The Standard Fire Brick Company

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

A Handmade Gravestone

champaign-albert-john tombstone

This tiny gravestone, only 12 inches high, stands out in the Dayton Cemetery not only for its size but for its material. It is made of brick and appears to be handmade. John Champaign, the father of little Albert John, was a day laborer in the brick yards in Dayton. Whether he made the gravestone himself or had a friend at work do it for him, it almost certainly was made in Dayton.

John Champaign was born in January, 1858, in Michigan, of French-Canadian stock. In 1870 he was living with his parents and siblings in South Bend, Indiana. On September 21, 1880 he married Louise Haverley in South Bend. Sometime before 1883, John and family came to Dayton, where they were living in 1900. By 1910, they were back in South Bend, where they lived out their lives, John dying in 1938 and Louise in 1947.

One of their daughters, Grace, married James C. McGrogan of Dayton on April 30, 1900, and remained in Dayton when her parents moved back to South Bend.