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Great Salt Mines in the Mountains of Virginia

This article appeared in DeBow’s Review, May, 1855

The State of Virginia is moving in a great work of internal improvement, and is making a railroad that will reach the great salt mines of its mountains, and in a few years that salt will be distributed over the whole of the eastern States-its superior quality will ensure for it a ready sale everywhere; for it is better worth one dollar per bushel for table use than any other salt that ever came to our market is worth twenty five cents. It is a pure chloride of sodium, and will remain as dry as flour in any latitude from tile equator to the pole.

This great salt mine is in a trough between two mountains, at an elevation of 1,882 feet above the level of the sea, and near the waters of the north fork of Holston river, a tribute of the river Tennessee, and near the rivers of the States of Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina, where these border on a southwestern point of the State of Virginia.

The fossil salt lies about 220 feet below the surface of the ground, and is encased in a vast deposit of gypsum.

About ten years since, two boxes of geological specimens were sent to me from these mines and from the surrounding country. In repacking these into other boxes, some pieces of the fossil were put in a box with specimens of iron ore from the great iron ore beds of northern New York, and remained in that connexion until the present year. On being opened, the specimens were all in good order, the salt not having in the least corroded the iron, or produced any rust.

I have no doubt that this deposit of salt resulted from volcanic action. New river, the head of one of the tributaries of the Great Kanawha river, is near this salt mine, and is undoubtedly the source of the saline supplies of the deep wells of Kanawha, but in its course thither it undergoes a change, and when raised from the deep wells is found there to contain bromine in great abundance.

The Kanawha salines are among the wonders of the world; the salt water comes to the surface from a depth of two thousand feet, and is as cold as a northern blast in winter-thus exploding the theory that the heat increases in the earth everywhere as progress is made downward.

The gas which is issued from these deep wells is in abundance-sufficient to illuminate the entire northern hemisphere-and rises with a force that is sufficient to throw a cannonball a considerable distance.

In the excavations made in the neighborhood of the salt mines of Virginia, the bones of the Behemoth are found of a size indicating as large as the hull of a ship-of’ the-line. I have no doubt the table salt of our market will, in three years, be supplied by the Virginia Salt Mines; and even now our grocers cannot do better than to send to the salt mines of Virginia for pure table salt, for the supply of the customers who want a good article.