California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Jenes P. and Martien Schow, San Luis Obispo

View of an advertisement for Schow brick.
From Daily Republic, 1886

History


As early as 1880, Jenes P. Schow was working a brickyard in San Luis Obispo. Schow was born in Denmark in 1835. In 1880, he was married to wife Martien, also born in Denmark in 1844, and they had three sons. Indications from the 1880 census record reveal that the Schow family was in California as early as 1870.

Thanks to the research by Kathy Mastako in the early newspapers of San Luis Obispo, we were able to glean the following information on Schow's brickyard. An advertisement by Mrs. J. Schow that was published in the Daily Republic on June 18, 1886, revealed that the brickyard was located just beyond the cemetery. The brickyard was located on Elks Lane in San Luis Obispo, where pieces of brick still remain in the soil. This is just south of Sutcliffe Cemetery in the southwestern part of town. On August 20, 1881, Schow was getting his brickyard in order preparatory to erecting a large kiln. Schow thought there would be demand for bricks for building purposes in the near future and proposed to be prepared. In 1882, Schow had partnered with C. C. Dewitt, of Santa Maria, to lease a brickyard on the land of J. M. McElhany, a half mile from town. They sunk a well and cleaned off and leveled the ground for the yard. A kiln of 160,000 brick was to be ready for market by the first of July.

The Tribune of July 13, 1883 wrote, "Those who are designing to build this summer will do well to make immediate arrangements for brick with J. P. Schow, as there is probability that the demand may exceed the supply. Mr. Schow has had thirty years' experience in brick making and is said to make as good brick as are found in the State."

Jenes P. Schow died on April 11, 1886, at the age of 51 years. His wife, Martien, continued manufacturing bricks at their Pioneer brickyard on Elks Lane. Mrs. Schow began production of bricks on May 4, 1886. These bricks went to the Steele and Wheelan flour mill warehouse at Monterey and Osos streets.

When the lighthouse to be built at Point San Luis was advertised to builders on April 39, 1889, Mrs. Schow submitted some of her bricks to Government officers at San Francisco. Schow's brick proved to be very satisfactory to them. In August 1889, Mrs. Schow won the contract to supply 130,000 bricks for the lighthouse cellar, oil-house, cisterns, and other foundations.

In 1889, after supplying bricks for the lighthouse, Mrs. Schow fired another kiln of 200,000 bricks to prepare for the fall and winter demands.

No further reports from the Schow brickyard are known. It is not known what became of Martien Schow. Today, the site of her brickyard on Elks Lane is occupied by the Elks storage yard.

Schow Brick

Schow common brick is orange red and uniform in color, except for those over burned, which may range from reddish brown to grayish black, some with yellow flash. Form is irregular to good with dull edges and dull corners. Surface has a light sand coating, usually with visible transverse mold grooves. Heavier sand coated surfaces may or may not show the transverse grooves. Surface of the sides and ends often display pits and some may show stack indentures. Irregular thin lip around the top face is rarely seen. Top face is rough and pitted with longitudinal strike when present. The bottom face is flat and even and displays small pits. Harder surface tends to spall. Clasts are mostly absent in the porous sandy clay body, which may show strong laminations. When present, the clasts include subangular white and red chert, white quartz, metasandstone, and black basalt, as much as 1/4 inch in diameter. Pits range as much as a half inch in diameter. This brick was made using the soft-mud process. The height (or thickness) is noticeably thin. Length 8 1/4 - 8 1/2, width 3 3/8 - 4, height 2 inches.

View of the sides of Schow common brick.
View of the sides of Schow common brick in the Pt. San Luis Lighthouse.

View of the side of Schow common brick.
View of the side of Schow common brick.

View of the bottom face of Schow common brick.
View of the bottom face of Schow common brick.

View of the top face of Schow common brick.
View of the top face of Schow common brick.

View of the end of Schow common brick.
View of the end of Schow common brick.

View of the interior clay body of Schow common brick showing no clasts.
View of the interior clay body of Schow common brick showing no clasts.

View of the interior clay body of Schow common brick showing clasts.
View of the interior clay body of Schow common brick showing clasts in laminated clay.

References

Daily Republic, San Luis Obispo, April 11, 1886.

Daily Republic, San Luis Obispo, June 18, 1886.

Daily Republic, San Luis Obispo, May 6, 1886, p. 3.

Daily Republic, San Luis Obispo, October 10, 1889.

Federal Census Record 1880.

Mastako, Kathy, Lighthouse docent, personal and written communications, 2017.

Santa Maria Times, 1882.

Tribune, San Luis Obispo, August 20, 1881.

Tribune, San Luis Obispo, August 23, 1889.

Tribune, San Luis Obispo, July 13, 1883.

Copyright 2017 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.