Marshfield’s only salt works was located on the western banks of the  North River (today’s South River) and East of what is now known as Sea Rivers off South River St.
It was owned by Samuel Brown & Daniel Phillips, Daniels residence, at the junction of The Ferry Rd. & South River St.  A very wealthy  farmer & entrepreneur of Marshfield.

Any residents on the East side of The Sea Rivers Club would have a spectacular view of it’s goings on in the early to mid-1800’s.
Access would have been near the Peregrine White’s homestead.
Marshfield’s history books give no accounts of it’s operation, only that it did exist.
However Duxbury, Sandwich, and most towns on Cape Cod have a lot to say of their once-thriving Salt Works.

The greatest demand for salt was to preserve food, Tons of it was used to salt cod as well as other fish to preserve it for long periods.
All red meats were smoked & salted for the Colonists to overwinter food supplies.

Hanging salted codfish to dry (above).  Salt Cod drying on the ground (below).

Most of the salt water salt dried in huge wooden troughs by the sun & wind,usually  in unsanitary conditions.   If Sea Salt was to be used for table use, the household would have to clean the salt by a quick wash with clean fresh water, sun-dried and toasting it to clean the contaminants as best they could.  The salt would then have to be ground to a fine texture by mortar & pestle or coffee grinder if a household could afford one.

These salt works usually covered many acres…the more troughs the better. A windmill pumped salt water from the river or bay into these troughs, as the sun evaporated the water leaving a slurry.  A raker would have to agitate the thick slurry so it would not cement itself to the wooden troughs.  Roof covers were alongside the troughs so they could cover the troughs in case of rain. After the salt was dry, it would be shoveled into barrels, boxes or loaded by bulk into a wagon.  I couldn’t find the cost of sea salt through the 1800’s but it was not much per ton.

The following are excerpts  of miscellaneous publications with credit if found;

Duxbury Beach was first known as “Salt-house Beach” and later “Salter’s Beach,” indicating early salt works and “salt pans.” This took place at Gurnet Creek where there were fishing stages — low racks for drying and curing fish. As early as 1622-24, there were simple salt-making places at Duxbury Beach.  Early on, Duxbury families depended upon fishing, and these fish needed to be preserved in order to be sold and shipped.  Early saltworks pre-1750 were in the Bay Road area in places like Island CreekWadsworth/Torrey’s Creek, and off of today’s Bay Pond Road at Powder Point.

To make salt, Duxbury salt-makers often used dikes and tide gates to control the flow of salt water for the salt-making. Then a windmill was used to pump the salt water into a series of vats or pans. These were low tiered pans that could flow into each other as the salt water was heated or boiled. Heat was a very important component and ample wood was needed from Duxbury woodlots. Hot, sunny, and dry weather was a boost so salt-making was often done in the summer.

 According to the “Dukes County Intelligencer,” the first known salt works on the Vineyard was up and running by 1778.  By 1807, salt manufacturing – air-drying saltwater in shallow pans – was the island’s second largest industry. By 1800 there were over 800 salt works across Cape Cod.  Sea salt is harvested from the sea, rather than mined from underground salt deposits. It is the salt that has naturally formed at the bottom of an ocean or a large lake. Sea salt is naturally rich in minerals and has a full spectrum of colors. These are made up of varying proportions of iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and sodium.  Sea salt also contains trace amounts of iodine, silicon and sulphur, all of which are important to our health.

People don’t enjoy salt,they enjoy what is salted. We are the salt of the earth. We do not exist for ourselves       -John Piper.


There has been a resurgence of Sea Salting in Wellfleet Ma, in Martha’s  Vineyard, Ma. & Plymouth Ma.


W. Ray Freden , Old Salt.
Sea View, Marshfield 70 years, Down East Maine, 18 years.



  1. Random, but the newell family (the salt cod boxes in the photo) is still in business on the Mersey River – just south of the very picturesque village of Vogler’s Cove – not far from where we summer. I go by there often.

  2. Really interesting article. I live across the street from old salt work in Onset. And I was fortunate to spend many years at a good friends house in sea rivers. Such a special place. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

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