BY JENNY GOLDSBERRY
George Payne harvested salt from the ponds located on the south side of the Syracuse road. In those early days, salt deposits were made by evaporating the salt water.
Syracuse history buffs credit William Galbraith as the man who started the salt industry; however, did you know that he wasn’t the one to start Syracuse’s first salt work? He owes his success to his friends, George Henry Payne and Harriet Anly ,Phillips.
George was born in 1854, and Harriet came a little less than three years later. They grew up together in their hometown of Kaysville. At first, George only herded cattle for his father on the lower side of current-day Syracuse. During the late 1870s, Harriet married George, and, together, they built a log cabin on the lakeshore. By 1889, thanks to the Homestead Act, they were living on a 150-acre plot, which would become the first salt works in the area.
The Payne family raised their eight children, Margaret, Henry, Joseph, John, George Myron, Harriet, Catherine, and Dora, who helped on the homestead. Just to make it livable, they had to uproot the rabbit and sagebrush that infested their land. They used a combination of an Oliver Chilled plough, a grubbing hoe, and an old V-shaped harrow. After the work was done, they planted grapes, vegetables, and fruit trees. At the time, orchards were a cash crop.
In 1880, George started up the first salt works in Syracuse. He harvested from the salt ponds located on the south side of the Syracuse road. In those early days, salt deposits were made by evaporating the salt water in special ponds. The crystalized salt was then shoveled into large piles inside the ponds but left a salt crust around the perimeter of the pond. Then, the Paynes wheeled to the outside banks in large wooden wheelbarrows. They had to carefully wheel along planks to keep from breaking the crust. George loaded the salt into wagons and hauled it to Ogden, where it was sold.
Eventually, George captured a lot of attention for his product. In August of 1885, William W. Galbraith bought not only George Payne’s salt works but also his farm which paralleled the lakeshore. This land totaled about 120 acres, and 90 acres of that was salt ponds. William used three steam engines to pump water and separate the salt out of the ponds. Artesian wells drilled near the site of each pump supplied the fresh water used for the steam. He soon developed his salt work into a thriving company, producing as much as 20,000 tons of salt each year. He not only harvested more salt, but he refined his product and packaged it in three- and five-pound sacks. The refining grinder and packaging plant were located just north of the Syracuse road, about where the Syracuse Resort was later built.
William adopted the brand name Syracuse, named after Syracuse, New York, where the purest salt in the world was being produced at the time. In as little as two years, the name stuck for the new city too.
George and William stayed friends long after their salt work transaction. When William left Utah for Mexico to escape the U.S. Marshals, George accompanied him. At the time, William had a plural marriage and wasn’t about to give it up, even if it was illegal then. As a result, he sold his salt works to Fred Keisel and Daniel C. Adams on May 17, 1886. They purchased the Syracuse Salt Works for $13,000, which is the equivalent of almost $380,000 today. Syracuse Salt Works became Adams and Keisel Salt Works, and they continued hauling 20,000 tons of salt each year. George and William’s relationship fell apart along the journey, and George returned alone without seeing William reach his final destination.