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Pioneer History

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Pioneer History CMP

Belle, originally named Reynolds after local store owner Robert Reynolds, was renamed Belle, after Mr. Reynolds' daughter, when the post office informed them another town named Reynolds already existed in WV. Descendants of the Reynolds family still operate the Old Stone House (1810) in Belle, the historical home of salt-maker Samuel Shrewsbury, and the oldest house of its type remaining in Kanawha County. Open the 3rd Saturday  May - October 10 am - 1 pm, or by appointment. 304.949.2398

SALT-MAKING HISTORY
Come Closer. We Have a story to Tell
Long ago, buffalo beat a path through undisturbed forests to the basins of salt brine along the Kanawha River. Native Americans followed, learning how to use hot rocks to extract salt. In 1671, Captain Thomas Batts learned about the area's abundant salt. Mary Ingles reported that her Shawnee captures taught her to extract salt in 1755.Pioneers followed the buffalo path, and by 1790, at the urging of George Washington, the path became a state road that ran from Virginia to Cedar Grove; today it is known as the Midland Trail.

The resource that attracted the buffalo later made Malden the world's largest salt producer and the site of the country's first industrial trust in 1817. Malden's "red salt," with its rich iron content, was a prized commodity to pioneers for preserving meat. The resource enriched the Valley's early industrialists and ultimately spawned the surounding chemical industries.

When salt-makers Dickinson and Shrewsbury hit the great gas reserves of the region in 1843, a column of salt and gas roared 150 feet into the air. Even then, industry was a tourist attraction! When the well was blowing, stagecoach drivers would stop so their passengers could view the phenomenon. One passenger, a Harvard professor, lit a match to see of the gas would burn. He instantly set the whole area ablaze and jumped into the river to extinguish his burning clothing.

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