By 1869 there were three brickyards operating in Kincardine including James Keays, R. Rutherford and M & A McLean.
Brothers Murdock and Angus McLean moved with their parents from Nova Scotia, where they were born, to Kincardine by 1861 and had the brickyard up and running before the end of the decade. In 1871, Murdock and merchant Duncan Cameron applied for, and were issued, a patent for “Composition of matter for the making of fire brick, and in the art of burning the same” (Canadian patent 899). With this patent, McLean and Cameron had patented a particular composition, or recipe, for their own fire brick as well as the manufacturing process. Different from building bricks, fire brick was used to line the inside of kilns, fireplaces, and train steam engines, as the bricks were made to withstand high temperatures.
The 1876 Bruce County Directory notes there were numerous brickyards a from which millions of bricks were manufactured annually, and in addition, that Kincardine possessed the only clay in Canada suitable for the making of bath brick. Bath bricks, used in a variety of ways for cleaning and polishing, contained particles of alumina and silica. This brick, found in the collection is stamped, “Bath Brick D.C. A.Mc.L. Kincardine ONT”, is thought to have been made at the McLean brickyard. It likely predates 1876 as by that time Angus had left the business and the initials do not match other brickmakers at the time from Kincardine. The “D.C” perhaps represents Duncan Cameron – as he had partnered with one brother for the fire brick, perhaps he had partnered with the other for bath brick.
By 1880, Murdock and Angus’ younger brothers, William, and John, had taken over the brickyard in Kincardine, and neither Murdock nor Angus are listed in the directories. On the 1881 Canadian Census, Murdock along with his mother and brothers are found living in Winnipeg. John is listed as a brickmaker; Murdock is listed as a carpenter, suggesting that either his patented composition and process for fire brick was not successful as a business venture, or that perhaps someone purchased the rights from him, and it was manufactured elsewhere. This second brick found in the collection stamped “McLean” was found in Kincardine and dates between 1869 and 1880 when the McLean brothers were running one of the brickyards in Kincardine.