Monday, May 18, 2015


Amy loaned me her copy of Mark Kurlansky's 2002 book, Salt. It was fascinating to learn how important and valuable salt has been in the history of the world. And that got me to wondering...were there ever attempts to harvest or produce salt in eastern North Carolina? This is what I discovered in David Stick's book, The Outer Banks of North Carolina:
  • In September, 1775, the Provincial Congress offered a bounty of 750 pounds "to any person who shall erect and build proper works for Manufacturing common Salt on the sea shore."
  • Two ventures were begun in the Beaufort, NC, area, one designed to flood coastal areas and produce salt by solar evaporation, the other producing salt by boiling salt water in large vats.
  • Heavy rains thwarted one operation; the drowning of the operator terminated the other venture.
  • The wreck of the Success (sailing from Bermuda to North Carolina) in January, 1788, and loss of her cargo of salt, was of great concern because there had been an acute shortage of salt in North Carolina since the outbreak of the Revolutionary War.
  • In September, 1776, delegates from the North Carolina Council of Safety wrote to the delegates to the Congress in Philadelphia that, "It is impossible for us to describe the distressed Situation of this State for the want of Salt. The Inhabitants in general say only let them have that article and they will fight so long as they have Existence, in support of the just rights of their Country. Without it, themselves, Families and stocks must perish."
  • Benjamin Franklin then made available pamphlets on "making Salt by Sun Evaporation or by Culinary fire."
  • After this information was distributed on the Outer Banks, it was reported that "The Humour of Salt boiling seems to be taking place here....Every Old Wife is now scouring her pint pot for the necessary operation."
Salt was an important product that was used to cure fish and ham. Without it, eighteenth century Outer Banks sustenance and commerce was in serious jeopardy. Luckily, abundant salt water and Ben Franklin's pamphlet saved the day!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article by island resident, Crystal Canterbury, about her very first visit to Portsmouth Village, on the last day of 2014. You can read Part I here:

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