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Industrial History

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Industrial History CMP

Midland Trail's development coincides closely with industrial growth. Salt here attracted the buffalo, which beat out the original path followed by native people and pioneers. This natural abundance of slat, plus gas, coal, water, and timber, first brought pioneers and later spawned the Valley's petrochemical and extraction industries.

Transportation: Early on, river, rail, and road were integrated to transport salt, and later, coal and chemicals. Flatboats, then steamboats, were used for river transportation in the early 19th century. By 1872, the C&O Railroad came to the Valley, facilitating the development of coal resources on the tributaries of the Kanawha in Fayette County, helping the Kanawha Valley to become the state's largest coal-producing area by 1883.

Workforce: Early salt-making, then coal, spawned industries such as tin-and coppersmiths, wagon and barrel makers, blacksmiths and foundries, and boat builders. European immigrants flocked to the region to work in these industries, bringing a rich cultural influence that still exists along the Trail.

The 20th Century: Salt is sodium chloride. When World War I cut off chlorine and alkalis form Germany, the Kanawha Valley filled the gap, with all the natural elements from which chlorine, caustic, bromine, and magnesium chloride could be extracted. Soon, large corporations began moving to the Valley. By the end of the 1920s, the Valley became the world's largest producer of chlorine. As more scientists, inventors, capitalists, and government projects came, so did new products - chlorine, synthetic ammonia, antifreeze, herbicides, insecticides, nylon, silicon for much of the world's computer chips, chemicals for Lycra, and many more.

WV - Coal is King
All along Midland Trail, see mountains of coal piled at coal tipples, on barges, train cars, and in trucks. Each barge carries 1,500 tons of coal, replacing 15 train cars or 58 coal trucks. Each 15-barge tow holds 22,500 tons of coal, valued at $1.77 million when coal is $77.70/ton.

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