Salt.The salt industry was 100 years old in America when the salt beds of Kansas were discovered. About the middle of the 17th century when New York state was mostly Indian reservations, the Jesuit missionaries heard of certain springs which were regarded with superstition and said to contain demons. Investigation of these springs resulted in the manufacture of salt from them by the Indians and traders. In 1788 a systematic manufacture of salt was pursued near Syracuse, and the next year 200 barrels were produced from this region. Later a salt premium was offered by the state for any salt produced on the New York reservation. In 1878 rock salt was discovered beneath the surface, and the manufacture of salt from brines became a great industry in central New York. Salt is now produced in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Louisiana, Nevada, Utah, California and Kansas.
In Kansas there are large areas which contain salt on the surface, or within drilling distance of the surface, but the most valuable and important district is in the central part of the state, extending from the northern to the southern boundary. The salt is found first as brines in salt marshes, where it is left on the surface by evaporation in the dry season, producing the so-called salt plains. Second the rock salt, which is found at varying distances beneath the surface. Third the greater part of the Permian and coal measure shales, in the eastern part of the state contain so much salt and other minerals that water obtained from deep wells is quite strongly saturated.
The University geological survey of Kansas says the salt marshes are found in a zone trending a little east of north and west of south from Republic county to Barber county, and to the Cimarron river in Oklahoma. One of the earliest marshes known, and one of the first described, is the Tuthill marsh in the southern part of Republic county. This marsh, which covers about 1,000 acres, is thus described: "When the sun is bright and shines upon the encrusted soil, in the distance the appearance is like that of a chain of lakes, and indeed a much closer inspection is necessary to destroy the illusion. A stream of fresh water flows in from the east, but disappears, nor does it dissolve very much saline matter in its course. The saline incrustation is usually thick after a period of drought but ordinarily it is thin and in some places plumose, as if brought to the surface by the moisture of the soil. Mr. Tuthill was the pioneer salt manufacturer. His process was to collect salt scales from over the marsh and dissolve them in water, after the earthy impurities settled, to siphon off the clear brine, evaporate it to dryness to recover the salt. When the weather was unfavorable to the formation of salt scales he pumped brine from small wells. The brine was evaporated in large kettles in accordance with the process of the times. Mr. Tuthill marketed his salt at Manhattan in the early '60s and is said to have received 10 cents a pound for it. Mr. Tuthill's marsh and other similar marshes of the state were of great value to hunters in early times. They would come here to 'jerk' their buffalo meat. In case they were in too great a hurry to wait to evaporate the brine and get the crystalized salt they would dip the meat and hides into the strongest pool of brine and then dry them in the sunshine or by the fire. When a considerable quantity of meat was to be 'jerked' they would cut it into long strips, boil the brine in kettles hung over a fire of buffalo chips, dip the meat into the strong hot brine and lay it out to dry in the sunshine or on a lattice work made of green poles supported on four posts, with a fire under it. In this way 200 or 300 pounds could be cured in 5 or 6 hours."
Previous to the admission of Kansas into the Union the salt marshes were thought to be of great value and by act of Congress 12 salt springs with 6 sections of land adjoining a contiguous as may be to each were granted to the state. (Admission act, Sec. 3.) These reserves became part of the endowment of the state normal school. In 1863 the legislature passed an act to encourage the manufacture of salt, by paying a premium of 10 cents per bushel "for the first 10,000 bushels of merchantable salt," actually manufactured and to be sold; Provided, "that such premium shall not be paid upon less than 500 bushels at a time." There was during this early period great faith in the prospect of producing salt from springs, marshes and wells. A salt spring near Solomon City, Dickinson county, attracted the attention of prospectors and in 1867 C. W. Davis, of New Bedford, Mass., drilled a well there which produced excellent brine. Other wells were drilled with good results, and the National Salt company was organized. It obtained salt by solar evaporation.
In a report on salt Mr. Hay says that in the years preceding 1888 the National Solar Salt company was the sole reason that Kansas was placed on the list of salt producing states. The most important salt marshes as enumerated by Mr. Hay in 1893 were: 1Geuda springs on the line of Cowley and Sumner counties; 2Some miles northwest from No. 1 in Sumner county; 3The great marsh in the northeast part of Stafford county; 4The little marsh south by east from No. 3, Stafford county; 5On Rattlesnake creek, Lincoln county; 7 and 8Great and Little marshes on Salt creek in Mitchell county; 9On Plum creek, 4 miles northeast of Beloit; 10On Big Marsh creek, in Cloud, Republic and Jewell counties; 11In Little Marsh creek, in northwest Cloud county; 12Tuthill's marsh, in southeast Republic county.
