Town of Walsh
The Town of Walsh was a project Thomas J. Walsh was working on in the early years of the 20th century: a town for the workers of the North American Mine and other area industry – the North American Brick, Tile and Pottery Company. It is nestled between Tower, Breitung, and Kugler Townships, within the boundaries of Kugler Township. A 40-acre parcel of highland was set aside and platted for city blocks and streets were named. Plans were made for the First State Bank of Walsh building, a general store, a drug store, a meat market, and the grand North American Hotel. Seven houses in Tower were purchased to be moved to the townsite in anticipation of people moving in quickly. Walsh relied primarily on financiers from Minneapolis, and many shareholders grabbed up lots in Walsh, anticipating the opening of the North American Mine for production and the uptick of the North American Brick, Tile and Pottery company’s operations.
Plans did change a few times through the course of the years; Thomas J. Walsh had planned at one point to build an ore separation plant to separate graphite, gold, and silver from the ore that was collected from the North American Mine. It was also determined that the peat that covers the clay used for the bricks could be used to create fuel that would power all of the Town of Walsh at a very low cost as a way to replace coal, and the idea of building a peat gas plant was discussed. Ultimately it seems most of these plans fell through. However, the hotel was in the process of being built at that time and there are still the remains of it on the north end of the eastern edge of the townsite.
A road to the Town of Walsh was built by the Duluth & Iron Range railroad company from the North American Road, past the mine operations, to the northeast corner of the townsite. The road has since heavily grown in, and ditches were dug on the North American Road, so the road surfaces no longer meet each other. The road ran past the North American Hotel on the northeast corner of the townsite. The railroad grade cuts the northwestern corner of Walsh, half a mile southwest of the Tower Junction area.
This logging road the runs through the middle of the townsite of Walsh from the southwest corner to the northeast corner. The road is covered with the throwaways of logging, and is relatively stable for walking.
New Town of Walsh Growing Very Fast
It Has an Iron Mine, a Great Brick Plant and a Four-Story Hotel.
Number of Brick Blocks to Go Up as Soon as Material Can Be Had.
It is doubtful that any other town in Northern Minnesota during the next year will equal the growth of the town of Walsh, on the Duluth & Iron Range railroad which adjoins Tower Junction and is about a mile from the Soudan mine, the first producing mine on the Vermilion range. By the first of the year, Walsh will have a producing iron mine of its own, in addition to an immense brick, tile and pottery plant, which is already in operation. Other industries are planned for.
A fine four-story hotel is being completed and as fast as building brick can be had from the new plant a bank building, general store, a drug store and a meat market will be built. At the price at which brick are to be had at Walsh it is cheaper to erect buildings of brick than of wood. Meanwhile, seven houses have been purchased in Tower, a mile away, and will be removed to Walsh bodily. So many people are coming to Walsh that they cannot wait to put up all the buildings needed. When in full operation the brick plant alone will employ 500 to 600 men and the North American mine nearly as many more. The First State Bank of Walsh is being organized by Minneapolis interests and will occupy its own brick building. It will be ready for business before the first of the year. By that time the North American mine will be stockpiling ore and getting ready to ship. Quite a number of employees of the mine and the brick plant are going to build as soon as they can get the brick.
Ross and Scribner streets are the two main business thoroughfares. Other streets are McCormack, Boden, and Melges streets, and Pillsbury, Briggs, Smead, and Chamberlain avenues. The greater part of the lots in the townsite were snapped up at $250 each by stockholders in the various Walsh enterprises, who had the first chance to purchase. Walsh is on a plateau overlooking the mine and brick and tile plant, just far enough away to escape the smoke and soot, but only a few minutes walk for the worker. Homecrofters will be delighted with the chances for gardens. Heavy loam here will grow anything, and is wonderfully productive of garden truck.
Walsh in one the main line of the Duluth & Iron Range railroad, which will erect a brick station as soon as it can get the brick from the North American plant, which it will be able to do inside sixty days. The railroad company has run a sidetrack to the North American mine, a side track to the brick and tile plant and a third side track for shipping purposes to the brick kilns. So far two temporary kilns have been constructed and burned, turning out about 225,000 beautiful, smooth red brick, which are being used for permanent kilns and building as the plant. These will be completed shortly and then the plant will turn out 150,000 brick per day, sufficient to supply the heavy demands for building in Walsh in short order.
