California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


C.J. Craycroft

History


Picture of C.J. Craycroft
In 1887, Columbus J. Craycroft established a brickyard about two miles south of Fresno, probably on a lease with the owner William Wilkinson. The soil was found to produce a red-burning brick. This yard was located at 2550 South Railroad Avenue, currently owned by Weir Minerals.

Columbus Joel Craycroft was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri on December 13, 1845. He spent his childhood in Salem, Illinois. In 1860, he enlisted with the 62nd Illinois Infantry during the Civil War. After the war, he engaged in brickmaking at Centralia, Illinois. In 1866, he married his first wife Rebecca Grable, and they had two children Arlie and Nina. In 1874, he married his second wife Frances Baldridge and they had one son Frank Joel.

In 1879, the Craycrofts went to Harrisburg, Alameda County, California. In the 1880 Census, Craycroft was listed as a brickmaker, so he may have manufactured bricks while there for the treatment of his wife's rheumatism at the nearby Stanford Warm Springs. In 1881, they went to Panoche Valley where he raised a small band of sheep with one of his brothers. Frances died there in 1884. In 1885, the Craycrofts went to Fresno, California, to do contractor work. That year he returned to Illinois and, in 1886, married Mrs. Laura J. Hayes. He brought his bride back to Fresno, and they operated the Fresno House, a wooden hotel at Tulare and M streets.

Craycroft, an experienced brickmaker, soon recognized the need for building brick in a town that was rapidly growing in the late 1880s. After establishing his brickyard on Railroad Avenue with good results in brickmaking, he purchased 5 acres from the landowner, William Wilkinson, on February 28, 1889. Shortly afterwards, James F. Hays joined Craycroft in the brick venture. On December 22, 1891, Craycroft and Hays purchased another 40 acres of adjacent land from Wilkinson to expand their brickyard property.

The description of this first brickyard was incomplete. The yard was probably similar to other common brickyards of the 1880s. It probably used horse-drawn pug mills to grind and mix the clay with water. The bricks were probably made initially with wooden molds and later by the Eagle brick machine, invented by Craycroft's brother, Benjamin, and the forms were set out to dry in the sun. The final bricks were fired in open kilns, fueled by oil. By 1901, the yard was producing 25,500 brick per day. Sold bricks were hauled by wagons to the building job site at a rate of $6 to $8 per thousand. Wire-cut brick bats found on the site indicates that this yard was using a stiff-mud extruding machine with wire-cutters probably in the last couple of years.

Craycroft bought out Hays' interest in the brickyard property in 1893, when Hays decided to turn to farming. Craycroft continued to operate the yard until a second brickyard was established a half mile to the southeast on Jensen Road. For a short time, Craycroft was managing the two brickyards simultaneously. Craycroft had closed the first yard about September 1902, when he began to sell small parcels of the brickyard property to different parties.

The bricks from Craycroft's first brickyard were used in the buildings and brick structures around Fresno from 1887 to 1902. The bricks from this yard can be distinguished from Craycroft's other yards by their mostly sand-molded character. At his other yards, he made mostly wire-cut or pressed bricks, using modern brickmaking machinery. Because not many brick structures from this early period have survived, I have not yet been able to identify these first bricks in existing brick structures. The examples shown below are brick bats from the brickyard site that gives us a description of Craycroft's first bricks.

On November 17, 1915, while repairing the roof of a house, C.J. Craycroft fell two-stories and died as a result of the injuries. He was survived by his wife Laura, and son Frank J. Craycroft. His remains were interred in the Mountain View Cemetery in Fresno. Craycroft served a City Trustee, representing the second ward, from 1893 to 1895. He served as Mayor of Fresno from 1895 to 1899. He was also a member of the First Christian Church and G.A.R. in Salem, Illinois.

