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Home North Carolina Carteret County City of Beaufort Historical Markers Salt Works

Salt Works

Turner Street, Beaufort, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 34° 43' 15.0744", -76° 39' 46.5048"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Established by order of the Provincial Congress, April 24, 1776, for Revolutionary War use. They were located 1 1/2 miles east."
     In April 1775, the government of Great Britain severed all trade with the newly forming American government. One of the greatest concerns, especially in North Carolina, was the consequent shortage of salt, a vital commodity for the colony. In 1775 and 1776, the Provincial Congress of North Carolina worked quickly to create salt works. The first of the works was established near Beaufort.

     Salt was essential in the daily lives of Americans. It was needed as a preservative for food, with salted and dried meats being a staple for most during the winter months. In addition, Americans used salt in caring for livestock, curing animal hides, and providing for basic nutritional needs. Because of its importance, the government acted quickly.

     The Provincial Congress in 1775 passed three laws related to salt and to maintain its trade. First, the body established ceiling prices on salt, to ensure that salt remained available despite shortages. Then they began rationing the already existing salt supply. Finally, the government offered a bounty prize of 750 pounds to the first person to create a salt works and manufacture salt in North Carolina.

     In April 1776, the Provincial Congress expanded its actions, appointing four men to act as commissioners for salt industry development. Two of the men, Robert Williams and Richard Blackledge, began to develop salt works plants soon after their appointment, drawing upon the state funds.

     Williams, who came to Carteret County from England in 1763, began production of his salt works at Gallant’s Point near Beaufort in April 1776. Williams had already developed a small salt works near present-day Front Street in Beaufort, and hoped to expand upon his earlier methods. Rainstorms and lack of funding hampered Williams’s work. In December 1776, a committee appointed by the Congress judged Williams’s salt works unsatisfactory, and state funding was withdrawn.

     Blackledge also established his salt works near Beaufort, locating his at the mouth of Core Creek, on the north side of the Newport River. Blackledge utilized a salt production method based on solar heat, boiling salt water in large metal canisters until the water evaporated and only salt remained. Blackledge was provided with 500 pounds to launch his salt works, and in August 1776 the Provincial Congress judged his salt production to be satisfactory, and offered further financial support. Blackledge drowned in September 1777, but the works continued to operate through the Revolutionary War. William Borden purchased the operation in 1785.

     Salt had an equally important role during the Civil War. To relieve scarcity, the state operated salt works at Morehead City in 1862 and on Myrtle Grove Sound southeast of Wilmington from 1861 to 1864.

Jean B Kell, North Carolina’s Coastal Carteret County during the American Revolution (1975)
R. L. Hilldrup, “The Salt Supply of North Carolina during the Revolutionary War,” North Carolina Historical Review (October 1945): 393-417
W. L. Saunders, ed., Colonial Records of North Carolina, X
Walter Clark, ed., State Records of North Carolina, XXII
Ella Lonn, Salt as a Factor in the Confederacy (1933)
Isabel M. Williams and Leora H. McEachern, “Salt Production in the Lower Cape Fear,”
Lower Cape Fear Historical Society Bulletin, XIV, 1 (October 1970)
Related Themes: C.S.A., Confederate States of America, Confederacy
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North Carolina Civil War Historical Markers.

Salt Works Historical Marker Location Map, Beaufort, North Carolina