|| Nelson Mackey (1825-1898), founder of Texas-based Mackey Brick Company, was born Nelson Mackey Laraway in Catskill, New York. He grew up in the Hudson Valley where the name Mackey was synonymous with brick manufacturing. After business ventures in Iowa and Illinois, Mackey came to the San Antonio area in the late 1870s. By the 1880s, he began to invest in a brick manufacturing company that would eventually become one of the most successful in the state. In 1887, he and several partners acquired land around Calaveras. Of this tract, 150 acres were set aside for the mining of clay for brick making, and the remaining acreage supplied the necessary 30,000 cords of wood needed to fire kilns. Mackey’s employees had the choice to live on-site in company housing. Workers were paid in tokens that were redeemable at the company store. The San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad created a spur named the Mackey spur to pick up bricks on-site.
With transportation readily available, Mackey bricks were soon shipped across southern Texas. The buff-colored bricks were used to build various downtown San Antonio businesses, as well as landmarks such as the foundation of the Federal Building, an addition to the Menger Hotel and the Vance Building. Bricks were also used in construction outside of San Antonio. In 1891, the Southwest Texas State Lunatic Asylum was constructed using seven million Mackey bricks. Mackey often pointed out that if lined end-to-end, they would have reached from San Antonio to Chicago. In 1889, the company added “tile” to their name and produced red clay pipe from a quarry south of San Antonio. Unfortunately, because of fierce competition with south Texas and Mexican brick companies, the business declined by the late 1890s. Mackey passed away in 1898 and is buried in Perry, Iowa.