A Tale of Two Bricks

Mom (Gail Lee Martin) wrote this story originally for the Kanhistique Magazine which published it in the August 1992 issue. She posted it later on the Our Echo website.

A Tale of Two Bricks

The next time you pick up a brick, take a second look. It might be a collector’s item. There has been a growing interest in bricks that feature pictures, slogans, lettering, patterns or dates. Many people collect bricks for their rarity and beauty. Members of the International Brick Collectors Association regard bricks as a part of the history of mankind, and each brick has a story to tell.

The story to be told by two bricks in an El Dorado, Kansas collection is about their humble beginnings in the small town of Tyro in Montgomery County, Kansas. The story begins with an incorporated town of 500 people that benefited from the discovery of gas in 1904. The Fawn Valley Oil and Gas Company struck oil and lots of natural gas just two miles northeast of town and soon had gas piped to all the residents and businesses at the cost of two cents per thousand feet.

One of the first industries to build in Tyro was the Tyro Shale Brick Company. They began building their plant the first of August 1906. They purchased all new machinery from the C. W. Raymond Co. of Dayton, Ohio. This plant was incorporated under the Laws of Kansas with the following officers, E. A. Denny, president; O.W. Buck, vice president; C. H. Pocock, secretary; and Dave Mahaffy, treasurer. The above four men and John Hooker were selected as directors, and they all listed their addresses as Tyro, Kansas.

The brick plant was leased and operated by Allison C. Darrow. By 1910 the plant was making 1,000,000 bricks a month. This company did not own a steam shovel early on, so employed about 40 men a day.

Almost eleven months after the first brick plant was built, O. W. Buck, vice president of the Tyro Shale Brick Co., started building another plant. It was named The Tyro Vetrified Brick Company. Again all new machinery was brought from Dayton, Ohio company, including a No. 2 ’Thew’ Steam Shovel. They produced vitrified or glassy bricks completely different from the other plant. By 1919 they were employing around 36 men and were making close to 1,400,000 bricks a month.

O. W. Buck became president and manager of the new plant and Joe Lenhart became vice president. E. Baur was appointed secretary and treasurer. The directors were Buck and Lenhart of Tyro and Baur of Easton, Indiana; Luther Perkins from Coffeyville, Kansas and C. D. Nesbit of Milburn, Oklahoma. Both brick plants were situated in the northeast part of the small town on the north side of the Missouri Pacific railroad tracks. One of our story’s bricks has the name BAUR on it. It was named after E. Baur from Easton, Indiana.

Vintage postcard from Gail Martin’s family archive.

Three years later Tyro had 700 residents; nearly two miles of paved sidewalks and seven two story brick buildings. The Methodist Church membership built a “beautiful brick church, and laid the cornerstone on July 4, 1909,” according to the church historian, Mattie Broughton. The accompanying picture shows it still holds it beauty 97 years later.

Tyro had many brick buildings in its heyday.

The story of the two Tyro bricks plants probably ended around 1917 when the shortage of gas fuel caused them to close their doors. The McGhee family went to the Methodist Church and Mother’s folks the Vinings went to the Christian Church and the story of the two Tyro bricks in El Dorado continues on in this family’s memories.