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With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches
of Some of Its Men and Pioneers.
Published 1882 by H.R. Page & Co., Chicago

The first attempt to discover salt in Michigan was in 1838, when the Legislature appropriated $3,000 to enable Dr. Douglass Houghton, state geologist, to experiment, for the purpose of determining whether it could be found in paying quantities.In June of that year work was commenced near the mouth of salt River, a tributary of the Tittabawasse, about ten miles above Midland. In one year over $2,000 were spent getting down to a depth of less than 100 feet. The following year the enterprise was abandoned. The doctor still believed that salt could be found in paying quantities, and several private individuals experimented and failed. In 1859 a company was formed and a well sunk near East Saginaw, and salt was reached. The well was finished in February, 1860, and the first barrel of Michigan salt was shipped in July of that year.

The salt production of the state has increased from 10,722 barrels, in 1860, to 2,677,000 barrels in 1880.

According to Prof. Alexander Winchell's geological map of Michigan, Manistee is near the centre of the Saline group, formerly the Onondaga group. The formation consists of argillaceous magnesium, limestone, and marls, embracing beds and masses of gypsum in some places, and in other regions strata of rock salt. In sinking an artesian well at Caseville, and at Alpena, a heavy body of rock salt was struck, which was pronounced by Prof. Winchell to be undoubtedly the equivalent of the vein worked at Goderich, on the other side of Lake Huron. According to the same distinguished authority, the Manistee salt deposit belongs to the same groups, and the absence of any considerable quantity of gypsum  improves the quality of the salt and removes the difficulty the Goderich people labor under.


In 1872 a company of United States coast surveyors visited Manistee, and in a conversation with Mr. Charles Rietz told him that in their opinion, salt could be had here in paying quantities by going deep enough. He was so impressed with the idea that he determined to make the experiment. Time passed on, however, without anything in particular being done, until the Winter of 1879, when the subject revived and he determined to go at work. Some of the leading citizens of Manistee interested themselves in the enterprise, and in February, 1879, the following subscription paper was circulated and signed:

"We, the undersigned, citizens of Manistee, being desirous of developing the mineral resources of this vicinity, hereby subscribe for that purpose, and agree to pay the amount set opposite our respective names to the Charles Rietz & Bros. Lumber Company, of the City of Manistee, the same to be used by it in prospecting for salt or other minerals on its premises in said city, to be paid by us to said company as fast as the work progresses; and, if salt or other minerals be discovered in paying quantities, said company hereby agree to pay to the subscribers hereto 80 per cent of the amount of their subscription which they have paid, or assist any of said subscribers who may thereafter desire to engage in a like enterprise in the City of Manistee, if said subscribers so prefer.

Chas. Rietz & Bros.


John Canfield


Louis Sands


M. Engelmann


E. G. Filer


Stronach Lumber Company 500
Joseph Baur 500
R. G. Peters 300
James Dempsey 300
S. Babcock & Co. 200
Horace Taber 200
John Mee 100
E. N. Salling 100
T. J. Ramsdell 100

The well was begun and worked to a depth of nearly 500 feet, and then had to be re-worked, but salt was found, and a block built. The cost of the block was about $22,000.

The following analysis was taken before the well was fairly in working trim:

Chicago, Ill, Dec. 16, 1881

Gentlemen - In compliance with your request, I have analyzed a sample of salt, and find the same to contain in 100 parts:

Chloride of sodium 95,748
Chloride of magnesium 197
Chloride of calcium 231
Sulphate of lime 1,573
Carbonate of lime 016
Carbonate of iron 004
Silica 007
Organic matter 006
Water 006

Respectfully submitted,
Signed,  J. E. Siebel.

A more recent analysis shows less than .002 organic matter, which proves it to be the purest salt known.

The Rietz block is now in successful operation, and produces upwards of 200 barrels a day. The capacity of the block is 400 barrels. The size of the pump is 2 5/8 inches.

The next experiment was made by Mr. M. Engelmann, who sunk a well at his mill, and also found salt. The well is 2,032 feet deep. The block was finished early the present season, and some salt has already been made. This is a pan block, with a capacity of 150 barrels a day.

Canfield & Wheeler have just gone through ten feet of salt, (Sept. 25,) and will begin the construction of a block at once. A 3 1/4 inch pump will be required for their well.

R.G. Peters has the largest salt block in the state, at Eastlake. When finished it will have a capacity of 600 barrels a day. It will be a steam block. He has met with various hindrances in boring, and has abandoned two wells. He is now down about 250 feet in the third.

The Stronach Lumber Company are all ready to commence boring, and others are arranging their plans to do so.

That salt can be produced here in paying quantities, has already been thoroughly and satisfactorily demonstrated, and it is equally doubtless that Manistee capital and enterprise will rally promptly to the development of this industry, which promises so brilliant a future for this region.

Mr. Clark F. Johnson, the deputy salt inspector, for this county, is a native of Canada, but most of his life has been spent in Michigan. He helped build the first salt works in the Saginaw Valley, in 1860, and has been connected with the salt interests of the state ever since.He has superintended nearly all the work that has been done here.

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1882 History of Manistee County

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