Saturday, January 24, 2015



That salt water abounds in every section of the Sandy Valley is a fact well known from the earliest times until now. Henry Clay, the great orator, in partnership with John Breckinridge, the grandfather of General John C. Breckinridge, owned a large boundary of land on Middle Creek, Floyd County, Kentucky, ten miles from Prestonburg, where the earliest salt-works in the valley existed. Salt was made here in 1795, and almost continuously until some time after the great war closed. [The Americal Civil War, 1861-1865] The original owners disposed of their title to the land for a mere trifle, and the Harrises, the Hamiltons, and others, worked the wells, sometimes on a small and sometimes on a large scale. During the war, the salt made at the Middle Creek wells sold on the ground for two and three dollars a bushel. The wells are now in repose, awaiting the enterprise to work them again. At Warfield, on Tug River, some sixty miles above Catlettsburg, great quantities of salt have been made, both before and since the termination of the war. The works were first started by Governor John B. Floyd & Brothers, of Tazewell County, Virginia. They built up quite a little town there, and made great calculations to enlarge the works; but the war coming on, Governor Floyd, the prime mover in the industry, went away, leaving in charge agents to look after the welfare of the property until his return. But going into the Southern army as a general, he went down amid the clash of arms, and never returned to Warfield. Salt could be made there now at a small cost; for a company, on boring for oil, at about a thousand feet, struck an inexhaustible supply of gas, which is still burning, although several years have passed since it was developed. It lights the country for miles around with a more dazzling light than could be done with millions of jets of artificial gas. We say that it is inexhaustible, because General George Washington, when making his wonderful survey up the Tug River, says, in his Field Notes, when at the point opposite where Warfield now stands, that he found a burning spring bubbling up out of the water. This was in 1766. Salt can be made from the salt water in every county in the valley, which has been done in seasons of extreme low water in the river, preventing merchants from keeping a full supply on hand. Near the mouth of Blaine, on the Virginia side of the river, salt in considerable quantities has made as far back as 1813. Judge Robert B. McCall's father was engaged at that place in boiling salt, as were his grandfather on the maternal side. McSorley, the father of John McSorley, was the clerk and store-keeper at the same time. He afterwards went to teaching, which he followed the remainder of his life, which terminated some years ago. William Ely, The Big Sandy Valley. A History of the People and the Country, from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time. Catlettsburg, Kentucky, 1887; rpt., 1969. p. 26-28.

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