Heritage \ Writings \ Industry: Salt

Salt of the Earth (1887)
Describes early salt manufacturing industry.

Contributed by Alan Flood - Jan., 2004.

BAY CITY TRIBUNE, SPECIAL EDITION, NOVEMBER 1887.

SALT OF THE EARTH.

Michigan, the Greatest Producer of the Saline Article in the United States.

And Bay City the Second Largest Producing Point in the State of Michigan.

Ten Thousand Barrels in 1860; Five Million Barrels in 1887--- An Astounding Growth.

The First Well--- First Companies --- Their Output --- Scale of Prices --- Present Situation.
________

To the late Dr. Douglass Houghton, a former state geologist, belongs the credit of establishing the belief in the minds of the people that a great portion of the Saginaw valley rested upon a bed of salt. Although the question of the existance of that basin was not demonstrated until 1860 yet it was agitated when the country was quite new. Salt "licks" existed in various portions of the valley and many saline springs had been found but none were being worked.

Attempts however had been made to improve some of them, but owing either to inefficiency of means, or want of skill in conducting operations, they were abandoned. This was done in 1838 under an appropriation of $3,000 made by the government to commence boring for salt. The spot selected for the experimental well was on the west side of Tittabawassee river and about half a mile below the mouth of Salt river. This attempt at salt getting proved a failure in consequence of the great disadvantages under which the operators labored. The well or shaft had been sunk to only 139 feet, and this after nine months continuous labor of the contractors. Dr. Houghton said that difficulties were experienced in sinking the iron tubes in consequence of the materials passed through, consisting of clay, sand, gravel and boulders. He repeated his confidence in the final result---obtaining beneficial results if a well were sunk to a depth of 600 feet or more.

When the appropriation was exhausted the enterprise was abandoned. During the time the work was in progress Dr. Houghton passed much of his time in Saginaw and in his intercourse with the people fully impressed them with the confidence which he had in the existence of a salt basin in the valley.

Matters remained in statu quo until the session of the legislature in 1859 when a bill was introduced to appropriate $10,000 to aid in developing the salt springs of the Grand river valley. As soon as the pendency of this bill was known to East Saginaw, a public meeting was called and the discrimination in favor of Grand Rapids was bitterly complained of, on the grounds of the belief that the chances of success at Saginaw were at least equal to those of Grand Rapids. This meeting was held in the office of Chas. B. Mott on January 16, 1859. Geo. A. Lathrop was called to the chair and Wm. L. Webber was appointed secretary. Through the efforts of this meeting a new bill was substituted for the Grand Rapids bill by the legislature on February 15, 1859. The act exempted all property used in the salt business by the new projectors and provided for the payment of a bounty of ten cents per bushel on all salt made. A company with a capital stock of $50,000 was formed and the work started. On February 9, 1860, the company reported having penetrated a fine sandstone saturated with brine at a depth of 633 feet. This shaft was afterwards sunk to a depth of 742 feet to red shale. A second well was immediately started, and the capital stock was increased to $250,000. Two blocks were completed and the boiling of salt commenced the latter part of June, 1860, but no salt was packed until July. From that date to July, 1861, the total production of the company was 10,722 barrels, and for the year ending July 1, 1862, the production of that company alone was 32,250 barrels.

The success of this company was the signal for other companies and from that day until the present the boring of salt wells has been steadily prosecuted. Bay City was not slow to engage in the business. As early as March, 1860, two companies were organized. The Portsmouth salt manufacturing company was organized March 13 and the Bay City salt manufacturing company ten days later. The principal stockholders of the first named company were James J. McCormick, Appleton Stevens, A. D. Braddock & Co., B. F. Beckwith, Judge Albert Miller, Wm. Daglish, Martin Watrous, C. E. Jennison, and W. R. McCormick. Their well was sunk to a depth of 600 feet, and the first salt made in Bay county was made by them in the summer of 1861. The well is on the present McGraw site. Various changes in the company occured and in 1868 the well became the property of John McGraw.

The Bay City company stock was mostly owned by D. H. Fitzhugh, H. M. Fitzhugh, James Fraser and Messrs. Munger. Their works were on the present site of the Michigan pipe works and produced their first salt in the fall of 1861. These works were continued for several years and were changed from the kettle to the pan block, and the property finally sold to the pipe company.

