Early Industry Exhibit
Commercial production of salt in the valley began in the 1780s. Arthur Campbell, the families of two of Patrick Henry’s sisters (Suzannah Madison and Elizabeth Russell), an Irish immigrant William King were early producers. Wells were hand-dug or bored as deep as 200 feet to salt deposits. Groundwater dissolved the salt. Brine drawn from wells was evaporated in iron kettles in wood-fired furnaces. By 1850 hundreds of thousands of bushels of salt were being produced annually at the Salt Works.
George Palmer and other New York investors acquired the Preston Salt Works in 1858 and expanded salt production when they introduced the Syracuse style furnace. These large enclosed wood-fired furnaces evaporated brine in 100-gallon cast iron kettles, each weighing one-half ton. The furnaces operated 24 hours per day. Each kettle could produce three fifty-pound bushels of salt per day.
123 Palmer Ave.
Saltville, VA 24370