Following the Brickyard Road
August 13th, 2021
For those who have lived in Lennoxville for decades, “Brickyard Road” may already be synonymous with Glenday Road in your mind. For the rest of us, however, Brickyard Road and Webster Siding, where the railway tracks cross Glenday, hold no frame of reference. You wouldn’t know it today but for half a century this railway crossing was once the location of a booming brick manufacturing industry.
The photos pictured here focused on capturing the incredible derailment of a CPR immigrant train on April 16th, 1913, carrying 717 passengers coming from Italy, Russia, and Austria bound for Montreal and beyond, where not a single life was lost and only two were injured. This, alone, is an interesting piece of history; to consider the thousands of immigrants who trundled through the Townships on the train, coming from the port in Halifax, on their way to what they hoped would be a better life. In fact, on that single day in April 1913, over 1,200 immigrants were supposed to roll right past Lennoxville if it had not been for the accident.
In addition to the accident, however, the photos unintentionally captured some of the impressive installations that once occupied this now humble stretch of dirt road. As early as 1882, bricks were being manufactured from the clay deposits on this spot that would become known as the “Webster Siding” on “Brickyard Road.” The construction of the International Railway Company’s line in the 1870s made it a viable industry as it made it easy to transport the bricks out of what was an otherwise inconvenient location. The Tylee Brothers were the first to exploit the area, and were in business until Robert Tylee’s death in 1891. By 1902, brick production had picked up again under direction of William R. Webster and the Eastern Townships Brick and Manufacturing Company. In 1908, the company was producing over 1.2 million bricks per year.
For unknown reasons, Webster sold the company in 1917 to William E. Loomis, who had previous experience working with the family firm D.G. Loomis & Sons, which had operated the Ascot Corner brickyard. During this period, the brickyard had the capacity to produced 5 million bricks per year, which were baked in coal and electric kilns. Visible in the train crash photos, it consisted of the brick plant, farm, and dwelling houses for employees.
By 1922, however, W.E. Loomis declared bankruptcy and the brickyard appears to have sat unused for a few years. Operations eventually resumed when it was acquired by a group of Sherbrooke businessmen, including W.R. Webster, Norman N. Walley, M.W. Mitchell, and J.E. McCrea, and operated under the name of the Sherbrooke Brick Company. During this period, it was producing 3.5 million bricks per year. With Walley’s death in 1927, the company faltered once more and was sold to the Eastern Townships Brick and Tile Company, overseen by J.D. Bertrand and Joseph-Augustin Tremblay. It was not long before the Lennoxville brickyard again encountered problems. The early 1930s are dotted with court cases against E.T. Brick for non-payment of bills and information suggests operations ceased around 1931.
By the time of the 1945 series of aerial photos the brickyard’s buildings had been completely removed, making photos such as these even more important in the documentation of our past and give life to the bricks that make up so many of the buildings in the area, particularly in Lennoxville and Sherbrooke.
These photos have been preserved and made available courtesy of the work done by the Eastern Townships Resource Centre and the Lennoxville-Ascot Historical and Museum Society.
Photo credit : P998 ETRC Graphic Material Collection
CPR wreck near Lennoxville, with brick plant employee houses visible, 1913
Photo credit : LAHMS P 1208 HOU (Lennoxville-Ascot Historical and Museum Society)
CPR wreck, with enlarged inset showing part of the brick plant, 1913