A crude, temporary saltworks, including apparatus for boiling down lake water, had been built by 1848. In 1849 the LDS
Quorum of the Twelve directed a company of men to establish a permanent saltworks. By 1850 Charley White and his family were operating the saltworks on the lake shore opposite Black Rock and producing fine, coarse, and common grades of salt. White advertised that he would accept "cattle, grain, flour, hams, bacon, cheese, butter, pigs, sheep, lumber, poles, or firewood" in exchange for salt. The demise of the White saltworks is shrouded in mystery; a persistent local legend maintains that the Whites separated and that Mrs. White continued to run the works until she was murdered by unknown persons who wanted her cattle.
Salt even entered into the Utah War of 1857-58. Washington authorities had reasoned that Johnston's Army was going to Salt Lake City and therefore did not need to be supplied with a commodity that was relatively costly in the East. Government bungling and indecision, however, meant that the Army was forced to winter at Camp Scott near Fort Bridger, well short of its Salt Lake Valley destination. There the federal troopers spent a miserable winter, complaining about the insipid food. Besides salt, tobacco, sugar, and coffee were scarce and expensive; whiskey cost $12 a gallon when it was available. Brigham Young, hearing of Johnston's troubles, sent several mule loads of supplies to the general, along with a note urging him to accept the gift (and leave). The proud Johnston contemptuously refused the gift, although apparently his men accepted it gladly. Wilford Woodruff reported that an Indian named Ben Simons earned over $2,000 selling salt to the Army.