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Traveling WV: J.Q. Dickinson Salt Works

J.Q. Dickinson Salt Works is located on the very same family farm as the original salt plant from the 1800s. (WCHS/WVAH)

William Dickinson, of Bedford County, Va., became one of our nation’s first economic and geographic pioneers. He saw a potential business opportunity on the far side of the Allegheny Mountains in Kanawha County, Va., where he had heard that people were boiling brine from springs for the resulting salt. In 1813 Dickinson invested in “salt properties” along the Kanawha River in the Appalachian Mountains and was making salt by 1817. The industry flourished in western Virginia and the town of Malden became “the salt making capital of the east”.

Today, two seventh-generation descendants of William Dickinson, siblings Nancy Bruns and Lewis

Payne, have reinvented this storied tradition, transforming the process by using natural and environmentally friendly concepts to produce small-batch finishing salt. On the very same family farm where William Dickinson lived and made salt, Nancy and Lewis have recaptured salt from this pristine 400 million year old ancient sea below the Appalachian Mountains. The brine is evaporated in special sun-houses and hand harvested, to create a perfect farm-to-table salt for any type of dish.

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