Waynesboro Heritage Museum | 420 W. Main St., Waynesboro, Virginia 22980 | Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. | Phone: (540) 943-3943

The Grapevines vs. the Brick Kiln

In reality, it was Hippert vs. Plumb. According to the Chancery Court records of 1884, George Washington Hippert of Waynesboro, sought to prevent John Plumb, also of Waynesboro, from firing up his brick kiln in the coming summer. Mr. Hippert claims that in the summer of 1882, Mr. Plumb, who lived across the road from Mr. Hippert’s house and lot, fired several kilns of brick and the heat from the kiln damaged his garden, specifically his onions, peas and grapevines. It also scorched the leaves on his trees. Mrs. Hippert testified that she could not open her front door or windows for cross ventilation due to the heat. Their daughter, Minnie, said that she once opened the front door and her face was injured from the heat. Therefore, Mr. Hippert is requesting the Honorable William McLaughlin, presiding judge of the Augusta County Circuit Court, to rule in his favor and not allow Mr. Plumb to fire his kiln in the position where he had done so in 1882.


A diagram from the actual court files of Hippert vs. Plumb.

Mr. Plumb acknowledge that he did indeed fire several kilns of brick in the summer of 1882, but said he had not heard any complaint from Mr. or Mrs. Hippert in regard to the heat of his kiln damaging any garden vegetables, fruits or trees. He was unaware that the Hipperts were unable to open the doors and windows nor that Miss Minnie was injured by the heat. He stated that the Hippert property was 80 feet from the kiln, across a 20-foot street. His own house was 35 feet from the kiln and neither it nor any plants and trees on his property had suffered any damage. His attorney provided “expert” witnesses to say that they could get within 20 feet of the kiln before feeling any heat and also that the prevailing winds in that particular part of Waynesboro would have carried the heat away from the Hippert property, not to it.

Mr. Hippert’s attorney countered with “expert” witnesses to state that they knew of other gardens that were damaged at a distance of 100 yards and of corn crops that were injured at a distance of over 100 yards from a kiln.

After hearing the testimony of the various witnesses on both sides, Judge McLaughlin handed down his opinion. He declared, “Hippert is entitled to the enjoyment of his dwelling with free circulation through it, of pure air as nature makes it; instead of having his family driven from the home by the heat and noxious vapors of a brick kiln. What has once occurred will occur again in like circumstances and the defendant has not the right to impose the risk of re-occurrence (sic) upon Hippert.” He concluded that the kiln constituted a nuisance as it is offensive to the senses and reduces the enjoyment of life and property.

It seems that the grapevines won the case. It is unknown as to what happened to Mr. Plumb’s kiln and his business as a brick maker. Is he the same John Plumb who built the beautiful brick house on the corner of Wayne Avenue and 12th Street in 1913? That John Plumb was a farmer and an apple grower who lived to be 82 years old.

The Hipperts purchased their house in June 1881 and sold it in May 1891. The house, on New Hope Road, was built in 1820 and still stands today. G. W. Hippert died in 1900 and his wife, Sarah, died in 1903. Both are buried in the old Presbyterian Cemetery, just up the hill from their former home.


Courtesy of the Waynesboro Historic Commission and the Waynesboro Heritage Foundation


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