First Place Featuring Writing - North and East Texas Press Association, Spring 2020 - By Autumn Owens
Acme Pressed Brick Company was established in Parker County by George E. Bennett in 1891, and is still going strong in its operation 128 years later.
Following its opening, a company town formed around the plant called Bennett, what is now considered part of Millsap, and included 100 Acme Brick homes for 100 employees and their families.
Play Video“George Bennett, Acme’s founder, left his home in Springfield, Ohio, at the age of 16 and arrived in Galveston, Texas, a few years later in the late 1870s,” Ron Taylor of Ashley & Taylor Advertising and PR, who handles public relations for the plant, said. “He realized that Dallas offered more business prospects and began a successful career with the McCormick Harvester and Reaper Company, which carried him across the state in pursuit of business. He left this successful career because he could see the need for brick to build homes and commercial structures for the booming population. He began to search around the state for the right economic conditions and clay reserves to build a brick company.”
That’s when the Acme Pressed Brick Company was born.
Besides housing for employees, the Bennett company town had its own store, shops and a hotel.
“I know there are people in Millsap who remember the hotel,” Parker County Historical Commission member Bill Warren said. “The company issued its own form of money that could only be used in company stores, although businesses in Millsap and other places would take the script at highly discounted values.”
Acme became one of the largest American-owned brick manufacturers and was the first to offer a 100-year guarantee to its customers, which is still in effect today. In 1916, the company began operating as Acme Brick Company, dropping “Pressed,” and Bennett’s son, Walter R. Bennett, was elected as the newly-named company’s first president.
The plant still remains on the same land today, but was rebuilt in 1996.
“Acme is still mining clay from the same area that produced our raw materials in 1891 and the clays there are of such good quality that Acme expects that it will be producing for many more years,” Taylor said.
Tracy Bruton, who has worked for the company since 1994, became the plant manager of the Millsap location in 2013.
“We have 73 total associates at this plant and about 50 of them work in the actual plant. We have a crew of 12 drivers, so we deliver a lot of our own goods to the DFW area and we also service Houston and out west like Midland and Odessa,” Bruton said. “This plant produces about 73 million bricks a year and it’s all residential brick. We’ve got between nine and 13 standard blends and we try to keep up with the changing colors. This plant specifically was built in 1996 and it’s a little bit more automated than some of our other plants.”
Since 1987 the plant has stamped its logo into bricks, which is a unique practice compared to other companies.
“We’re the only company that has ever done that, the other companies don’t for some reason,” Bruton said. “All of our residential, standard products get a logo and it helps with our 100-year warranty of the brick.”
The plant uses a continuous-cycle kiln that fits up to 48 large cars of brick and fires them at 1,920 to 1,950 degrees. Bruton said the kiln runs 24/7.
“We have 15 operating plants right now. This plant specifically has seen downturns, it’s seen upticks, and it had competition with Thurber Brick, but it survived the test of time,” Bruton said. “Acme Brick has always treated me like family, so I try to extend that out to the guys in the plant, and I truly believe we are a family-oriented company.”
Warren said the Acme Brick plant has two historical markers and a medallion — one medallion and marker at the plant itself.
“The other marker has recently been relocated from the former rest stop that was located on the Parker/Palo Pinto county line, and is now at the intersection of Bennett Road and [Farm-to-Market] 113,” Warren said. “[Precinct 3] Commissioner Larry Walden recently had a substantial pull off installed so people can drive up to the marker. Acme Brick is waiting for the road materials to settle before building a brick column around the marker poll."
*The following articles were award winners through the North and East Texas Press Association*