Muscatine County, Iowa
Muscatine Journal & News-Tribune
Centennial Edition
31 May 1940

Section 7 - Page 2-4 Submitted by Shirley Plumb, June 29, 2012

Clay Brick Manufacturing Once Important Industry Here, Now a Mere Memory

Many years have passed since the manufacture of clay bricks held a high place among the industries of Muscatine but many persons still residing within the city limits bear fond recollections of the days when the large brick kilns threw out their fiery blasts in all sections of the city. Those were the good old days for Anton J. Fuller, now residing at 125 West Third Street, and many other present residents of the city who spent their earlier years sweating before the large brick ovens.

Mr. Fuller can recall a time in the not too distant past when eight brick manufacturing plants were in operation at one time with in the city limits. The number varied from time to time, he recollects, until the past 15 or 20 years when the industry passed slowly out of existence with the advent of cheaper construction products. Drawing upon knowledge imparted to him by his father, Henry Fuller one of the pioneer brick manufacturers of the city, Mr. Fuller said that the brick industry was started in Muscatine by a man by the name of Adams. This originator of the trade established his business here long before the town of Bloomington became the city of Muscatine.

Years after the industry had been introduced in the city, the elder Mr. Fuller became associated with the originator, Mr. Adams, and thereby became one of its earliest pioneers. After many years of association with Adams, the elder Mr. Fuller opened a brick yard on his own on Eighth Street. And it was shortly thereafter that Tony Fuller entered the employee of his father and started his early training.

Mr. Fuller recalls that the Nyenhuis foundry, located on Lucas Grove road, was one of the first to go into business here after his father had moved to a new location. Later the Nyenhuis plant was moved to a location on Fifth Street, and during later years it occupied locations on East Second Street and Iowa Avenue. Shortly after the Nyenhuis foundry had opened, a foundry was established by George Schaefer, on the spot now occupied by the St. Mary’s church. Later the Schaefer establishment was moved to a new location two blocks west on Lucas Street.

Mr. Fuller recalls many other foundries that were operated in the city by such enterprising manufacturers as the Christopherson brothers, Gus Maeglin, Herman and William Samuels, John Neibert, Carl Hagerman, John Keating, August Plett, and John Freeman. The Freeman foundry, according to his recollections was located on the site now occupied by the St. Mathias church about 55 years ago.

In particular, Mr. Fuller remembers the Pressed Brick company plant which was opened on the corner of Oak Street and Woodlawn Avenue during the early part of this century. The plant, operated by john Neibert, John Koehler, and Henry Achter, was one of the first in the city to make common usage of brick manufacturing machinery. He recalls that other Muscatine foundries experimented with the machine-type of manufacturing during the early days, but that only a few found it successful. The majority, he said, did their manufacturing by hand almost until the final days of the industry here.

* * * * * * *

Page 3

Iowa Governor Greets Journal on Centennial

Iowa’s chief executive, Gov. George a. Wilson, is among those extending compliments to The Muscatine Journal on its centennial. Gov. Wilson’s letter of congratulation reads as follows:

    “I take genuine pleasure in paying my compliments to The Muscatine Journal and congratulating you upon the completion of a full century of useful service to one of the finest communities in Iowa. “A centennial anniversary sharply reminds us that Iowa is no longer a stripling with the pioneering roughness thinly covered by a veneer of borrowed polish. We are of age. We have responsibility. Iowa people in the front line are Iowa born, or Iowans by choice, and we place our love of the homeland on the same high plane as our love of country. We defend our firmly established civic institutions with the same zeal that we uphold the national honor.

    “As the years advance we are more firmly wedded to the traditions that our forefathers of the frontiers found to be good. We are reading the newspapers that our parents and grandparents read and loved. In the shaping of wise traditions and making record of all tht is good and true, I well know that The Muscatine Journal has always had a large part. Narration of The Journal’s history would be almost the story of Iowa. Eulogy of its editors and contributors would be like claling the roll of the makers of Iowa.

    “To The Muscatine Journal—I greet you, and wish you another century of leadership and prosperity.

    “Sincerely yours,
    (Signed) Geo. A. Wilson.

