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Digging Up the Past

POSTED: July 28, 2011 6:10 p.m.
Marquette Tribune/

This pile of rubble is located just west of Wayne and Terri (Loder) McBride’s farm home on 4th Ave., northwest of Marquette. This is where the salt mine was located at one time. The mine has been filled in with old cement and such over the years.

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(Editors note: In the April 4, 2011, issue of The Salina Journal in a column called A Look Back-This week in history, under the heading of 100 years ago, an item caught the eye of several Marquette Tribune readers. It said, The Salina Crystal Salt Co., recently organized in Salina, announced today by J. Duncan, treasurer of the company, that it has leased and also taken an option on the Marquette salt mine, which includes 80 acres of land located one mile northwest of Marquette a few rods from the Missouri Pacific Railroad tracks. The Tribune readers wondered were the salt mine had been located. Upon talking to Marquette historian Allan Lindfors, he offered the salt mine had been located near the present home of Wayne and Terri McBride on
4th Avenue
. Following is a reprint of an article written by Editor H.E. Bruce from the Thursday, April 6, 1911 issue of the Tribune and information from the Marquette history book, Pioneers on the Prairie, written by Lindfors and Eleanor Burnison, concerning the salt mine. Liz)
The Marquette Tribune-Thursday, April 6, 1911:

                                 A New Salt Company

Is this the explosion that is to wake us up? J. Alf. Swanson, last Friday, closed a lease and contract with The Salina Crystal Salt Company, which has a capital of a quarter million dollars, for a salt mine or mines on his land west of town. The contract calls for active work within six months, for a royalty on the salt marketed and a purchase of the land at a stated price within two years. Mr. Swanson says this company has fifty thousand dollars cash in sight and means business. He looks for something doing within a few weeks. The Salina Union says: The company has been incorporated and the board of directors elected. They are, Dr. J.C. McClintock, of Topeka, L.H. Westerman, of Ellsworth, J. Duncan, S. Burkholder, E.J. Larson, of Salina, and J.W. Noland, of Topeka.

The prospect hold will be started inside of a month. The directors have contracted for a core drill. They will use this kind of a drill, as it shows the exact strata formation of the ground at the different levels. This drill is sunk five feet at a time, and after each sinking, it is brought to the surface, and a core is taken form the cylinder drill. This core is five inches thick, and five feet long, and this earth is not mixed up like it would be in an ordinary drill.

It is not necessary for them to prospect for the salt, for they say they know it is there. But they want to find if the salt formation will stand for their sinking a shaft, and the formation will rule the kind of the shaft that will be sunk. Large chunks of salt found in the mine have already been received by the Salina Company for exhibition purposes.

Taken from Pioneers on the Prairie:

In the early years of Marquettes history there have been several attempts to mine the earths natural resources. The salt mine could have been successful had it kept going. Two mines, the gold mine and the lead mine, were noble but futile attempts at success. One attempt, Buildex, has proved successful.

The Marquette Salt and Brick Company salt mine traces its beginning back to October 1888 when the editor of The Marquette Tribune realized the possibility of a salt well and the help it could be to the town, and told people so in the paper (Tribune). People began to open their eyes, and contact salt companies. On May 6, 1890, a meeting was held at the Marquette Bank, for the purpose of taking action on a proposition to find salt for an eastern company who desired to sink a shaft and engage in the business of salt mining and manufacturing in some city in Central Kansas. Olof Olson was elected temporary president and J.A. Foster, secretary. A committee was appointed to correspond with the company as to the quality of salt required and also with engineers as to the probable cost of the sinking of the prospect hole. Nearly $700 was subscribed at that meeting.

Then on June 6, 1890, the Marquette Mining and Manufacturing Company was formed at the Bank of Marquette (same as Marquette Bank). Ten thousand dollars was pledged as capital, and the purpose of the company was to develop the mineral resources of Marquette Township, and also the manufacture of brick, tiling, terra cotta, etc. Officers elected were Alfred Hawkinson, president; Dr. O. W. Baird, vice-president; George N. Nelson, secretary; and J.M. Claypool, treasurer. Additional directors were Olof Olson, W.H. Brooks, and B.F. Cress.

Either the eastern company never responded to their proposition, or they came out and couldnt find any salt, as nothing was done for nine years.
Then in July of 1899, J. Alfred Swanson was drilling for water at his farm and struck salt at only 370 feet, and was down in salt 30 feet! The druggist, Chas. Roberts, tested the salt and it was found to be within .05 percent of being pure. Surely this would have excited the people enough to take action. But things lay idle for still another seven and one-half years.

Then in December of 1906, the paper (Tribune) reported that a meeting was to be held to organize a company to mine salt and make brick out of lime and sand. On Jan. 2, 1907, the Marquette Salt and Brick Company was organized, with a capital of $25,000. The men who organized it were J.M. Claypool, T.J. Collier, Oliver Olson, L.M. Bard, Nels Larson, C.M. Broman, Wm. Ferguson, H.E. Bruce, Olof Olson, Albert Maudlin, F.E. Peterson, C.A. Seleen, J.F. Hanson, G.W. Hanson, Hans Hanson, J. Alf Swanson, J.Y. Parker, J.P. Christenson, J.M. Johnson, Philip Kumle, and E. Hedberg.

The brick plant would have a daily capacity of 10,000 brick made from 90 parts sand and one part lime in any color desired. The plans also called for mining and crushing 30 barrels of salt a day.

The company immediately set to work. They employed C.M. Brown to put down a preliminary shaft to the salt bed 368 feet, on J. Alfred Swansons (NE¼, 22-17-5) farm. They went down through the same well to sink the shaft where Swanson had found the salt eight years before. The machinery was moved to the location and work began.

The company began making brick right away, for the Tribune of January 17, 1907, reports that you can examine the lime brick made at the Swanson mine; a sample is on display at the bank.

Everything was progressing nicely until February, when an accident occurred at the salt mine. Chas. Brown, Simon Rodine and August Nyberg were being lowered in the salt mine cage when the brake, holding the cage back, broke. The cage with the men aboard fell about fifty feet. The slack in the cable was taken up near the bottom, as it was hooked to a horse. The single tree had broken, thus slowing the fall. The men were jarred up some and suffered a few sprains and bruises.

Work resumed and by June, the miners reached salt at 370 feet. They drilled down to 400 feet and still found salt. They sold the salt for 25 cents per hundred pounds, and some was sold at $2.00 a load. Will Hanson, Chas. Brown and Alf. Swanson went to Wichita to see about final details on the plant.

The company continued to make brick and mine salt until March 1908. An article from the paper (Tribune) of 1908 states that the salt mine has spent their original appropriation and quit. This was due to some legal trouble the company was confronted with concerning the accident in February of 1907. Its too bad the plant couldnt have kept going, as salt could be mined here at 370 feet, as compared to 650 feet at Ellsworth and Kanopolis.

(Editors note: I could not find any articles in the 1911 bound edition of the Tribune stating whether or not the salt company from Salina had actually mined salt near Marquette after the six month start-up period they talked about in the April 6, 1911 Salina Union article. I will keep looking and try to give an update in a few months. I hope this article answers the questions those interested in the salt mine wanted answered. Liz)

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