September 16, 2017

WHITE HISTORY: There Is An Ancient Sea Below West Virginia's Mountains!

More than 300 feet below the Appalachian Mountains flows the Iapetus Sea, the source of the salt deposits that led to the founding and development of Charleston, West Virginia.

From a shallow well near what came to be known as Malden, the first commercial salt producer, Elisha Brooks, scooped the brine and would boil it to evaporate the water, leaving behind bushels of white savory crystals. His method was labor-intensive.

“This brine had a low concentration of salt, so it took a lot of water to make a large quantity,” said Billy Joe Peyton, professor of history at West Virginia State University and author of “Historic Charleston: The First 225 Years.”

“Salt was used to pack pork, and a major packing center was in Cincinnati,” historian John E. Stealey III said. “You’re talking about millions of bushels of salt being consumed in that. Pork furnished basic diet in the West because you could preserve it; beef wasn’t as easy to preserve.”

At the outset of the 18th century, the Ruffner brothers, Daniel and Joseph, sought ways to extract more copious amounts of the salt to meet a growing demand. They dug deeper in the marshy land, and this yielded stronger brine.

Eventually, they hit rock and chose to drill. They drove through 40 feet of rock and, in 1808, struck a brine two and a half times as strong as the brine in the shallower wells, according to Rice. For every 200 gallons of brine, the brothers were able to produce a bushel of salt.

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