When the plant of the North American Brick, Tile and Pottery company is in full operation it will be the largest plant of its kind in the state. A great body of shale underlies 120 acres at this point. It is forty-eight feet in depth and only three to ten feet of stripping has to be done. The stripping will be accomplished with a steam shovel, which will also load the clay into cars. Here is the largest brick making machine in the world, having a capacity of 150,000 bricks per day, having a value of output of $1,500 to $6,000 per day, depending upon whether the product is plain building brick, worth $10 per thousand, or vitrified paving brick worth $40 per thousand. One half of the first dry house, which will care for 60,000 brick, is in use, and the other half is being completed. The second dry house will be larger, having a holding capacity of 90,000. It takes twenty-four hours to dry out the brick before putting them in kilns to be burnt. The two dry houses in twenty-four hours will then take care of the 150,000 brick the great machine can turn out in a working day of ten hours. Labor saving machinery is in evidence everywhere about the plant, which will turn out the maximum of product at a minimum of cost. Tracks lead from the clay pit up to the pug mill. Up these the cars of clay are hauled by a wire cable. From the pug mill and the brick machine an endless belt carries the brick on to tables, from which they are picked at three points and loaded on trucks running on tracks into the dry house. Trucks on tracks again carry the brick to the kilns. From the kilns the brick are loaded directly on cars on the Duluth & Iron Range railroad.
This monster plant will turn out common building brick, pressed brick, hollow brick, vitrified paving brick, sewer pipe, roofing tiles and all kinds of drain tiles – in fact, everything in brick, tile and terra cotta except fire brick, the clay containing too much hematite for fire brick. Some idea of the value of this great body of shale may be had from the fact that the North American Brick, Tile & Pottery company pays a royalty of $27,000 per year to T. J. Walsh, the owner of the property. With rare magnanimity Mr. Walsh has assigned this royalty to the stockholders of the North American Iron Mining company. Since only $100,000 of the treasury stock of the North American Mining company was issued, the shareholders will have a rich dividend from the brick royalty, not to mention the iron and gold which are known to exist in great quantities in the North American mine.
Capt. Thomas A McDougall of Duluth is president of the North American Brick, Tile and Pottery company. The superintendent is John Wild, formerly of Morton, Minn., an experienced brick maker with twenty years of a successful record behind him. His son, John Wild, Jr., is assistant superintendent. Mr. Wild told the writer he could turn out all colors of brick from the clay from green to brown. The company’s specialty, however, will be a blood red brick, very handsome for building purposes. The company has arranged for railroad rates to the Twin Cities, which will enable it to ship that distance at a handsome profit, but its product is in such demand nearer home that it will have to go farther than Duluth for a market. One order from Duluth has been booked for 5,000,000 brick. Other orders have come in from International Falls, Virginia, Eveleth, Tower and Ely. There is an enormous market for brick on the iron ranges and in Duluth and Superior, and when these markets are supplied, there are the Twin Cities to fall back on.
Nature has been kind toward brick-making at Walsh. The shale is overlaid with peat which will keep the shale from freezing in winter, so that the plant can be operated the year round. The shale will only be stripped as used. The peat overlying the shale is also to be turned to account. Archie McMillan of Chicago, has a process for turning peat into gas. He has experimented with the peat from Walsh and guarantees to produce fuel gas at the town site at a cost of two mills per horse power, which would give Walsh the cheapest power known. This gas will furnish fuel for the 350-horse power engine of the brick plant, the dry houses and for burning the brick, tile and pottery. It will also be used for fuel by the North American Iron Mining company and for heating the entire town of Walsh, doing away with coal.
The hotel will be completed in October. It should be open now, but the builders have been delayed for want of slate for roofing. The hotel is on a hillside overlooking all of the townsite and with a splendid view on the surrounding country. It is four stories in height on one side and three on the other. It will have forty-eight guest rooms and two dining rooms, one for transients and the other for miners and brickmakers. It will have a large, handsome lobby and a big, old fashioned fire-place in which logs will be burned in winter. Downstairs it will be finished in dark oak. The bar room will have a tiled floor. There are bath rooms on every floor, and hot and cold running water in every room. The hotel is being erected by the North American Hotel company, principally Minneapolis capital. The hotel will be conducted by Louis Peterson of Minneapolis, one of the owners, who is overseeing the construction of the building and has been in Walsh for some time. The North American hotel will cater principally to summer guests, although it will be open all the year. Mr. Peterson says he could have the hotel full of guests now, if it were finished. The hotel, equipped, will have cost $45,000 to $50,000, and is one of the finest in Northern Minnesota outside of Duluth. It will have a barber shop and billiard room. Everything will be modern. In the kitchen labor saving appliances, such as steam cookers and dish-washing machines, will be used.
So many people are interested in the situation at the North American mine that it is told about along with the other Walsh properties in the review of the Vermilion range on the preceeding page.