California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Levi Finley Craft

History


Levi Finley Craft was born in 1819 at Brownsville, Fayette County, Pennsylvania. He married Elizabeth Legate in 1849 at Mineral Point, Wisconsin, and they had four children. It appears from the 1850 Census Records that Levi had joined the gold rush to California and went to Sacramento in 1850, while his wife and an infant daughter resided with her parents in Wisconsin. In the early 1850s, the Craft family moved to California. According to the 1860 Census Records, they were in Marysville, Yuba County, California, where Levi was employed as a brick mason and bricklayer. The family moved in late 1867 to Woodland, Yolo County, California, where he continued working as a bricklayer and opened a new brickyard to manufacture bricks.

Advertisement from Sprague and Atwell, 1870.
Advertisement from Sprague and Atwell, 1870.

Levi Craft's brickyard was a half mile northeast of Woodland, according to his own advertisement. William Watts reported in 1890 that the Craft yard was located southeast of town near the Southern Pacific railroad track, where there was a stratum of clay, five to ten feet in thickness, overlying a bed of sand. Both of these locations are in the Quaternary fan deposits of the Sacramento Valley.

In 1870, Craft made handmade and machine-made common bricks with 20 employees. The yard had one brick machine and the bricks were fired in open kilns, which consumed about 600 cords of wood per year. That year, Craft produced 1,600,000 bricks valued at $11,200. The yard operated six months out of the year.

In 1890, the operation was not much different than 20 years before. The yard employed a total of 14 workers. The clay bank was tempered by being sprinkled with water a few days before use. The clay was then hauled to the pug mill, where it was mixed with water and sand. Two types of bricks were made, handmade and machine-made bricks, the latter being of better quality. The handmade bricks were pressed in wooden molds and placed in the yard in rows to dry for three days before they were put into the open kilns. It required eight or nine days to burn the handmade bricks. About one cord of willow and cottonwood was used to every 3,000 handmade bricks.

The machine-made bricks were made using a Kells brick machine, which had a capacity of 16,000 brick per ten hours. It was run by an 18-horsepower engine. It required seven men to supply and tend the Kells machine. The clay, which required less water than that for the handmade brick, was put into a hopper at the bottom of which semi-circular knives forced it into a cylinder, where it passed under a pressure of 20,000 pounds through dies, from which the clay was extruded as a solid bar of required width and thickness on a movable table. The clay bar was cut by ten steel wires into the required length. This indicates that they were end-cut bricks. The bricks were then stacked up in the yard in tiers of nine bricks high to dry. After three days of drying, the bricks were placed in open kilns to be burned for seven or eight days.


Craft, L. F., brick and building material, and erects
brick or frame buildings, complete. Woodland.

Advertisement from Sprague and Atwell, 1870.

The bricks were sold in the local market at about $8 per thousand for handmade brick and $12 per thousand for machine-made brick. Most of these bricks went to Woodland and some were shipped to other points in Yolo County. Some of the bricks made by Craft were used in the first Catholic Church in Woodland started in October 1869 and completed in October 1870. The contract for the brickwork was awarded to Craft at $15.50 per thousand brick. However, the church was short lived when the foundation of the church gave way in the following winter and the structure was declared unsafe. Craft furnished the brick that went into a three-story brick building in Woodland built by Brown, Sill and Craft. The Holmes-Bailey Building, built in 1883, at 303 First Street in Woodland contains Craft bricks. His bricks were also used in the Masonic Building, built in 1890, at 47 Main Street, and Hotel De Vilbiss, built in 1889, at 2 Main Street in Winters, Yolo County.

Advertisement from the Woodland Daily Democrat, 1890.
Advertisement from the Woodland Daily Democrat, 1890.

