1813 William Dickinson buys land in Kanawha County, Virginia (now West Virginia) with the goal of making salt. He joins a growing number of salt makers in the region.
1817 William Dickinson and his partner/brother-in-law, Joel Shrewsbury, completed the first salt well, using a hollow tree trunk as the piping. The family salt-harvesting begins, focusing on salt used to cure and preserve meats, fish, and other foods.
1830s The town of Kanawha Salines, current Malden, develops around the salt businesses. It quickly earns a reputation as the salt making capital of the east. Over three million bushels of salt are produced in a year. Most of the workers are slaves.
1851 Kanawha salt, is awarded the “Best Salt in the World" at the World’s Fair in London. Six million people gathered at the Crystal Palace, including people like Charles Darwin, who we hope tried our salt!
1860s The Civil War destroys many of the Kanawha Valley Salt-Works. The Dickinson Family rebuilds and continues making salt until the 1940s. During this time salt use slowly shifts from meat curing to industrial purposes.
1930s J.Q. Dickinson & Co. employed about 200 people during these years. The company produces mainly industrial salt products and services, such as dust-lay and agricultural salt, as well as providing extracted minerals to local industries.
1980s In 1982, J.Q. Dickinson & Co. shut it’s doors, to be revived 31 years later by the seventh generation of the family.
1990s Modern day Malden, WV still stands with a plethora of different architectural structures erected over the last two centuries. It has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and even boasts the childhood home of Booker T. Washington.
2013 The Dickinson family gathers with Nancy and Lewis on the farm, almost two hundred years after their forefather purchased the land, in honor of the renaissance of their family salt business.


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. Read more about our past in this History Tour of Old Malden.

Hand-written note from the J. Q. Dickinson company in 1882.

Hand-written note from the J. Q. Dickinson Company in 1882.