ASHLAND -- Sodium Chloride, more commonly known as salt, has been used by humans for thousands of years to do anything from season and preserve food, and melt ice and snow.
It is also used in many chemicals compounds to make items such as PVC pipe, pottery and dyes. Salt is also vital for our health as our bodies use it to regulate fluids.
The United States is second only to China in world salt production. Ohio, along with Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Texas, and Utah produce about 92% of the total in our country.
In the early history of Ohio, it was very expensive to ship salt from the east, so salt boiling was started in areas where there were saline springs. Groups of men used outdoor kettles or a roughly built log cabin with a rudimentary furnace fueled with wood to make salt.
The process was slow and workers filled their heated kettles with brine water from the springs until a cake of pure salt was left behind. Weeks or months would be spent in the wilderness making salt, and for some it became a lucrative business, especially after the process evolved over the decades.
Although table salt has been condiment for most of human history, it was not always placed on a dining room table in a salt shaker. It was served in an individual, small decorative container and food was dipped into the container or spooned onto plated food. The small bowl was called a salt dip or salt cellar.
In his “History of Ashland County, Ohio, 1909,” A.J. Baughman relates the story of a group of men out making salt in Ashland County. This endeavor was owned, operated and led by a man named Miller.
He was always joking around about something and couldn’t care less about the impact or expense to others.
Miller and two of his men were seated around their salt furnace one morning when a tall, lanky gentleman who was dressed as if he was Vermont, asked permission to leave his horse and personal belongings at their site so he could go deer hunting for the day. Miller granted the request but after the stranger went off to hunt, he decided to annoy the “intruder” and threw his pack saddle into the furnace.
Later, when the stranger returned and inquired about his missing equipment, he was told he best get on his way or he might suffer the same consequences as his pack saddle. The man quietly left knowing it had been probably been burned in the furnace.
A few days later, the stranger returned in a jovial mood and again asked if he could leave his belongings at the site to go hunting. He also demanded his things not be burned or there would be a price to pay.
He had another pack saddle he was again going to leave behind. As the stranger left the site, Miller hollered at him and stated, “Look-a-here Mister! I’ll show you who’s a goin’ to do the orderin’ ‘round here.”
Miller immediately proceeded to throw the second saddle into the fire just like he did the first time.
In a moment’s time, the kettle, furnace and anything else around exploded spewing hot liquid all over Miller and his work buddies. The stranger fled quickly without even a goodbye during all the commotion. After Miller wiped the hot ashes and liquid from his face, he realized the pack saddle had been stuffed with gunpowder and the bigger joke was really on him.
It is unknown if he learned anything about the dangers of pranking people in the future.