In September 1890, Craft filed for insolvency and 354,000 unburned brick and 35 cords of wood were sold at a Sheriff's sale to M. H. Torrence. Craft was reported to have fallen ill in August 1892. Levi F. Craft passed away on September 24, 1892 at the age of 73 years. He was interred at the Woodland Cemetery in Woodland.

 brick
View of Hotel De Vilbiss, built in 1889, at Winters, California. Photo by Dan L. Mosier, 2016.

Craft Brick

Common brick is orange-red and uniform in color. Form is good with dull edges and dull corners. Surface is coated with sand of mostly white subangular quartz, lesser cream subangular feldspar and black magnetite. Cracks and pits may be present on the surface. Sides display transverse and angled stack indentations. Top edges may have an irregular and sometimes discontinuous lip up to 1/4 inch thick. Spalling leaves large depressions on the edges or sides. Bottom face is even with wood grain imprints. Top face is rough and pitted with a longitudinal strike. Two types of interior clay bodies were noted indicating two types of materials used. Most common contained 10 percent rounded clots of white clay ranging from 1/16 to 1 inch in diameter, but most average 1/8 inch, in a porous quartz-rich sandy clay. Less common contained 7 percent subrounded pebbles of yellow, gray, and red chert, rounded clots of white clay, and subangular white quartz, 1/8 to 1 inch in diameter, in a porous quartz-rich sandy clay body. This brick was made using the soft-mud process. A slight range of sizes is noted. Length 8 1/2, width 3 5/8 - 3 3/4, height 2 3/8 inches.

View of the sides of Craft common brick.
View of the sides of Craft common brick.

View of the sides of Craft common brick.
View of the sides of Craft common brick.

View of the sides of Craft common brick.
View of the sides of Craft common brick.

View of the side of Craft common brick showing transverse stack indentations.
View of the side of Craft common brick showing transverse stack indentations.

View of the bottom of Craft common brick with wood grain imprints.
View of the bottom of Craft common brick with wood grain imprints.

View of the rough top of Craft common brick.
View of the rough top of Craft common brick.

Close-up view of the sand-coated surface of Craft common brick.
Close-up view of the sand-coated surface of Craft common brick.

Close-up view of the interior clay body showing white clay clots.
Close-up view of the interior clay body showing white clay clots.

Close-up view of the interior clay body showing mostly chert pebbles.
Close-up view of the interior clay body showing mostly chert pebbles.

Craft machine-made wire-cut bricks have not been found yet.

References

Ancestry.com, Craft Family Tree, accessed March 28, 2016.

Ancestry.com, Legate-Wilkerson Family Tree, accessed March 28, 2016.

Federal Census Records, 1850.

Federal Census Records, 1860.

Federal Census Records, 1870.

Federal Census Records, 1900.

Federal Non-Population Census Records, 1870.

Find A Grave, Levi Finley Craft, www.findagrave.com.

Gilbert, Frank T., The Illustrated Atlas and History of Yolo County, DePue and Company, San Francisco, 1879.

Great Register, 1867.

Great Register, 1868.

Gregory, Tom, History of Yolo County, Historic Record Co., Los Angeles, 1913.

Injured, Winters Express, August 2, 1890.

Levi F. Craft, Woodland Daily Democrat, September 26, 1892.

Order of Adjudication, Woodland Daily Democrat, September 22, 1890.

Sheriff's Sale, Woodland Daily Democrat, September 11, 1890.

Sprague, C. P., and Atwell, H. W., Western Shore Gazetteer Commercial Directory, Woodland, Yolo County, 1870.

Strand, Rudolph G., and Koenig, James B., Geologic Map of California, Sacramento Sheet, California Division of Mines and Geology, 1965, 1:250,000 scale.

Walters, Shipley, Woodland: City of Trees, Yolo County Historical Society, Woodland, CA, 1995.

Watts, William L., Yolo County, California State Mining Bureau 10th Report of the State Mineralogist, 1890, p. 791-792.

Woodland Daily Democrat, March 3, 1890.

Woodland Daily Democrat, December 3, 1890.

Woodland Daily Democrat, August 26, 1892.

Copyright 2016 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.