MHS Resources: Manitoba Bricks and Blocks: Morris Brick Manufacturing Company / Western Brick Company
Brick making was first attempted at Morris around 1904 when a deposit of suitable clay was found northwest of the town on the banks of the Morris River. A group of local residents, including Alpin Chisholm, F. McKenzie, Robert Fairbairn McTavish, and the Phillips brothers formed a company and began making bricks. The clay supply was exhausted in about a year and the facility was closed.
In 1907, the Morris Brick Manufacturing Company was incorporated with a brick manufacturing plant on the north side of Morris, on the property of John Wilton. The brick yard was supervised by a Mr. Wilson, an expert brick-maker from Winnipeg. It was estimated that the plant could make 40,000 bricks per day and the yard site had 1,400 feet of brick-drying racks. Bricks were imprinted with MORRIS (either with a backward or forward S) in the frog.
In July 1907, the brick molds that were ordered for the plant were lost in transit after leaving the factory in Ohio. This was a serious loss for the company and, as a result, the remaining equipment from the yard was sold to a brick yard at Medicine Hat, Alberta and the company was shut down temporarily. In the spring of 1908, the yard had fired its first kiln of bricks and, by early August, a second kiln of 250,000 bricks had been fired under the supervision of a new manager, Mr. Dubreil, of St. Boniface. The clean, rich cream coloured bricks were used to construct the new Morris School No. 29, in 1908.
The company was reorganized in 1909, with 51% of the shares being sold to a group of men headed by Albert N. McCutcheon, a brick maker from Winnipeg. The investors planned an upgrade worth $7,000 that featured two new machines; one to produce standard bricks and the other for hollow brick/tile. By May 1910, brick-drying racks were installed that had a capacity to dry 405,000 bricks at one time. The mill equipment had arrived and the 320 by 36-foot kilns were ready to fire 45,000 to 50,000 bricks per day and make 1,800,000 per season. The plant employed 45 to 50 workers and, by September 1910, it had shipped 50 train carloads of brick throughout the area. The yard operated at full capacity until 1912 due to the production contract they held with the Grand Trunk Railway to supply 3,000,000 bricks.
While the plant may have slowed down through the First World War, brick production was at full capacity again in the spring of 1920 because of high demand for brick in Manitoba. In the summer of 1920, the company went through another reorganization and was renamed the Western Brick Company. The newly formed company only operated the brick yard at half of its capacity but it remained under McCutcheon’s supervision. The company was in operation until sometime in 1921.
“Morris brick yard once busy place,” undated newspaper clipping from Morris Archives.
Manitoba Brick Yards by Randy Rostecki, Manitoba Historic Resources Branch Report, May 2010.
We thank Shayne Campbell and Leona Devuyst for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 20 September 2022