California brick

Southern Pacific Brick & Tile Company


In 1916, the Southern Pacific Brick Company, or the S.P. Brick Co., was organized by W. H. Shields of Fresno, W. D. Trewhitt of Hanford, and L. E. Hays of Exeter to manufacture common red brick about a half mile northwest of Exeter on Belmont Avenue. The office was located at 435 Powell Building and later 1501 Pacific Southwest Building, Fresno. Trewhitt was president, Hayes was secretary and general manager. About 25 men were employed. By 1919, machinery for the production of hollow tile was added. In 1921, the S.P. Brick & Tile Company was incorporated with a capital stock of $250,000.

S.P. Brick and Tile Co. brickyard
View of the S.P. Brick & Tile Company plant. From Franke, 1930.

The clay deposit covered 20 acres. Alluvial gray clay 20 to 40 feet thick was worked by a pit 1,300 feet long by 300 to 500 feet wide. This deposit was exhausted by 1958 and, after that, clay had to be trucked from the excavation at the county dump on Belmont Avenue south of Exeter. At the original clay pit, a 3/8-yard electric shovel was used in mining the clay at a capacity of 200 tons per eight hours.

The clay was hauled to the plant in cars mounted on a track and pulled by mules, where it was dumped into a hopper and passed through a Scott-Madden pulverizer, or a roll disintegrator, from which it was elevated by belt to a set of Hummer screens 12 feet long by 5 feet wide. It then passed to an American pug-mill and auger machine equipped with a Freese cutter, with a capacity of 55,000 bricks per 9 hours. Electric power was used to run the machinery. The wet bricks were stacked on pallets and dried under sheds, capable of holding 550,000 bricks. Drying took three weeks, after which the bricks were trammed to the kilns and loaded.

The tile and brick were fired in six Stewart & Clamp open kilns, using oil atomized as steam as fuel. Each kiln had a capacity of 100,000 bricks. The firing period was 5.5 days, and the kiln turnover cycle was 12 days. Although there were two round Stewart down-draft kilns, they were not used because of the higher cost to operate them. This plant produced in 1930 about 2.5 million bricks and 150,000 to 200,000 hollow tile per year. The bricks were loaded on pallets and shipped by truck or rail. The Southern Pacific railroad ran along the south and east side of the property.

From 1931 to the mid-1940s, the S.P. plant was operated by the San Joaquin Materials Company, based at 744 G St., Fresno. In 1950, the S.P. Brick & Tile Company resumed operations at the plant until about 1982, when it closed. The site is presently being worked by a cement company. The clay pit is still visible as well as a few of the drying sheds of the old brick plant.

S.P. Brick and Tile Co. brickyard
View of the S.P. Brick & Tile Company clay pit and plant. From Goodwin, 1958.

Southern Pacific Brick

Common brick is orange, orange red, red, and dark red, mostly uniform in color. Smooth surface as expected for extruded brick. A few pits and visible clasts are white subangular quartz and feldpar up to 1/8 inch across, more abundant in the interior than on the surface. Sides may have minor white flashing and longitudinal grooves. Face has angular wire-cut marks. Extruded, stiff-mud process. Length 7 5/8 - 8 5/8, width 3 1/2 - 4, height 2 1/4 - 2 1/2 inches.

S.P. Brick and Tile Co. common brick
Southern Pacific common brick.

Ruffled brick is red to dark red, uniform in color. Surface has a few angular white quartz and feldspars. 19 transverse evenly spaced grooves on the side, 9 transverse evenly spaced grooves on the ends. Extruded, stiff-mud process. Length 7 3/8, width 3 1/2, height 2 3/8 inches.

S.P. Brick and Tile Co. brickyard
Southern Pacific ruffled brick.


Brick and Clay Record, v. 50, no. 12, 1917, p. 1157.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 54, no. 10, 1919, p. 899.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 59, no. 11, 1921, p. 832.

California Division of Mines and Geology, Directory of Producers, 1981.

Dietrich, Waldemar F., The Clay Resources and the Ceramic Industry of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 99, 1928, p. 232.

Franke, H.A., Tulare County, California Division of Mines Report 26, no. 4, 1930, p. 432-433.
Goodwin, J. Grant, Mines and Mineral Resources of Tulare County, California, California Journal of Mines and Geology, v. 54, no. 3, 1958, p. 372-374.

Symons, Henry H., California Mineral Production For 1927, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 101, 1928, 311 p.

Tucker, W.B., Mines and Mineral Resources of Tulare County, California Mining Bureau Report 15, 1919, p. 906.

Copyright 2006 Dan Mosier

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