Claybank Brick Plant Historical Society purchased the 256 acre
historic Clay Pits and wildlife area adjacent to the Claybank
Brick Plant from Saskatchewan Environment Resource Management
in 2001. In honour of the 'Year of the Volunteer' the Society
decided to name the area after one of its dedicated volunteers
and in this way honour all the Site's volunteers past, present
this land has never been broken by farmers, many of the plants
are indigenous to the area. Much of the landscape of the area
has been in place since the last glacial age, the Wisconsin, which
retreated approximately 10,000 years ago from the Plains region.
Despite, the similar landscape, there have been some major changes
to the flora and fauna. For example, much of this land was probably
covered in forests for a few thousand years, but as the climate
became warmer and drier in the past 2,000 years, the forests began
to disappear and the grasslands began to expand northward. Along
with the changing flora, many of the animals where also becoming
extinct. For example, when the first peoples came to north America
approximately 12,000 years ago, much of the land far into the
southern states was still covered over in ice. These people lived
by hunting large woolly mammoths, woolly rhinos, and giant bison.
These animals are now extinct, as is much of the fauna they needed
to live on.
peoples of 2-3,000 years ago, would subsist on both animals and
plants. In this area, there was no agriculture, so people lived
by a method called "hunting and gathering". As you can
probably guess they hunted animals like Bison, deer, antelope
and so forth. Not only did they hunt large animals but they hunted
small animals like rabbits as well. Like people today, Native
peoples had to eat their fruits and vegetables. But instead of
going to the local grocery store, they would walk out onto the
prairie and gather the fruits and vegetables that nature provided.
Some of plants that we will see along the way include: crocus,
sage, roses, cat-tails, willow, puffballs and other mushrooms,
Buffalo-berries (yellow sweet peas), skunk cabbage and probably
a few others. Plants like wild onions, yarrow, saskatoons, wild
strawberries, gooseberries and so forth can be found in the surrounding
area. Many of these plants were used as food, while other plant
provided important medicines. For example, puffballs could be
eaten, or when dried they were used to stop bleeding. The inside
bark of Willow was used to make a tea which would relieve pain.
In fact, willows produce acetacylic acid that is the main ingredient
in Aspirin. Other plants like wild onions and sage were used as
seasonings. Sage was also used for purification before and during
different ceremonies. Berries like saskatoons, gooseberries,
could be eaten off the bush or preserved and used later. Rosehips
contain a high amount of Vitamin C, so they were eaten to prevent
various diseases. Sometimes a 'tea' was made from the stems and
parts of the root. This tonic could be used to treat eye inflammation.
Even the damaged outer skin of some rosehips was used in a paste
to treat burns. As we can see, Native peoples took advantage of
Mother Nature provided. Although it seems that there isn't
enough plants here to sustain anyone, we must remember that Native
peoples of the Plains were nomadic. This means that they moved
around a lot and that they would be gathering the plants from
a number of localities in order to get a good supply of plants
for medicines and so forth.
is geology? Geology is defined as" the science that investigates
the planet on which we live, the rock of which it is made, and
the history that it has had. Geology deals with the landscape
and with mineral resources. It investigates the changes that have
taken place over millions of years and the changes that are going
on today..." (Gordon, 1976 p.1)
is responsible for the landscape we see around us. Geology is
also responsible for where people live, the names of places,
of industry such as "Kalium" and as is the case here,
it is responsible for the development of the Claybank Brick Plant.
If we look around, we see different coloured bands of soil; these
bands are variant types of clays that are found throughout the
before, people inhabited North America; or even before North America
was North America, the land was one giant continent. During the
earliest times of the Paleozoic Era, the area that is now Saskatchewan,
was situated near the equator. At this time, the province was
covered over by shallow tropical seas. These seas would retreat
and erosion would also occur in these regions. It is during this
time that many of Saskatchewan's mineral deposits were laid down.
