California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Remillard Brick Company, San Rafael Yard

History


In 1861, three brothers from Saint-Valentin, near Montreal, Canada, came to Oakland, Alameda County, California, to establish a brickyard. They were Pierre (Peter) Nicolas, Hilaire, and Edouard (Edward) Remillard. Their firm was named Remillard and Brothers, and they opened an office and yard at Clay and 2nd streets, Oakland, and a brick plant in nearby Brooklyn. In 1879, the firm incorporated to become the Remillard Brick Company. Peter N. Remillard was president, Philip Hilaire Remillard was vice-president, and P.H. Lamoureux was secretary.

Map of the Remillard San Rafael brickyard
An 1892 map showing the location of the Remillard San Rafael brickyard depicted as P. N. Remillard, 75 acres.


When the clay deposit at Brooklyn was exhausted in 1872, Peter Remillard searched for a new clay deposit. He was drawn to Marin County by the fine bricks made by the Patent Brick Company situated on the north bank of Gallinas Creek in Marin County, California. Remillard searched along the south bank of Gallinas Creek and found suitable material near its mouth at San Pablo Bay. Thanks to Linda Boyd, owner of the Echo Hills Horse Ranch on North San Pedro Road, the location of this brickyard was verified as being mainly at the Echo Hills Ranch and extending along the south side of Gallanis Creek westward to Buck's Launching. On June 16, 1874, Remillard purchased 75 acres of land from John Ford for $4,500 along Gallinas Creek and San Pablo Bay. Then on September 4, 1874, Peter Remillard conveyed one-half interest in this property to Hilaire and Edward Remillard. Edward Remillard, taking up residence in San Rafael, became the manager of the new brickyard, which was variously called the Gallinas, Santa Venetia, or San Rafael yard. After the brickyard was established, Edward's brother, Francois (Frank) Remillard, became the manager of the yard. On March 11, 1879, the Remillard brothers conveyed the brickyard property over to the Remillard Brick Company.

Little is known about this brickyard. From the bricks known to be made there, they used the soft-mud process. Two water-filled pits on the Echo Hills Ranch property indicate that shale was mined and crushed. Other rocks found in the brick indicate some surficial material was also added to the mix. The material was thrown into the pug mill without screening. The 24 pug mills were operated by 12 men. Bricks were formed in wooden molds and dumped onto the ground to be air-dried. After properly dried, the bricks were fired in large field kilns that used wood for fuel. The bricks were fired to colors ranging from yellow to orange to red and of good quality. According to the Remillard sales ledger, this yard made red, soft, and hard brick. The soft brick was probably made of mud taken from the banks of Gallinas Creek. The hard brick was made from crushed shale. The red brick may be a mixture of materials. This yard made 14 million bricks in 1875, but averaged around 10 million bricks per year. In 1879, 20,000 to 40,000 bricks per day were made. They employed 75 workers, so it is possible that there was a boarding house or cabins on the property. One of the cabins survived and, according to Linda Boyd, it is believed to be the foreman's house, where Frank Remillard probably resided.

Site of the Remillard San Rafael brickyard
View of one of the water-filled shale pits at the Remillard San Rafael brickyard. The yellowish
shale formation is visible on the hill along the left side of the pit. Photo taken by Dan L. Mosier, 2013.


The San Rafael brickyard, along with their Potrero yard, sustained the Remillard Brick Company during the 1870s and 1880s. The bricks from the San Rafael yard were loaded onto wagons and taken to their own wharf at the mouth of Gallinas Creek, where Buck's Launching is presently located. The bricks were then shipped by schooners, named for the Remillard daughters Emma and Eveline, to Oakland and San Francisco. Brick buildings built from 1875 to 1885 were supplied with bricks from the San Rafael yard. Most of the Remillard bricks that went into the original Palace Hotel in San Francisco came from the San Rafael yard. The Nichols Block (1876) in Oakland, which still stands, is also made of the common bricks.

From the ledgers of the Remillard Brick Company, production of bricks from the San Rafael yard ceased in 1885. The reason for the closing of this yard was due to the accidental drowning of Manager Frank Remillard while on a trip in the Washington Territory on September 14, 1884. The Remillard Brick Company was able to maintain their brick supplies from the Potrero yard as well as from the new Pleasanton yard before the Greenbrae yard opened in 1891, which extended the company's presence in Marin County for two more decades. Although, the San Rafael yard was abandoned, the company held the property until at least 1906, before a part of it was sold to the Pacific Hog Ranch.

Frank Remillard' house at the Remillard San Rafael brickyard
View of the house where Frank Remillard resided on the present
Echo Hills Ranch. Photo taken by Dan L. Mosier, 2013.


Remillard San Rafael Brick

Common brick is yellow, orange, orange-red, or pale red. Some may be partially burnt to black. The surface has a light coating of sand. Some have sides with yellow flash streaks that are transverse, angled, or longitudinal. The form is good, with undulating edges and dull corners. An irregular lip may be present around the top edges. The bottom face is flat, smooth, and even. The top face is pitted with longitudinal strike marks. Pits are common on the surface. The interior contains 3 percent subangular white quartz up to 1/4 inch across and 2 percent rounded red and grayish green chert pebbles, some with white veins. The chert pebbles range in size from 1/4 inch to 3/4 inch across. These clasts are in a porous orange-red sandy clay body. This brick was made using the soft-mud process. The example shown was made in 1875 or 1876 and is probably their soft brick. Length 8 1/4, width 4, height 2 3/8 inches.

Remillard San Rafael common brick
View of the sides of the Remillard San Rafael common brick
in the Nichols Block, Oakland. Note the variegated colors.

Remillard San Rafael common brick
View of the sides of the Remillard San Rafael common brick.

Remillard San Rafael common brick
View of the yellow flash pattern in the Remillard San Rafael common brick.

Remillard San Rafael common brick interior
View of the interior of the Remillard San Rafael common brick.


References

Boyd, Linda, personal and written communications, 2013.

Daily Alta California, Died, October 13, 1884.

Dodge, George M., Official Map of Marin County, California, 1892.

Federal Census Records, 1880.

Guidici, John J., The Remillards and Their Brick Company, Oakland History X 367 Report, Laney College, Oakland, California, June 11, 1980.

Independent Journal, The Countess and the Brickyard, San Rafael, July 14, 1973.

Lamoureux, Michel, written communication, 2017.

Marin County Deed Book L, Indenture Joseph Ford to P.N. Remillard, June 16, 1874, p. 631.

Marin County Deed Book M, Indenture P.N. Remillard to H. and E. Remillard, September 4, 1874, p. 71.

Marin County Deed Book T, Indenture P.N. Remillard etal. to Remillard Brick Company, May 11, 1879, p. 272.

Oakland Tribune, Alameda County, Oakland, 1898.

Oakland Transcript, Remillard Brothers, January 23, 1876.

Remillard Brick Company Ledgers, 1879-1890.

San Francisco Call, File Condemnation Suit, March 18, 1906.

San Francisco City Directories, 1874-1885.

Sausalito News, December 31, 1921.

Copyright 2011 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.