People of Medora Brick Plant

Medora, Indiana
Indiana 425 southwest of Medora in Jackson County

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* Note - the Medora Brick Plant site is currently owned
by a private owner and IS NOT open to the public in any way.




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Historical Marker Dedication   May 3, 2008

more photos

Brick plant memorialized with historic marker

photo - Banner/Chad Fleetwood

COMMEMORATING the dedication of the historical marker for the Medora Shale Brick Plant on Saturday were, from left: Jack Loudermilk, Eph Brock, Boob Davis,
James Lambert, Sr., and Bernard Gray.

By Chad Fleetwood
Jackson Co. Banner
Mon. May 5, 2008

A new historical marker was unveiled at the corner of Perry and Main streets in Medora on Saturday, commemorating the Medora Shale Brick Plant as a place of historical importance for Jackson County and the state of Indiana. A large crowd gathered for the dedication of the county’s fifth historical site, with a large portion of spectators being life-long Medora residents. Indiana State Representative Dennie Oxley, majority whip of the state’s general assembly, was in attendance to commemorate the occasion.

Clyde Allman began the ceremony with an anecdote describing a childhood impression of the plant. Allman recalled being around six years old, waking in the backseat of his father’s 1940’s era Model A Ford to see the glowing kilns in the smoky distance. Thick plumes rolled from giant square towers rising above the cluster of glowing mounds. “I remember when I saw the glow from the kilns and all the smoke, it frightened me,” Allman explained, getting a chuckle from the crowd after revealing why the view struck such a chord. “After how I’d heard the devil described [in church], I thought maybe it was Hell.”

Oxley noted the plant’s impact beyond the small town’s borders. “We take great pride in our heritage, that’s why we fund the historical markers. The Medora Shale Brick Plant was important to not only this town and economy, but to this entire region,” Oxley said, before asking town council members to unveil the two-sided monument dedicated to the plant’s storied history.

The plant began production in 1907, converting an abundant supply of shale into brick through a tedious, extremely labor-intensive process. At a time when the fledgling town had roughly 300 residents, the plant employed one-sixth of the total population. The plant produced hundreds of thousands of bricks per week, providing materials used to construct buildings on the campuses of Purdue, Louisville, and Ball State, as well as the building housing the Indianapolis Star and numerous hospitals. Originally specializing in heavy paving bricks, the plant fell on hard times and was purchased for $30,000 in 1924 by the Jackson Brick and Hollow Ware Company in Brownstown. After securing a pair of substantial contracts which helped pull the business through the Depression, the facility entered a prosperous era, firing an average of 57,000 bricks per day, six days per week. Under the guidance of its new owners, the plant shifted to producing primarily wall brick. The plant continued operating until 1990, with the day before Thanksgiving being the final day of production according to Bernard Gray, who worked at the facility for 46 years, serving as plant superintendent from 1968 until its official closing in 1992.

Gray informed the audience, most of whom descended from the town’s founding families, with vivid memories of prosperous times enjoyed by those who endured the physical demands associated with the job. Gray’s father had been superintendent of the facility, with Bernard hiring on full time after returning from a two-year tour of military service during the Korean War. At the conclusion of his address, Gray expressed gratitude and pride towards the plant and the community. “I think we have a great heritage here, and I’m proud to be part of it,” Gray said.

Four additional former employees joined Gray to be recognized for their service. Jack Loudermilk, Eph Brock, Boob Davis, and James Lambert Sr. gathered for pictures in front of the marker, all agreeing that the plant was a good place to work. The Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana assigned the property to its list of the 10 most endangered landmarks in 2004. The property, now privately owned and not open to the public, has fallen into disarray over the past fifteen years, a victim of graffiti and vandalism while becoming overgrown with unruly vegetation.

A website dedicated to collecting and recording the extensive history of the plant is maintained by Florida resident Steve Graves, who was in attendance for the dedication. Graves learned of the plant while researching his family’s ties to the town, as well as the plant itself. To learn more about the Medora Shale Brick Plant, or to contribute photos or information, visit An additional collection of photographs and artifacts is on display at Medora Town Hall.

