California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Holt and Gregg Lime and Brick Company

History


About 1895, James P. Holt and John N. Gregg moved from their Redding brickyard to establish a new brickyard on the west bank of the Sacramento River, east of Highway 273, 2 miles north of Anderson, Shasta County, California. They found a clay deposit partly mixed with sand, 8 to 15 feet thick, which was mined from two pits. James Holt was the brickmaker and superintendent of the brickyard. John Gregg was an experienced brick mason and managed the lime works at Kennett.

The clay was carried in carts to the clay pile at the plant. The clay was then conveyed on a belt to the crusher. Holt and Gregg molded common and stock bricks. Making bricks was seasonal work, usually starting in May and ending by October. It took four days to dry the bricks in the sun before they could be fired in open kilns. In 1895, 400,000 bricks were made. In 1896, a Potts brick-molding machine, with a capacity of 36,400 bricks per day, was installed replacing the handmade wooden-mold method of forming bricks. The yard employed 30 to 40 workers.

In 1897, Holt and Gregg burned 1,200,000 bricks in three opens kilns. The demand at that time was such that there was enough bricks to last for a while, so they temporarily closed the yard until they sold all of the bricks.

In May 1899, they purchased new pug mills from H.W. Carr of the Redding foundry to be run by steam-power rather than horse-power. They also erected a patent rectangular field kiln to allow the yard to produce several million bricks in a season (a picture of this kiln can be seen on Dottie Smith's blog page). However, they had trouble in securing the labor force necessary to increase brick production. Demand for brick in 1899 was greater than the yard could supply. Most of the bricks were shipped to Red Bluff that season.

In September 1900, they erected a second patent rectangular field kiln, with a capacity of six tons per day, to help meet the increasing demand for bricks. They began the following season by burning a kiln of 700,000 bricks. In 1902, they were expecting to make 6 million bricks that season. They also manufactured and sold lime from their lime kiln and quarry at Kennett. In 1903, large shipments of brick were made to Dunsmuir. In January 1904, Holt and Gregg secured the contract to provide all of the brick for five large factories of the Diamond Match Company at Chico. J.T. Black, foreman of the brickyard, wrote the following letter to the Clay-Worker:

"Our company, the Holt & Gregg Company, will have to run their plant at 36,500 brick per day every day this season in order to supply the demand, owing to large contracts with the Diamond Match Company at Chico. We are burning the first kiln this season with 250,000, which is very small. We usually burn 600,000 to 800,000, but the season has been so backward we could not wait for a larger kiln. There are some parties going to start a stiff-mud plant near Chico, but cannot give particulars yet. We use the rack and pallet system, with a Potts outfit, and put 36,500 brick per day in the kiln with twenty-five men and four boys."

View of the Presbyterian Church in Chico.
View of the Presbyterian Church, Chico, made of Holt and Gregg brick, 1909.


In 1907, Holt and Gregg announced that they were planning to put in a cement plant at their brickyard at Anderson. That year they had produced 4.5 million bricks. In 1909, they sent bricks for the Presbyterian Church in Chico as well as for other building projects. In December 1909, a 16-chamber continuous kiln, with a capacity of 24,000 brick per chamber, was started and completed by June 1910. The new continuous kiln was capable of producing 7 million to 8 million bricks per year, bringing the total for the yard to over 9 million bricks per year from all of their kilns. The continuous kiln was housed inside a long wooden building with a tall smokestack towering over the middle of the kiln building (A picture of this kiln can be seen on Marc Beauchamp's blog page). The kiln was fired by coal.

In June 1911, James Richard Holt died at his home in Redding after a short illness at the age of 70 years. He was a native of Tuscumbria, Alabama. During the Civil War, he served as a private in the Army of the Confederated State of America. After the war he worked in the building trades in Corinth, Mississippi; Granville, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Santa Barbara and Oroville, California. In 1876, he partnered with John N. Gregg to manufacture bricks and do contracting work in Red Bluff, California. He married his wife Mary Ault in 1881 at Red Bluff, and they had four children. Their son, James C. Holt, 1889-1949, returned from college in San Francisco to help Gregg operate the company, of which Gregg became president. Gregg was looking to expand his brick market to the Oregon border to the north and Sacramento to the south. In 1916, the Diamond Match Company called for another 1.5 million bricks. With declining demand for brick, the Anderson brickyard closed by 1918. The Kennett lime works closed in 1920.

Gregg and his wife Mary moved to Oakland in the 1920s. He died on June 13, 1930, at the age of 80 years. He was a native of Pennsylvania. He married his wife Mary in 1880, and they had two children. James C. Holt went into the automobile dealer business and later worked as a sales representative for petroleum companies. The Holt and Gregg brickyard site is currently occupied by Sierra Pacific Industries. The only evidence remaining at the site of this brickyard are the water-filled clay pits.

