“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” (Matthew 5:13)
My wife Mary Ann and I spent a few days in central upstate New York earlier this week. In a lot of respects, upstate New York gets a bad rap. I have friends from Buffalo, for instance, who are bothered that Buffalo is often trashed in cruel jokes. Virtually all of upstate New York has very long and very difficult and snowy winters, and parts of the cities are industrial and unattractive. But, back to Buffalo, once you get outside of the city, itself, the suburbs are quite attractive and (just north of Buffalo) the Niagara Falls area of both New York and Canada is spectacular and beautiful. Now, I’m not much for snow, but if you’re into winter sports, upstate New York is the place for you!
I love the immediate Niagara Falls area, and I love the Adirondacks, but this week we were in the central part of the state. I would guess that many people from outside the Northeast think of New York City when they think of New York. It IS surprising how much of upstate New York is rural and agricultural, in addition to the millions of forested acres.
Someone encouraged us to visit Onondaga Lake Park, in Liverpool, immediately north of Syracuse, and I’m glad we did. The lake itself is beautiful, although quite polluted. Even so, there’s a lot of boating on the lake. The park features a walking path, and a separate path for biking and rollerblading. There’s also a concrete “skateboarding park” there.
If you’re ever in that area, the place is definitely worth checking out. Mary Ann and I walked a mile of the walking path. At that point we were both a little tired, so we turned and walked back, but it did go on further. After the path, we checked out the free Salt Museum. I had NO IDEA that Syracuse was known as the “Salt City”, nor did I know that at one time most of the salt used in the northeastern U.S. and in eastern Canada came from the shores of Lake Onondaga. The Iroquois Indians had discovered the salt...well the brine springs...and introduced the European settlers to them. In the 1790s, the first salt works were set up there. In fact, salt from the Onondaga Lake brine springs was harvested until the last salt company closed up their works in the mid-1920s. The peak of the salt business there was the 1860s. Today, we think of salt as a seasoning for food. While much of the salt was used for that purpose, probably at least half of it was used as a food PRESERVATIVE. Modern Americans and Canadians rely on refrigeration, but up until seventy or eighty years ago, SALT was used as the most important preservative in the meat industry. The salt harvesting took place over 8-9 months of the year. In the earliest days, the brine was boiled. The fires were kept going by wood. Virtually all of the trees around the lake were chopped down for this purpose. When the wood ran out, the salt companies brought in coal from Pennsylvania to fuel the fires. When the coal got too expensive in the 1880s, the whole process was changed to solar processing of salt. The brine was put in large vats and the sun caused the water to evaporate. This process was a lot easier for the workers, but was tricky, because the vats had to be covered up in bad weather or the process of harvesting the salt would be futile. During much of the salt industry days, people worked 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week!
So, as far as “What did you learn on your summer vacation?” I learned about Lake Onondaga and the salt manufacturing process and I thought I’d share it here.
You may want to check out:
He'll Keep The Light On For You
8 hours ago