Salt of the Hayward Shoreline
Andrew August Ohleson was born in the small city of Solvesborg, Sweden in 1834. He left home at the young age of 15 to become a ship hand and to travel around the world. After this, Ohleson ended up in San Francisco to try his luck with gold during the California Gold Rush. For several years Ohleson found work in the Sierras mining for gold and on farms in Santa Cruz until he eventually settled in San Francisco working as a carpenter and contractor. In 1868 Ohleson came to Mt. Eden and purchased 120 acres of potential salt ponds as a part of the J.J. Vallejo land grant; it was at this time too that Andrew changed his last name from Ohleson to Oliver. For years Oliver worked on his land creating dikes, ponds, and buildings to house and refine salt. By 1872 Oliver had his first full-fledged harvest where he produced about 10 tons of sellable product and started his business: the Acme Salt Company.
Before his first harvest in 1872, Oliver traveled back to his homeland where he met and married his wife of 21 years, Elsa Pearson. Together they had eight children, all of whom worked to help their family business grow and prosper. When Andrew Oliver died in 1890, his wife and sons took over the business renaming it the Oliver Salt Company. The eldest son, Otto Edward Oliver, worked as a machinist and a salt manufacturer. Andrew and Elsa’s second eldest son, Adolph August Oliver, was a businessman and general manager for the company. Henry Andrew Oliver, the third son, managed Oliver’s Corner, the family’s general store in Mt. Eden. The youngest son, Andrew William Oliver, worked in the salt refinery as the superintendent. Following the turn of the century the Oliver Salt Company flourished and expanded purchasing 8 different salt companies in Mt. Eden between 1909 and 1915. By the 1920’s the Oliver Salt Company owned 1,400 acres of land with an annual capacity of producing 30,000 tons of salt. In 1927 the Oliver’s began leasing their land and by 1931 they sold to the Leslie-California Salt Company.
In 1937 sons of Adolph August Oliver, Alden Edward Oliver and Adolph “Gus” August Oliver Jr., bought 190 acres of salt ponds that were adjacent to the San Mateo Bridge and formed the Oliver Brothers Salt Company. The brothers and their children worked in the marshlands for many years, carrying on their family traditions within the solar evaporation salt industry producing an average of about 7,000 tons of salt annually. After Adolph’s death in 1972, Alden held onto his “salty heritage” and continued producing salt as one of only two salt companies left remaining in the area (the other being the Leslie-California Salt Company). The Oliver Brothers Salt Company supplied salt to tanneries, food processors and packing companies however as the twentieth century continued, more and more land was slowly being sold off. The last Oliver owned evaporation pond was closed in 1982.
Through these generations of salt production Oliver family members increasingly perfected the solar harvesting technique of acquiring salt. Many years of trial and error brought a product that was 99.5% iodine; these same techniques are still used by salt manufacturers, like Cargill Corporation, today.