The first to realize the value of the clay was Mrs. Elizabeth Sutliff Dufler, a freed black slave who in 1847 bought 10 acres along the river. She sold clay to potteries in Newark and Jersey City.
Little Ferry's first industry came in 1866, when a blasting oil company built its first sizable high pressure explosives factory here. In 1870, it self-destructed so completely that no one today knows where it was.
In 1870, a clay bank was opened by Depeyster and Stagg. Two houses associated with these names stand on Riverside Avenue.
In 1872, Cole and Showers opened the first brickyard. The brick industry expanded rapidly after the Mehrhof brothers took over the yard.
By 1882, Mehrhof's Brickyards were the second largest in the country, producing more than 2,200,000 bricks a year. An 1876 map shows Little Ferry as being called FREIBURG, probably due to the large German population at the time.
By 1904, Little Ferry had eight brickyards in operation. The business declined after World War I. In 1923, there were only four yards. The last yard burned down in 1956. Today the only evidence of the brick industry is the existence of three lakes--WILLOW, INDIAN and the lower end at of end of Mehrhof Road.