Other works followed in rapid succession. Hawkins & Sohne sunk a well to the depth of 900 feet, and started works to the capacity of 100 barrels of salt in twenty-four hours. Hayden & Co. went down 1,000 feet and established the works at Portsmouth that afterwards became the property of Appleton Stevens & Co.

By the close of 1864 there were twenty-six salt manufacturing firms in Bay county. The manufacturers, capital invested and product were as follows:

KAWKAWLIN.Invest.Brls.
O. A. Ballou & Co...........................$40,0003,000
F. A. Kaiser.......................................20,0006,000

BANGOR.
F. Lloyd.............................................20,0001,800
Beckwith, Moore & Smith................16,000700
Leng, Bradfield & Co.......................20,0004,000
Taylor & Moulthrop.........................10,000600
Moore, Smith & Co.........................5,000

SALZBURG.
C. C. Fitzhugh....................................20,00017,000
W. S. Talman.....................................13,0006,000
Fish & Clark....................................20,0002,000
Chicago & Milwaukee Co...............65,00013,500
H. R. Parmelee...................................34,00011,500

BAY CITY.
Cupola Works...................................40,00012,000
Atlantic Salt Co................................40,00011,000
Saginaw Bay Salt Co.......................15,0008,500
Saratoga Salt Co..............................30,0004,306
Fowler & Tucker.............................30,0001,300
Dolsen & Walker.............................15,0006,000
Lower Saginaw Salt Co..................27,0007,595
Bay City Company..........................26,00011,000
Samuel Pitts.....................................25,0005,560
N. B. Bradley....................................15,00011,527

PORTSMOUTH.
A. Stevens & Co............................6,0008,000
Hayden & Co..................................20,0003,500
New York Salt Co.........................25,0008,000
Portsmouth Salt Co.........................25,0003,000
________________
Total................................... $ 622,000167,328

The salt manufacture commenced in 1860 and it was carried on until 1869 before the inspection law was adopted. Previous to the in- spection the annual output was as follows:

1860............................................................................. 10,000
1861............................................................................. 125,000
1862............................................................................. 243,000
1863............................................................................. 466,256
1864............................................................................. 529.073
1865............................................................................. 477,200
1866............................................................................. 407,077
1867............................................................................. 474,721
1868............................................................................. 555,590

The product since 1869 has been as follows:

1869............................................................................. 560,818
1870............................................................................. 621,850
1871............................................................................. 728,175
1872............................................................................. 724,481
1873............................................................................. 823,346
1874............................................................................. 1,028,979
1875............................................................................. 1,081,865
1876............................................................................. 1,462,729
1877............................................................................. 1,960,997
1878............................................................................. 1,855,884
1879............................................................................. 2,650,040
1880............................................................................. 2,676,588
1881............................................................................. 2,750,299
1882............................................................................. 3,037,317
1883............................................................................. 2,894,672
1884............................................................................. 3,161,806
1885............................................................................. 3,297,403
1886............................................................................. 3,677,257

Total.............................................................................34,100,468

Manufactured prior to 1869........................................... 3,282,117

Total.............................................................................37,382,586

The first process of manufacture was by the kettle block, but this system was soon abandoned, to be succeeded by the pan block, which also succumbed to the progress of the business and made way for the present mode of manufacture. Between 1864 and 1868 various changes occurred: Some firms suspended operations, new works were constructed.

THE SALT ROCK.

The chief reservoir of Michigan brine is a series of sandstone and shale, called by geologists the Waverly group. It is a sea-coast rock, in which the prints of sea weeds and the fossil remains of enormous marine growths are found, and is saturated, sponge-like with brine. Presumably, centuries ago, the waves of a pre-Adamite ocean broke upon that shore and impregnated it with its saline riches. The salt-producing territory of Michigan as now developed covers 8,000 square miles.

GRADES OF SALT.

Salt is divided into five grades namely, fine, packers, common, coarse, solar and second quality.

THE SALT DISTRICTS.

The salt-producing territory of the state is divided into nine districts, having a manufacturing capacity as follows.

    District No. 1, Saginaw county, has fifty-two salt companies, with forty-five steam, twelve pan blocks and 4,000 solar salt covers, having a manufacturing capacity of 1,400,000 barrels of salt per year.

    District No. 2, Bay county, has thirty-one salt companies, with thirty-four steam blocks and 500 solar salt covers, with a manufacturing capacity of 1,300,000 barrels.

