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Indiana Historical Bureau

IHB > Historical Markers > Find a Marker > Medora Shale Brick Company Medora Shale Brick Company

St Vincent's InfirmarySt Vincent's Infirmary

Location: State Bank of Medora, Corner of Main and Perry Streets (Jackson County, Indiana)

Installed 2008 Indiana Historical Bureau, Stephen Graves, and State Bank of Medora

ID#: 36.2008.1

Text

Side One:

West Lee Wright laid out Medora 1853. Sample of local shale was made into brick "excellent for building and paving" 1904 Medora Shale Brick Company organized 1904. Construction began by 1910, one mile south of here along Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern Railroad, with six beehive kilns - round structures wrapped with steel bands and squared chimneys.

Side Two:

By 1927, ten kilns were at the site. Plant closed 1990s. In 2007, ten kilns remained. Medora was part of a large industry making a variety of clay products for agriculture, street paving, and building construction, which contributed to Indiana's growth as a leading industrial state. In 1920, Indiana was seventh in U.S. for production of clay products.

Keywords

Business, Industry, and Labor

Annotated Text

Side One:

West Lee Wright laid out Medora 1853.(1) Sample of local shale was made into brick "excellent for building and paving" 1904.(2) Medora Shale Brick Company organized 1904.(3) Construction began by 1910, one mile south of here along Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern Railroad,(4) with six beehive kilns - round structures wrapped with steel bands and squared chimneys.(5)

Side Two:

By 1927, ten kilns were at the site.(6) Plant closed 1990s. In 2007, ten kilns remained.(7) Medora was part of a large industry making a variety of clay products for agriculture, street paving, and building construction, which contributed to Indiana's growth as a leading industrial state.(8) In 1920, Indiana was seventh in U.S. for production of clay products.(9)

Notes:

(1) History of Jackson County, Indiana (Chicago, 1886, Reprint Evansville, Ind., 1969), 526-27 (B050955). Town was surveyed by August Pfafflin, May 23, 1853; short biography of Wright appears on pp. 643-44.

(2) The local sample of shale was sent to Huntingburg. Brownstown Banner, August 10, 1904 (B050322). Sample of shale came from the farm of L.L. James, and it was claimed that he has a large supply of shale on his farm and the location for a brick and tile factory is claimed to be one of the finest in the state.
Some sources call this area's clay resources the middle Mississippian Borden group of siltstones and shales: Mark J. Camp & Graham T. Richardson, Roadside Geology of Indiana (Missoula, Mont., 1999), 106-10 (B050780) and George I. Whitlach, Clay Resources of Indiana, 60, 73, 126-29 (B050782). Other sources label this belt the Knobstone shale of the Mississippian period: W. N. Logan, et al., Handbook of Indiana Geology (Indianapolis, 1922), 647-49 (B050952) and W.S. Blatchley, State Geologist, Indiana Department of Geology and Natural Resources, Twenty-Ninth Annual Report, 1904 (Indianapolis, 1905), 368 (B050946).

(3) July 15, 1904 is given as the incorporation date in Articles of Association of the Medora Shale Brick Company, Misc. Rec. E (1902-1909), 106-7, Jackson Co. Records, Brownstown, Jackson County (B050921) [obtained from Medora Brick Plant (hereafter MBP) Web site, http://www.medorabrickplant.org/ (B050016), source location given on Web site].
July 21, 1904 is given as the incorporation date in Complaint for Forfeiture of Corporate Franchise, Edwin K. Steers v. Medora Shale Brick Co., June 9, 1953, Indiana State Archives, AR 21-822 Jackson Brick and Hollow Ware Company 4047-012 (B051050).
Blatchley, 368-69 (B050946) notes that "A company with $30,000 capital was organized in 1904 for utilizing this deposit for the making of such brick.
In 1923, the Medora Shale Brick Company was purchased by Joseph Robertson, a 1906 founder of the Jackson Brick & Hollow Tile Company of Brownstown. Charles Roll, Indiana: One Hundred and Fifty Years, Vol. 5 (Chicago, 1931), (B050781) at Web site: http://members.tripod.com/. Jackson Brick plant appears on pp. 27-28 of the Jackson County Interim Report, Historic Sites and Structures Inventory (Indianapolis, 1988) (B050321). The Interim Report says the purchase occurred in 1922.

(4) Sanborn Insurance Maps 1910 (B050346); W. S. Blatchley, State Geologist, Indiana Department of Geology and Natural Resources, Twenty-ninth Annual Report, 1904 (Indianapolis, 1905), 368-69 (B050946).

(5) Sanborn Insurance Maps, 1910 (B050346).

