Clermont Tile Company
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    The plant was built around the turn of the century and was known as the Clermont Tile Company, the Clermont Sewer Pipe Company, and finally Kaul Clay until the disastrous fire of November 21, 1961 destroyed it.
     It was a  little after 7 p.m. on King's Row in Clermont.  It was growing dark, and the group of children sled-riding near the Shawmut Railroad grade  started for home to prepare for school the next day.  Looking toward the Kaul Clay factory, the kids noticed a glow. Dorothy and Don Himes ran across their yard to tell their parents, while Sally Kinney raced two houses further to do the same. And, Jay Confer hastened home to do the same. All had fathers who worked at the tile factory.
     Meanwhile  Jim Schnepp, who headed the large United Natural Gas facility in Clermont, drove up King's and Queen's Rows, blowing his car horn. The curious ran to their doors. Looking east, all knew the aging wooden boiler house was ablaze. Soon sirens were wailing as members of the Clermont Volunteer Fire Department were summoned to the  fire hall, the former basement of the Grand view before a gas explosion leveled it in 1956.
     The department had been organized for several years, and the 1932 Dodge pumper had been pressed into action for several fires on Kaul Clay's property. However, engine trouble had prevented it from Reaching Tom Walker's house fire on the edge of the Katrine Swamps a couple years earlier.
     History was to repeat itself. And the events of November 21, 1961 were the final coffin nails in the corpse that was Clermont. Once a booming metropolis with thoughts of incorporation, it had earlier boasted  of several coal mines, two railroads, four hotels, pool parlors, taverns and shops of all kinds.
  The coal mines were abandoned as cheaper coal could be mined elsewhere. Still, the former Clermont Sewer Pipe Company, in existence since the turn of the century, employed people from as far as Kane, Smethport and Port Allegany.
While plastic pipes had killed the sale of clay sewer pipes, there was still a market for the refractories the plant fired for the Pittsburgh steel mills. These hot tops were the bread and butter for the 85 Kaul Clay employees.
   As the flames leaped from the tinderbox, there was hope the local volunte4ers could save the four-story structure. With fire hydrants nearby, including by the fire hall less than 100 yards from the blaze, there was cause for optimism. Moreover, a large pond sat below the factory, and there was no truck in the county that could draft faster than Clermont's Dodge.
      However, it never got a chance to show what it could do. Stories are conflicting, and memories muddled. Be it a dead battery, or a flat tire, or engine problems, the blaze went unchecked. A mutual aid call went out, and sirens screamed through the night from Mt Jewett, Smethport, Kane and Hilltop. Over 75 volunteers attacked the inferno.
     It was soon decided the building was a loss, as shingles and burning boards were hurdled hundreds of yards. The heat was so intense Dolores Kinney , who lived several hundred yards away, remembers her porch railings were too hot to touch. Her husband Gerald, and her brother Marvin (Bill), ran to the boiler room, recalling a fellow employee kept a dog in there.
Foreman Iroe Dibler ordered Leonard Henderson  to get the fork lifts out of the structure. He was quickly told he could do that job himself. Across the street Elawese Himes watched in horror. Just yards from her house, the flames were spewing embers. Firemen soon directed their efforts at cooling the homes along Main Street, as well as those Yoder and Cecchi homes just south of the factory.
Soon the building was rubble, and the weight of the hot tops sent the floors crashing. In the kiln yard, the night shift struggles to save what they could. That night the kilns were fired for the last time.
     Volumes of black smoke filled the air, and the glaring red could be seen as far away as Smethport. Reports of an explosion soon brought ambulances from Smethport, Kane and Mt Jewett, but there were no injuries. About 9:20 p.m. the community lost power, but few noticed as all were outside, hypnotized by the destruction.
   The next few days employees cleaned rubble. Inventory was brought from the sister plant in Toronto, Ohio to meet demands. There were hopes of reopening the factory, but sales had dropped $150,000 in the past year.  By Christmas there was one maintenance man, seven yard men, and two men maintaining the kilns. It was a bleak Christmas in Clermont in 1961.
    Over the years the inventory was gradually sold. Eventually the frame company houses were also sold, most to become hunting camps. And, in mid-1988 the Kaul Clay Company filed dissolution papers. Once the lifeblood of a thriving community, it was now a pile of rubble. Today's trees grow where kilns stood, and little remains as a reminder. Damage was estimated at $600,000 but the real cost to Clermont could not be put in dollars and cents.