Sedalia Brick was once a cornerstone city’s industry


Rhonda Chalfant Contributing Columnist

In the 1880s, Sedalia was still experiencing the burst of growth that followed the Civil War. Business was thriving, the city’s population was growing, and new buildings were being erected. Sedalia’s builders were using approximately 3.5 million bricks each year for new building.

The city, according to the 1882 History of Pettis County, had two brickyards. One, run by W.H. Lashmet, produced 1 million bricks in 1881. John Pehl’s brickyard was larger and produced 1.8 million bricks in 1881. Neither of these brickyards was able to meet the demand, and builders were forced to buy products shipped into Sedalia.

In the 1890s, Sedalia suffered a series of economic losses. The nationwide economic depression caused a downturn in local business. Sedalia’s economic woes were exacerbated by the failure of the First National Bank. In addition, Sedalians spent between $75,000 and $125,000 in the futile attempt to move the state capital to Sedalia, and approximately $90,000 to entice the Katy Railroad to expand its shops here.

Despite these losses, Sedalia booster I. “Mac” DeMuth, proclaimed in his 1898 pamphlet “A Feast of Cold Facts” that Sedalia was in the midst of a building boom. He cited the permits for nearly $95,000 worth of buildings as evidence that Sedalia was prospering.

Both Pohl and Lashmet had ceased operations by the late 1890s. DeMuth noted that Sedalia’s one brickyard, managed by M. Winsenbug and A. M. Winsenburg, was not able to meet the increased demand and suggested that an investment of $10,000 worth of capital would result in “big profits” for the owner of an improved brickyard.

In 1903, the Sedalia Democrat described the Sedalia Building and Paving Brick Company as a thriving business. The company was located two miles south of downtown on South Kentucky Avenue. The plant is not shown on the Sanborn Insurance Maps, but was probably located between what are now 24th Street and 32nd Street.

Prior to 1899, the company had been a small business. That year, the Winsenburgs invested $2,000 in “the latest and best machinery” and purchased a 30 horse-power engine to run the machinery. By 1903, the company employed twenty-five men making bricks by the “soft clay process.” The company could produce 20,000 bricks per day.

Bricks from Sedalia Building and Paving Brick Company had been used in the construction of many important buildings in the city. Several of the city’s public schools were built of brick produced by the company, as was the public library, which used brick for part of its construction. The Royal Tribe of Joseph Hall at 201-203 S. Ohio Ave. and the engine house used this locally made building product. The Stevenson Packing Co. and the Sedalia Cold Storage Co. at Main Street and Harrison Avenue were also built of Sedalia-made brick.

The Sedalia Democrat praised the local entities that used brick made by the Sedalia Building and Paving Brick Co., noting that their use of locally produced materials “should be a source of satisfaction to very loyal resident of the Queen City who believes — as does the Democrat — in aiding and encouraging the industries of Sedalia.”

Sedalia Democrat
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