Salt Works


Rebel Salt Works - Early Civil War
Morehead City, North Carolina

North Carolina Collection
Univ. of NC Library at Chapel Hill

In April 1775, the British Parliament cut off all supplies coming to America. This included the salt that was so vital for the preservation of foods etc. On Apr. 23, 1776, the Provincial Congress at Halifax, N.C. chose Robert Williams, William Thompson of Carteret Co. and Waightstall Avery and Richard Blackledge of New Bern as Commissioners to produce salt. Up until this time salt had been shipped in. Robert Williams had sailed from London in 1763 and became a merchant in New Bern, N.C. In 1765 he came to Beaufort and built a Salt Works on 10 acres on the east end of Front St. This is now the Davis property and it is still listed as the "Salt Works Property" on the Tax lists. Williams had traveled to many countries, having come from a wealthy family. He had studied the salt evaporation process in France, Spain and Portugal and possibly China. The early Chinese records show they extracted salt from the sea water by evaporation. They valued salt next to gold. He tells in his letters of watching the process in France, Spain and Portugal and he had become very learned in the process.

In a letter to James Coor he states "I shall not wait for Blackledge and Avery" and proceeded to build the Salt Works as it was already May and the season lasted only to August. In a letter to Cornelius Harnet he mentions how some of the other Commissioners don't seem to be concerned about getting started because of the short season. He goes into detail about how the salt could be put into cone shaped piles until it is taken away and even the weather does not hurt it even when exposed for up to three years. He also says he expects between 10-25 bushel a day from the 18 marsh beds in hot dry weather. He says "if there is no salt it will require but little force to subdue and starve the Province, which next spring must and will fall, of course, and tumble down itself, like an old house in a calm."

Land was purchased from Arthur Mabsob on Gallant's Point. It contained 10 acres and 40 poles or 82 poles front and 20 poles back. At one point his partner mentions he got 1 peck of salt from 32 gallons of water. (Above information from The Heritage of Carteret County North Carolina, Vol. 1-1982, published by The Carteret Historical Research Association, Beaufort, NC)

Entrepreneurs Otway Burns and Dr. James Manney Sr. also were heavily involved in saltworks. Zachariah Harker developed a salt works on his third of Harkers Island in 1776.

The above MARKER is located in Beaufort on Turner Street
between Broad and Ann.