Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, April 2, 2001

Lake Mary brick factory molds area history

By Patrice Waldron

This article was written with the help of Joe Kieser, a descendent of Joseph B. Kieser, who worked at the brickyard. Lyndon Allen, age 88, nephew of Emil Allen, (who managed the brickyard), provided many historical details. He told stories as if they happened just yesterday.

Some facts for this article came from a similar article published in the Winsted Journal Nov. 16, 1978 that was written by Deborah Anderson of the Wright County Historical Society. Historical data was obtained from Oscar Johnson, Alice Allen, Elmer Allen, and Genoa and Howard Allen.

When starting a home improvement project today, one just has to hop in the car and head to the nearest building supply store.

Imagine what was it like 100 years ago, before cars,and shopping malls, and at a time when the project had to be planned around the formation of the building materials.

That was what area residents faced during the time the Lake Mary brickyard was in operation.

The factory was started in 1882, by Andrew Hanson, a Swedish immigrant, and brickmaker by trade.

The original brickyard was located on the old Rausendorfer farm, located on east corner of Lake Mary, and then, moved to the southeast corner of the lake.

Emil Allen (Lyndon Allen's uncle) took over the management of the brickyard around 1905, when his father-in-law, Hanson, got too old for the work.

The factory was in production only a few months out of the year, about May 1 to Nov. 1, because it didn't operate during the cold weather.

Emil also farmed, so that he was kept busy all year round, even when the brickyard wasn't in operation.

The brick factory would start production as soon as the frost was out of the ground in the spring.

The clay for the brick came from the land owned by Art Hokenson, on the east side of the lake.

The clay was dug out of pits located on the southeast corner of Lake Mary. The pits have found modern use as the fish rearing ponds for the Winsted Sportsmen's Club.

The Allen family owned about 2 1/2 acres, the rest of the surrounding acreage was owned by the Hokensons.

Linus Allen had the job of hauling the fine sand used to line the brick molds so the bricks would be released from the molds easier.

The sand was hauled in a double box from the banks near Albright's Mill.

The sand used to make the bricks came from the bottom of Lake Mary and Dog Lake. It had to be dried and screened before being added to the clay.

The clay mixture was shoveled into a large mixing machine called a clay worker. The clay worker would fill the molds that were slid into the bottom of the machine.

"Molds were shoved into the machine, one after another," said Lyndon Allen.

At this point, the bricks were still green, not done or mature.

The bricks would be carefully loaded onto a pallet, which could hold 30 bricks.

The pallets were wheeled to the drying shed on wheelbarrows with steel front wheels. There were three drying sheds, each with two floors. The green bricks would have to be wheeled up a plank to the upper floor.

The work was very physical, heavy work.

After two weeks in the drying shed, the bricks would be placed in the kiln, where they would stay under fire for two weeks, Allen explained.

The area described by Allen is now farmland, but at the time it was the "big woods."

The wood used to fire the kiln came from the 40 acres owned by Lambert Hertzog. All the timber was hauled to the brickyard to fire the furnace.

When enough brick had been made and dried, the men would stack the bricks into wheelbarrows and wheel them into the kiln.

The kiln was a brick-walled, wooden roofed structure, with two rooms, each large enough to hold 50,000 bricks.

A team of horses and wagon could haul 900 bricks at one time in the wagon box.

Allen's uncle, Emil Allen, had intended to open the factory when the boys returned from the war, but he couldn't get the help.

They originally made what was called slob brick, brick which was flat on both sides. Later the factory switched to a brick similar to today's brick, which is indented on both sides for the mortar.

The brickyard would make approximately 250,000 bricks a season.

There are still buildings around Winsted that are made of the distinctive, orange Lake Mary brick.

Some area buildings which were made from the brick are the old city hall, the Winsted Public Library building, Tom's Corner Bar (the whole block), Holy Trinity Elementary School, the Lake Mary church, the Oster church, the Polish church near Watertown, and many old farmhouses.

The Church of the Most Holy Trinity is not made of the Lake Mary brick. The brickyard was saving brick for the project, but there were other orders ahead of it, and it couldn't make enough in one year.

They could've waited until the next year, and the church would've gotten its bricks first, but they didn't want to wait, explained Allen.

There are buildings in other areas that were also constructed of Lake Mary brick.It was noted that not as many bricks could be hauled in the spring, because of the muddy roads.

The Lake Mary brick factory was in operation from 1882 to 1917. It eventually closed because, "World War I took all the boys in the army," said Allen.

Lyndon related tales about the men who worked in the brickyard at the time the photo was taken (around 1908).

Albin West was the only boy not from the neighborhood; he was from Watertown. He had a motorcycle and liked to go to town. Sometimes, he stayed too long, would be half pie-eyed, and run off the road into the ditch. His dad would have to come get him out, said Lyndon.

Henry Madesen, when the brickyard closed, took a barber course, and ended up being a barber in Winsted.

Paul Moline, who was a good mechanic, travelled to Minneapolis, and went into partnership with his brother, Art. The two formed Pratt Motors.

Walter Lundstrom served during World War I. When he came back, he became an attorney in Chaska.

Peter Swanson lived across from the Sportsmen's landing, on the east side of Lake Mary, by the old red brick barn.

Joseph B. Kieser lived on the south edge of the lake. He was born in 1890, died in 1925, and was probably about 18 years old when the photo was taken, explained Joe Kieser of his ancestor.

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