HISTORY OF VAN DYKE SILICA BRICK CO.
(Juniata Tribune - 23 Dec 1920)
In 1916 William H. Haws negotiated with the Zartman Lumber Co. for the purpose of 5500 acres of mountain land in Juniata and Perry Counties and closed the deal with them in 1917. Since then he has added 200 acres more which was purchased from William Neal, of Harrisburg, Pa., making the total number of acres 5700. These lands are covered with silica or ganister stone, which are used in the manufacture of silica brick. Said brick are used in Open Hearth Steel Furnaces, Bi-Product, coke ovens and Sectional Gas Retorts, and for other purposes.
When the steel industry is running to capacity the consumption of these brick is enormous, about one and one-half millions of standard 9 inch brick being used per day. The Silica brick business is always in sympathy with the steel business. When the steel industry is effected it also effects the brick industry. Mr. William H. Haws associated with his brother Henry Y. Haws, of Johnstown, Pa., formed a co-partnership under the name of Van Dyke Ganister Company, and put a gravity plane with a double track up the mountain to bring the ganister down and load it on P. R. R. cars for shipment to various steel and brick companies who were users of it. The first stone loaded for shipment was on December 12th, 1917, and was consigned to Haws Refactories Company, Johnstown, Pa., and the last stone shipped was consigned to Harbison-Walker Refactories Co, East Downingtown, Pa., March 29th, 1920. Up to date there has been about 100,000 net tons of this stone shipped and used. The reason for not continuing the shipment of stone was that it interfered with the construction of the silica brick plant being erected at Van Dyke, Pa.
Jully 1st, 1920 the Van Dyke Ganister Co., was taken over by the Van Dyke Silica Brick Company, a corporation capitalized at $500,000.00 under the Pennsylvania Laws governing corporations, and immediately ground was broken for the erection of a modern Silica-Magnesite and Chrome brick plant, under the management of William H. Haws of Johnstown, Pa. The plant when fully completed will have an actual capacity of 120,000 standard 9 inch brick, or their equivalent, per day. Everything is now up to the capacity, but kilns and they will be gradually increased until able to take care of the above capacity. The $50,000.00 is all paid in. On January 16th, 1921, we expect to put the machinery in motion.
William H. Haws, General Manager, after twelve years of experimenting invented a practical machine for making silica brick and silica shapes which will make these brick uniform in dimension and uniform in density. Mr. Haws has covered this invention with three United States Patents. Mr. Henry Y. Haws and Mr. David Barry have each purchased a one-fourth interest in these patents. The Van Dyke Silica Brick Company will be granted the right to use the invention without having to pay royalty. The brick made from this machinery will be entirely free from laminations.
The attention of the steel companies will be called to the mode of the manufacture of silica brick, and by actual and practical tests of silica brick in a furnace will determine their superiority over the brick made in the old way. All manufacturers of Silica, Magnesite and Chrome brick will have an opportunity to use the invention by paying a reasonable royalty.
When the plant is in operatioin we would be glad to have brick and steel men visit the plant and inspect it and our mode of manufacturing. All questions will be cheerfully answered by Mr. William H. Haws, General Manager, or Mr. Harry F. Yengnst, General Superintendent.
VAN DYKE BRICK PLANT ABOUT TO OPERATE
BIG SILICA BRICK PLANT WILL BE JUNIATA COUNTY'S LARGEST INDUSTRY
(Juniata Sentinel & Republican 15 Dec 1920)
Without noise or bluster, and without confusion, a plant for the making of gangster brick has been erected along the Pennsylvania railroad at Van Dyke station in this county. The plant, the most complete and up-to-the minute of its kind in the country, is about ready to begin operations. It is known as the Van Dyke Silica Brick Company, a corporation controlled by Johnstown capitalists, but the work of erection has been under the management of W. H. Haws, who has been in the gangster brick business all his life. It was he who built the plant at Hawstone, in the Lewistown Narrows, although at this time he is not interested there.