State marker pays tribute to Medora Shale Brick Plant

The Tribune
May 6, 2008

MEDORA - Working at the Medora Shale Brick Plant was not easy.

James Lambert Sr. would tell you that. So would the other nearly 60 employees of the former brick plant. "I worked there 40 years and I fired the kilns," Lambert said. "Seven days a week, rain or shine."   Heat from the domed, beehive-shaped kilns reached 1,800 degrees. "I don't think very many would do it," he said of working in those conditions. "A lot of people didn't like it because it was seven days a week, but I liked it. I liked the job because I got off in time to fish and hunt."

On Saturday, those who worked for the plant and kept it going from 1907 to 1992 were honored as a state historical marker was placed in front of State Bank of Medora, along Indiana 235 in the center of town. It's now among about 500 markers across the state.

"The Medora Brick Plant supplied building materials to various institutions and homes," said Clyde Allman, who served as master of ceremonies. "It furnished employment and it furnished building materials. We need to keep in our minds and thoughts the people that worked at the Medora Brick Plant. It was dirty, hard, difficult work."

Historian Steve Graves, a native of central Illinois who now lives in Florida, said the farm town in which he grew up was about the size of Medora. He said a family member gave him pictures of his grandparents, who had moved from Medora to central Illinois

"It sent me on a little odyssey," he said.  He did research at the Indiana State Library, and he also got assistance from Charlotte Sellers and Julia Aker of the Jackson County Public Library. Among other things, Graves found out his great-great-grandfather was the boss of the plant in 1914.

He now has information and pictures he collected on the Web ( Graves also learned that the plant was organized in 1904, but it didn't begin production until 1907.

According to information on the state marker, in 1920, Indiana was seventh in the United States for production of clay products. With 10 kilns at the site in 1927, Medora was part of the industry making a variety of clay products for agriculture, street paving and building construction that "contributed to Indiana's growth as a leading industrial state."

In the mid-1920s, ownership changed to John W. Heller and Joseph Robertson. The plant struggled at times, but owners pushed the plant onward, even making it through the Great Depression.

Bernard Gray, who was also present Saturday, worked with Heller for 40 years. "He cut you no slack when it came to honesty," Gray said of Heller.

In 1907, Gray said, Medora had a population of about 300 people. The plant employed 55 people to run it, plus the pit crew and the office staff.  "As you go through the history of the community, there are very few families of this community that were not affected by this plant," Gray said.

At one time, there were 52 brick company operations in Indiana

"Now, there's three, to the best of my knowledge," Gray said, with one near Terre Haute and two in Mooresville.
When Heller was running the plant, Gray said, 60 percent of production went to residential and 40 percent went to architecture.  "It was very well accepted by stringent government standards and by the architecture industry," Gray said.

Bricks from the Medora Brick Plant were applied to buildings at Purdue University, Ball State University, Hanover College, University of Louisville, University of Kentucky, The Indianapolis Star building and Veterans Hospitals in Louisville, Grand Rapids, Mich., and Indianapolis.

The site of the plant is now deteriorating, and it's up for sale by the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana.

District 73 Rep. Dennie Oxley, D-English, who has represented southern Jackson County, including Medora, for 10 years, said "remembering our heritage" is an important thing to legislators at the Statehouse and to all Hoosiers.

"The brick plant was such a vital part of the economy," he said. "Not only for the history of the town.

About Indiana historical markers -Historical markers commemorate significant Indiana individuals, places and events, and they help communities throughout Indiana promote, preserve and present their history for the education and enjoyment of residents and tourists.

For more than 90 years, the Indiana Historical Bureau, an agency of the state of Indiana, has been marking Indiana history. There are about 500 of these markers, with a dark blue background, gold lettering and the outline of the state at the top, across the state.