Civil War Salt
During the Civil War salt became a scarce commodity. It was used to preserve meat, and no substitute was readily available. By early 1863 the price of salt in North Carolina had jumped from $12 to $100 for a two-bushel sack. Residents depended upon small private saltworks and state-run saltworks on North Carolina's coast, including a large operation at Wilmington.
It took two bushels, about 110 pounds, of salt to cure 1,000 pounds of pork, and 1.25 bushels to cure 500 pounds of beef. And salt was useful in myriad other ways, from tanning leather to fixing the dyes in military uniforms and feeding livestock.
In Caswell County, James L. McKee (1822-1901) was appointed "Salt Agent" for the county:
On March 17, 1862, a special session of the Caswell County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions was held:
"Twenty-two justices met for purpose of considering and adopting measures to procure a supply of salt for the use of the people of said County. . . . Court ordered James L. McKee appointed agent for county to apply for needful supply of salt and he be instructed to apply for 8100 bushels and to inform State Commission of the calculation on which this is asked for, to wit: population of sixteen thousand ______ hundred and estimate a half bushel to the head is necessary to supply that population rating the bushel standard of 56 (lb) to bushel.
"McKee to procure delivery at any depot on any railroad he deem convenient and at least possible cost and he take steps to procure transportation from railroad to Yanceyville and that he take care of and distribute it to people of the county. Agent to draw upon county trustee for funds to carry out the purposes. County trustee to pay such drafts or borrow funds from Bank of Yanceyville or elsewhere to pay same. McKee to execute bond of $10,000 and he should receive reasonable compensation for his services."
Source: Kendall, Katharine Kerr. "Caswell County 1777-1877: Historical Abstracts of Minutes of Caswell County North Carolina." Raleigh: Katharine Kerr Kendall, 1976. Page 95.
Note: Until the North Carolina Constitution was amended in 1868, the County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions functioned as the county's executive branch. In 1868 this court was abolished, and the executive power vested in the County Board of Commissioners.