
Green, Eugene, Names of the Land
Lovell, Russell, Sandwich, A Cape Cod Town
Town of Falmouth, MA, Highways and Byways of Falmouth,


This Website was "Made On Cape Cod."
madeoncapecod.com
© 2014 FYI World Media, E. Sandwich, MA

Hudson River Brickmaking | Brick History/How Bricks Were Made
Links | Contact Form | BOOK SHOP
Visitors' Comments/Collections/Brix Pix | Our Collection
HOME