On April 24, 1776, North Carolina’s Provincial Congress ordered that a salt works be established in the colony for Revolutionary War use.
Before the war, North Carolina and other southern colonies had relied largely on salt imported from Great Britain to preserve their meats, flavor their foods and feed their livestock. It was a vital commodity. At the war’s outbreak in 1775, Great Britain had severed all trade with the fledgling American government, causing fear of a salt shortage. To ensure availability, the Provincial Congress initially set price caps on salt, rationed the existing supply and offered bounties to encourage its manufacture.
Not until April 1776, when the colonial government authorized four men to spend up to 2,000 pounds of public funds to establish a salt works, did work begin. Robert Williams and Richard Blackledge, both began salt works near Beaufort that spring. Williams’ operation at Gallant’s Point, which used solar evaporation, soon failed. But Blackledge’s plant on Core Creek succeeded, using a furnace to boil saltwater in iron pans until the water evaporated and only the salt remained. Although Blackledge died in 1777, his salt works continued to operate throughout the Revolutionary War.
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