C&O Magazine Boosts Olive Hill-
Products of Kentucky's Famous Olive Hill District Move Via C&O and P.M.
(By D. C. Boy, Assistant Industrial Commissioner, C. & O. Railway).
The Carter County Herald
February 11, 1932
(We are grateful to the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Magazine for the following article
which appeared in their magazine of February 1932 and thank them for their consent to
use it in our paper to show our readers that this company appreciates this section.--Editor).
It is not known just when fire clay was first discovered in Northeastern Kentucky,
but the records show that the first fire brick were made in an old brewery building in
Ashland, which Charles Taylor leased from the city in 1859, or thereabouts. Mr. Taylor
operated this for about two years. We next find him shipping fire clay from Greenup
County along the Ohio River to Cincinnati, where he built a fire brick plant in 1863.
The clay was moved in barges down the river.
But the development of the famous Olive Hill district dates from the period between
1868 and 1872, when Messrs. S. Eifort, K. B. Grahn and J. McL. Staughton bought 10,000
acres of land in the Olive Hill district for the purpose of erecting an iron furnace.
These men formed a company, which was known as the Tygart Valley Iron Company. At that
time the Lexington Division of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway had not been built from
Ashland to Louisville, but was projected and the above company bought the land expecting
the railroad to be built immediately. The railroad was not built however until 1883.
Meanwhile the plans for the erection of an iron furnace were abandoned and the
10,000 acres of land, sub-divided. Mr. Grahn received the eastern portion in the vicinity
of what is now known as Grahn Station. Mr. Eifort got the central part in the vicinity
of Olive Hill. Mr. Staughton was allotted the portion west of Olive Hill.
In 1883 the railroad was finally completed into this section and Mr. Eifort began to
open up and ship fire clay. The first fire clay from the Olive Hill district was shipped
by him to fire brick plants in Ohio in 1883. The clay, when made into fire brick, gave
such excellent results, that its reputation as a refractory clay was son established.
It was only three years later, in 1886, that the Ashland Fire Brick Company's plant at
Ashland was erected and six years later, or in 1889, that the Louisville Fire Brick
Works, established a plant at Louisville, both plants using Olive Hill clay.
The demand for this clay increased rapidly and together with the fair prices received
for it, cause an extensive development and prospecting for and shipping of clay, became
quite an industry for a number of years. The extent of the clay territory was found to be
much larger than was at first supposed.
The Olive Hill fire clay, so named because it was first developed at Olive Hill, is
and extensive, though not continuous, deposit, and probably covers three or four hundred
square miles. This clay is made up of three different grades, known as flint, semiflint
and No. 2 plastic. The flint clay is very fine grained and in color is often buff or
light gray, but sometimes dark gray. The semiflint clay differs from the flint in being
slightly softer and in having noticeable plasticity. Its color runs from white to gray.
The No. 2 plastic clay has decided plasticity and is softer than the semiflint. It
varies from light to darker colors.
There are four vital factors that greatly augmented the rapid development of the
fire clay industry in this district: 1) The excellent quality of the clay for refractory
wares. 2) An exceedingly large supply of raw material. 3) Good railroad transportation.
4) Proximity to the coking coal district and the iron furnaces of the Pittsburgh district.
Although clay was shipped to fire brick plants as early as 1883, the first brick
plant in the immediate clay territory was not erected until 1895, when the Olive Hill
Fire Brick Company, now the General Refractories Company of Philadelphia, built its plant
at Olive Hill. They opened up the famous Burnt-House mine, which contained a solid bed
of pure fire clay, in some places 27 feet thick. It was the fire brick made of this
clay, that really established the reputation of the Olive Hill fire brick, which is now
sold in all parts of the United States, Canada, Japan, Cuba and other foreign countries.
In 1900 the Ashland Fire Brick Company erected a plant on the Chesapeake and Ohio
at Haywar, six miles west of Olive Hill. The following year, 1901, the Harbison-Walker
Refractories Company of Pittsburgh completed their plant at Olive Hill.
Still farther west, at Haldeman, in Rowan County, the Kentucky Fire Brick Company
established a plant in 1903. About ten years later, or in 1913, two other plants were
put in operation in the Olive Hill district. One of these was the plant of the
Louisville Fire Brick Works at Grahn, 5 miles east of Olive Hill; and the other was
the General Refractories plant at Hitchins, at the junction of the Chesapeake and Ohio
and the Eastern Kentucky railroads. This section east of Olive Hill had been opened
up by Mr. Grahn, who soon after the completion of the railway to Louisville, shipped
clay to the Louisville Fire Brick Works, whose plant at Louisville had been erected
The oldest plant directly on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway is the Ashland Fire
Brick Company's plant at Ashland, built in 1886 and completely remodeled in 1922.
