An old salt cauldron discovered at Alligator Point will remain at the Carrabelle History Museum.
Last September, Gale Heuring and her family vacationed on Alligator Point at 1377 Chip Morrison Drive. On the beach, in front of their cottage, they found an old metal cauldron.
They dug the pot up and dragged it from the sand. Heuring, concerned about ownership of the pot, called the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. Officer Goldie Harris responded to the call.
Heuring said Harris was excited about the find. “She wasn’t sure what it was but she said ‘Yes, you’re renting the property. You found it. It’s considered yours and you can take it home.’”
Heuring said at the time, she suggested donating the pot to the Carrabelle museum but her daughter wanted to put it in her yard so the family packed up the cauldron and took it home to Tallahassee.
Gale Heuring remained interested in the pot and searched online for information explaining what it was. She came upon the website of the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN) and wound up writing to Mike Wisenbaker, an archaeologist for the Florida Department of State Division of Historical Resources.
Wisenbaker wrote Heuring in October with good news and bad news. He told her the cauldron was a syrup kettle that had been converted into a salt cauldron during the Civil War.
He said the kettle had been documented by a state archaeologist in August 2013 after being discovered and reported by a Mr. Montgomery.
“Unfortunately, the person from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office was misinformed in telling you all it was okay for you to dig this up and take it. Technically speaking, since it was found below the mean high water line, this object belongs to the state of Florida. Specifically, it belongs to our agency, the Florida Division of Historical Resources, as promulgated by Florida Statute 267. Therefore, we suggest that you donate the kettle to a local museum, particularly one in Franklin County.
“Unless properly treated soon, the kettle will quickly oxidize and will be nothing more than a pile of rust in a relatively brief period of time,” Wisenbaker wrote.
After a picture of the kettle appeared in “Chasing Shadows” the June 5 edition of the Times, the newspaper received an anonymous email stating that the kettle was stolen state property. Times staff contacted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission since preservation of historical resources is part of their mandate.
FWC Lt. Charlie Woods of Carrabelle investigated the situation and, on Friday, the Times received an email from Division of Historical Resources spokesperson Brittany Lesser that said the salt cauldron would now be taken to Tallahassee for assessment and preservation, and will eventually be returned on loan to the Carrabelle History Museum.
If you find what you think is a historical artifact, before attempting to move it, contact the Division of Historic Resources at (850) 245-6300.
Under Florida law, it is illegal to move historical artifacts from land controlled by the state. Someone caught moving or damaging artifacts can be fined the value of the object, plus the cost of repairing any damage to it or the site, as well as the cost of conducting research to recover historic or scientific information that may have been lost because of the unlawful removal of the artifact.
The Heurings tried hard to do the right thing and they will not be charged under the Historic Resources Act.