Home : Historical Center > Dorchester Brickyards History


Dorchester is located in the northeastern part of Clark County on the
Wisconsin Central Railroad. North of this village in the Northwestern
part of Section 1 - Town 29 North Range 1 East is a small plant which
is owned and operated by J.M. Fisse. The bank from which the clay
is taken has a thickness of about three feet and the clay is very
similar in appearance to that which occurs at Colby, with the
exception that it contains many small granitic pebbles. The bricks
are molded in a hand press machine, dried in hacks on the yard, and
burned in scove kilns. It requires about eight days to burn the bricks
and about one-third of a cord of wood is consumed for each
thousand brick burned. The brick have a bright red color and when
properly burned they are very satisfactory.
This yard was opened in 1885 and has been operated each year since
that time. The average annual output is about 60,000. The brick
sold in 1899 at an average of $7.00 per M. (Thousand) Kiln run.
J.M. Fisse was John Fisse. It has also been reported that John’s
brother Herman was also a participate in the brick making business.
History Of Land Ownership
The Wisconsin Central Railroad Co. was awarded the land by the
Federal Government on April 15, 1874. The Wisconsin Central
Railroad Company sold it to S.K. Wambold on April 13, 1878. S.K.
Wambold sold it to Gottlieb Ortlieb on July 5, 1888 and Gottlieb
Ortlieb sold it to John and Herman Fisse on July 12, 1888. Since the
Dorchester Brickyards was started in 1885; there had to be some sort
of agreement between the previous owners and the Fisses as they
did not take control of the land until 1888. John Fisse sold the land
to Joseph Elfert on Oct. 31, 1903. So the question remains; when
was the last brick made at The Dorchester brickyards.
Kiln Construction: If fired bricks were on hand they were used to
construct the outer walls of the kiln and the surface was daubed
with mud to contain the heat. If no fired bricks were available the
kiln was constructed entirely of green or raw bricks which were
stacked in such a way as to act as their own kiln. These kilns were
called clamps or scove kilns. Wood and coal were used for fuel.
Even after drying in air the green bricks contained 9-15% water. For
this reason the fires were kept low for 24-48 hours to finish the
drying process and during this time steam could be seen coming from
the top of the kiln. This was called "water smoke". Once the gases
cleared this was the sign to increase the intensity of the fires. If it
was done too soon the steam created in the bricks would cause them
to explode. Intense fires were maintained in the fire holes around
the clock for a week until temperatures of 1800 degrees F were
reached. The knowledge and experience of the brickmaker dictated
when the fireholes would be bricked over and the heat was allowed
to slowly dissipate over another week.
When the kiln was disassembled the sorting process began. If only
raw bricks were used, the bricks from the outermost walls were kept
to be burned again in the next kiln. Some bricks which were closest
to the fire received a natural wood ash glaze from the sand that fell
into the fires and became vaporized and deposited on the bricks.
These bricks were used in the interior courses of the walls. Bricks
that became severely over burned and cracked or warped were
called clinkers and were occasionally used for garden walls or garden
paths. The best bricks were chosen for use on the exterior walls of
the building. Those that were only slightly underfired had a salmon
color and early bricklayers knew that the porosity of these bricks
would help to insulate the structure and they were placed on the
innermost courses of the wall.
According to representatives from Virginia Limeworks, to protect the
underfired bricks and mortar and to impart a uniform color to the
exterior wall surface a "Color Wash" was applied. This consisted of
glue sizing, pigment (iron oxide), and potash alum as illustrated
below. The mortar joints were then painted white.