One of the things I wanted to learn when I started this web site was the number of brickyards there were in Minnesota in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I have mentioned before that some sources have said there were 50 to 60, while other sources have said there was one in nearly every town. In my travels and research over the summer of 2010, I have easily concluded that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
I think it would be safe to say that nearly every large sized town had a clay pit and brickyard. Starting with the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and continuing to St. Cloud, Albert Lea, Austin, New Ulm, and Princeton, the local brickyards supplied the growing communities with a ready source of building supplies. Many smaller communities also had brickyards, especially if there was a good local source of quality clay. Towns like Zumbrota, Shakopee, Northfield, and Heron Lake also had brickyards.
On the flip side, I have not come across any material to say Duluth had a local brickyard. I know they obtained bricks from St. Louis, Missouri, and even from Europe, but not in the immediate Duluth area. `In a way, this does make sense. There is a lot of rock around the shores of Lake Superior, which is not a good source for clay. Same goes for towns like Bemidji and Grand Rapids, which may have had a few people give brickmaking a try, but I have not found a substantial brickyard.
In areas with a good, quality clay, there were multiple brickyards. These will be the sources of a lot of information, much of which I do not have yet. I would say that Princeton, Chaska, Springfield, Wrenshall, and St. Cloud would go into this category. Chaska may be one of the top producers, and I am going to try to trace its brick history from Howe all the way to when Klein took over all operations. This is truly a rich brick history.
So bear with me, this was not going to be a quick and easy proposition. My Minnesota map which depicts all the Minnesota brickyards is constantly changing. I think it is currently missing about 20 or so brickyards. However, if you click on one of the brick sections, if I have information it will show up under the section the brickyard was located in. Updating my main map seems to be a tough proposition. However, I am constantly updating this web site with new information, and always welcome anything from you!