The Iron Creek Brick Foundry is said to have created the bricks for some of Meeteetse’s classic buildings, but aside from a lone picture, there is little information regarding its …
The Iron Creek Brick Foundry is said to have created the bricks for some of Meeteetse’s classic buildings, but aside from a lone picture, there is little information regarding its history.
“We have the one photograph [of the brick foundry] in our collection,” Meeteetse Museums Director of Education and Programs Amy Phillips said. “I started searching through old newspapers and realized there wasn’t a whole lot about it — and by ‘not a whole lot,’ I mean nothing.”
The Meeteetse Museums is currently searching for any information about the foundry and asking the public for help. The business is thought to have been active in 1900 and 1901, located somewhere on Iron Creek southwest of town. Phillips believes the man who made the bricks is Jack Delino. Delino lived in Otto and was trained in brick making; he was hired by Buffalo Bill Cody in 1903 to make the bricks for the Irma Hotel.
The Iron Creek Brick Foundry provided materials for the town’s First National Bank, which is now part of the Meeteetse Museums, and the Weller Hotel, which has since been torn down.
“It’s entirely possible, especially in that time period, that he [Delino] would’ve been moving from town to town with his brick-making machine and then would just make bricks and move on,” Phillips said. “We’re missing the newspapers that would’ve had any mention of that, so that’s kind of the hardest part.”
She said it’s a common problem when conducting historical research on the area. Any potential leads that community members may have regarding the brick foundry can be helpful — specifically old images, bricks with stamps on them, documents or any other items that could be linked. Volunteers are always welcome as well.
The Meeteetse Museums is also currently working on projects related to bison and historic ranches. For the bison project, the museum asked people throughout the Big Horn Basin to bring in bison crania for the museum to measure and compare. The museum radiocarbon dated 23 skulls and is working on DNA studies that will allow it to look at the species’ genetic diversity before the population was depleted in the 19th century. The historic ranches project, meanwhile, is happening this summer. The Meeteetse Museums will be researching local ranches — some of which have been around for 100 years — with hopes of wrapping up work by the fall and creating a documentary for its YouTube channel.
“By preserving its history and sharing it we’re not just appealing to our local audience,” Phillips said. “We’re able to give other people who are just passing through on their way to Yellowstone or Montana a little bit of insight into what their ancestors’ lives were like … People love that connectivity and it’s kind of grounding. That’s really important in a time where it seems more and more that people have trouble speaking the same language in terms of cultural ethics.”
The interest in the Iron Creek Brick Foundry is not only to solve and preserve local history, but also for the third season of the museums’ podcast, “Meeteetse Stories.” Each season centers on a different aspect of Meeteetse’s history. Season one focused on local veterans from the Civil War through WWII, season two focused on the bison project and season three — which is set to be released in May — will cover the trades that helped Meeteetse as a frontier become established and successful.
“Meeteetse is one of the places where it has such a unique history where we’re in the Absarokas and near Yellowstone National Park, and this is where conservation really took off in the United States,” Phillips said. “We are still historic … we have so many local businesses that have been the pride of the community forever and families that have made a point to continue living here. That’s changing all across the United States and it’s not the norm that it used to be.”
If anyone has information regarding the Iron Creek Brick Foundry — or any information regarding the history of the area — call the Meeteetse Museums at 307-868-2423 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.