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 
in 1889.

	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."

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