Source: NMHS Newsletter, August 1990

Now that the Brick Mill is Gone


Research by Robert Greengard to accompany the nomination

To National Register of Historic Places, listing of March 5, 1982


When the real old timer speaks about the “brick mill” which stood until July 1990 on the south side of Main Street just east of the tracks, folks of a later generation may think he is talking about a place where bricks were made, but that wasn’t so at all.  No brick was ever made at the “brick mill.”


It was the first factory building of brick erected in North Manchester and for that reason was identified as the “brick mill.”  The name has stuck with a considerable number of the old timers yet today.


The property was bought by George M. Eichholtz and J. J. Valdenaire for $650 and on November 11, 1876, they started construction.  On January 1, 1877, they also took an equal partner, Louis Petry, and founded the first business in the new building, the North Manchester Planing and Band Saw Mill.  This was one of the “finest and most complete mills of its kind.”


The building was a substantial brick structure.  The main building consisting 45’ x 60’, two stories with a wing 30’ x 50’, with a boiler room containing two 40-horse boilers with an engine of 60 horsepower.  A dry kiln, 20’ x 20’, was heated by steam.


On the north side of Main Street was the lumber yard, occupying four city blocks and including two sheds, 22’ x 64’ and 22’ x 90’.


All the belting, line shafting and other works were located in the basement of the main building, economizing room in the upper stories. 


The machinery was of the latest and best models, while the saw carriage was supplied with a shifting device invented by the proprietors themselves.  The machinery in the upper story was of wood lathes, cut-off saws, a surfacer, molding machines, gainer (or dado) joining machine, jib saw, boarding machine, etc., and on the first floor a flooring machine, surfacer, jointer, two circular rip saws, a circular cut-off saw, and resaw.


In the saw mill department the machinery used was a circular saw, one band saw with a six foot wheel, using saws 44 feet long and five inches wide, one cut-off saw, and gang-edger of three saws.  They manufactured a full line of builders’ materials, scroll work, frames, molding, banisters, turned goods and had a large and constantly increasing demand for their products, operating until 1884.


The brick mill was then sold to the Manchester Planing Mill Company, Inc., and passed through various changes that would be difficult to trace, with men going and coming as owners and managers, starting J. A. Browne and Company with Henry Mills.  They began making wagon wheel spokes, axles, tongues, neck yokes, singletrees and so forth in the brick mill.


J. A. Browne and Company owned a sawmill, 3,200 acres of timber land and a railroad known as the Homan Southwestern, located in Homan, Arkansas, which supplied lumber to the brick mill in North Manchester, Indiana.


In 1892 a new building was erected on the same property, just east of the brick mill.  The Electric Light Company for North Manchester was transferred to this site in 1898.  It had occurred to Browne that a consolidation of the lighting plant and the woodworking establishment would prove advantageous.  The factory produced large quantities of wagon and carriage woodwork in the white and had sufficient waste at all times to provide fuel for the boilers.


In 1898 an addition was added to accommodate engines and dynamos, for the workshop, and for housing electrical supplies, and the electric light mill and brick plant were joined and by this addition the mill took its final form.  In the years to come this would prove to be a great savings by combining the two plants.


In 1903 a large dynamo was installed in the room to the far east.  In 1907 a large fire destroyed the roof section of the brick mill, not harming the walls.


The factory at that time was described as divided into three sections:  a large room at the west end used for the engine room, then in the middle the boiler room, and at the east end the power plant with dynamo and storage rooms.


In 1909 they moved the dynamo into the engine room, which was attached directly to the engine instead of being connected with a longline shaft into another room.  The room where the dynamo had been located was made into office space.  The Browne Company operated the wagon and buggy factory until about 1915 when trucks and automobiles, coupled with the scarcity of timber and less demand, put it out of the running. 


In 1921 the light plant was sold to the Bippus Utility Company of Huntington.


Miley Brake Lining followed the closing of the J. A. Browne and Company Wagon and Wood Factory and was later occupied for a short time by the Interstate Specialty Company, headed by Frank Giddings.


Lawn equipment, Christmas tree holders and kindred novelties were produced, but the Interstate territory did not furnish business to keep it going, and Arden Strauss was called in as receiver.  When a Mr. Andrews started to bring a rubber and brake lining factory from Wabash, legal complications arose.


B. C. Lancey and Son bought the outfit and operated as Hoosier Brake Lining Company.  Death of both Lanceys followed, and the L. J. Miley Company of Chicago acquired the business.  Mrs. Miley constituted the company as it was operated in North Manchester but in Chicago was associated with two daughters.  A number of years previous Mr. Miley had developed a business of selling brake linings but did no manufacturing.  After his death Mrs. Miley continued the business.  At times a suitable product was hard to get, so she bought from the Hoosier Company while it operated and bought the company when it went on the market, taking the entire output, known as the Black Gold Band, of which H. C. Ulery was the local manager.


From the early 1950’s the brick mill remained empty and deteriorating.  It was razed on July 7, 1990.




History of Wabash County, John Morris, 1884

Big Mill Fire, News-Journal, January 20, 1896

Sale of Brick Mill, News Journal, April 2, 1896

Newspaper Article, News-Journal, April 11, 1907

Lamps Are Burning, News-Journal, April 18, 1907

Buying New Machinery, News-Journal, January 7, 1909

Big Sale Of Timber Land, News-Journal, April 26, 1911

J. A. Browne To Leave Electric Company, News-Journal, January 26, 1920

Light Plant Sold to Huntington Company, News-Journal, July 7, 1921

Bought the Old Light Building, News-Journal, December 3, 1923

Bippus Plant Sold to Big Company, News-Journal, October 11, 1923

Tales of the Old Days, W. E. Billings, 1926

New Factory Starts in Browns Building, News-Journal, March 15, 1926

Furniture Factory Will Start Soon, News-Journal, February 17, 1927

Henry Mills Dies After Long Illness, News-Journal, August 4, 1927

North Manchester Industries, “The Whistles of our Forefathers,” William E. Billings, February 1950