California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Ione Fire Brick Company

History


In May 1907, Carver Hidecker, an Oakland lumberman, struck a deal with Jacob Newman, who owned a clay deposit 1.4 mile southeast of Ione in Amador County, California. Hidecker was looking to open a firebrick manufacturing plant in the clay-rich district of Ione. For the plant site, he purchased the 120-acre property of P. S. Glasscock in the northwest quarter of section 31, township 5 north, range 10 east, on the west side of the Amador Central Railroad. He also purchased from Jacob Newman, 4.92 acres of clay land in section 31, township 6 north, range 10 east, and made an agreement with Newman to pay $1 per 1,000 brick made and 50 cents per ton of clay shipped. The clay deposit consisted of a 10-foot thick seam of fire clay in the Eocene age Ione Formation. Hidecker organized the Ione Fire Brick Company with investors in Oakland and San Francisco. The company office was located at 704 Market Street in San Francisco. These properties were then transferred over to the Ione Fire Brick Company.

Carver Hidecker was born in Pennsylvania in 1860 to Charles and Ossealin Hidecker. His father was a foreman in the sawmill in Chautauqua, New York, so Carver grew up in the lumber business. In 1885, he married Effie Campbell and they had one son, Gerald Campbell Hidecker. About 1901 or 1902, the Hideckers moved to Oakland, California, to start his own lumber company. In 1903, he became president of the California Brick and Pottery Company, which started a brickyard in Glen Ellen in Sonoma County, California. It was likely that the lumber and brick businesses made him realize the shortage of firebrick in California at that time. So, now he seized the opportunity to start his own firebrick plant in Ione.

Arthur S. Cunningham, who was superintendent of the Glen Ellen brickyard, was hired as the first superintendent of the Ione yard. Cunningham designed and built the Ione firebrick plant. Construction work began in May 1907 and by September of that year, the plant consisted of a 40- by 40-foot plant and engine room, a 15-ton elevator, and one round down-draft kiln, with a capacity of 60,000 bricks per month. Brick masons William L. Fortner and Mose Fortner, built the kiln. The equipment cost $60,000. Their initial plan to build seven kilns and produce terra cotta and other clay products never materialized. Over the years, only four more kilns were added and firebrick was their only product.

The first firebrick was made in September 1907 and, that season, they were all mainly test bricks. By July 1908, the company was shipping out two carloads of brick per day, or about 10,000 brick per day. The following month, they received a large order of 75,000 firebrick from Portland, Oregon. Because this plant did not install interior dryers, the bricks were sun dried and at the mercy of the weather. Each year, the brickmaking season for this company began in March and they operated for eight months, before the wet weather shut them down. As more kilns were added over the years, they were able to meet the increasing demand for firebrick. By 1911, they had five oil-fired down-draft kilns in operation. Teamsters were used to haul the clay to the plant and the finished products to the nearby railroad.

In October 1911, a fire had destroyed the plant buildings and sheds. These were rebuilt. The kilns were not affected by the fire. Operations resumed in November with the firing of the five kilns. By December 1913, the plant was producing 20,000 firebricks per day. They used W. W. Dennis of the McNear Brick Agency as their sales agent. This helped the company expand its firebrick sales to oil, railroad, and lumber companies. In 1915, sheds were built to cover the entire yard to protect the drying bricks from wet weather. By 1916, the number of employees at the Ione yard was reported to be 80.

Ione Fire Brick Co. brickyard
View of the rebuilt plant of the Ione Fire Brick Company. From Bradley, 1927.


In 1916, Carver Hidecker left the company to pursue a new business venture at the Panama Canal. David R. Eisenbach was made the new president and manager. Superintendent Cunningham also resigned and took a position with the Lehigh Brick Works in Allentown, Pennsylvania. His position was replaced by William Brown as the new superintendent.

