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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
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Letter from Robert Williams to the North Carolina Council of Safety
Williams, Robert
September 14, 1776
Volume 10, Pages 798-801

[From MS. Records in Office of Secretary of State.]
Letter from Robert Williams to the North Carolina Council of Safety.


Carteret County, September the 14th, 1776.

On the 5th instant as my Salt beds were promising something considerable of Salt in a day or two, there fell a heavy rain and blasted all my hopes for this fall, as before then the length of nights chilled the brine and the decreas'd length of Days exaled it much slower than four or five weeks before, and as the same disadvantages must increase till the next Summer have quitted the works for the present while I am getting in my much neglected crop about 30 acres of rice. The Second Division of Salt works is all levelled for my salt beds and the rest of the Ground in Great forwardness, my ground timber is all fitted and scarfed, and lies on the spot. Plank for the whole ready Jointed; It would be necessary to finish that work and lay on water this fall, that Wood and Soil may get fully saturated with saline particles against next Summer; for it takes abundance more time to season than I expected, and everybody who have been making of Salt in the small way hereabout have experienced the same. One Zacha Harker informed me that in a wooden or Plank'd vat he has, he at first gathered not a quart but in Continuation of 6 or 7 weeks came to Scrape a Bushel or more at a time from water of the same quality as the first Although we begun several months too late yet by experience found

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out on trial, which perhaps we should not have otherwise properly investigated it may be of advantage to the public that some of their money is laid out this fall, so as to be in best order against next Summer. I still trust the works will pay for themselves in due time, if this climate will produce Salt as on the coast of France and Portugal &ca, I am Certain our water is as fully impregnated with Salt as theirs or more so, but their days are longer. Perhaps their winds are more keen than the Southerly Breezes on our Coast which I observe contain a good deal of humidity until far to the westward especially when on the eastern board.

Indeed so great has my Anxiety been for the preservation of the Public even before I had thots of being employ'd that I am persuaded few individuals felt so much as I did.

When at last I receiv'd your letter on the Subject, would not have then engaged it being so late, but for fear the public would have blamed me for not using my endeavours, but when I set about it I went on with all the industrious rapidity in my power, overlooked the shortness of time and the other numerous difficulties I had to encounter, and my mind became animated with hopes of accomplishing something for Public Good. I had a good stock of provisions and utensils procured, built several necessary temporary houses or plank sheds; dug wells; made near 40 Wheel and hand Barrows Got Oxen Carts and Carriages upon the Spot, Employ'd many hands until after a while and for some time work'd from 40 to 60 or upward a day—my fatigue was great for some weeks in Directing so many hands & new matters; the weather was close & rainy & my feet almost constantly wet going to the woods where my business frequently called me. I suffer'd much in my health, my business and interest at home greatly neglected. Having thus made a large and necessary preparation such as I judge the exigency of the undertaking required, I set off upon a Double work from the 1st, but not in such manner as to retard the completion of the first Division as quickly as possible. When Blackledge first came I was just then getting and had many trees in common hew'd for the Second work and when he returned with your letter were Chiefly laid in their Places and the first work or Division Just finished. Believe had you seen my Situation your Selves you would have thot most Eligible to go on as I did, though I confess the works cost far more labour & time and the ground proved

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more Disadvantageous than I expected, haveing had many roots upon Top and much dirt to move away.

I Judge upon pretty near Calculation, we have not Expended above £160 upon the Second Division in wages since the first was finished. Believe about £70 more will compleat the 2d part in a manner much more effectual and promising of success. Nothing points out to improvements and Shews Defects like an Essay or a work finished. Generally every first undertaking will be defective in pt.

I herewith send my Accounts nearly as they now stand, many people are in want and several importunate with me for the the Ballance of their wages. I am Certainly greatly distressed my self having advanced all the money I had among them, so that I have not the wherewithal to carry on my rice harvest nor to purchase such domestic necessaries as times will afford. I must request you will order the Present ballance due to the works about £288 with or without the addition of the £70 above mentioned towards compleating what is on the verge of being finished.

I would have waited on you myself but cannot for some weeks leave home and my long neglected Business.

Who am your Friend,
ROBERT WILLIAMS.

P. S. Had no hands on the highest wages since I finished the first beds, only two I had lately to get the 2d pt in order. I wish I could be with you to answer such part of the accounts and explain such other matters as you would want to know, which perhaps would be too tedious for me to attempt with my pen.

I think I heard that Gallands Neck was valued being abt 270 Acres at about £270, surely it would not sell for ⅓ of the money exclusive of 3 or 4 Acres the Salt work stands upon, if any more works are made there 10 or 12 Acres would be sufficient for the Country but guess better places may be had hereafter, Although I had Sufficient reason to fix there at the time I began as Tenders with great reason were hourly Expected.

We have cut all the pines that we could find as at foot of the acct, few would have squared 8 Inch at 20 feet long, nor one of them maul into rails, the land for many years past had been constantly Pillaged by the town People. There is a bit of tolerable land where a Plantation formerly was but the chiefest part is only low

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grassy piney Land with tolerable Clay bottom and no ways preferable to piney land of the kind in Common; only for this disadvantage that it has no trees for turpentine, or rails, nor a knot of lightwood left unpillaged.