Demand for building material of all kinds encouraged the establishment of brickyards in Nebraska. Nebraska Territory had only one brickyard listed in the federal census of 1860. By 1870 the census listed seventeen, with a total of 109 employees, and the industry expanded thereafter. The Grand Island Daily Independent of July 21, 1893, described the appearance and operation of a brickmaking plant near Grand Island:
"The INDEPENDENT'S reporter took a little pleasure trip yesterday afternoon, very extensive to the brick yards of Schmidt Kirschke & Co., two miles due north of the city. Mr. Schlotfeldt showed him about and made the visit a very pleasant and instructive one. The company has just been making many improvements and it is their intention to keep everlastingly at it. A large shed 160x60 feet that has a capacity for 120,000 bricks has just been put up and it will be piped in order to allow heating, and Mr. Schlotfeldt informs us that the yards will not close until about the beginning of December. A machine shed, a new kiln, a shed covering the clay elevator, and a new boiler and a neat office building are among the improvements we noticed.
"It's quite interesting to watch the men make brick. A team hauls the clay from a bank about 100 yards away. It is unloaded along side the elevator where it is soaked and mixed. Men then shovel it into the elevator-a large belt with side boards a foot high. This is run by steam, of course, and carries it into the grinder and press. The clay goes in at the top, is thouroughly [sic] stirred up and mixed and pressed out of the bottom into moulds, containing five bricks each. These bricks are then rolled in brick dust and wheeled away into the large drying shed. Here they are allowed to remain for some time until they are ripe for the kiln.
"After they reach this place you see them no more until they are full fledged brick-unless you look down through the firing holes in the kilns and see them almost white-hot. Dante must have walked over one of these kilns before writing his Inferno. The roaring of the fires in one of these kilns can be heard at the distance of five or six blocks. One would hardly believe that a sufficient heat could be secured to melt those damp, clay lumps, until they ran off like syrup, but that's a fact and it happened at the yards the other day. Some of the brick got too hot and melted like butter.
"Business with the firm, said Mr. Schlotfeldt, was very good. They've had all they could do, so far, to keep up and the brick were hauled away from the factory so fresh from the kiln that the drivers had to walk for a very apparent reason. After much work on the part of the firm . . . , the U.P. has at last consented to put in a side track and this will be completed in a few days."
Return to Timeline Index