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Letter from E. Johnson to the Maryland Council of Safety



Lower Marlborough, July 7, 1776.

GENTLEMEN: The day I fixed on, in the week before last, to search into the clifts on this river for salt, proved rainy, and thereby I was disappointed in many hands engaged; but, however, with what I had, I sunk a shaft, ten feet square and five feet deep, in the inside of the clifts, free from any tide that ever flowed since the Deluge, and have found since, that a few days sun thereon has brought out some appearances of saline particles; so that I conclude that this earth will yield salt, and have ordered it to be tried, the success of which you shall know by next post. If this earth yields salt, the whole clift must also yield it, and of course the quantity is inexhaustible. Report says that the clifts both north and south of this, on the same side of the river, are impregnated with salt. I have not seen any of them, except a small bank at my own plantation, at the mouth of Hunting Creek, south of the first-discovered clift, which is very salt; and shall, as soon as my harvest is secured, make some large experiments on, and, if successful, set to work to make what I can.

The owner of the land of the first-discovered clift will come upon no settled, fixed plan of proceeding to erect either a publick or private saltern; but says that, after harvest, he will join me in trying further experiments. The expense attending my sinking the shaft, in hire of negroes, provisions, and cooking for them, cost me twenty-five shillings currency, which I have paid; and if agreeable to you to charge to my saltpetre account, please to give me your order, or otherwise, as you may think proper. The time of my engagement, with my labour at my saltpetre manufactory, expired a few days ago, and we have not done anything since. My manager has brought in his account, and thirty-four pounds of good crude nitre, for which he demands a quarter of a dollar. Being informed that the May Convention gave him that sum, I have only paid a shilling, with promise to make it agreeable to the orders I am empowered to act by. I shall hire another labourer soon, to go on with the business, and shall continue it as long as I can find materials impregnated sufficiently. In a few months, the quantity of earth, &c., I have in my shed, will, I expect, yield two hundred pounds. The thirty-four pounds made at the manufactory, five-and-a-half pounds I bought, returned to the Convention


in my account, makes thirty-nine-and-a-half pounds in my hands. Please to give me orders what I am to do with it.

I am, gentlemen, with all due respect, your humble servant,

To the Hon˙ the Council of Safety of Maryland.