West Virginia Executive Summer 2014 - Page 93

[ real wv ] A J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works Dash of Success “We chose a slow method for production that was environmentally conscious and meant to have as little impact as possible. We also like to showcase that our salt is a product of Mother Nature.” By Amy Arnett The Appalachian Mountains have long been a source of rich natural resources that produce industry and prosperity for those in the Kanawha Valley. In 1813, William Dickinson, a Virginia entrepreneur, set his sights on the Kanawha River in Malden, WV, and it soon became the birthplace of the business that would give Malden the nickname The Salt-Making Capital of the East. William first founded a company with his brother-in-law, Joel Shrewsbury, called Dickinson and Shrewsbury. They bought their company land in 1813 and drilled their first well in 1817. In 1832, William opened J.Q. Dickinson and Company in Malden, named after his grandson John Quincy. Today, William’s great-great-great-great-grandchildren, Nancy Bruns and Lewis Payne, operate J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works on the same land in Malden where their ancestor found his success with the mineral. Seasoned Histories In the 1800s, salt was harvested from wells drilled deep into the earth that drew water from the ancient Ipaetus Ocean. The saltwater, or brine, was then evaporated using heat supplied from coal-powered furnaces. This left behind salt to be harvested, packaged and sold. Today, Nancy, Lewis and their family members make salt in a new and different way than that of William’s time in the valley. “We decided on solar evaporation. Our process is a long one compared to how quickly our ances- ExEdge tors were making salt,” says Nancy. “They went from brine to salt in a day Roman soldiers were sometimes or two. Our shortest cycle at the height paid in salt, of summer is about four weeks from the and the word time it is pumped from the ground to “salary” comes from the Latin the time we package it.” word for salt. The brine is produced by pumping water from 350 feet below the surface, Source: http:// like well water for homes, into a large mypages.iit.edu holding vessel. The brine is allowed to settle in the holding vessel to help reduce iron levels, which would give the final salt a metallic taste. The brine is then fed gravitationally into evaporation beds where the family monitors the salinity level. Finally, it is moved to shallow crystallization beds where salt crystals form over the span of a few days. The salt is harvested with special wooden rakes and scrapers, dried, cleaned, sifted and packaged for sale. www.wvexecutive.com summer 2014 93