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LeRoy Salt

by Lynne Belluscio

Salt has always been important to human civilization. It was extremely important for food preservation at a time when canning was not an option.  Butter, cheese, meat, and cabbages needed salt.

Early settlers in this area often relied on a winter trip east to the Onondaga salt springs where brine was pumped up in wells and the water boiled off in huge iron kettles. One account noted that the usual winter trip wasn’t made because of the weather and the settlers in the area were in desperate need of salt.

In 1823, Charles Hill of LeRoy wrote to his parents in Connecticut that “Mr. Graves near us, has dug a well and bored last fall about fifty feet for salt water, which he has obtained, and when boiled makes good salt.  But we believe it not of sufficient saltness to make a profitable business.  Yet it is believed that if he should go to the depth of 100 feet there would be water found worth boiling, as it increases in strength as he goes deeper.”  Once the Erie Canal was opened in 1825, the salt from Syracuse could be shipped much easier and salt production increased.

It wasn’t until 1878 that the brine that lay beneath LeRoy would be tapped. Nicholas Keeney and others furnished $1,500 for C.M. Everest of the Vacuum Oil Company to come to LeRoy and sink a well.

On December 4, 1878 “after a great deal of difficulty, the well was sunk to a depth of 620 feet, where salt was found. “The well was sunk another thirty feet and stopped. Vacuum Oil was looking for gas, oil or salt, and apparently they found all three on the Lent farm.

Everest continued drilling wells and on February 21 he reached a depth of 450 feet. But instead of brine, Everest has struck gas. “Gas commenced escaping and continued to increase at an incalculable rate when as if from the bottomless pit, it rushed up and about, and filling the atmosphere and, taking the responsibility of the affair, started out to celebrate the occasion independent of orders from other sources. READ MORE

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