The material used in the manufacture of ganister brick is known as white medina sandstone, and the mountains girting Juniata County are full of that material. Mr. Haws, an expert in ganister, says the quantity of ganister on the Tuscarora Mountain, where the new plant will draw its supply, is inexhaustible, and the quality is the best found anywhere. The Van Dyke Silica Brick Company now owns several thousand acres covered with Banister on the Tuscarora mountain between Thompsontown and Tuscarora railroad station.
The making and burning of brick in the four kilns now completed at the new plant will begin shortly after the first of the year. The number of kilns will be increased to a round dozen before the plant will have reached its full capacity. Then about 400 men will be employed there. Silica brick is used in the iron and steel business. The inside of furnaces and receptacles for carrying molten metal are lined with it. And when the iron and steel business is good there is a great demand for the brick. The iron and steel business will always be with us, and as a consequence there will always be a demand for silica brick. Those who have been through the plant speak of the permanent character of its construction, which evidences the purpose of its constructors to conduct a permanent business.
When going, this will be Juniata county's largest enterprise, and its influence on local business will be very noticeable in many ways.
This medina sandstone by the billion tons covered our mountains for ages without value, apparently, really as an obstruction to the growth of timber and the lumber man, a stranger from Johnstown, in the valley of the Conemaugh, comes along, and in the language of Russell Conwell, finds ?Acres of Diamonds?.
We have milks of other hills and other rocks in Juniata County whose purpose is as yet unknown, but luck and fortune be unto him, native or stranger, who can find a use for them.
THE VAN DYKE NAME WAS ONCE SYNONYMOUS WITH BRICKS
By Carol Smith
(Juniata Sentinel, Highways & Byways, July 6, 2005)
In a well-known children's story, the wisest of "Three Little Pigs" built his home from bricks, thus foiling the efforts of The Big Bad Wolf. There are many versions of the story and exact details of its origin are sketchy, but area residents can be sure of one thing: if that smart little pig had lived in Juniata County in the early 1900s, his building material would likely have been Van Dyke bricks.
According to an article that appeared in the Juniata Tribune on December 23, 1920, in 1917, William H. Haws purchased 5,500 acres of mountain land in Juniata and Perry counties from the Zartman Lumber Company, and later added another 20 acres. The lands were covered with silica or ganister stone, used in the making of silica brick, which was used in open hearth steel furnaces and for a variety of other uses.
The purchased land included that in the area of Walker Township known as Van Dyke and a lumbering railroad, tied to the Pennsylvania Railroad existed there. Haws apparently utilized the railroad for transportation of stone taken from the mountain to various steel and brick companies, but the stone shipment ceased in late March of 1920 because a local brick plant was being constructed.
The Juniata Sentinel and Republican reported on December 15, 1920 that a plant for the making of ganister brick was "about ready to begin operations' along the Pennsylvania Railroad at Van Dyke Station. Known as the Van Dyke Silica Brick Company, the plant was described as "the most complete and up-to-the-minute of its kind in the country."
The newspaper accounts noted that the company was "controlled by Johnstown capitalists," but under the management of Haws, who had been in the brick business all of his life. It was Haws, who built the plant that bore his name in Hawstone, in the Lewistown Narrows, although at the time the Van Dyke plant was established he was not affiliated with the Mifflin County business.
Haws reported that the quantity of ganister on the Tuscarora Mountain where the new plant drew its supply was "inexhaustible" and noted that the "quality is the best found anywhere."
The plant started with four kilns, but increased to a dozen, and estimates were that 400 men were employed there, and it was noted that it was at one time Juniata County's largest business, with "its influence on local businesses very noticeable in many ways."
At the time the Van Dyke Silica Brick Company was established, newspaper accounts touted the permanent character of its construction, which evidences the purpose of its constructors to conduct a permanent business. The business, however, was not permanent. It fell idle in July of 1931, but resumed operations in January 1932, when former employees were called back to a three days per week schedule.
"Here's hoping the schedule will soon swell to include the entire week for these employees that operations will continue undisturbed in the future," noted a Juniata Tribune item of January 7, 1932.
Unfortunately, that was not to be the case, as the village of Van Dyke is no longer known for a brick works although Van Dyke bricks can still be found around the county, and probably in many other areas around the country.