C.J. Craycroft Brick


Craycroft common brick is orange-red to dark red-brown with a heavy coating of sand on the surface. The sand is composed of iron-stained subangular white and translucent quartz. The sides have transverse striations or grooves and may show pits that are as much as 1/4 inch in diameter. The side of a clinker common brick was burnt to black and partially melted. The edges and corners are dull. The bottom face is flat and even, with minor pits. No marked common bricks are known, so Craycroft probably did not mark these bricks. The top face is rough with strong longitudinal strike mark. The interior contains about 20 percent subangular white quartz, ranging up to 1/4 inch across, in a porous orange-red sandy clay body. This brick was made using the soft-mud process. Length ?, width 4, height 2 3/4 inches.

end of the Craycroft common brick

View of the end of the Craycroft common brick.

end of the Craycroft common brick

View of the top face of the Craycroft common brick. Left side is missing.

interior clay body of the Craycroft common brick

View of the interior clay body of the Craycroft common brick.

interior clay body (50x) of the Craycroft common brick

View of the interior clay body of the Craycroft common
brick showing white quartz (50x, field of view 1/4 inch wide).

interior clay body (50x) of the Craycroft common brick

View of the interior clay body of the Craycroft common brick near the melted
surface. The top half is melted relative to the lower half and shows white quartz.

interior clay body (50x) of the Craycroft common brick

View of the interior clay body of the Craycroft common clinker
brick showing white quartz (50x, field of view 1/4 inch wide).



Wire-cut common brick is orange-red with smooth sides and wire-cut faces. The smooth sides contain tiny minor pits. The faces show a velour texture with curved wire-cut grooves. Edges and corner are dull. The interior contains 20 percent subangular white to translucent quartz in a compact orange-red sandy clay body. This brick was made using the stiff-mud process. Length ?, width 3 3/4, height 2 1/4 inches.

side of the Craycroft wire-cut common brick

View of the side of the Craycroft common brick bat.

wire-cut face of the Craycroft wire-cut common brick

View of the wire-cut face of the Craycroft wire-cut common brick bat. Left half is missing.

interior of the Craycroft wire-cut common brick

View of the interior clay body of the Craycroft wire-cut common brick.

interior clay body (50x) of the Craycroft common brick

View of the interior clay body of the Craycroft common
brick showing white quartz (50x, field of view 1/4 inch wide).

References

A New Industry, Fresno Weekly Republican, June 3, 1898.

Aubrey, Lewis E., The Structural and Industrial Materials of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 38, 1906, p. 242.

Brick and Clay Record, 1900, v. 12, p. 97.

Brick and Clay Record, 1901, v. 14, no. 3, p. 145.

Brick and Clay Record, 1901, v. 14, no. 6, p. 323.

Brick and Clay Record, 1902, v. 17, no. 2, p. 72.

Brick and Clay Record, 1903, v. 18, no. 3, p. 131.

Craycroft Falls To Death From House Roof, Fresno Morning Chronicle, November 18, 1915.

Craycroft/Hemphill Family Tree, Ancestry.com, accessed January 24, 2014.

Craycroft, John, written communications, 2014.

Craycroft, Robert, Database, Ancestry.com freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com, accessed January 24, 2014.

Fresno Republican, April 17, 1895.

Fresno Republican, March 24, 1893.

Fresno County Deeds, C.J. and Laura Craycroft to Charles H. Denton, September 23, 1902, Book 285, p. 37.

Fresno County Deeds, J.F. and Mary Hays to C.J. Craycroft, January 24, 1893, Book 158, p. 221, 224.

Fresno County Deeds, Robert Balfour et. al. to C.J. Craycroft, July 22, 1895, Book 182, p. 266.

Fresno County Deeds, William Wilkinson to C.J. Craycroft, February 28, 1889, Book 80, p. 105.

Fresno County Deeds, William Wilkinson to C.J. Craycroft and James F. Hays, December 22, 1891, Book 140, p. 163.

Hold Craycroft Funeral Today, Fresno Morning Republican, November 19, 1915.

Laughnan, Woody, Craycroft Brick Co., A Fresno Pioneer, Fresno Bee, April 27, 1969.

News from Fresno, Brick and Clay Record, 1901, v. 14, no. 6, p. 323.

Root Anderson Family Tree, Ancestry.com, accessed January 24, 2014.

The Craycroft Works, Fresno, Cal., Brick and Clay Record, 1901, v. 14, p. 40-41.

These Men Have Headed City Government, Fresno Bee, October 23, 1935.

Vandor, Paul E., History of Fresno County, California, with Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men and Women of the County Who have been Identified with its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present, Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California, 1919.


Copyright 2014 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.