California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Thomas Andrew Mitchell

History

Thomas Andrew Mitchell was born in 1842 in Ireland. In 1854, he immigrated with his family to the United States, and by 1870, he was manufacturing bricks in Bourbon County, Kansas. About 1882, Thomas came to Ventura and opened a brickyard with his brother Edward. Thomas was the brickmaker and Edward was the bricklayer and contractor. The clay quarry was located about one mile north of Ventura on the east side of the river. The clay was hauled in wagons for a distance of a half mile west to the brickyard, located on Ventura Avenue. Most of the brick structures in Ventura, constructed between 1882 and 1901, were made of Mitchell brick. There is no description of the Mitchell brickyard. But the brick reveals that they used the soft-mud process, where the brick was formed in a Damon brick molding machine and fired in field kilns.

Mitchell house at Ventura
Fine examples of Mitchell brick can be seen in the Mary Mitchell house (shown on the right) at 670 East Thompson Blvd. in Ventura, where there are smooth face in the walls, rock face on the corners, and burnt ends in the point settings. Mary Mitchell was a daughter of Edward Mitchell, who built the house in 1890. Other buildings known to contain Mitchell brick include the John Mitchell house at 692 East Thompson and the Odd Fellows Hall. There may be many brick foundations, chimneys, wells, and walls still standing around town.

In 1901, Thomas Mitchell sold his brickyard to Fred Volkam, a brickmaker in Oxnard, for $2,350. Volkam inturn sold it for a quick profit to Herbert A. Gidding, of the Ventura Mill and Lumber Company, who continued to manufacture bricks at the site. Shortly afterwards, Thomas and Edward Mitchell moved to Los Angeles, where they continued to work as brick mason contractors.

Mitchell Brick

Common Brick

Common brick is orange to orange red, mostly uniform in color. The surface is lightly sand coated and smooth. The edges are irregular and dull. The corners are dull. The sides display fine transverse striations and pits. Some have an irregular lip up to 1/4 inch around the edges of the top face. The top face is pitted and has faint longitudinal strike marks. The bottom face is smooth and even. There were no brand marks on the bricks seen and none are known to exist. The interior clay body has very few clasts of subrounded white quartz and clay, less than 5 percent and up to 1/4 inch across. The pores, which are up to 1/4 inch across, constitute about 5 percent. The interior clay is characteristically lumpy on broken or weathered surfaces. The brick spalls easily. This brick was made between 1882 and 1901 by the soft-mud process. Length 8, width 3 3/4, height 2 1/2.

Mitchell brick
View of the side of Mitchell brick. The light gray on the surface is remnant paint.

Mitchell brick
View of the interior clay body of the Mitchell brick.


Rock Face Brick

Same as the common brick, but with one or two broken sides.

Mitchell rock face brick
View of the side of a Mitchell rock face brick. The light gray is remnant paint in the surface depressions.


References

Brick and Clay Record, v. 12, no. 7, April 7, 1898, p. 23.

Federal Census Record, 1870.

Federal Census Record, 1880.

Federal Census Record, 1900.

Federal Census Record, 1910.

Federal Census Record, 1920.

Great Register for Ventura County, 1890.

Oxnard Courier, August 31, 1901.

Oxnard Courier, September 7 1901.

San Buenaventura Conservancy, Home Tours and Histories, Ventura, 2009, http://www.sbconservancy.org/reminiscing.htm (accessed 2010).

Ventura County Deeds, 1882.

Copyright 2010 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.