When Captain John Anderson arrived in Corpus Christi with his wife and young stepson, Corpus Christi had only been incorporated as a city for a single year. He was from a long line of seafarers, having left Sweden as a young man to work as a boat captain.
As he worked sailing the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, he encountered deposits of salt in the Laguna Madre and nearby saltwater lakes. The wind washed salty water up the shore, and evaporation left solid sheets of salt. He saw the business opportunity and built a wind-driven mill next to his home sometime between 1853 and the 1870s.
Captain Anderson hired about 150 men during the summer to gather the salt and transport it via boat to his mill. The windmill ground it to various degrees, fine table salt to coarse rock salt. This mill provided the citizens of Corpus Christi and surrounding areas, as well as the industries in the area, with salt. Local meat packing plants purchased bulk lots of salt to preserve their goods, and it was even shipped inland as far as Oklahoma.
Having survived the trials of frontier Corpus Christi, from yellow fever epidemics to the Civil War to droughts, the business eventually slowed for a simple reason: The salt was gone. Many years of evaporation had produced the salt Captain Anderson was harvesting, and it was not replenished quickly. The mill was demolished in 1900, putting an end to one of Corpus Christi’s first industries.
Photo caption: The mill stands alongside the Anderson home on Water Street, on the site of today’s Hotel Corpus Christi Bayfront.