The Standard Fire Brick Company


The Standard Fire Brick Company1
Fire Brick and Fire Clay Articles

            In August, 1892, the Ottawa Paving Brick Company, under the management of John W. Channel, who, for several years prior to this date, had been superintendent of Hess, Crotty & Williams’ brick factory, leased the brick works at Dayton, Ill. For three years this plant was run successfully, when, in November 1895, the Standard Fire Brick Company, of Ottawa, Ill., was organized by Thomas D. Catlin, John W. Channel, M. W. Bach and E. W. Bach, with $25,000 capital stock. The company bought the Dayton property, consisting of the large, substantial four-story stone building, formerly used as a woolen mill, and also the three-story frame building used for many years as a horse collar factory, together with all the clay-lands, waterpower and machinery. John W. Channel was made president and general manager, Thomas D. Catlin, vice-president and treasurer, and E. W. Bach, secretary.

            Shortly after the Standard Fire Brick Company had been legally organized and had commenced business, negotiations were entered into with the firm of Hess, Crotty & Williams for the purchase of their brick factory, located about a mile east of Ottawa, at a location called “Brickton.” The capital stock of the Standard Fire Brick Company was increased to $50,000 and the purchase of the plant of Hess, Crotty & Williams effected, and the company assumed control in May, 1896, with the same set of officers that the original Standard Fire Brick Company had, each private individual of the old firm of Hess, Crotty & Williams taking an interest in the company which purchased their plant.

            On May 1, 1900, the Standard Fire Brick Company assumed control of the plant of the Ottawa Fire Clay & Brick company, whose interests are now merged in the Standard’s. The plant, an immense one, is located east of Ottawa, and east of the Standard Fire Brick Company’s original Brickton plant, and is on the line of the C., R. I., & P. Ry.

            With these three factories the capacity of the Standard Fire Brick Company, as regards fire brick and fire clay, is practically unlimited. It is the largest fire brick plant in the United States, and will produce 100,000 fire brick per day. The officers are T. D. Catlin, president and treasurer; M. W. Bach, vice-president; E. W. Bach, secretary. The Dayton plant is situated four miles north of Ottawa, on the Fox River branch of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railroad system, and has its own side-track along the yards, and the Ottawa factory is located on the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific mainline, with a side-track at the factory also. Thus the company has double the shipping facilities that any concern located on a single system would have, saving, of course, a great deal of annoyance and the expense caused by transferring from one road to the other. The company is a member of the Western Railway Weighing Association, from which a great benefit is derived.

            At the Dayton factory the company has abundant water-power, and at Ottawa steam-power is used. Both places are heated thoroughly by a complete system of steam pipes, and they are also amply equipped with the usual dry pans, pug mills, clay crushers, conveyors, hand and power presses, clay bins and auger machines, no steam presses being used in the manufacture of their wares.

            The company has 65 acres of clay land, all underlaid with a vein of fire clay, most of it within 8 to 16 feet of the surface. At Ottawa, on top of this fire clay, there is a vein of coal about 22 inches in thickness, and above this coal a vein of common clay, varying from common yellow clay to one having the nature of soapstone. This yellow clay, properly mixed with a proportion of fireclay, is used in making their sidewalk tile. At Dayton, on the west side of the river, there is, above the fire clay, besides a vein of coal, an extensive bed of valuable shale about 30 feet in depth. This makes good common ware, and mixed with a little fire clay, makes as fine a sidewalk tile as one will find anywhere in the country. On the east side of the river, where the main supply of the company’s fire clay is obtained, there is nothing above the fire clay except a bed of excellent gravel about five to eight feet in thickness. This gravel makes it possible to maintain the roads to the factory in excellent condition.

            Fire brick and fire clay articles are the company’s main product. The market for this material is, besides Chicago, the great trade center of the West, all of the northern part of this state, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan, all of them great manufacturing states. Their competitors in the fire clay materials are very few, while the competitors in the common clay products are many, nearly every location of any size at all having its own common brick yard.

            This fire clay is the material out of which they manufacture their most important products. The upper stratum of common clay and coal is removed and the beds of fire clay exposed, they being from six to ten feet in depth.

            They can well be proud of the reputation their brick have attained in Chicago and the Northwest, which is unparalleled by any of their competitors. They supply material for stack linings, boiler settings, iron cupolas, furnaces, foundries, lime and brick kilns, retorts, and any purpose requiring refractory brick. The beds of plastic fire clay at Brickton, and also to a limited extent at Dayton, have not been touched in recent years, although they are very valuable deposits, as they are adapted for the manufacture of stone ware and articles of that kind.

  1. Ottawa in Nineteen Hundred (1900; reprint, Ottawa, Illinois: La Salle County Genealogy Guild), 20. viewed on Google Books

Rev. Laing – Universalism in Dayton


Rev. Alfred H. Laing

Alfred H. Laing was a Universalist pastor in Earlville, Marseilles, and Joliet, and often preached in Dayton. He was born February 8, 1844, in Kosciusko, Indiana and died in Joliet, Illinois, August 31, 1923. Many members of the Green family, early settlers of Dayton, were Universalists and knew Rev. Laing well.

