Clermont Tile Company  (later called Kaul Clay Factory)
with John Wendell Anderson history below!

photo credit: Clermont Reunion 2000

Clermont's New Industry
McKean County Miner - Smethport, PA. Thursday, February 18, 1904

A new industrial enterprise was launcher at the office of Attorney John Whitmore, in this place on Saturday last. The principal stockholders are Quinn & Sherman of Straight; J.G. Whitmore, Esq., of Ridgway and Barclay Brothers of Sinnemahoning. The new company has been chartered by the State Department as the Clermont Sewer Pipe Company, with a capital stock of $150,000, fully paid. They will manufacture sewer pipe, title and other clay products. The officer of the company are as follows:

President, M.F. Quinn of Straight; Vice President, C.F. Barclay of Sinnemahoning; Secretary and Treasurer. W. E. Ringrose of Binghamton, N. Y.
The office and works will be located at Clermont, Mckean county, just over the Elk county border line. Their location is between the tracks of the Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh, Shawmut & Northern railroads, and they will have secured a fine property, and prospects are bright for a prosperous business.
---Ridgway Daily Record.

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Clermont Clay Products
by Clermont historian John Wendell Anderson

A very prominent feature of the village of Clermont for about 60 years was a manufacturing activity known as the Tile Plant. This was a large factory located in the very heart of the village, and it provided a livelihood for about 100 families for most of its lifetime.  This activity  consisted essentially of four major parts: first, the mine which supplied the raw  product which was fire clay; next, the manufacturing plant which formed the ceramic tile; then, the kiln complex which fired the tile; and finally the storage  yard where the finished product was stored pending sale and shipment.

This facility existed from 1904 until 1961. It operated from 1904 until  about 1930 with infrequent and brief interruptions for maintenance. About 1930 the worldwide depression caught up with the business and this, coupled with the fact that the telephone lines in the large eastern cities had all been pretty much rerouted underground, ended the need for the product being manufactured. So the operation was shut down in 1930 or 31. For the next 15 years it was idle most of the time, but every now and then there was enough demand  for the product so the plant could be operated for a month or two.

Attorney John G Whitmore of Ridgway was instrumental in the formation of  the Clermont Sewer Pipe Company in the village.  This company was chartered by the State Department of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in February 1904  with a capital stock of $150,000 fully Paid. The new company's officers were President, M. F. Quinn, Straights, Pa; V.P. CF Barclay, Sinnemahoning, Pa;  Secretary and Treasurer, WE Ringrose, Binghamton, NY. The principal stockholders were Quinn and Sherman, Straights, Pa; Attorney John Whitmore, Ridgway, Pa  and Barclay Brothers, Sinnemahoning, Pa.

In April 1904 ground was broken for the new plant. On the first of March 1905 the sewer pipe factory was turning out goods, and expected to operate at full capacity that Spring. WE Ringrose was plant superintendent, and he lived with his wife Clara in the superintendent's house on the south side of the street from the plant office. This house is now occupied by the Johnson  family.

Ringrose continued as superintendent until November 1920 when the  Clermont Sewer Pipe Company was sold to a New York firm, and the name was changed to the International Clay Products Company. Ringrose then retired, and Jack Allison, who had been shop foreman, was slated to follow Ringrose. Instead, he was offered and accepted the post of McKean County detective, and moved
to Smethport.

At this point Hohn A Clay became superintendent. He had held the same position at the Sergeant Glass Company at Sergeant until he came to Clermont.  He had a bad fall at the plant in Clermont in early 1925 and resigned. He died at 55 on May 17, 1925 in Port Allegany.

The post of plant superintendent was taken over by H. K. Leighow. He was a native of Kentucky and had operated similar plants there.  He continued until operations ceased in the early 1930s. In 1948 it was taken over by the Kaul Clay Company of Toronto, Ohio and operated for 12 years. In November 1961 it was totally destroyed by fire.

This enterprise was a dominant feature in the community for very nearly 60 years. It was initially located in Clermont because of the deposit of suitable clay some 60 to 80 feet below the surface in most places. This was a dense burning plastic fire clay with a vitrification range around 1800 to 2300 degrees Fahrenheit. The fired product ranged from a faint red to various shades of brown from light tan to dark brown.

The plant was originally built to manufacture salt-glazed, vitrified sewer pipe, and this was the product, in various sizes and shapes, until just after World War One. In this time period telephone and telegraph wires in  the nation's large cities were all on poles, and the proliferation of communication lines suspended from poles was becoming a real problem. The  alternative was to put the lines underground. Some sore of conduit was necessary; it had to be practically indestructible and completely non reactive. Fired clay pipe was the ideal answer, and sewer pipe manufacturing was easily adapted to the manufacture of tile conduit. It was in fact a simpler process as there were no complicated fittings, elbows, reducers, collars, wyes, etc.

About 1919 the plant switched to this product. Western Electric Company,  the manufacturing subsidiary of AT&T became the primary customer. Conduit in various sizes from singles through 9-hole were manufactured until the plant ceased operation in 1929

When Kaul Clay took over in 1948 it required some rather extensive repair and overhaul after which the manufacture of hot-tops was started.  These were essentially steel crucibles, i.e., a container for molten steel, which when it was cooled, became an ingot. This was a one use item; when the ingot was cool enough to be self standing the hot-top was simply broken up and discarded.

In 1948 when this refurbished plant started to manufacture hot-tops, the railroads into Clermont had since been abandoned and the tracks taken up. So transport of the product to various steel mills in Buffalo, NY; Sparrows Point, Md; and others, was by highway trucking.  The raw material consisted of a bed of clay from 5 to 7 feet thick,  essentially horizontal, 60 to 70 feet below ground. A thin seam of coal also occurred with the clay (every 7th car from the Big Soldier's Mine carried coal), and was mined to augment the import of coal for the plant boilers. Before 1948 the coal was mined by underground room and pillar mining, but Kaul Clay initiated strip mining in the surrounding area.  Some of the miners (about a dozen at a time worked 7 to 4) included Aaron  Miller, Fred Hagman, Dick Johnson, Fred Henry, Joe and Dominic Cecchi, Fred Rice, Fred Murray, Willard Rounsville, Art and Curt Marshall and Bill Henry.  (On Saturday, March 31 1923 Willard Rounsville lost part of his arm when a blasting cap detonated). Harry Flickinger was the mine superintendent.