MHS Resources: Manitoba Bricks and Blocks: Leary’s Brick Company
In 1901, George Leary began a large brick and cement yard on three sections of land located six miles north of Altamont, at a site known as Leary Siding. The yard was on the bank of the Boyne Creek in Pembina Valley where the land was considered valuable for fired brick and cement. In March 1901, Leary's brick business became incorporated as the Boyne Valley Brick Works Limited, with principals including a number of prominent Winnipeg business and professional men, along with his father-in-law John Ager, a Roseisle-area farmer. The brick plant was nearly complete by June 1901, when all of the equipment was ready at the yard site. By 1902, a Canadian Northern Railway spur track was built from the yard to Altamont.
Leary added more machinery in 1903, which was operated by his yard workers Snowdon and Carmichael, with the hope of producing 500,000 bricks that summer. It was in February 1904 that the site began being referred to as “Leary Town” and in March 1905, Leary became involved in the incorporation of the Dominion Pressed Brick Company at Carman to use clay brought in from the Leary yard site. By 1907, the Leary plant was a large-scale operation that produced high-grade, pressed brick. It offered bricks made from two varieties of clay and sold them for $8 per thousand in an attempt to deter customers from importing fire bricks from St. Louis, Missouri and Red Wing, Minnesota. These American-made bricks could be imported at a cost of a 35% duty tax and freight charges of 17½ cents per one hundred pounds of brick.
George Leary gained complete control of the brick company in 1910 and, with the help of his sons, he operated under the name of Leary’s Brick Company. Leary and his sons tried to keep the business operating through the First World War but, due to the war-time restrictions in place and shortages in manpower, the plant was shut down in 1917. The Leary family lost control of the property. After the death of George Leary, his son William Allen Leary, who was a farmer under the Soldier Settlement Plan after the First World War, regained ownership of the brick yard once again in the late 1930s. However, just as the brick yard was about to restart in 1939, the onset of the Second World War prevented it and Leary enlisted in the Armed Forces. After the Second World War ended, Leary and his relative Rod Ager worked through most of the summer in 1947 to put the brick plant and its equipment back into order. By November, they had fired a kiln of 80,000 bricks. Once again, Leary's was back in production, if on a somewhat smaller scale than before. In 1948, Leary sent 7,000 bricks from his first kiln to Carman to be used in the construction of a new vault extension for the Bank of Commerce.
Leary's operated on a part-time basis until the death of Rod Ager in June 1952. William Leary died the following March, in 1953, and the Leary family was unable or unwilling to keep the brick plant in operation so the yard was sold to Erven Tallman with the provision that the family could buy it back if Talman stopped making brick. Talman made one kiln of brick that ended in disaster and sold the brick plant back to the Leary family. William Leary’s son, Donald Leary, returned to the area in 1975 and refurbished the Leary family home across the road from the brick yard. While the plant was not in operation past 1953, it had remained relatively intact and is still viewed as a Leary Family heritage site.
Some buildings in Manitoba constructed with Leary bricks included:
Manitoba Brick Yards by Randy Rostecki, Manitoba Historic Resources Branch Report, May 2010.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 26 February 2022