A Great Discovery (1880-1900)
In 1877, Martha moved the family back to Morgan County and into her in-laws’ previous home (now labeled as the Bradford Homestead). This house was built by the Campbells in the mid-1850s, and is the last remaining structure of a village called Campbell’s Junction. In 1887, Martha purchased the house and 10 acres of land for $50. The family grew corn and raised hogs and sheep. The original furnishings of the Bradford home were meager: cooking was done on a large wooden stove, while heat for the house came from the stove and a fireplace.
In late 1887 or early 1888, the boys made a discovery that would forever change the family. Family legend says that one day while hunting, their dogs caught the scent of a fox and chased it into a burrow. As the Bradford brothers began to dig for the fox, they found unusual sand. They sent some of the sand to the Malleable Casting Company in Indianapolis for identification and learned it was a valuable form of molding sand, used to make molds for steel production. The company additionally told them that they were willing to pay the Bradfords for each wagon load of sand they could deliver. After only a few wagon loads of sand, the M.E. Bradford Sand Mining Company was incorporated.
The Bradfords began to excavate and market the sand. At first, the sand was hauled to Indianapolis in wagons hauled by a team of 28 mules. But because of the tremendous demand for the sand, Perry bought a small train engine and installed a narrow-gauge rail track on the property, later connected to the nearby spur of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Eventually, a sorting plant was built in the Tipple Field area (this area was where the cars were “tipped”) to make it possible to process the sand on a large scale. Records show that the company mined up to 14 different grades of sand on the property.