History and Cultural Signs
Civil War Salt Works
Civil War Salt Works at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Florida. Published by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS).
|Florida Pocket Maps|
2 1 East River: site of CCC and Salt Works Plum Orchard: site of Port Leon Wakulla Beach: site of Wakulla Beach Hotel and West Goose Creek Seineyard Seineyards 84°8.710' W 84°8.892' W 84°15.703' W 30° 7.797' N 30° 9.099' N 30° 6.316' N GPS Coordinates: 84°8.710' W ~ 30° 7.797' N 6 5 4 Mandalay: site of Aucilla River St. Marks Lighthouse: site of Lighthouse, Ft. Williams, and Spanish Hole/Shipwreck Mounds Station: site of Shell and Naval Naval Stores Stores Paleo Mounds Indians and 83° 58.769' W 83° 10.955' 84° 58.769' W 84° 9.869' W 30° 6.985' N 30° 4.658' N 30° 5.282' N St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge History Trail 3 GPS Coordinates: 84° 10.955' W ~ 30° 4.658' N After the Civil War was over, the salt works were abandoned. Scattered remnants of rusted boilers can still be found on the refuge. (Courtesy Bruce Ballister) In the days before refrigeration, salt was used to preserve meats and tan leather. When the Union blockade along the southeastern coast cut off salt ship ments, the Confederacy turned to the ocean, and no area was more productive than the shallow bays and marshes of Florida’s Gulf Coast between the Suwannee River and St. Andrews Bay. Ranging from small familyrun salt works using a few iron kettles that could hold 60 100 gallons of water set in a Fort Williams, a huge drawing from Frank Leslie’s brick furnaceinto complexes using Illustrated Newpaper, February 22, 1862 (delarge boilers of up to 1,000 kettles, 489 tail). (Courtesy State Archives of Florida) salt works operated between the St. Marks and Suwannee Rivers. Salt water was boiled to a mushy consistency and then spread on oak planks to dry in the sun. In damp weather the salt was kept under cover and small fires helped the drying process. Early in the war, the salt industry drew little attention from the Union. From late 1862 until the end of the war, the U.S. Navy shelled the salt works repeatedly. Workers fled as raiders came ashore to destroy equipment. In February 1864, two separate attacks destroyed the salt works at St. Marks and Goose Creek. The latter produced 900 bushels of salt each day. Buildings and equipment destroyed by an 1863 raid on a large St. Andrews Bay plant were valued at 6 million dollars at that time. Men who could produce 20 bushels of salt a day were excused from serving, but the labor could be just as dangerous as the front line once the Union began targeting larger operations. Heavy storms also took a toll on the workers and the equipment. As the salt was shipped Most salt-making operations were small but larger works could produce hundreds of bushels daily. (Courtesy State Archives of Florida) farther from the coast and passed through the hands of dealers, the price increased. In the spring of 1862, salt sold for $3 a bushel. By autumn, the price was $16 to $20 a bushel. Salt production attracted profiteers, and speculators purchased salt marshes to hold for future production. Seine fisheries were associated with the salt works at Shell Island and Mashes Island, but the Confederacy did not make good use of this food resource. Salt was still a necessary commodity after the war. When regular trade resumed, the number of people engaged in its production declined in the Gulf coast area. Bricks, wood, kettles, and boilers that could be put to other uses were scavenged from the sites. Broken parts or materials that were too large to easily move were left behind and continue to deteriorate. The St. Marks Refuge Association, Inc., with a matching grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, produced the signs and brochures for the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge History Trail. The association is a 501(c)(3) organization that supports educational, environmental, and biological programs of St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. Visit www.stmarksrefuge.org for more information. 9/2010