Henderson County, Kentucky




One of the greatest privations the early settlers had to contend with was the great lack of salt. For months they were compelled to do their cooking without this necessity, and oftentimes forced to ride hundreds of miles over a wild and untraveled country to obtain a small sack, for which a fabulous price was charged. Accounts now in possession of the writer furnish conclusive evidence of this important fact. Ten dollars per bushel was often paid, to which had to be added the loss of time and the long and dangerous journey made to secure a small supply. From old records it would seem that his commodity passed current between men, and in very many instances was taken in exchange for land and stock. It was also frequently given in exchange for labor and merchant accounts. In 1794, external evidences suggested beyond question, the existence of salt water in many parts of the county, and the feasibility of utilizing it so as to supply the wants of the settlers. Hunters and surveyors traversing the woods and barrens in search of game and boundary lines chanced upon buffalo trails and narrow paths, beaten by the hoofs of deer, and following them discovered what was known as “licks.” These licks were frequented by large numbers of wild animals, and as an indisputable evidence, hillsides were found to be undermined by the lick of wild tongues, and numerous holes yet moist were found there to attest the presence of a briny substance. Upon closer and more accurate examination, the clay was found to consist of a strong part salt, and this determined some of the more enterprising settlers to venture an enterprise, which subsequently resulted in one of the greatest blessings to the new county.

Eneas McCALLISTER , grandfather of the late John E. McCALLISTER , Esq., having discovered one of these licks on Highland Creek, about twenty miles from the Red Banks – now Henderson – much frequented by buffalo and deer, conceived the idea of boring for salt water. He at once proceeded to sink a well, and at a short distance found water of very great strength in abundance. He erected here salt works, and in a short time was able to supply all those living at the Red Banks, the adjoining neighborhood, and for many miles surrounding. He continued to manufacture salt at this point for the term of three or four years, at the end of which time parties from Virginia appeared upon the ground, not only asserting, but proving a better title to the land under the law as then understood. With these undisputable evidences staring him in the face, Mr. McCALLISTER immediately dispossessed himself and soon after located other wells three miles east on Highland Creek, at a point then and yet known as the “Knob Lick.” This soon became a noted locality, so much so that the most important public road running south of west from the Yellow Banks, now Owensboro, was directed to that point. In the formation of Webster County in 1860, this spot was included within the boundaries of that county, and can be found three or four miles to the right of Sebree City.

At Knob Lick, Mr. McCALLISTER found a stream of water equally as strong as the one he had left at Highland Lick, and here salt was made as well as at Highland until the year 1827, when both wells, for some unaccountable reason, ceased to flow, and the works were abandoned.

Simultaneously with the enterprise of Mr. McCALLISTER , salt was made in large quantities at the Saline Wells in the Illinois Territory by Captain James BARBOUR , of Henderson. Much of the salt used by the early settlers of Henderson County was obtained from these works, they going and returning on horseback, with two bushels or less.

History of Henderson County, Kentucky by E. L. Starling, Pages 30 - 31

Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2005 HCH&GS