California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


C.J. Craycroft and Son

History


In 1898, Columbus J. Craycroft (shown right) opened a brickyard at the southeast corner of Orange Avenue and Jensen Road, about 2.5 miles south of Fresno. This was Craycroft's second brickyard in Fresno.

Picture of C.J. Craycroft
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 first brickyard on Railroad Avenue in 1887, 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 to Orange Avenue and Jensen Road. Craycroft bought out Hays' interest in the brickyard property in 1893, when Hays turned to farming.

View of the second C.J. Craycroft and Son brickyard.
View of the C.J. Craycroft and Son brickyard, South Fresno. From Brick and Clay Record, 1901.

The brick plant was built at a cost of over $8,000. Like at the first brickyard, the soil was a red-burning clay. They did not have to store or weather the clay before burning it. It had new equipment and was operated more efficiently than the first yard. A large shed, 272 feet long and 84 feet wide, covered the continuous rotary kiln. The roof on the shed had painted in large white letters "C.J. CRAYCROFT & SON BRICK YARD." The kiln was served by a chimney that stood over 100 feet in height. The chimney had a 9 feet wide base that tapered upward to a height of 75 feet and above that ran the rest of the distance to the top with a diameter of 5 feet. The chimney was marked in large white letters "1898 CRAYCROFT AND SON." A second continuous kiln was to be completed by 1901.

View of the second C.J. Craycroft and Son brickyard.
View of the C.J. Craycroft and Son brickyard, South Fresno. From Brick and Clay Record, 1901.

The continuous kiln was able to fire brick throughout the whole kiln or in compartments. The top of the kiln contained a firing hole every three feet where coal was poured into the holes about every 20 minutes to keep the fire going. By 1901, coal was replaced with 48 oil burners. The kiln was equipped with a gauge to tell how much the bricks have shrunk to make hard or soft brick. The kiln had a capacity of 110,000 brick per week, while the plant capacity was 200,000 brick per week. Johnny Yaeger and Joe Howard were the kiln burners.

The clay was mixed in several horse-drawn pug mills on the grounds next to the shed. After the bricks were formed either in wooden molds or in the Eagle brick press machines and extruding wire-cut machines, which were added in 1902, they were dried on racks in the sun in about three or four days. A 25-horsepower Bonds engine was used for power.

A rail spur switch ran in front of the kiln, where bricks were loaded onto cars or coal was unloaded. The plant employed 35 to 40 workers for about nine months of annual operation. In 1898, this yard sold 2 million bricks. In 1899, they sold 4 million bricks. In 1901, they produced 5 million bricks. These bricks were used in many of the brick buildings and homes in Fresno as well as those in the surrounding towns. In 1903, the company shipped 500,000 brick to San Francisco during the bricklayer strike there.

C.J. Craycroft and Son brickyard advertisement.
Advertisement for C.J. Craycroft and Son. From Fresno Weekly Republican, 1899.

In 1896, Frank J. Craycroft began to help his father at the yard by keeping the books and accounts of the firm and helping to supervise the yard. In 1900, they formed a copartnership known C.J. Craycroft and Son. Frank was born on March 31, 1876 in Illinois. He married Mae Tobin in 1899, and they had two children, Fannie Mae and Kenneth Tobin Craycroft.

Craycroft began disposing of the old brickyard properties in 1902 by selling small parcels of land. The yard at Orange Avenue and Jensen Road was operated as late as 1905 and probably was closed shortly afterwards. Thus, Craycroft's second brickyard provided bricks from 1898 to 1905, in which 11 million sand-molded common bricks and probably an equal number of pressed and wire-cut bricks were made. The samples shown below are bats from the brickyard site.

In 1913, a petition was filed in Fresno County for the dissolution of C.J. Craycroft & Son Brick Company. A new and larger yard was opened on Belmont Avenue in West Fresno in 1910 (see
Craycroft-Herrold Brick Company). Today, an overpass and additional railroad tracks cover most of the brickyard site at Jensen Road.

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 as 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 & Son Brick


Craycroft and Son wire-cut brick is pale red with smooth surfaces. Edges and corners are sharp if not broken. Faces display a velour texture with curved wire-cut grooves and minor pits. No marks were seen on any of the bricks and it is unlikely that the bricks from this yard were marked. The interior contains about 5 percent white and translucent subangular quartz, less than 1/8 inch across, in a compact orange-red sandy clay body. Another sample contained about 10 percent subangular white quartz and subangular yellow feldspar, all less than 1/8 inch across, in a compact orange-red sandy clay body. This brick was made using the stiff-mud process, extruded, and wire-cut. Length ?, width 3 3/4, height ?.

side of Craycroft brick

View of the smooth side of the Craycroft wire-cut brick.

face of Craycroft brick

View of the velour wire-cut face of the Craycroft wire-cut brick.

interior of Craycroft brick

View of the interior clay body of the Craycroft wire-cut
brick, showing white quartz in a compact sandy clay body.

interior of Craycroft brick

View of the interior clay body of the Craycroft wire-cut brick.
White quartz and yellow feldspar are the larger minerals in view.


Craycroft and Son common hard brick is red-brown with sand-struck surfaces. The sand is iron-stained subangular quartz. Edges and corners are dull. The top face is flat with minor pits and stack indentations. The bottom face is flat. No marks were seen on any of the bricks and it is unlikely that the bricks from this yard were marked. The interior contains about 80 percent white and translucent subangular quartz, white subangular feldspar, and subangular granite, less than 1/16 inch across, all welded together in a porous vitrified groundmass. This is an overfired example of the hard common brick, made by the soft-mud process. Length ?, width 3 5/8, height 2 1/2.

side of Craycroft common brick

View of the side of the Craycroft common brick. Right side is missing.

top face of Craycroft common brick

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

side of Craycroft common brick

View of the bottom face of the Craycroft common brick. Right side is missing.

Interior of Craycroft common brick

View of the interior of the Craycroft common brick showing mostly fused quartz grains.

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, John, written communications, 2014.

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

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

Craycroft/Hemphill Family Tree, Ancestry.com.

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

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

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.

Fresno Weekly Republican, December 14, 1899, p. 4.

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

Root Anderson Family Tree, Ancestry.com.

The Craycroft Works, Fresno, Cal., Brick and Clay Record, 1901, v. 14, no. 1, 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.