Clarksburg Area's Salt Works; and Mile's End

By Bob Stealey | October 04, 2013

Since I've developed a wee bit of "writer's block," once again I'm relying on the use of yet another history lesson about Clarksburg and surrounding area for readers today.

With the usual posthumous kudos to Dorothy Davis, for the invaluable help I've received from her volume, "History of Harrison County," today I'd like to elaborate some more on historical industries in and around Clarksburg, such as the salt works that were once predominant in "these parts."

Native Americans of the Delaware tribe, under Captain Bull, had manufactured small quantities of salt at Bulltown by dropping hot stones in brine to evaporate the water. It was enough for themselves and a few friendly white neighbors, as well.

"John Haymond traveled via the Little Kanawha River and the Ohio River to Pittsburgh in canoes to purchase kettles in which to boil the saline water from wells at Bulltown, and beginning in 1809, manufactured salt, much of which was sold in the Clarksburg area," Mrs. Davis wrote.

In order to obtain a supply of salt water, operators sank two or three "gums," or hollow logs, into the mire or quicksand, and dipped the brine with a bucket and swape--a pole used as a lever--as it oozed from the sands below.

"John Haymond and Benjamin Wilson, a partner i developing the industry at Bulltown, built a salt furnace which consisted of two dozen small kettles set in a double row, with a flue beneath, a chimney at one end and a firebed at the other," Mrs. Davis continued.

"About 1812, a rival company was established on the West Fork River near Clarksburg," according to the Chapin Papers at West Virginia University. "John G. Jackson headed the concern, and because his transportation costs were very small, he could afford to sell salt in Harrison County at a much lower price per bushel--two dollars--than Colonel Haymond, who lost a great deal of trade in that section."

Bulltown salt long was quoted in the Clarksburg market at $2.50 per bushel, the West Virginia Writers' Project, "The Bulltown Country," reported in 1940.

"Because of improved waterways and manufacturing processes, the Haymonds, by 1825, could end the competition of the Jackson Salt Works by selling salt in Clarksburg for 50 cents a bushel," according to the Clarksburg, Virginia, newspaper, "The Intelligencer," on Oct. 1, 1825.

Following the death of John G. Jackson in 1825, someone occasionally would operate the Jackson works, a mile and a half south of Clarksburg on the West Fork River.

Phineas Chapin remarked in a letter on Oct. 2, 1839, "They are making salt in a furnace at the old Salt Works."

John G. Jackson was Clarksburg's first manufacturer. He was also so energetic that, in addition to being surveyor of government lands west of the Ohio River, a representative in five sessions of the U.S. Congress, a brigadier general of Militia and U.S. Judge for the Western District of Virginia, he ran flatboats to Pittsburgh loaded with flax, tobacco, ginseng, woolen cloth, salt, maple syrup, leather, iron, nails, horseshoes, pots and skillets.

Jackson built a small town called Mile's End, established by an Act of the Virginia General Assembly on Feb. 12, 1814, one mile east of the 1810 city limits of Clarksburg, on the Philippi Road, at the mouths of Still House Run and Murphy's Run, on thenorth side of Elk Creek opposite Hudson Street--a unit that included a flour mill, a furnace, a foundry, a fulling mill, a tanyard and carding machines.

"In July 1814, John G. Jackson opened a (salt) well about three miles above Clarksburg on the West Fork of the Monongahela. (The well) was pumped by means of 'horse power' (and) Jackson was able to supply a substantial part of the local needs and to reduce prices, . . . according to Otis K. Rice in "The Allegheny Frontier."

The "Dictionary of American Biography" had this to say: "(Judge Jackson's) varied enterprises absorbed large sums of money, 'and at his death left his princely estate heavily embarrassed.'"


Today's Bible Verse: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."--Proverbs 9:10 

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Posted by Joyce McClellan on Oct 04, 2013 at 1:36 PM
I certainly don't wish writer's block on you but I love these history lessons.

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