In 1919, the Ione Fire Brick Company had a record production of over 3,000,000 firebrick with 25 men. The plant was molding 20,000 brick per day, and the five kilns had a total capacity of 11,000 brick per day. Superintendent Brown leased 640 acres of land to obtain sand and clay mixture for the brick. A spur track was laid from the plant to the clay pit to transport clay. He also extended a spur line to the Amador Central Railway to facilitate shipping. The popularity of the Ione firebrick extended throughout the West from Washington on the north to Mexico on the south, from Ogden, Utah on the east to Hawaii on the west.

About 1925, the Ione Fire Brick Company was taken over by the Stockton Fire Brick Company. John T. Roberts became the new president and manager of the company, and the main office was moved to 116 North Montgomery Street in San Francisco. William Brown remained the superintendent of the plant. The local Ione sand and clay was mixed with Lincoln clay obtained from the pit of the Clay Corporation of California, another subsidiary of the Stockton Fire Brick Company. Iron-stained quartz grog was mined from a 6- to 12-foot thick bed in a small pit adjacent to the Bacon red clay pit near Ione. The mixture was prepared in a dry pan and pug mill, shaped in an auger machine, wire cut on the sides, and repressed. The bricks were removed from an off-bearing conveyor and stacked on carts. The bricks were dried under sheds or in the open air. After drying, the bricks were fired in round down-draft kilns. The firebricks were shipped out by rail. Crude clay was also sold to other companies from the company clay pit.

Ione Fire Brick Co. plant interior
View of the interior of the Ione Fire Brick Company
plant, showing the auger and repress machines and
off-bearing conveyor with bricks. From Dietrich, 1928.


Ione firebrick was produced from 1907 to 1942. It is possible that the test runs were the ones marked with the "PAT. APPL'D FOR" during the first burn season late in 1907, and these bricks were sold in 1908. Since 1908, the firebrick was marked with just the name "IONE". About 1930, the company added a new brand of high-alumina firebrick called "KEYSTONE."

The Ione Fire Brick Company continued to operate up until the Second World War (1942), when the plant, like many others at that time, was forced to close. In 1944, Western Refractories Company purchased the plant and reopened it for the production of refractory products (see
Western Refractories Company for the continuation of this history).

Carver Hidecker returned to Oakland in 1922 and started the Hidecker Brick Company. His son Gerald helped in the brick business until 1926, when he opened the Hidecker Tile Company in Oakland. Carver manufactured bricks until he passed away on September 21, 1927 at the age of 67 years. His wife Effie and son Gerald moved to Los Angeles in the early 1930s.

Ione Fire Brick

The earliest fire brick is buff in color with black iron often stained orange on the surface. The edges are straight and dull. The corners are dull. On the marked face are letterings on two lines. The first line has the name "IONE" in recessed block letters that span 5 1/4 inches in length and 1 1/8 inches in height. The second line has "PAT. APPL'D FOR" in recessed block letters that span 6 5/8 inches in length and 1/2 inch in height. The interior contains 5 percent subrounded white quartz up to 1/8 inch across and 5 percent round black iron with blister holes up to 1/8 inch across in a sandy clay body. This brick was made using the extruded stiff-mud process, wire-cut, and repressed. This version was probably made from 1907 to 1908 as test bricks. Length 9, width 4 1/2, height 2 3/4 inches.

Ione firebrick marked face
View of the marked face of the original Ione firebrick.

Ione firebrick
View of the interior of the original Ione firebrick showing white quartz and black iron in a sandy clay body.


A second version of the Ione firebrick is yellow with visible white quartz grog and orange iron stains on the surface. The edges are straight and dull. The corners are dull. The faces display longitudinal grooves. The marked face has the name "IONE" in recessed block letters that span 5 1/4 inches in length and 1 1/8 inches in height. The interior contains 5 percent subrounded white quartz up to 1/4 inch across and 5 percent round black iron up to 1/8 inch across in a yellow sandy clay body. The brick was made using the extruded stiff-mud process, wire cut, and repressed. This version was probably made from 1908 to 1925. Length 9, width 4 1/2, height 2 3/4 inches.

Ione firebrick marked face
View of the marked face of the Ione firebrick, showing the name in large letter.


