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Looking Backward - A Salty Tale

History explains why the metropolis to our east is called the "Salt City" and its main thoroughfare, "Salina Street." In 1645, Jesuit missionary Jerome Lallamant visited the Onondagas. According to a "History of Onondaga County, New York," written by Professor Clayton in 1878, Lallamant said that, "The Onondagas have a very beautiful lake called Ganentaha (Onondaga), on the shores of which are several salt springs, the borders of which are covered with very fine salt."

Lallamant was followed by Father LeMoyne in 1654, who again according to Clayton, claimed that, "We arrived at the entrance of a small lake; in a large half-dried basin we tasted the water of a spring of which the savages dare not drink, saying there is a demon in it which renders it foul. We found it to be a fountain of salt water from which we made salt as natural as from the sea "

After obtaining a pound of salt from the Onondagas in 1788, pioneers Asa Danforth and Comfort Tyler persuaded the tribe to reveal the location of the salt springs from whence it came. By boiling water from the springs in a kettle over a fire, Danforth and Tyler eventually produced several bushels of unrefined salt. Salt was a valuable commodity on the frontier, as its preservative properties extended the life of both meat and furs.

Less than a century later, Syracuse was the leading salt producer in the country. Its peak year of production was 1862, when the local salt industry generated over nine million bushels of salt, or 81 percent of the entire national yield. Salt wells and sheds stretched some six miles around Onondaga Lake. So integral was the industry to the city's success, that the Salt Museum graces the shores of Onondaga Lake today. But, one salty tale is missing from its menu.

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