It was also a time from which we can trace the emergence of many
plants and "hard-shelled animals". Various shale and
limestone deposits throughout the province contain fossils that
are from this era.
next era is the Mesozoic, and it is here that we have the development
of birds and mammals; and of course the dinosaurs. This is also
when the sea "completely withdrew from Saskatchewan";
leaving behind many of the plant and insect species that exist,
in part, today. This era has four periods including the Permian,
Triassic, Jurassic and of most importance to this area, the Cretaceous.
Throughout this era various types of limestone and shales were
forming, including the remains of various plants and animals.
The cretaceous is one of the longer periods in geological history;
it is during this period that we have the development of what
is called the Whitemud Formation. The Whitemud Formation is the
geological name for the whole picture of what/when the Claybank
Hills are and were formed.
Whitemud Formation is noted for the clays which are deposited
in a number of areas of Saskatchewan including Claybank. There
are two types of clay in the formation; one is white and the other
is grey in colour. Each colour of clay possess different properties
and can be used to create different types of products.
at Claybank, the clay is considered 'high-refractory' which means
that it has excellent heat and pressure bearing properties which
makes it suitable for products like face brick, tiles, fire brick,
insulating brick and so forth. When we get down into the plant
you will be able to see some of these products.
much of the clay that was used in the early manufacture of bricks
came from these hills, there are also deposits of clay in the
nearby Dirt Hills. The clay in these hills is often a "bentonitic
clay". This type of clay contains decayed particles of volcanic
ash from Cretaceous age volcanoes. This clay has a greasy/soapy
feel when wet.
the Cretaceous period, and the laying down of these hills, along
came the Cenozoic era. During the tertiary period of this era,
Saskatchewan became wetter, thus swampy. During this time period
we have lush floral growths that would later become the coal beds
of Southern Saskatchewan.
we come to the period in which we live. We are currently living
in the Quaternary period of the Cenozoic era. Granted, a lot has
changed since the beginning of this era approximately 15-16,000
years ago. This period is marked by the glaciation of North America.
As you have guessed, through the previous era, the plates that
once made up the giant continent have broken apart and have moved
into the current geographical positions.
to glaciation. Much of North America was covered by glaciers right
down into the Gulf of Mexico. There were various stages of glaciation
in which the ice sheets retreated and advanced. As mentioned at
the beginning of our tour, the final glacial period of the Wisconsinian
is of greatest relevance when discussing the peopling of North
that we have looked at the geology of the area as well as the
earliest human history of the area, we enter into the recent history
of these hills. As we have already talked about, these hills have
been occupied for a long time by various Native people. It is
likely that Native people utilized the clay resources as well,
since pottery was being on the Plains for a couple thousand of
years. However, we are now concerned with the commercial development
of the clay resources. One question remains. Who "discovered"
the clay that lead to the development of the brick plant?
to local history and ownership, the clay resources were "discovered"
in and around 1886 by Thomas McWilliams. McWilliams, along with
friends and various family members were reported out searching
the area for some lost cattle and picking saskatoon berries. While
venturing into the hills, McWilliams became aware of the outcroppings
of clay. The clay is evident from a distance today due to erosion
and past mining, but it is very likely that the striations of
clay were not evident in those days. At any rate, McWilliams realized
the resource that lay there and he also realized the economic
potential. Well, McWilliams headed into Moose Jaw from his original
homestead that was located by the Moose Jaw Creek.
was headed for the land titles office, and once he got there he
laid claim to the land that contained the clay outcroppings. In
the rules for establishing claim to land, McWilliams moved his
family to this new site, and established a new homestead. True
to the rules and regulations of the time for establishing claim
a 'house' and fences for livestock were built. Apparently, part
of the land was even broken and cultivated to facilitate some
kind of cropping or a garden. We know from present agriculture
that the hill's clay content was not
conducive to farming, which is probably just as well for McWilliams.
Why? Because it appears that McWilliams' goal was to mine clay
from the hills and sell it to the established Wellington White
brick plant in Moose Jaw.
offer Eco-Educational group tours!!
Brick Plant Historical Society
2-5 Claybank, Saskatchewan, Canada SOH OWO
Office (306) 868-4774
Canadian National Historic Site
© Claybank Brick
Historical Society 2008