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For Mica: Gotta go back again

I don’t know how I could have missed it.

The beehive kilns of the historic American Brick Company sit on the corner of State Route 27 and Belmont Road, just south of Spokane Valley.

The Historic Spokane website says brickyards were established in several locations, following the devastating Spokane fire of 1889. The yard in Mica, the one that produced the brick used in many Spokane buildings, is the only one that remains.

It isn’t deserted or anything. The current plant, built in 1957 to replace the old one, is still firing away, but at least five of the original kilns built between 1903 and 1911 are still there.

I’m not sure if I’d even be able to get onto the yard, but I feel like I missed something by not seeing it.

Instead, I was intent on another set of bricks.

I spied the remains of a brick house while we drove past Mica, on the way home from our camping trip in Idaho.

It sits forlornly on SR 27, just north of the community of Mica.

There may have been, at one time, a fence protecting the yard, extending out of this gate that still stands.

Remains of a property gate

Mica was never a town or city. It was a station stop on the line of the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company, and the hills were rich with basalt, granite, gneiss and schist — rocks that decompose and create the clay vital to the American Brick Company. (S. Shedd, 1910. The Clays of the State of Washington. State College of Washington.)

Along the main drags, it looks like a rural subdivision of Spokane Valley … homes, dotted around great barns and rolling hills of farmland.

old barn

A couple of tough broads

Few western towns are without a piece of history that gives me a chuckle.

It’s even better when that history features a woman or two of great fortitude, like Lady Jane Fortune of Kamloops, B.C.

In my research of Mica, I stumbled upon the story of Helga and Clara Estby, a mother and daughter from Mica Creek who walked from Spokane to New York City in 1896 on the promise of a $10,000 bounty.

Helga was a 36-year-old suffragist (woohoo!) and mother of 10 (holy sweet Mary Murphy!) but she and her husband, Ole, were struggling to keep the farm going. The $10K would come in handy.

When Helga and Clara got to NYC, their sponsor stiffed them and they had to rely on the kindness of the railyards to get them home.

Read the whole story at HistoryLink.org. You won’t regret it.

And don’t forget it’s women like Helga who forged paths more than 100 years ago for women today.

Helga was an outspoken supporter of woman suffrage. She believed that women were capable of doing anything men could do, and thought of a way to raise a large sum of cash and, at the same time, draw nationwide attention to the suffrage cause. ~ HistoryLink.org

What building is this?

My research, however, left a hole burning in my brain.

I searched to no end for the identification of this building:

abandoned buildingI thought it might have been a jail, but maybe it was the bank where the Estbys stored their family savings.

If anyone knows, please tell me in the comments. Or, it may beg a trip to the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum, something I’ve been meaning to do anyway.

8 replies
  1. Eric
    Eric says:

    The building is the old boarding house for the brick plant workers. i live across the street from that building. there used to be a wood dech above the front door. The brick plant now uses this as storage.

    Reply
    • Charles Van Hall
      Charles Van Hall says:

      I too remember the building. I was told it was a hotel but a boarding house could be correct. I lived in Mica from 1951 to 1958 and it was closed then. I went to Mica Elementary School and would like to see if that building is still there. I plan to return for a visit to Spokane in August of 2014.

      Reply
  2. Marge
    Marge says:

    Thank u all for this much info. We remember going to a big party for the Campbell’s about 25 years in that tiny berg!. He worked on that railroad until retirement & she was pure Norse.I see there are some earlier Campbell’s in the Mica Creek cemetery nearby, north off Elder Road. Fascinating history with 3 seperate books available!

    Reply
  3. Marge
    Marge says:

    The Spokane Valley Heritage Museum has located a Mica Creek School registered around 1900 & it was in the vicinity of Mica Creek Cemetery where all the Estbys are buried. So, while it is very frustrating that no one has written a good story of the vanished berg of Mica Creek, we think it was somewhere up near the end of Harvard Road to the north & they walked down to the railroad stop on what would be Elder Road today.

    Reply
  4. Jannette
    Jannette says:

    That building was a hotel. My grandparents lived across the street from it. My mother is 85 now and she was raised in Mica.

    Reply
    • Charles Van Hall
      Charles Van Hall says:

      I was always told that was a (closed) hotel. And Across the street from the “hotel” were a couple of houses, separated by an alleyway that I used to walk up to our house and walk down that alleyway to the Mica store. As I recall there was a “pond” near the hotel, that we, as kids, would play in and around. I remember going to those houses on Holloween

      Reply

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