Saltville is located in at the base of high valley between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Allegheny mountains in southwest Virginia. It’s economic history for past 200 years is dominated by salt.
In 1893, the Holston Salt and Plaster Corp., was sold to the Mathieson Alkali Works and Saltville became a company town. The following description of Saltville can be found in an article in the Tennessee Valley Perspective, Summer, 1973.
“For several decades, the fortunes of the company and the town were practically inseparable. Saltville was not so much the site of the plant as an extension of it. The company owned most of the land and the homes in town. It operated the utilities and paid the salaries of the police. It supplied much of the community mercantile needs through its company stores. It built and staffed the hospital and provided employees and their families with complete medical care. It subsidized the school system, furnishing funds to supplement teachers’ salaries and help meet operating expenses.”
A pictorial history of the company town is on display at the Museum of the Middle Appalachians. The pictorial collection consists of over 1,400 photographs (many from the Totten Collection) which document over 100 years of happenings in the area. To read more about the Museum’s Picture Library, click here.
For decades the plant dumped its calcium chloride effluent into the North Fork of the Holston River, which flowed past the plant. The company announced in July of 1970, that it would not be able to meet new EPA water pollution standards and would close the plant.