John Paul and the Birthplace of the Red Wing Clay Industry/The Claybank Pits – rural Red Wing – MN
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member wildernessmama
N 44° 26.470 W 092° 36.243
15T E 531508 N 4920950
Quick Description: Two bronze historical markers share this wayside pullover that tell about the Claybank Pits and the birthplace of the Red Wing Clay Industry.
Location: Minnesota, United States
Date Posted: 7/1/2013 6:20:36 AM
Waymark Code: WMHEJ0
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member KC0GRN
Views: 4

Long Description:
Two bronze historical markers share this wayside pullover that tell about the Claybank Pits and the birthplace of the Red Wing Clay Industry. Their texts read as follows:

John Paul and the Birthplace of the Red Wing Clay Industry.

The Red Wing stoneware industry began here in a former schoolhouse converted into a one-man pottery. The potter was John Paul, a German immigrant who bought the property in the early 1860’s, installed a wheel and kiln and soon began turning out jugs, crocks, bowls, and jars.

The Paul Pottery was located about 250 yards east of the entrance to this lot. It was on the north side of the road and is now marked by a large pit overgrown with brush. The pottery was at the center of what became a 320 acre clay pit area.

The Claybank area in Goodhue Township was rich with fine clay. Coal was unavailable then and Paul was forced to use wood to heat his kiln. Maintaining the heat over 36 hours needed to fire the pottery was a constant problem. After ten years John Paul gave up his pottery and moved to Shakopee where he continued as a potter but later became a brick mason.

But others were eager to enter the business. In 1877 local businessmen founded the Red Wing Stoneware Company and built a large brick building to house the operation. By the early years of this century the company merged with other local manufacturers to form the Red Wing Union Stoneware Company, later known as the Red Wing Potteries. After years of success Red Wing Potteries went out of business in the late 1960’s, closing the story of pottery making in Red Wing that John Paul had begun more than 100 years earlier.

Erected by the Red Wing Collectors Society, Inc. and the Cannon Valley Red Wing Collectors Club, 1996. (seal of MN DOT)

The Claybank Pits

The growth of vegetation, home constructions and landscaping make it difficult for the visitor today to envision that the surrounding area was once used for the mining of clay. The pottery industry, that had its founding with John Paul, was made possible when the surrounding area was purchased for the purpose of supplying the necessary clay.

The clay was found at a depth of four feet and continued down up to twenty-five feet or more. There were three grades of clay: Number 1 which was gray in color, had no impurities and was limited in quantity; Number 2, also gray in color, was the most commonly found; and Number 3, a brown colored clay, with small amounts of sand, shale, and gray clay which was used for the production of sewer pipe.

Mining involved clearing the topsoil, digging out the clay and loading it by hand; this was eventually replaced by the use of steam-powered drag lines. The clay was at first hauled by horse and wagon to Red Wing, then a rail spur was laid to the pits. Built by the Duluth, Red Wing and Southern Railroad company, the line was operated from 1882 until it was abandoned in 1936. Thousands of car loads of clay were transported to Red Wing for production of stoneware and sewer pipe.

Over the following years the pits closed and reopened. Pits were opened in other near-by areas, diesel replaced the steam-powered equipment and trucks replaced the trains. By the 1970’s mining and pottery operations had ceased. What had been an industry that had employed many men and women over the years, had provided many newly arrived emigrants, mostly Scandinavian, their first jobs during the early industrial development of the country, and had brought recognition and fortune to the area, is now just a memory.

Erected by the Red Wing Collectors Society, Inc. and the Cannon Valley Red Wing Collectors Club, 1996. (seal of MN DOT)
Marker Type:: Roadside

Visit Instructions:
A photo of the 'Marker' or 'Plaque' is required to identify the location, plus a picture of the 'Historic Site'.
Search for...
Geocaching.com Google Map
Google Maps
MapQuest
Bing Maps
Nearest Waymarks
Nearest Minnesota Historical Markers
Nearest Geocaches
Nearest Benchmarks
Create a scavenger hunt using this waymark as the center point
Recent Visits/Logs:
Date Logged Log User Rating  
jbuyense visited John Paul and the Birthplace of the Red Wing Clay Industry/The Claybank Pits – rural Red Wing – MN 8/24/2013 jbuyense visited it