A third version of the Ione firebrick is white with visible white quartz and orange stained iron spots on the surface. The surface is crackled and has small pits. The edges are straight and dull. The corners are dull. The marked face has the name "IONE" in recessed block letters that span 2 1/8 inches in length and 3/4 inches in height. The interior contains 5 percent subangular white quartz up to 1/8 inch across and 3 percent round brown iron spots with orange stains up to 1/8 inch across in a fine white sandy clay body. The brick was made using the extruded stiff-mud process, wire cut, and repressed. This version was probably made from 1925 to 1942. Length 9, width 4 1/2, height 2 1/2 inches.

Ione firebrick marked face
View of the marked face of the Ione firebrick, showing the name in small letters.


The KEYSTONE firebrick is yellow to buff in color. White quartz and black iron spots are visible on the surface, which is smooth, pitted, and crackled. The edges are straight and sharp. The corners are sharp if not broken. The sides may display brown flashing. The faces have curved wire-cut marks. The marked face has the name "KEYSTONE" in recessed block letters that span 4 1/2 inches in length and 5/8 inch in height inside a rectangular plate outline that is 5 1/2 inches in length and 7/8 inch in height. At each end of the plate are round 1/2 inch wide raised screw imprints, but these may not be visible on some bricks. The interior contains 15 percent subangular white quartz up to 1/8 inch across and 3 percent black iron up to 1/8 inch across in a light yellow sandy clay body. The brick was made using the extruded stiff-mud process, wire cut, and repressed. This brick was probably made from 1930 to 1942. Length 9, width 4 1/2, height 2 1/2 inches.

Ione Keystone firebrick marked face
View of the marked face of the Keystone firebrick.


Ione Keystone firebrick interior
View of the interior of the Keystone firebrick, showing white quartz grog and black iron in a yellow sandy clay body.


References

Amador Ledger, Clipped From Our Exchanges, June 19, 1908.

Amador Ledger, Clipped From Our Exchanges, July 3, 1908.

Amador Ledger, Clipped From Our Exchanges, March 27, 1908.

Amador Ledger, Documents Recorded, June 14, 1907.

Amador Ledger, Fire at Ione Brickyard, October 6, 1911.

Amador Ledger, From Our Exchanges, August 7, 1908.

Amador Ledger, From Our Exchanges, February 3, 1911.

Amador Ledger, From Our Exchanges, July 5, 1907.

Amador Ledger, From Our Exchanges, November 3, 1911.

Amador Ledger, Ione Items, August 23, 1907.

Amador Ledger, Local News, April 17, 1908.

Amador Ledger, Local News, June 19, 1908.

Amador Ledger, Pottery For Ione, May 24, 1907.

Amador Ledger, They Are at Work, May 31, 1907.

Amador Ledger, Will Close Down Temporarily, August 13, 1909.

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. 38.

Bradley, Walter W., California Mineral Production For 1926, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 100, 1927, 175 p.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 43, no. 6, 1913, p. 585.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 45, no. 1, 1914, p. 63.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 45, no. 6, 1914, p. 623.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 48, no. 7, 1916, p. 657.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 49, no. 1, 1916, p. 53.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 49, no. 4, 1916, p. 337.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 49, no. 8, 1916, p. 723.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 51, no. 10, 1917, p. 866.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 56, no. 2, 1920, p. 154.

California Death Index.

Dietrich, Waldemar F., The Clay Resources and the Ceramic Industry of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 99, 1928, p. 60-63.

Federal Census Records, 1870.

Federal Census Records, 1900.

Federal Census Records, 1910.

Gurcke, Karl, Bricks and Brickmaking - A Handbook for Historical Archaeology, The University of Idaho Press, Moscow, Idaho, 1987.

Logan, C.A., Amador County, California State Mining Bureau 19th Report of the State Mineralogist, no. 3, 1923, p. 94-97.

Oakland City Directories, 1909-1930.

San Francisco City Directories, 1907-1936.

Tucker, W.B., The Counties of Amador, Calaveras, and Tuolumne, California State Mining Bureau 14th Report of the State Mineralogist, for the Biennial Period 1913-1914, Part 1, 1916, p. 1-172.

Copyright 2010 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.