Heritage, Volume 13, Number 1, Winter 1995 Page: 24
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aE Brick Kiln
O Platting Brick Piles
@ Waster Brick Piles
0 Dump Piles
0 5 10 20
0 20 40 80
bottom of the mound may be of a different
and earlier type, but this cannot be confirmed
as no excavations were made into
Six smaller brick piles, recognized as
discarded waste debris, were found just to
the north of the kiln. Waste debris generally
consists of bricks and brick fragments
that have warped or broken during firing
due to differential overheating or
underheating. These piles probably accumulated
as unusable bricks and were discarded
each time the kiln was cleaned out.
The largest of these "waste piles" is composed
entirely of plain bricks that are presumed
to have been the earliest brick type
manufactured at the site, probably by Pedro
Guajardo and others prior to 1922. The
other five waste piles are composed entirely
of the latter frogged bricks.
24 HERITAGE * WINTER 1995
During his visit to the GuarjardoVela
site, Steinbomer noticed an oddlooking
hackberry tree root north of
the kiln. He brushed away the leaf
litter and exposed a root that had
grown in an unnatural pattern with
two right-angle bends. Closer inspection
revealed that the middle section
of the root had grown between two
large stacks of bricks. Its growth had
been restricted by the brick stacks,
and the root has clear impressions of
flat brick surfaces on opposite sides.
The stacks of bricks are long gone, but
the molded root provided archaeological
evidence confirming the
informant's story that stacks of usable
bricks had indeed been left behind
after the kiln was abandoned. Since
we estimated the hackberry tree to be
At the left is a map of the Guarjardo-Vela archaeological
site showing the locations of the brick kiln and
related features. Below left is the south wall of the kiln,
showing the adobe construction of the lower part of the
wall and the repaired and plastered upper wall. Photograph
by Karl Kibler.
no older than about 15 to 20 years, it is
reasonable to assume that these stacks of
bricks had been removed rather recently,
perhaps within the past five years.
Although the initial expectations for the
archaeology of the Pharr-Reynosa bridge
project were low, we were surprised and
pleased to be able to document a rare and
well-preserved example of a Ranching Period
ladrillera and contribute to the history of
brickmaking in the lower Rio Grande valley.
Once ubiquitous in the valley, small scale
brick plants provide evidence of a widespread
and important cottage industry that no longer
exists in Texas. When sites such as the
Guajardo-Vela ladrillera are found intact,
one realizes the importance of protecting
these fragile remains because so much more
remains to be learned.
Many people contributed to the archaeological
and historical investigation of El
Capote community and the Guajardo-Vela
ladrillera, and their efforts are appreciated.
Andr6s Tijerina and Joe Graham (Texas
A&M Kingsville) and Martha Doty Freeman,
historian, did the archival research and
conducted oral informant interviews. Karl
Kibler and Amy Earls directed various parts
of the fieldwork, and David Cullom, Wayne
Klement, and David Villareal helped document
the Guajardo-Vela site. Ross Fields,
Linda Nance Foster, and Helen Holum, provided
editorial expertise for this article, and
the figures that accompany it were done by
Austin architect Robert Steinbomer and
anthropologists Scott Cook (University of
Connecticut) and Joseph Spielberg (Michigan
State University) deserve special mention.
Without their invaluable assistance and
advice, the author would have remained blissfully
ignorant of the manufacturing processes,
historical depth, and significance of the brick
industry in the lower Rio Grande valley of
Douglas Boyd is vice president of Prewitt and
Associates, an archaeological consulting firm
located in Austin.
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 13, Number 1, Winter 1995, periodical, Winter 1995; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45408/m1/24/: accessed March 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.