The Universalist society held their earliest meeting here [Earlville] in Robinson’s Hall, in the winter of 1866-7. The first pastor was Rev. W. S. Ralph, who remained from Jan. 1867 to Jan. 1870. During the year 1869, they built their house of worship, a commodious brick structure, costing nearly $1,500. During the summer of 1870, the pulpit was filled by Miss Mary H. Graves. In October, Rev. Alfred Rains was called, who remained four years, and was succeeded by the present pastor, Rev. A, H. Laing, who came in Nov., 1875. There are now about two hundred attendants at this church.1

Charles Green, son of David and Mary (Stadden) Green, wrote some reminiscenses of early Dayton Universalists, in which he included the following memories of Rev. Laing:

The Rev. A. H. Laing preached at Earlville, fifteen or twenty miles northwest of Dayton, and later on was pastor at Marseilles and at Joliet. He was a comparatively young man when he first preached at Dayton. He was well liked and preached some good sermons full of interest and gospel teachings. He used to come down from Earlville in the spring on fishing trips. Dayton at that time was a fine fishing place, and people used to come there from many miles around, camping out for a few days or a week along the banks of the Fox River. I have seen at least 200 people there at one time. The state maintained a dam across the river about a half mile above the village, and in the spring of the year when the game fish were running up stream to spawn they were very hungry and voracious and were anxious to get hold of the fisherman’s bait. On account of the dam across the river the fish could not go up stream any farther, thus making good sport for the many anglers. So our Izaak Walton lover, the Rev. A. H. Laing, soon learned where the good fishing grounds were, and came down from Earlville quite frequently to indulge in the sport, and incidentally to preach us a good sermon.

More of the early recollections of Charles Green, including other Universalist preachers in and near Dayton, may be seen here.

  1. The Past and Present of La Salle County, Illinois, (Chicago: H.F. Kett & Co., 1877), 341

Emma Dunavan – inventor


In 1891, Emma S. Dunavan, of Dayton, Illinois, received a patent on a new and useful improvement in the class of mailboxes intended to be placed on the door of a building, including a bell linked to the door of the mailbox which would ring when mail was deposited. The full description of this invention may be seen here.

Emma was the wife of William J. Dunavan, son of Albert F. and Emma (Cooper) Dunavan, and grandson of William Lair and Eliza (Green) Dunavan. He was the junior member of the Fox River Horse Collar Manufacturing Co. in Dayton, in partnership with his father. William traveled a great deal in connection with the factory and in October 1887, he opened a wholesale and retail store of horse collars, harnesses, buggies, etc., at Kinsley, Kansas.

On Wednesday, January 9, 1889, W. J. Dunavan, of the firm of Dunavan & Son, this city, reported at the Swank mansion in Fort Scott, Kansas. His credentials being satisfactory, at 9 p. m. he was united in marriage to Miss Emma Swank, in accordance with the solemn but beautiful Episcopal church ritual. A brief wedding tour, embracing Kansas City and Hutchinson in the route, landed the happy couple in Kinsley, the home of the groom, where they received the congratulations of his many friends.1

The news of her invention was well received in Fort Scott:

An Illinois Lady, Formerly of Fort Scott, Invents a Useful Contrivance.

Yesterday the scribe dropped into the office of Dal Burger’s Fort Scott Carriage Works on his rounds and was shown a newly patented mail box that is certainly getting near the acme of achievement in its line.

The box is the invention of Mrs. Emma S. Dunnavan, of Ottawa, Illinois, who was formerly well known here as Miss Emma Swank, and is the daughter of Mrs. Agnes Swank of this city. It consists of an ordinary wooden or metal box of the usual form and size, with a spring door near the top through which the letter or card is put. A push button extends out from an opening above the door, which is used in opening the latter. When the button is thrust in by the postman as he pushed back the door, an electric bell is set ringing which calls attention to the postman’s visit as the whistle commonly used now does, but in a surer and at the same time a more genteel manner. The ring is surer because the bell is rung inside the hall or room.

The intention is to place the box on the outside of the door, the bell being placed inside. This does not disfigure the door as the box can be made as ornamental as may be desired, and the bell is much like an ordinary door bell.

Below the spring door for the insertion of letters is a glass through which the contents may be seen. Below that is an ordinary lock such as is used on postoffice boxes, which when unlocked allows the hinged bottom to be opened and the contents removed. The box with its bell attachment is certainly a convenient and useful contrivance and shows a good degree of practical ingenuity in its inventiveness.2

  1. The Kinsley [Kansas] Graphic, January 18, 1889, p. 3, col. 2
  2. The Fort Scott [Kansas] Daily Monitor, August 26, 1891, p. 4, col. 6

The Hite Family

                          James M. Hite    Hite, Martha (Jones)

James and Martha (Jones) Hite

The Dayton Cemetery Association holds its annual meeting every year on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. In addition to the pot luck lunch and business meeting, each year a historical program is given on some aspect of the history of the families buried in the cemetery and of the history of Dayton.

In 1964, Maud Hite Temple was the speaker. She told of the preceding generations of her family and of their move from Virginia to Ohio and then to Illinois. The full text of her presentation can be read here.