CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Pioneer Brick Company

History


About 1908, John Etzenhouser, born in 1863 in California, established a brickyard on Mill Creek near the corner of North Lover Lane and Millcreek Parkway on the east side of Visalia, Tulare County, California. He married his wife Annie in 1886, and they had a son Arthur and a daughter Edith. Etzenhouser was a building contractor who had found the material along the bank of Mill Creek suitable for making common brick. He was president of the Pioneer Brick Company and his son Arthur Etzenhouser was the secretary and bookkeeper.

The clay was mined from a pit on the north bank of Mill Creek and conveyed to the adjacent brick plant. A soft-mud and a stiff-mud extruding machines were used to make the bricks, which were air dried in racks and burned in field kilns, using oil as fuel. The plant had a capacity of 40,000 brick per day. The plant made mostly common brick of various sizes and, starting in 1914, smaller quantities of pressed brick. In 1916, the company began producing hollow tile, and these were used in the first silos in the area.

Pioneer bricks were shipped throughout the southern San Joaquin Valley. Some of the bricks were used in the Hotel Johnston in Visalia, the high school in Wasco, and an oil plant in Coalinga. In 1920, the Pioneer brick plant closed and moved to a clay deposit in Fresno, where the Etzenhouser's organized a new company under the name of the Pioneer Brick and Tile Company (see Fresno County for details). Today, only the evidence of the clay pit can be seen at Mill Creek Park in Visalia.


View of the clay pit at Mill Creek Park, where the Pioneer Brick Company once operated.


Pioneer Brick

Sand-molded Common Brick


View of the side of a Pioneer sand-molded common brick.


View of the pitted top face of a Pioneer sand-molded common brick



Common brick is orange red, mostly uniform in color. Visible clasts (2%) are up to up 1/8 inch across in a granular clay body. The clasts include angular white to clear quartz, white feldspar, granitic fragments, and mica flakes. The sides show stack indentations and lots of flashy mica flakes on the sandy surface. The top face is rough, irregular, pitted, and shows stack indentations. The bottom face has no marks. The edges are undulating and dull. The corners are dull. Sand-molded, soft-mud process. Length 7 7/8, width 3 3/4 - 4, height 2 1/8 - 2 5/8.

Extruded Wire-cut Common Brick


View of the smooth side of a Pioneer extruded common brick.


View of the wire-cut face of a Pioneer extruded common brick.


Common brick is orange red, mostly uniform in color. Visible clasts (5%) are angular white to clear quartz, mica, and granitic rock, up to 1/8 inch across, in a granular clay body. Sides are smooth with minor pits and crackles, transverse scratches, stack indentations, and flashy mica flakes. Faces display strong velour texture and short curved wire-cut grooves with visible clasts. Edges are straight and dull. Corners are dull. Wire-cut extruded stiff-mud process. Length 7 7/8, width 3 3/4, height 2 3/8.

References

Brick and Clay Record, v. 44, no. 7, 1914 p. 832.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 49, no. 9, 1916 p. 817.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 50, no. 5, 1917 p. 459.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 51, no. 1, 1917 p. 53.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 53, no. 3, 1918 p. 223.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 57, no. 7, 1920 p. 593.

Cloudman, E.H., Merrill, F.J.H., and Tucker, W.B. San Bernardino County, Tulare County. California State Mining Bureau 15th Report of the State Mineralogist, part 6, 1916, p. 771-954.

Federal Census Records. 1900, 1910, 1920.

Great Registers for Tulare County, California. 1906, 1910, 1912.

Leonard, Paul, personal communication, 2006.

Copyright 2008 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.