California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


William H. McElroy

History


In 1902, William H. McElroy started a brickyard on West 21st Street, between V and W streets, in Merced. McElroy was a native of Iowa, born on March 11, 1866. He came to California in 1888 and worked in the construction business. He married Mrs. Rena V. Shenton in 1894, and they had a son and a daughter. In 1894, he built his cottage at 314 21st Street, and later he built a larger family home on the corner of 21st Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Merced.

The clay was dug along the bank of Bear Creek and dumped into carts with shovels. The clay was carted to the pug-mill where it was mixed with some sand using horse power. There were at least four pug-mills on the grounds. The bricks were formed in wooden molds and laid out in the field to air-dry. Firing was done in three field kilns. A round-type of kiln with a square chimney was also used. There may have been machinery run by steam power as well. The plant employed several Chinese workers.

McElroy bricks were the only bricks manufactured in Merced from 1902 to 1910. Any brick structures built during this period is very likely McElroy brick. His bricks were used in Merced's first county jail in 1902 and the first hospital built in 1903 on 15th Street. McElroy operated his brickyard until 1910. He apparently did not put his name on the bricks as none are known to exist. He died on August 6, 1946 in Merced. The brickyard site is now covered by a housing development.

McElroy bricks
View of McElroy's brickyard in Merced. Courtesy of the Merced County Historical Society Archives.


McElroy Brick

Common brick is orange red to red, mostly uniform in color. Surface is sand struck. Side has a couple of transverse grooves. Edges are irregular. Brick may be slightly warped. Top face displays short, longitudinal grooves. Irregular lip up to 1/4 inches thick around the top edges of the brick. The bottom face is flat and even. The interior clay body is full of tiny pits. This brick was made using the sand-molded, soft-mud process. Length 8 1/4, width 4, height 2 1/8 inches.

McElroy common brick
Top face of the McElroy brick showing the longitudinal strike marks on an irregular surface.

McElroy common brick
Side of the McElroy brick showing an irregular lip along the top edge.


References

Lim, Sarah, Brick Making in Merced County, Merced County Historical Society Archives, 2006.

Copyright 2006 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.