“The Progressive Past” (1950s -1980s)
The revitalization of the salt industry came when three American brothers brought prosperity to the salt industry and to the island of Inagua. In the 1935, the Erickson’s brothers came to Inagua and established The West India Chemical Company and built a large mechanized solar salt operation. Mr. Carl Farquharson, a local native of the island and the first Inaguians general manager of the salt company, recalls the new evolution of the salt industry by Erickson’s brothers during his teenage years before coming to work for the company. “The salt industry was first located in Town Pans. The workers worked tirelessly in the blazing sun, using rakes and shovels to harvest the salt. A railroad system was in place using donkey carts to transport salt from the pans to the storage house.”
Moreover, Margery O. Erickson, the wife of the brother Jim Erickson captures the vivid story of her and her husband love story intertwined in her husband and his brothers’ vision to rebuild the salt industry and restore the Inagua in her book entitled, Great Inagua, she gave her personal reflection of the transition of the salt company from Town Pan to Man of War Bay, Northwest Point. “After months of such ambulatory investigation, Jim and a gang of men cut a wide of opening in the cliff that boarded the sea a few miles North of Mathew Town. At first the canal was worked on by hand with picks axes and stop hammers, but later the clamshell bucket was towed to the site and used with Jim at the controls. After the canal was dug, the Pemona pump was purchases and fastened in place on steel beams that crossed the canal at the point where it entered sea. When the pump was set in motioned, it sucked water in from the bay and forced it into the canal with a surge that drove the water all the way to Lake Windsor. The Pemona pump ran day and night and as a result the lake began to produce more and thicker brine, which Jim used to make salt in the new pans he started to build between Georgie’s Hill and the lake. These pans were larger than the ones in town”.
The Erickson sold the West India Chemical to Morton International
In 1955, the brothers sold the salt company to Morton International, Inc. in Chicago which changed the name of the company to Morton Bahamas Limited. According to Mr. Farquharson this was done because Western India Chemical Company could not compete with the Morton International. Margery Erickson explains that the company was sold to Morton to resolve the family’s financial challenges that resulted from low production of salt. She further mentioned that despite, the agreement was a peacefully exchange between the presidents of Morton International and the brothers, the loss of the company felt like “losing an arm or leg” (p.267). Shortly, after Margery and Jim moved back to the United States. However, the other Erickson brothers remain at the company. “When I came to the company the other brother, Bill Erickson was still employed at the company during that time… and was influential in training the workers.”
The Cecile Erickson
Perhaps, one of the Erickson’s family most memorable treasures left to Morton Bahamas Limited and community was a large salt ship called the Cecile Erickson, which was named in honor of the mother of brothers. Moreover, on May 6th, 1956, “the 13 knot vessel” made its first voyage to Inagua. The residents were extremely excited for the new vessel. The ship was mainly used for the transshipment of salt. Mr. Farquharson described has adventurous of activities of his early days as the marine superintendent the loading of the Cecile Erickson, “We use to barge the salt in smalls boats onto the big ships. The big ships would then use their cranes and pick up the salt from the barge and put it in the hatch. Can you imagine being in a small boat filled with tons of salt in the middle of the ocean; the waves rocking the boat back and forward? Thank God everyone could have swam.” Nevertheless, a few years later a dock was constructed to with a conveyor belt system which allowed salt to load directly into the ship’s hatch. In addition, the Cecile Erickson was essential in providing all of the groceries and other materials for residents on the island. The salt company’s supermarket called the Inagua General Store was established to provide fresh fruits, vegetables and meats that brought in on the Cecile Erickson. However in 2013, after 57 years of service the Cecile Erickson made her final voyage to the island, after to decide it was too expensive to make proper maintenance to the boat.
Therefore, it is seen that The Erickson brothers were great pioneers in building the salt product. For the continuation of the story, click the page salt production. It provides interesting facts on how salt is made.