This plant and the plant of Hayward are now owned by the North American Refractories
Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Another early plant, which now uses Olive Hill clays
exclusively is the plant of Charles Taylor and Sons Company at Taylor, Ky., opposite
Portsmouth, Ohio, built in 1901. In all, there are eight fire brick plants in
operation within the fire clay district in Northeastern Kentucky and three plants
just outside of the district, which use Olive Hill clay exclusively. The combined
capacity of all of these plants is more than 500,000 nine-inch brick or their
equivalent, per day. This is equal to fifty carloads. It requires 2,000 tons of
clay to produce that number of brick. Olive Hill fire clay refractories are used
by railroad companies in locomotive fire boxes, by malleable and gray iron foundries,
blast furnaces, power plants, potteries, steel mills, coke ovens, in cupolas, and
in fact in practically all classes of equipment which high temperatures are
General Refractories Co. General Office, Philadelphia, Pa.
At Olive Hill, Ky. And at Hitchins, Ky., only a few miles away, the General Refractories
Company operates two of their best known fire brick plants, using the finest clays of
the Olive Hill district. Their famous Olive Hill and Carter brands are made at these
plants. These brands are used extensively for blast furnace linings, also for general
steel mill purposes, cement and lime plants, boiler plants and in cupolas. Locomotive
arch brick are made at Hitchins plant. The combined capacity of the two plants is
around 180,000 brick per day. Shipments are made from these plants to all parts of
the United States and Canada and to many foreign countries.
Harbison-Walker Refractories Co. General Office, Pittsburgh, Pa.
At Olive Hill, Ky., the Harbison Walker Refractories Company operates its Olive Hill
Works, a modernized plant at which highest quality flint and plastic clays form the
company's own mines are used, for producing refractories of exceptional quality and
uniformity. Standard 9-inch brick and sizes are branded "High Grade." For blast
furnace linings, their standard "Hearth and Bosh," "Inwall" and "Top" brands are
used. In both blast furnace and stove practice, the brick from this plant have
established tonnage records. The product of the plant finds application in all types
of industrial furnaces and is shipped to all parts of the United States, Canada,
Mexico and other foreign countries. The capacity of the plant is approximately
65,000 nine-inch equivalent per day.
Louisville Fire Brick Works General Office, Louisville, Ky.
The Louisville Fire Brick Works operate two plants engaged in the manufacture of fire
clay refractories. The older of these plants was established in Louisville, Ky., in
1889, drawing its supply of raw material from Grahn, Ky., on the Chesapeake and Ohio
Railway in the heart of the Olive Hill clay district. Another plant was located at
Grahn, Ky. In 1913. Both of these plants manufacture high quality fire clay refractories.
Their products are marketed under four brands; "XXX," (is) a handmade brick of first
quality. "Louisville," (is) a semi-dry press machine made brick of first quality.
"Bung" Brick (is) both machine-made and hand made first quality, and "Standard," (is)
a semi-dry press machine made brick of second quality. The capacity of the two plants
is 2,000 carloads per year. Their products are shipped to market throughout the
entire country and are used in locomotives, in malleable iron foundries, in gray
iron foundries, in steel mills, in cement mills, in power plants, in potteries, etc.
North American Refractories Co. General Office, Cleveland, Ohio
The North American Refractories Company plants on the Chesapeake and Ohio at Ashland
and Hayward, Ky., are perhaps better known under their name of the Ashland Fire Brick
Company. The two plants manufacture high grade fire brick exclusively using the
hand-made steam-pressed, dry pressed and plunger pressed processes. Other products
include fire clay dust, bonding mortars and plastic fire brick.
Their products bear the following well known trade names, Ashland, Ashland High
Grade, Ashland Crown, Ashland Empire Crown, Blast Furnace, Ashco, Narco High Grade
Dust, Narcoset High Temperature Bonding Mortar and Narco 505 Furnace Batch. Their
principle markets are in the iron and steel centers, but many other industries are
users of these well known brands. The capacity of the Ashland and Hayward, Ky.,
plants in about 3,600 carloads per year of refractories products.
Kentucky Fire Brick Co. General Office, Chicago, Ill.
The Kentucky Fire Brick Company has a large plant at Haldeman, Ky. The product of
this plant is largely consumed by the Illinois Steel Company of Chicago, which
company owns the brick plant. The capacity of the plant is about 50,000 (nine inch
equivalents) per day.
Chas. Taylor Sons Co. General Office, Cincinnati, Ohio
The Chas Taylor Sons Company has two plants using the famous Olive Hill fire clay.
One plant (is) at Cincinnati and the other at Taylor, Ky., across the river from
Portsmouth, Ohio. The products manufactured are brick and special shapes. These
are sold under the trade names of Tiger Steel, Tiger Crown and Tiger. The
capacity of the two plants is about 900 carloads per year. The Chas. Taylor
Sons Company products are used all over the United States and exported to a number
of foreign countries. These products are used in steel plants, furnaces,
locomotives, foundries, glass plants, etc., etc."
Back to Newspaper Index
Return to main Carter County page
questions and comments to John Rucker
This page was last updated on -- Wednesday, 03-Jul-2002 07:44:59 MDT
© John Rucker/ Columbus, OH