It is you see a local brick, the only one from Chippewa Falls that I know to bear a maker's mark, that of J.B. Theriault.
Jean Baptiste Theriault - he usually went by John - came to the area fairly early. I find mention of him working in the lumber camps and sawmills which would fit the pioneer days of Chippewa Falls. He was probably, like many such early settlers, of French Canadian origins.
He had a varied career, at different times being a partner in a dining hall/saloon with a interesting local character named Charles Billideau. He seems to have done well enough to have built his own "Theriault Block" building in the 1880's, and to have started a brickyard in 1890.
Here's a photo of the Theriault brick yard which was then outside Chippewa Falls, now on the suburban edge of same.
Brick yards are even worse than breweries in terms of finding physical remains. You'd typically have a place to dig the clay, some machinery to mix and form it, one or more kilns to dry it, and a lot of flat space to set up drying racks, usually semi protected from the elements. None of these were built on deep foundations or to last.
I'm standing here on what I assume is a long established county road looking east. A 1910 map indicates the Theriault brick yard should be on the west side of the road. So what is this odd foundation remnant?
And this nearby pond. Natural or a clay pit now filled with water?
In the woods to the north there are these moss covered piles. Alas, not brick fragments but apparently some sort of slag from the kilns. I think they tossed spoiled batches here.
It is quite confusing. So here's my attempt to make sense of it.
I think what I am seeing are actually the remains of the "other" brick yard in town. It went by various names including the French Lumber Company brick yard, Goulet and Bergeron yards, and the Chippewa Brick Manufacturing Company. They were near contemporaries and mined the same 4-8 foot wide vein of clay. I know of no marked examples of their product, at least not yet.
Theriault's establishment must have been on the other side of the road in what now is heavily worked farmland. The detailed descriptions I have of his 8 acre facility with a "pug mill", a "Craycroft soft mud machine", a 2 acre drying yard and a capacity of 1,200,000 bricks per year....all are describing an enterprise with no lasting remnants but their bricks, and of those only a tiny fraction were marked with their name.
Neither brick yard was a long term success. The clay and the bricks made from it were said to be of high quality but there was one key factor missing for the growth of these enterprises. There was no rail spur to ship their product. And make no mistake, if you are in the business of making a million plus bricks, you do not want to rely on horses and wagons.
Theriault sold his brick yard in 1914 to a man named Henneman. The generally very gossipy brick trade publications mention only that in 1916 Henneman was about to put the yard back in working order as the price of brick had risen and there was felt to still be a 100 year supply of clay on hand. After that I find nothing.
But there is one extant structure that recalls the days of making bricks in Chippewa Falls, and it is a short stroll from my house.
This 1889 house - I think it falls just short of mansion status - was built by Theriault at about the same time as he started his brick yard. The owner found a few marked bricks around the place. And one can assume that brickwork on the property was likely from his establishment.
Note for instance this highly impractical sidewalk that like all such made of bricks is prone to buckling and heaving in Wisconsin weather, making snow removal a tedious chore indeed.