* * * * * * *

Page 4

West Liberty, Laid Out in Year 1838
City Originally Located to North of Area Now Occupied;
Once Station on Stage Lines

Photos of New City Hall, New Light Plant and West Liberty Fairgrounds ~ The original town of West Liberty, Muscatine county’s thriving community in the northwest section of the county, was located a short distance to the north of the present corporate site. Here, the town was laid out by Simeon A. Bagley ad surveyed by George Baumgardner, county surveyor, in 1838—more than a century ago.

A post office was established in the village in the same year, with Mr. Bagley as postmaster, and the first store in the settlement was opened by Peter Heath.

Later, the store became a dinner station for the stages operating between Bloomington and Iowa City. Freeman Alger kept the hotel and the town boasted a masonic hall, a respectable two-story building, which was later moved to the new town.

Even when the first locomotive wended its way westward through this section of the county in 1835, the site where West Liberty now stands was a corn field with rows of tasseled stalks standing thick and high along the streets where the main business district is now located.

Then, there was a farmhouse and barn within the present limits of the town, the house standing at what is now the corner of Spencer and Fourth streets. It was only a short time later, though, that the new town of West Liberty came into being. It was laid out by John M. Spencer and T. J. Robinson of Rock Island and J. W. Clark, of Iowa City in 1856, but was not incorporated until 1868.

Since that time its growth and progress to its present estate as one of the most modern, progressive and attractive communities of its size in the whole state has been a steady progress. The growth was not rapid at first; in fact the town was a very ordinary way station until the construction of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern railroad and its connection with the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific turned it into one of the liveliest railroad points in Iowa. By 1869, when travel was confined to the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific, little had been done in the way of improvements and the boundaries extended west only to where Elm Street now is.

Anticipation of the coming of the new railroad, to which citizens had subscribed $ 60,000 in cash, however, started a building boom. Elisha Schooley built a brick house on the corner of Calhoun and Third Streets; R. G. Lewis, Z. N. King, Chesebro and Romaine and Dr. Holmes put up substantial and commodious streets, and Jesse Bowersock and D. F. Smith soon followed with their building on the north side of the street.

Others to fall in line with the erection of new structures were the People’s bank, N. Gaskill, Manfull and Nichols and Hormel and Luse. Meantime as this big construction program was going forward in the business district, other major improvements were taking place in the residential areas of the town.

Until then the west part of town had been a portion of the William A. Clark farm. It was laid out in lots and within a very short time there appeared a pleasant street, lined with a number of substantial and attractive dwelling places.

History records that the first school in Muscatine County west of the Cedar River was taught by Valentine Borarth in or near this town, and that the first regular school house was erected in 1843 near the old town on the land of Asa Gregg, who was county school fund commissioner for many years.

In 1864, the present school district was organized, and a school building was erected in 1877. The first meeting of the board of directors of the independent school district was held on April 9, 1864, with Dr. Jesse Holmes being elected president; Preston Brown, treasurer; and I. G. Schmucker, secretary. The Misses Etty Raymond and Mary Minick were appointed as the first teachers under the independent district system.

At the present time, the town has two large brick school buildings, one for high school and the other for grade students, to meet the educational needs of the community.

West Liberty can boast of numerous advantages and accomplishments and physical improvements which were made possible through a high sense of civic pride and enterprise. Several major projects were completed within the last several years, one an addition to the electric power plant and a second the construction of an attractive new municipal building erected at the cost of approximately $ 30,000.

The town has a fine library which was made possible through a $ 7,000 gift of Andrew Carnegie in 1905, to which citizen’s added public subscriptions to bring the total to more than $ 10,000.

West Liberty can be proud of its city street system, with its wide, sweeping boulevards, and of its attractive boulevard and street lighting system. Along its symmetrically laid out streets are rows of substantial looking homes with broad sweeping lawns, which make the picture one of a representative Midwestern and thorough in its organization.

West Liberty is known throughout the state and this section of the middle-west for its annual fair which has been held each year now since 1862 when the first exposition of farm products and livestock were staged in Moses Butler’s barn, six miles north of town.

Since that time the fair has been held in a number of different places, but the present grounds were purchased in 1881, and this site has since been the location for the annual series of fairs. This year, come August, the 78th annual fair will be held, welding another strong link in the long chain of successes which have marked the event and brought added luster to the name of West Liberty.

* * * * * * *

Return to Centennial Table of Contents Page

Back to the Muscatine Co. IAGenWeb, Index Page

Page created July 4, 2012 by Lynn McCleary