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Southern Illinoisan (Newspaper) - July 7, 1974, Carbondale, Illinois TwentyPair A Murphysboro i n d u s t r y which closed more than 40 years ago is still alive in the streets of Southern Illinois towns and the Panama Canal Murphysboro Paving Brick Co operated northwest of the city from around the turn of the century to its closing In 1931 The plant moved to East St Louis from Murphys boro The exact date of the plant opening is not recorded but sev eral Murphysboro residents who worked at the plant say it was in the early 1900s The plant was located near large shale deposit near the former No 4 school road and North 23rd street It lies east of the Illinois Central Gulf Rail road tracks arid north of the Missouri Pacific Railroad tracks The brick plant was a money making operation in its day and a financial loss to the area when it closed Bricks produced at the plant were considered to be the finest of their type in the country Bricks from Murphysboro were used to surface streets in many Southern Illinois towns They also were used in con struction of the Panama Canal WJlliam W Kelly 77 of 924 N 20th St Murphysboro was general foreman at the plant from 1917 to 1927 He said the company at its peak employed about 150 workers Kelly said the Panama Canal construction program took all the bricks the plant could make for several hears and said the plant was still shipping bricks to the canal area when he started work in 1917 The order for the canal in volved split bricks which were split lengthwise from the regular paving bricks The thin ner bricks were used more in construction while the fullsize bricks were used mostly for road worki Kelly said Panama Canal bricks were shipped by rail to New Orleans and then byboat tothe Canal Zone The Murphysboro plant had a reputation for producing ex tremely hard bricks hvan inex pensive price range The pri mary factor in the hardness quality was the large shale de posit at the site Shale is a fossil rock compos ed of clay mud or silt that can be divided or split on the grainsuch as a Crystal was dug from the site The shale hole later became the brick plant lake one of the few maining traces of the original plant Shale dug fromthe pitswas dried and then crushedinto a powder the shale powder then was mixed with water in what was called a pug mill and was formed into one long sheet The sheets went to a cutting mill where the bricks were cut to order sizes Paving bricks the primary order size were cut 4 by 9 inches and 3 to inches thinck From the cutting mill tiie bricks moved on conveyer belts to the drying kilnsThe kilns woulrf be sealed and heated by fire for up to four days de pending on the hardness re quired Each kiln was heated by six furnaces and temperatures in side reached 1800 to 1850 de grees During the burning or drying out periods periodic tests would be madeon the i hardness of the bricks The test called a rattler test11 involved placing the bricks in a rotating machine v v along withsteel shot grinding action of the shot rotating against the brick would wear down the surface and the hardness would be de termined by the percentage of wear Kelly said The plant shipped bricks to many cities for streetwork A large number of bricks were sent to Florida for var ious types of construction The plant suffered a financial set when Florida put an em 1 bargo on materials com the of business contributed toloss of said Bricks from the plant still form the base construction for every street in Murphys boro except streets added since the plant was closed The site ofthe old brick plant si how private property owned by William Heiple of Rt 4Murphysboro Since he bought the property in 1967 Heiple has found blue prints showing how the plant was set up The plant had 21round kilns and 4 horizontal kilns and about 19 other buildings including the building for grinding the shale Heiple also found one of the companys old ledger books and scattered pieces of bricks He also found several minisized bricks marked with the firms name Kelly said the small bricks were made as souvenirs for a1925 firemans convention in Murphysboro William Htiplt shows txamplts of Egyptian bricks from Murphysboro paving plant Old postcard brick plant in back In 1920s of brick plants old kilns frames Htiplt recounts life of Riley charts some of hit on world map A By Wanda Barras Of The Southern Illinoisan Pat Riley left England when he was 13 He ran away from home and a good old aurit and went to sea aboard the Wanderer a squarerigged sailing ship which carried cargo An oldseaman cracked me across the backside and said Come on Sonnyyoure not at home now Riley recalls from hiswheelchair in the Roo sevelt Square Shelter Care Home in Marion that was almost 80 years ago And Riley 92 been wandering every since Riley had always wanted to be a navigator But his educa tion was cut shprt by his fa thers death when he was 9 Rileys brother had just fi nished his apprenticeship as a ship builder the trade of his father His older sister a good scholar was educated in pri vate schools She learned the skills of a dressmaker boot binder and dietician The sister Riley call ed me little mother later be came a dietician at St Georges University in Canada But when Rileys father died he was left with only the un waning desire for the sea He ran away from Whitehaven in Cumberland County and board ed the Wanderer He didnt stay long at sea with the hardened sailors on the Wanderer I didnt stay long and Im glad I didnt I went back home and joined the Riley was just past 14 when he joined Queen Victorias Na vyHe lied about his age and was admitted to the Navys ranks like the best of them During his years in the Navy Riley served some time on a gunboat in the Red Sea chas ing slavers It was a disgrace to human ity to see the slaves coming out of those slave boats Riley says they couldnt fire on the slave boats forfear of injuring the slaves orsinking the ships and losing the lives of the slaves they sought to save Riley was acting as a decoy on board his ship in the search for the slavers The ship pulled out to sea dropped anchor and Riley began swabbing the deck Two rifle shots ripped from the shore and Riley caught a slug in the left leg Riley says most surgeonssug gested removal of his leg but an old Navy doctor deferred it Each day the doctor rubbed an ointment on the wound and each day poison drained from it Eventually the leg healed Riley lost the leg years later in Peoria in 1968 He was vi siting friends when his left foot started to go numb Circula tion worsened and theleg had to be amputated He said the legs removal was not connec ted with the gunshot wound Riley went home in 1900 to train first in the Navys gun nery school and then in the deep sea diver school He ser ved for a time on board an early submarine and fought in World War I When Riley was a deep sea diver he served with George Coulson of Durham England on board a battle cruiser hi 1909 After Coulson left the ship he was wounded and taken a prisoner of war Riley had no hope of seeing him again But one day in 1924 Riley did see him the streets in Johnston City Coulson came to Johnston City to work in the mines He is still alive and has visited Riley That day he had news for Mary Ann his wife at their rural Marion home Everyday Mary Ann who was lonesome at times in the land away from England asked Riley Any news The answer was usual ly No news That day he had news But Mary Anns reaction was Whats the joke to her hus husbands remarks Riley says we always pulling pranks on each other Mary Ann couldnt believe the story But Riley had a picture 0f Coulson and with it convin ced Mary Ann of the story Rileys second hitch in the Navy ended in 1918 andhe said Me time was up and I glad of it in the coal mines of Newhaven England until his wifes parents died It was time to wander again Riley set out for America to find his fortune leaving his wife to join him later On his way to a copper mine in New Mexico a railroad strike hal ted his transportation He wound in Johnston City While in Johnston City he worked in the Virginia White Ash and other mines He made more wanderings to work in the copper mines in Arizona and to make torpedoes and spe cial parts for General Motors in Chicago He retired from GM in 1951 to come back to Johnston City His wife died in 1963 About three sears ago he mo ved into the shelter care home But he looks forward to wan dering time not so far Riley says he wants to get a private room and have a bit of freedom cook up a bit He dreams of his first meal fried ham boiled cabbage and cauliflower or perhaps broccoli But be has no hope of get ting back to England I cant get back with car he says referring to the wheel chair he has occupied for six years
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