California brick

Marcus H. and William B. Merrill, Stockton


One of the pioneer brickmakers in Stockton was Marcus H. Merrill, born in Canton, Connecticutt, on January 20, 1829. He married Celinda Almira Clough about 1850, in Hartford, Connecticut, where he was employed as an axe maker in a blacksmith shop. In 1856, Merrill came to California and settled in Stockton. He became a close friend of Captain Charles Weber, the founder of Stockton, and was associated with him in many business enterprises. The Merrills had two daughters, Inez and Clara. Inez married James H. Budd, who became the 19th Governor of California from 1895 to 1899. Clara married Charles Neill, a school teacher. Two of Marcus' brothers also came to California, William Bernard, also a brickmaker, and Isaac Merrill, who worked for the railroad mail service in Oakland.

Stockton had suffered numerous fires and so fireproof bricks were in great demand during the early 1850s. Merrill established a brickyard at Channel and Ophir (Airport Way) streets in Stockton, where he resided. His brother, William Bernard Merrill, partnered with him to make common bricks. An advertisement from the Stockton City Directory, 1870-1871, said, "Constantly on hand the best quality of brick, with which Contractors and Builders can be supplied in quantities to suit at the lowest current rates. No Better Article Manufactured."

Merrill brickyard ad
Merrill brickyard advertisement from the Stockton City Directory, 1870.

There was no description of this brickyard. But from the bricks, we can see that the soft-mud process was used. The brick was hand-molded with a coating of sand and formed in wooden molds. The brick was dried in the sun. The dried brick was then fired in a field kiln, probably fueled by wood or coal. The hard brick was loaded into wagons and delivered to construction sites around town.

St. Mary's Church at Stockton
Merrill's brick has been identified in the main St. Mary's Church at the northeast corner of Washington and Hunter streets in Stockton. Construction on the church began in 1861, using bricks from the Merrill brickyard. However, not all of the brick in this church ediface was made by Merrill. Some were also made by Lord and Confer, two other pioneer brickmakers in Stockton, as the construction was done in sections over time. Merrill's bricks were used in the foundation and main walls of the church ediface.

William Merrill left the partnership in 1875 to open a brickyard in Pleasanton, and afterwards established a brickyard in Oakland, Alameda County. Marcus Merrill continued to manufacture bricks at his yard in Stockton until about 1884, when he went to work at the Confer Brothers' brickyard, located on Robert's Island, west of Stockton. Marcus Merrill retired about 1900, and died on April 10, 1911, at the residence of his daughter, Inez Budd, in Stockton. He was 82 years old at the time of his death. His obituary said, "The deceased was a highly esteemed citizen and was universally respected by all who knew him from his early pioneer days to the day of his death."

Merrill Brick

Common brick is pale red to orange-red. The surface is coated with sand. Edges are irregular and corners dull. Irregular lip up to 1/2 inch thick common around the top edge. Sides display large pits, occasional clasts of subrounded white quartz, and a faint white to yellow flash patterns, some partially burnt to black. Some sides have longitudinal striations or fine brush marks and stack indentations. Ends show transverse striations. Bottom face could not be observed. Top face displays pits and transverse strike marks. The clay body contains subrounded white quartz and clumps of clay or brick fragments, up to 1/2 inch across. Special shapes of ornamental brick were also made. This brick was made using the sand-molded, soft-mud process. Length 8 5/8, width 4 1/8, height 2 5/8 inches.

Merrill common brick
Merrill common brick in the wall of St. Mary's Church, Stockton.

Merrill common brick
Two ornamental styles are shown here.


Federal Census Records, 1850.

Federal Census Records, 1860.

Federal Census Records, 1870.

Federal Census Records, 1880.

Federal Census Records, 1900.

Federal Census Records, 1910.

Finney, Charles F., History of St. Mary's Parish, Submitted for Consideration in the Charles N. Kirkbride Contest for Local Historical Research, May 4, 1939.

Oakland City Directories, 1879-1900.

Oakland Tribune, March 19, 1909.

Ramos, Karen, Stockton Public Library, 2006 (who found many brick articles).

Stockton City Directories, 1883-1891.

Stockton Independent, Death Summons Marcus H. Merrill, April 11, 1911.

Tinkham, George H., History of San Joaquin 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, CA, 1923.

Copyright 2009 Dan Mosier

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