Sea Meadow Inn, Salt, and Sears

Because of the importance of salt to the early colonists, repeated efforts were
made to manufacture salt.

My beautiful picture

 Photo Courtesy of Orleans Historical Society

Ammiel Weeks of Harwich is credited with being the first to test the
practicality of making salt by solar evaporation, about 1775. Weeks used a vat six
feet long by two feet wide, divided into two or three compartments. But the first
successful commercial works by solar evaporation on the Cape, and the man to
whom its subsequent success has been largely credited, was John Sears (1744-1817)
of Dennis, in 1776. Sears had been a fisherman before the war, and to secure
financial support, he engaged as partners his cousin Edward Sears, and Christopher
and William Crowell, who had observed the process in Labrador. The works were to be located on Sesuit Neck in East Dennis.

Amos Otis described the original works as being
one hundred feet long, and ten feet wide, and all on the
same level. The flooring was of white pine plank, laid on
oak sleepers, the latter running crosswise. The gunnels were
of plank, eight inches deep, and secured by upright pieces,
mortised into the ends of the sleepers, and by knees passing
under the flooring and on the outsides of the gunnels. The
corners of the vat were also secured by knees; the roof was
curiously fashioned ; rafters, grooved on either side, were
permanently fixed to the gunnels, at the distance of five or
six feet from each other; the doors were made of a
corresponding width, and consisted of several boards of the
same length, with the rafters clamped together. These slid
obliquely upwards and downwards in the grooves of the
rafters, and were prevented from swagging in the center by
board rafters placed between the principal ones. It was soon
found necessary to have a separate vat to crystalize the
salt, and a partition was placed across, and the kine boiled
over. . . . A little before the close of the war [1780-1), Mr.
Sears procured one of the pumps of the British ship-of-war
Somerset, wrecked on the coast of Cape Cod, and erected it
for the supply of his manufactory, and to avoid the labor of
badmg water. (Otis 1832: 90)
Sears’s first attempt in 1776 produced only eight bushels of salt, and the works were
promptly labeled “Sears’s Folly.” The second year Sears caulked the seams and
obtained thirty bushels. In 1785, at the suggestion of Major Nathaniel Freeman of
Harwich, who had seen a similar pump, Sears attached a small windmill with canvas
sails to his pump. These small windmills became the most distinctive feature of the
Cape Cod saltworks As every 2,000 feet of work required a miU and pump, this
meant that by 1831 over 700 such mills were needed (Thatcher 1804: 114-115). 

And what is the connection with the Sea Meadow Inn?  You’ll have to look back in our blog to see the answer….

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