Salt Flat

SALT INDUSTRY . Salt is the oldest and most continuously produced commercial mineral in Texas. Long before the arrival of white men, Indians obtained salt from numerous salt lakes, salines, and salt springs and from the alkali lakes of the High Plains . As early as 1750 the Spaniards produced salt from the Salt Flat lakes in the area of Hudspeth and Culberson counties, and from about 1768 Spanish colonists in Mexico and Texas obtained salt from La Sal del Rey in present Hidalgo County and from La Sal Vieja fifteen miles east in present Willacy County; salt from these two lakes was hauled over the old "salt road" to Reynosa. Early settlers obtained salt from Juan Cardona Lake, now in Crane County; Laguna Salada, now in Brooks County; Butler Saline, now in Freestone County; from wells on Salt Creek, in present Young County; from seepages in the area of present Llano County; and from many salines in East Texas qv . In 1834 the Cherokee Indians made the first salt at the site of Grand Saline in present Van Zandt County, by evaporating water from salt marshes. In 1839 Gen. Nathaniel Smith from Tennessee obtained a saline near Palestine, where he made salt until his death in 1841. His estate filed a claim against the Republic of Texas in 1841 for salt used in the Trinity campaign to the value of $100, and for more than ten years his sons produced salt commercially thereafter. In 1845 John Jordan and A. T. McGee began boiling down brine in large iron kettles brought from Nacogdoches at Jordan's saline in the area of Kaufman County, and in 1849 Samuel Alexander began producing salt from a saline in Fisher County. In 1850 Frederick J. Hamm leased the salt works at Grand Saline from Jordan and McGee, and in 1857 bought the plant. The output of salt during this period was small because of the crude method of manufacture and poor transportation facilities, all salt being hauled by ox-cart or wagon to towns farther east. In 1859 Samuel Q. Richardson from Kentucky bought the Hamm salt works, dug shallow wells, and installed a pump that was operated by oxen and a treadmill; gum logs, hollowed out and joined together, formed a pipe line from the wells to the boiling kettles. During the Civil War the Confederate government operated the Richardson salt works and produced 500 pounds of salt daily. At the same time James L. McMeans, Sr., operated the Palestine salt works and sold salt to the Confederacy at the fixed price of eight dollars a sack, but customers from East Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas sometimes paid as much as $20 per hundred pounds for salt at Palestine during the war. In 1862 La Sal del Rey was taken over by the state, and in 1863 was captured by the Union Army on a special campaign. After the Civil War Richardson increased the output of the Grand Saline Salt Works to 2,500 pounds daily. In 1875 G. M. Overlease of St. Louis leased the Grand Saline plant and replaced the iron kettles with large square shallow pans, using the heat of the sun for evaporation. In a few years the first well was drilled into the large salt dome underneath the Grand Saline area, and water of high brine content was obtained.

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