(6) Sanborn Insurance Maps, 1927 (B050347). Map indicates Machinery and Dry Rooms were also constructed by 1927. The total number of kilns built at the site was apparently twelve. See Note 10.

(7) A visual survey was completed by Jackson County Historian Charlotte Sellers. Ten numbered kilns remain, including kilns eleven and twelve; kilns eight and ten are missing. Remaining kilns are in terrible condition. Email Charlotte Sellers to Jeremy Hackerd, December 3, 2006 (B051064).
In the Jackson County Interim Report (1988), the entire factory complex was listed as Outstanding. Jackson County Interim Report (Indianapolis, 1988), 74, 79-80 (B050321).
The Interim Reports show a "snapshot" of historical resources remaining in the counties of Indiana. The Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, the Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and local historic preservation groups sponsor this survey of Indiana.
In 2004, Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana placed the Medora Shale Brick Plant on its annual 10 Most Endangered List. Web site http://www.historiclandmarks.org/ (B050333).

(8) Philip V. Scarpino, "Urban Environment," in David J. Bodenhamer and Robert G. Barrows, eds. The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis (Indianapolis, Bloomington, Ind., 1994), 201 (B050844); Clifton J. Phillips, Indiana in Transition, 1880-1920 (Indianapolis, 1968), 274, 275 (B050910). Phillips helps to explain Indiana's industrial picture:
Chapter. V - The Exploitation and Conservation of Natural Resources: 
Primarily an agricultural state, Indiana needed capital and skilled labor to exploit fully its extensive coal measures, clay and limestone beds, and other mineral deposits (181).

Willis Stanley Blatchley [state geologist] … made a systematic study of Indiana's natural resources, collecting scientific knowledge and disseminating practical information concerning their commercial value and industrial uses, clays and sandstones, coal measures, (184).

An abundance of clays and shales found in almost every county but especially in the western and southwestern portions of the state, often in close proximity to the coal measures, formed the basis of the ceramic industry in Indiana. One of the earliest uses of this material was in the manufacture of drain tile. Most of the clays were of the poorer quality used in making tile and common brick eventually stimulated the manufacturing of vitrified brick for street paving, terra cotta and pressed brick for architectural purposes. By the second decade of the twentieth century a large number of kilns and factories had been built in cities such as Attica, Brazil, Evansville, Fort Wayne, Terre Haute, and Veedersburg to produce various types of bricks (209).

Chapter VII - The Industrialization of an Agricultural Economy:
Manufacturing grew steadily but relatively slowly within Indiana's predominantly agricultural economy for several decades before 1880. But by the eighties Indiana's growing network of rail transportation together with accumulating knowledge and increased exploitation of its natural resources provided a solid foundation for a rapid, if somewhat belated, expansion of the industrial sector of the economy (271).

At the close of the nineteenth century Indiana still drew the bulk of its wealth from the soil, primarily by way of agriculture, but to a lesser extent through mining and other extractive industries. These sectors of the economy, moreover, contributed an important share of the essential raw materials and fuels for the state's manufacturing enterprises (272).

It is possible to assert that by 1920 the manufacturing sector had indeed caught up with, if not slightly surpassed, the hitherto dominant agricultural sector of the economy (273).

The emergence of Indiana as a leading industrial commonwealth in these years is closely related to at least four major factors: (1) large quantities of agricultural and forestry products which furnish the raw materials for manufactures; (2) deposits of mineral resources, especially abundant and cheap fuels such as coal, natural gas, and petroleum; (3) excellent transportation facilities with a dense network of railroads crisscrossing the state as well as waterways for freighting; (4) Indiana's fortunate geographic location at or near the center of the population of the United States. Increasing urbanization was part of this pattern, Indianapolis and a dozen or more smaller cities in the state gaining population and economic weight during this period (275).

A listing of commercially important Hoosier products in this period, moreover, should include in addition to those mentioned above such items as ammunition, and explosives, brick and tile, cement. (318).
See Blatchley (B050946), in which the following photograph plates illustrate parts of the brick-making process shared by the various companies:
IX, XV Gathering by hand, clay loaded in horse-drawn carts on rails
XXIV Bee-hive kilns, squared chimneys
XXV Delivering shale, dumping, loading finished brick
XXVI Works of the Wabash Clay Co., bee-hive kilns, square chimneys
XXXII Plant of the Vigo Clay Co., Vigo County, showing bee-hive kilns,
squared chimneys

(9) Indiana ranked seventh in U.S. by 1920 in the production of clay products, at a value of $11,634,097 for that year. Phillips, Indiana in Transition, 209-10 (B050910).