One of the things that resonates most for me about reviving J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works, is that Lewis and I are making salt here in the Kanawha Valley, just our great, great, great grandfather did and his father did before him.
Our family has been here for seven generations. Few have been here as long as the Dickinsons. Harvesting the salt from this same family land that our ancestors did reminds us that we are part of something larger; that we fit into the fabric of our family.
Our history in the valley has not been all rosy though. William Dickinson, the great grandson of an indentured servant, came here with his partner Joel Shrewsbury in 1813. For eighteen months they dug and drilled for brine before they finally hit salt water. The valley was a rough and tumble isolated frontier then, and the salt business was competitive. When times were tough, they thought creatively and worked harder. In 1819, William Dickinson even collected and drove 500 hogs 300 miles through the mountains to Richmond to earn the money to pay his debts. We appreciate their hard work and perseverance.
Like much of the nation, our heritage is not without its troubling episodes. The salt industry, like many industries in our young country, relied heavily on slave labor. Our ancestors were no exception. They owned slaves, and it is necessary and right to acknowledge that the industry was built on the backs of the enslaved. People rarely think of West Virginia, the very heart of Appalachia, as once having been slaveholding country, but it was.
We may disagree with and even abhor some of the choices we made as a family and as a nation, but we love them both anyway. We draw strength daily from our family. It drives us to work hard in reviving the salt industry here and give back to the Kanawha Valley that means so much to us.
This video explains what this heritage, our heritage, means to us as we build our young business.