    District No. 3, Huron county, has sixteen salt companies with four steam and eight pan blocks, with a manufacturing capacity of 350,000 barrels.

    District No. 4, St. Clair county, has twelve salt companies with ten steam and two pan blocks, with a capacity of 600,000 barrels.

    District No. 5, Iosco county, has eight salt companies with eight steam blocks having a capacity of 300,000 barrels.

    District No. 6, Midland county, has four companies with one pan and three steam blocks, having a capacity of 100,000 barrels.

    District No. 7, Manistee county, has ten companies, one pan and nine steam blocks, having a capacity of 900,000 barrels.

    District No. 8, Mason county, has two companies, two steam blocks and a capacity of 200,000 barrels.

    District No. 9, Gratiot county, has one company with one steam block, having a capacity of 15,000 barrels.

RECAPITULATION.

From the above it is found there are 136 firms engaged in the manufacture of salt, operating 116 steam and 24 pan blocks. The total number of blocks is 130 and 4,500 salt covers, with an estimated manufacturing capacity of 5,165,000 barrels of salt per year.

AVERAGE PRICE.
The average net price to manufacturers during a series of years is as follows:

1866.......................$1.89 | 1877....................$ .85
1867....................... 1.77 | 1878.................... .85
1868....................... 1.85 | 1879.................... 1.02
1869....................... 1.58 | 1880.................... .75
1870....................... 1.32 | 1881.................... .83
1871....................... 1.46 | 1882.................... .70
1872....................... 1.46 | 1883.................... .75
1873....................... 1.37 | 1884.................... .75
1874....................... 1.19 | 1885.................... .80
1875....................... 1.10 | 1886.................... .56
1876....................... 1.05 | 1887.................... .70

Subject Notes

Salt Blocks of the Kern Manufacturing Co. in Bay City.

Salt mining was developed shortly after the lumbering industry took hold in Michigan. Most every sawmill along the Saginaw River included salts blocks to pump up brine which was then dried to get salt crystals.
(See Internet Resources below).
Related Pages:
{Lumbering Pictorial}
People Referenced
Beckwith, B.F.
Braddock, A.D.
Daglish, Wm.
Fitzhugh, D.H.
Fitzhugh, H.M.
Fraser, James
Jennison, C.E.
Houghton, Dounglas (Dr.)
Lathrop, Geo. A.
McCormick, James J.
McCormick, W.R.
McGraw, John
Miller, Albert
Mott, Chas. B.
Munger, (bros.)
Stevens, Appleton
Watrous, Martin
Webber, Wm. L.
(also see Companies)
Subjects Referenced
Bangor twsp.
Bay City
Bay City Salt Mfg. Co.
Bay County
Brine
East Saginaw
Gratiot County
Grand Rapids
Grand River Valley
Huron County
Iosco County
Iron tubes
Kawkawlin twsp.
Kettle block process
Manistee County
Mason County
McGraw site
Michigan
Midland County
Pan block process
Portsmouth twsp.
Pre-Adamite ocean
Red shale
Saginaw
Saginaw County
Saginaw Valley
St. Clair County
Saline
Saline springs
Salt bed
Salt boring
Salt business
Salt licks
Salt River
Salt shaft
Salt well
Sea coast rock
Tittabawassee River
Waverly group

Companies:
Appleton Stevens & Co.
Atlantic Salt Co.
Bay City Co.
Beckwith, Moore & Smith Co.
C.C. Fitzhugh Co.
Chicago & Milwaukee Co.
Cupola Works
Dolsen & Walker Co.
F.A. Kaiser Co.
F. Lloyd Co.
Fish & Clark Co.
Fowler & Tucker Co.
Hawkinis & Sohne Co.
Hayden & Co.
H.R. Parmelee Co.
Leng, Bradfield & Co.
Michigan Pipe Works
Moore, Smith & Co.
N.B. Bradley Co.
New York Salt Co.
O.A. Ballou & Co.
Portsmouth Salt Mfg. Co.
Saginaw Bay Salt Co.
Samuel Pitts Co.
Saratoga Salt Co.
Taylor & Moulthrop Co.
W.S. Talman Co.
Related References
[The Merchants Magazine]
Published Sep. 1862: Provides an in depth review of the Saginaw Valley commercial salt industry.
[The Saline Institute]
Review of salt deposits in Michigan and its early history.
[Detroit Salt Company]
Over 100 years of mining salt deposits below the city of Detroit.
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.