History Runs Deep in the Brickyard Pond and Clay Pit Trails of Fishers Island
The history of Fishers Island can be experienced one step at a time when walking the Brickyard Pond Trail in the L.F. Boker Doyle Sanctuary and the Clay Pit Trail, both part of The Henry L. Ferguson Museum Land Trust trail system.
The Brickyard Pond Trail is located on a 15.5-acre tract on the East End of the island. Here, visitors can spot such wildlife as Great Horned Owls, Great Crested Flycatchers and Red-Bellied Woodpeckers and admire mature trees ranging from hickory, American beech and red maple to red, black and white oaks. The area is also the former home of what was once one of the largest brickyards in the entire northeastern United States.
Due to extensive clay deposits, brick manufacturing was a bustling enterprise on Fishers Island, dating back to the late 1700s with some activity as early as the 1650s. Brickmaking on the island reached its peak during the late 19th century with the establishment of the Fishers Island Brick Manufacturing Co., which was founded by D.C. Sage and later bought out by New London interests.
At its peak, the brickyard had an annual manufacturing capacity of 18 million bricks a year utilizing clay mined from open pits adjacent to today’s Isabella Beach parking lot. Each year, as many as 140 seasonal workers were employed by the brickyard and housed on the property. The Fishers Island Brick Manufacturing Co. suspended operations in 1909 when water table infiltration made mining uneconomical.
The straight-away sections of the Museum’s Clay Pit Trail and Brickyard Pond Trail mirror the route of the rail line that once transported the clay to the brickyard and the bricks to docks, where they were loaded onto ships.
You can learn more about the history of brick making on Fishers Island by watching an informative 43-minute recorded talk by Museum Director Pierce Rafferty that features illustrations, maps and historic photographs. The History of Brickmaking on Fishers Island video, which was co-directed by Marisela La Grave, was made possible with a grant from the Jeanann Gray Dunlap Foundation.