California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


John B. Hill

History


John B. Hill.
John B. Hill. Courtesy of the Humboldt County Historical Society.


John Barrett Hill was born in New Brunswick, Canada, in 1845. He came to Eureka in 1864 and, like many, worked in the logging industry. He attained his citizenship in 1869. In 1880, he married his wife Laura (Louise) Whittier, also a native of New Brunswick, Canada, and they had 7 children. In 1885, John worked at his cousin's John E. Hill brickyard on the Eureka Slough, where he probably learned the trade of brickmaking. In 1890, John purchased 10 acres of land on Harrison Street, where he built his house and established a brickyard. John and his brother, William, ran the brickyard until 1892, when his brother left. For the next 12 years, John operated the brickyard alone, probably only as demand called for the brick.

Apparently, the John B. Hill brickyard was not a major operation in Eureka. No description could be found of the yard. The bricks made by John B. Hill are uncertain and the information presented here must be considered preliminary. There are some bricks used in the front yard of John B. Hill's home at 1904 Harrison Street. It is not certain if these bricks were made by John B. Hill, but because they do appear to look different than other bricks found in Eureka and they are on his property, I will assume that they are his bricks. Based upon the bricks on John B. Hill's former property, they were made by the soft-mud process, sand-struck, and probably formed in wooden molds. They were probably fired in field kilns. As John B. Hill operated his brickyard from 1890 to 1904, any brick structures in Eureka dating to this period might be constructed of John B. Hill's brick.

In 1904, John B. Hill closed his brickyard and began raising strawberries on his land. He died on September 27, 1916 at the age of 72 years. He was a member of the Odd Fellow and Fortuna Lodge. The 10 acres surrounding his former house has since been subdivided into residential units and all evidence of his brickyard has been erased.

John B. Hill Brick

Common brick is pale orange to yellowish orange. The brick has a sand-struck surface and feels rough. The form is poor, with irregular dull edges and corners. Large pits as much as 1 inch across, deep gouges, and cracks are visible on the surface. Rounded sandstone clasts are visible on the surface. A thin irregular lip, 1/8 inch thick, is seen around the top edges. Stack indentations are present on the sides. The bottom face is flat with some pits. The top face is rough, highly pitted, and lumps of clasts protrude the surface. The top face has a faint longitudinal strike. The interior with clasts consists of as much as 15 percent subrounded reddish and yellowish sandstone, up to 1 inch in diameter, in a porous, orange-red sandy clay body. Some bricks appear to lack the clasts, or the percentage is much lower. This brick was made using the soft-mud process. Length 8 1/4, width 3 3/4, height 2 1/2 inches.

View of the sides of John B. Hill common brick.
View of the sides of John B. Hill common brick.

View of the bottom face of John B. Hill common brick.
View of the bottom face of John B. Hill common brick.

View of the rough top face of John B. Hill common brick.
View of the rough top face of John B. Hill common brick.

View of the interior of John B. Hill common brick.
View of the interior of John B. Hill common brick.

References

Baldivia, Stefani, Research Assistant, Humboldt County Historical Society, personal communications, 2014.

Federal Census Records, 1900

Humboldt County Historical Society, John Hill portrait, Accession number 2012.065.0430.

J.B. Hill Is Dead, Humboldt Times, September 28, 1916.

Mrs. Louise Hill Of Eureka Dies, Humboldt Times, February 5, 1946.

Nash, Glen, Some staked their futures on brick plants, The Humboldt Historian, May-June 1985, p. 19-20.

Copyright 2014 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.