Holt and Gregg Brick

Common brick is dark orange-red to dark red and mostly uniform in color. The surface has a coating of river sand containing subangular white and yellow-stained quartz, golden mica, cream feldspar, black iron oxides, and other tiny rock grains, giving the brick its dark shade. The brick is hard and compact with good form. The edges are straight and sharp with sharp to nearly sharp corners. On some bricks, one of the bottom long edges is rounded, probably an artifact of the mold used, while other bricks have all sharp edges. The sides may display faint transverse striations, minor cracks, stack indentations, and rare white or yellowish flashing. The bottom face is flat and even. The ends of some bricks show a longitudinal line about one-third of the height below the top face, which may be an artifact of the mold used. Some have an irregular lip up to 1/8 inch thick around the top edges. The top face is rough with minor pits and a longitudinal strike, not always present on some bricks. Clasts are rare on the surface. Interior consists of 3 percent subangular white and gray quartz, rounded blebs of black iron oxides, some forming large aggregates, up to 1/8 inch in diameter, and well-rounded red metamorphic siltstone, as much as 1/2 inch across, in a compact, red to orange-red clay body that looks nearly vitrified. Pores are minor, with about 3 percent in volume and usually less than 1/16 inch in diameter. This brick was made using the soft-mud process in a range of sizes. Length 8 - 8 1/2, width 3 7/8 - 4, height 2 1/2 inches.

View of the Holt and Gregg common brick in the wall of the Chico Presbyterian Church.
View of Holt and Gregg common brick in the wall of the Presbyterian Church in Chico .

View of the side of the Holt and Gregg common brick. Mottled coloring is caused by black soot.
View of the side of the Holt and Gregg common brick. Mottled coloring is caused by black soot.
This example shows the rounded top long edge of the brick while the bottom long edge is sharp.

View of the side of the Holt and Gregg common brick, showing the true color and a crack right of center.
View of the side of the Holt and Gregg common brick, showing the true color and a transverse crack right of center.

View of the bottom face of the Holt and Gregg common brick, showing a rare exposed pebble.
View of the bottom face of the Holt and Gregg common brick, showing a rare exposed pebble.

View of the rough top face of the Holt and Gregg common brick, showing stack indentations.
View of the rough top face of the Holt and Gregg common brick, showing stack indentations.

View of the end of the Holt and Gregg common brick, showing the longitudinal (horizontal) line one-third down from the top.
View of the end of the Holt and Gregg common brick, showing
a longitudinal (horizontal) line one-third down from the top.

Microscopic view of the sand coating on the surface of the Holt and Gregg common brick (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).
Microscopic view of the sand coating on the
surface of the Holt and Gregg common brick
(50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).

View of the interior clay body of the Holt and Gregg common brick.
View of the interior clay body of the Holt and Gregg common brick.

Microscopic view of the interior clay body of the Holt and Gregg common brick (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).
Microscopic view of the interior clay body of the Holt
and Gregg common brick (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).

References

Aubrey, Lewis E., The Structural and Industrial Materials of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 38, 1906, p. 257.

Beauchamp, Marc, Marc Beauchamp's blog, blogs.redding.com/redding/mbeauchamp/archives/2007/10/built-like-a-we-1.html, October 16, 2007 (accessed June 14, 2014).

Boalich, E.S., Castello, W.O., Huguenin, Emile, Logan, C.A., and Tucker, W.B., The Clay Industry In California, California State Mining Bureau Preliminary Report 7, 1920, p. 98.

Brick, v. 7 no. 3, 1897, p. 119.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 15, no. 4, 1901, p. 171.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 16, no. 6, 1902, p. 280.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 19, no. 1, 1903, p. 34.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 20, no. 1, 1904, p. 3.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 26, no. 1, 1907, p. 26.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 33, no. 1, 1910, p. 42-43.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 49, no. 6, 1916, p. 527.

California, Death Index, 1905-1939, images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ accessed 11 Sep 2014), 1905-1929, Vital Statistics Department, Sacramento.

Clay Record, v. 35, no. 12, 1909, p. 35.

Clay Record, v. 36, no. 2, January 1910, p. 25.

Clay Record, v. 36, no. 2, January 1910, p. 34.

Clay Record, v. 36, no. 7, April 1910, p. 33.

Clay Record, v. 36, no. 9, May 1910, p. 25.

Clay Record, v. 36, no. 12, June 1910, p. 35.

Clay-Worker, v. 31, no. 5, May 1899, p. 460.

Clay-Worker, v. 31, no. 6, June 1899, p. 529.

Clay-Worker, v. 32, no. 1, July 1899, p. 34.

Clay-Worker, v. 32, no. 2, August 1899, p. 140.

Clay-Worker, v. 34, no. 3, September 1900, p. 224.

Clay-Worker, v. 41, no. 5, May 1904, p. 627.

Clay-Worker, v. 55, no. 6, June 1911, p. 891.

Clay-Worker, v. 56, no. 2, August 1911, p. 196.

Crawford, J.J., Structural Materials, California State Mining Bureau 13th Report of the State Mineralogist, 1896, p. 612-641.

Federal Census Records, 1880.

Federal Census Records, 1900.

Federal Census Records, 1930.

Harper, Jeannette M., Shasta County, California, Biographies, contributions from the Shasta Historical Society, USGenWeb Project, http://www.cagenweb.com/shasta/index.html, accessed September 12, 2014.

Record Searchlight, March 17, 2001.

Smith, Dottie, Holt and Gregg's Huge Anderson Brickyard Kiln, blogs.redding.com, July 9, 2009 (accessed June 14, 2014).

Copyright 2014 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.