Funter Bay History: Saltery

Part of the Thlinket Packing Co’s cannery included a fish saltery. Soaking fish in salt brine or packing them in dry salt was an older preservation method than canning. Although an apparent step backwards in the progress of fish packing, salted fish would have been cheaper to process and package than canned fish, and allowed the cannery to reach other markets at a lower cost (mainly Japan, but possibly Europe as well). Salted fish was also sold to local fox farms for winter feed.

By the time the cannery closed, the saltery was located in a small cove adjacent to the main property. Initially this site was used by Tlingit natives who worked at the cannery and fished in the area. After the rise of imported seasonal labor, employment of local natives seems to have declined.

“Native Fish Camp”  looking towards the cannery, 1905:
Native Camp at Funter
Courtesty of UW Freshwater and Marine Image Bank.

A similar view from 2002:
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View of the same area from the water, 1915. Note the canoes and small boats:
Summer fishing village
Courtesy of Alaska State Library, Clarence L Andrews Collection, P45-0124

The cannery was salting fish as early as 1905, or perhaps sooner, as mentioned in a publication from that year.

salt

Fish were packed into large (~100 gallon) wooden barrels called “tierces” filled with salt, which dessicated them and prevented decay while they were shipped overseas. Apparently a “tierce” was a unit of measurement which varied depending on what you were measuring (a tierce of wine was 42 gallons). This document describes the salting and packing process, which involved pickling 800-1000lbs of fish in a tierce for some time, then removing and re-packing them in a different percentage of salt and brine. Another term for this is “Mild Curing“. Mild cured kings were often shipped to Europe (mainly Germany) and were further processed by smoking when they reached their destination.

tierce
Courtesy of UW Freshwater and Marine Image Bank.

A large wooden barrel, possibly a tierce, can be seen on the right in this 1907 image from inside the Funter Bay cannery:
tierce2
Courtesy of Alaska Digital Archives, Case & Draper Collection, P39-1002

Leftover tierces can occasionally still be found around Funter Bay, some were used as water tanks or septic tanks at local cabins.

A map of the saltery at the site of the former native fishing camp, from the 1964 land survey (The warehouse, wharf, and float):
saltery

After the cannery closed, Harold and Mary Hargrave lived at the house near the old saltery (more on them in a future post). Unfortunately their property was destroyed in a fire in the early 1980s.

The burned and dead trees from the fire are still visible, with younger spruce trees growing up in amongst them:
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A recent aerial photo of the saltery location (red building is a private cabin):
0a-aerial2

Many pilings and stubs of broken off pilings from the docks and grids are still visible today:
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2 Responses to Funter Bay History: Saltery

  1. […] A 1932 report mentioned that there were two canneries at Funter Bay. They may have been referring to the fish buying station as a cannery, or they could have meant the saltery. […]

  2. […] with around 60 native employees working at the cannery. This “village” (also described here) was likely a summer fish camp for Tlingit natives. Some documents refer to it as housing for […]

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