Last Saturday, we decided to do something different. The exhibit on the Village of Brickton at the Mille Lacs County Historical Society in Princeton caught our attention. Why? Because my parents’ garden, and later their house, was located in the area that used to be one of the Brickton brickyards. Often as my Dad worked the soil, he would till up cream- colored brick remnants.
For many years, we made trips from downtown Princeton (where we at one time were living in the oldest house in Princeton) to our Brickton garden site. In 1980, the City of Princeton burned down our historic house to make room for a mall. I can’t adequately describe how it felt as we watched the house burn to the ground. Our parents were not there – which was a good thing. As we watched, we told stories … and we laughed but – at the same time – we were sad … watching memories go up in flame.
The garden site then became the site of their new home in the Brickton area.
But I digress – back to the story of Brickton and the Historical Society tour.
Before we could start the tour, we had to get out tickets to ‘board for the train ride.’ You see, the historical society is located in the old Great Northern Depot building (made of Brickton brick). Our tickets were replicas of original train tickets and were stamped with the stamp used in 1906.
Our knowledgeable conductor, Barry, explained the exhibits along the tour.
The village of Brickton was located north of Princeton between Princeton and Long Siding, in an area that spanned the current Highway 169. Brickton encompassed an area within a quarter mile radius and contained 400 residents, two stores, a two-room school, a post office, railroad depot, sawmill, three boarding houses and five brickyards.
The photo below shows workers stacking bricks.
Below is a Sanborn map of the Brickton area. The Sanborn Maps were originally created for assessing fire insurance liability in urbanized areas in the United States. The maps include detailed information regarding town and building information in approximately 12,000 US towns and cities from 1867 to 2007. (For more information on Sanborn maps, ckick HERE.) Because the area is so large, different sections showing the buildings are excerpted and placed on the same map.The long pink rectangles denote brick kilns within the various brickyards.
Approximately 40-50 laborers worked in each of the five brickyards during their prime time. The combined capacity was close to 20,000,000 brick per year requiring 47 trainloads of 40 cars per train to transport.
Many area residents were, in some way, related to those who worked or owned the brickyards. The two photos below are indicative of homes during the brickyard era:
Why were the brickyards located here? For several reasons – (1) an abundance of yellow and blue clay to make the bricks; (2) an abundance of lower grade lumber that could be used as fuel for the kilns; and (3) transportation – the railroad went though Brickton. The brickyards were a major economic boom to the city of Princeton.
What happened to the brickyards? The demise of the brickyards can be attributed to many things: (1) the depletion of lumber as a fuel source; (2) areas for brickmaking nearer the metropolitan core area became available; and (3) transportation was cheaper from the metropolitan area (Minneapolis- St. Paul). There are likely others but by the late 1920’s, the heydays of brickmaking in the Brickton area came to an end.
There are no buildings left in the actual Village of Brickton. My Dad’s house, which is now owned by my son, is located in the West Lawn Addition to the Village of Brickton. It is a very small subdivision. Along with our son, we now own the entire subdivision. My Dad had always wanted to own all of the lots but they were not for sale when he was living. Shortly after he passed, they became available so we purchased them – in his honor.
But, wait – one more interesting tidbit. Bricklayers were required to be certified. The colorful photo below is an enlargement of a certficate showing that Joseph Young has been admitted to the Bricklayers and Masons International Union of America. Look closely for rhe Mason symbology — fascinating detail.
Thanks for reading! I hope you will return.