In 1884 natural gas was discovered in Ohio, and by 1886 the great gas excitement pervaded Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Indiana. Memories of gas wells near Paola and Iola influenced many Kansans to drill for gas. Drillings in the central part of the state, at Lyons, Kanopolis, Hutchinson and Kingman, failed to find gas but revealed deposits of rock salt, starting the salt industry in that region. Analysis of salt from these localities showed it to be of very pure quality. The elements consisted of sodium chloride, 99.70 per cent. to 99.78 per cent.; insoluble residue, .02 per cent.; magnesium chloride, .03 to .05 per cent.; cent.; calcium sulphate, .08 to .17 per cent.; sodium sulphate, .00 to .10 per cent.; calcium chloride, .00 to .16 per cent., the salt being more than 99 1/2 per cent. pure. Plants were erected for its manufacture and production. The depth of the shafts for the mining of salt varied from 700 to 1,065 feet, and usually were 7 by 16 feet in size, allowing space for transportation and ventilation. These mines ship large quantities of salt for salting stock, hides, packing, for use in ice cream freezers, domestic use and other purposes. While the lump or crushed rock salt is not freed from impurities, except in a very hasty sort of way like the removal of impure lumps, it is superior to the evaporated salt for many purposes. The greater portion of the salt made in Kansas is by the evaporation of brines. There are several processes of evaporation, known as the pan process, the grainer process, the vacuum process and the solar process. "The common method employed to procure the brine is to bore a well say 5 inches in diameter. Then this is tubed, and inside this tube a smaller onesay 3 inches in diameteris placed. It is only necessary to force the water down in one tube, when it will become saturated and be forced up the other tube. The stream of water introduced is such that the overflowing stream shall be saturated or at least shall stand above 90 by the saltometer."
The brine is stored in convenient tanks until it can be evaporated. In the pan process of evaporation, direct heat is used. The pan consists of a wrought iron vessel about 125 by 25 feet, and about 12 inches deep. A coal fire (usually slack is used for fuel) is built beneath one end of this pan, and the products of combustion pass under the whole length of the pan. The brine is allowed to trickle into the pan in a slow but constant stream. The first division of the pan (and in some cases several divisions) is so arranged that the brine can be retained there till it has been evaporated sufficiently for it to deposit some of its impurities, especially the calcium sulphate. When this has been accomplished, the brine, which is now saturated with salt, is allowed to flow into the last division of the pan, where the heat is not so intense. Here the salt crystallizes and falls to the bottom of the pan, where it is removed every two hours with long handled rakes, drained for some time and then dried and put in sacks for shipment.
The grainer process is an American system, and was devised for the purpose of producing salt cheaply from comparatively weak brines. "The brine is first run from the storage reservoir into a large wooden tank, which is heated by waste steam. This is, in fact, a purifying tank, and the calcium sulphate is allowed to deposit here. Afterward, the brine is run into a long, rectangular wooden pan, which is heated by steam pipes, running backward and forward across the bottom of the pan. In this process the raking is only performed occasionally. As after a while, gypsum incrusts the pipes, the brine is drawn off, and the incrustation may be readily removed." The salt after being raked or removed from the pan, is drained and dried as in other processes.
The solar process was used in the plant at Solomon City, the heat of the sun being used for evaporation. In this process the brine was obtained from a well about 100 feet deep. The brine pumped from the well is run into a series of tanks. "In the first series, the concentration is allowed to proceed till the impurities, especially calcium sulphate, deposit, and then, after the salt begins to crystallize, the brine is allowed to run into other tanks, when the process is completed. As the crystalization proceeds very slowly, the crystals are large, often quite perfect, and of characteristic hopper shape. Wooden covers are arranged to slide over the vats to protect the salt from frequent showers, and from dust. If the covers are used at night, considerable of the heat absorbed by the brine during the day is retained. The purity of the product depends on the care used in allowing the brine to settle and in carrying the first concentration far enough to precipitate a large portion of calcium sulphate."
The works at Solomon City sometimes added crushed rock salt. This mixture did not yield a product as good as that made from native brine. The solar evaporation is used very largely in some states, especially California, where the largest part of the output is obtained in that manner.
In the vacuum process the apparatus consists of a kettle which is connected with a vacuum pump so that the brine may be boiled at a lower temperature. The salt that is formed is automatically carried away and fresh brine is at the same time supplied to the pan as rapidly as evaporated. This method of salt manufacturing is used in the most modern and complete plants. As the machinery for this process is costly only the largest producers use it. The largest plant in the state, and one of the largest in the United StatesThe Hutchinson, Kansas Salt companyhas installed multiple vacuum pan machinery.
The large salt beds are found near Ellsworth, Lyons, Great Bend, Kanopolis, Sterling, Kingman, Anthony and Wellington. The deposit in all of these places was found to be from 50 to over 400 feet thick. The statistics of Kansas, which in 1909 ranked fourth among the salt producing states, are as follows: In 1899, 2,172,000 barrels were produced; in 1903, 1,455,582 barrels, the average price of which was 50 cents, the total value $800,730.74; in 1909 the production reached 2,360,000 barrels of 280 pounds each.Pages 639-643 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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