WV History: Salt Works / Liverpool Salt and Coal Company

Earlier this year, Husband and I made our way past areas that were significant to Salt Mining in our area of Mason County, West Virginia. He showed me where the old salt mines used to sit in Hartford, WV. When I returned home shortly after, I opened my laptop to see what data I could find and one of the search results was for eBay and an old receipt. I paid user: jaytheis2012 $9.99 and a few days later this showed up:

I have collected a number of West Virginia history items and this will be added to that collection.

When people use the words “mining” and “West Virginia” in the same sentence, it is usually in reference to coal. However, at one point in West Virginia’s history, salt was just as large of a commodity.

In the mid 1850s, William Harpold located in Hartford, West Virginia and there he built a business that was composed of a salt furnace, saw mill, boat yard and houses for employees. He named this new community Valley City. It took a few years to have everything up and running and an additional decade for his business to become incorporated. By that time, the business was successful and had a number of investors.

Pulled from WV Archive records, I found that William Harpold died of typhoid fever at the age of 44 on October 15, 1869, the same year his salt furnace was incorporated. In pulling old will and probate records, I was able to find his last will and testament which gave us a glimpse at his devotion to his wife Susan.

William’s son, Elijah, would do his best to run the company but his complete attention and devotion was not to his father’s business. Because of that, the furnace suffered a number of years being in disrepair and being closed regularly. In the late 1870s, the company was reorganized and then called Aetna Coal and Salt Company. Trouble followed the new owners who couldn’t seem to find their footing as well. The company was eventually sold to GY Roots and Albert Smith, of Cincinnati and the business name was changed to Liverpool Salt & Coal Company. Albert Smith would later become the sole owner of the establishment and would soon see accolades for his business in the local papers.


Company Number 74459

Status Name Change (Reserved For Old Records)

Incorporation Date 16 January 1888 

Dissolution Date 6 October 1933

Company Type Corporation (Domestic Profit)

Jurisdiction West Virginia (US)

Inactive Directors / Officers

  • ALBERT E. SMITH, incorporator
  • HOWARD FERRIS, incorporator

Registry Pagehttp://apps.sos.wv.gov/business/corpo…

Author: Hayes, Eli L.
Date: 1877
Short Title: Property of the Hartford City Coal & Salt Co., Hartford City, Mason Co., West Va.
Title: Liverpool Salt Company Mason County

Description: Liverpool Salt Co in Hartford in Mason County. In 1847 the first salt well was established at West Columbia.

Mason County Memories: The last of the old salts

The last of the old salts

By Chris Rizer – Special to the Register

Everyone knows West Virginia for its coal production, but did you know that at one time, salt production dominated our region? Brine salt was pumped from deep underground into a salt furnace, where it was heated and purified to remove excess water and chemicals.

The first successful salt production on our side of the Big Bend was at West Columbia in 1849; however, a much larger and more productive furnace was soon built in Hartford. In 1854, William Harpold came from Racine and bought a large chunk of land in Hartford, just below Sliding Hill Creek. On this land, he constructed a salt furnace, saw mill, boat yard, and multiple homes for his workers. He named his new town and salt furnace Valley City. By 1857, this furnace was up on running, though it was not officially incorporated until 1869. At that time, there were 17 stockholders, and William Harpold was the majority owner. Soon after this, William passed away and left the company to his son, Elijah.

Elijah Harpold did his best to run the company, but he was also captain of the Steamer Robin, so he was frequently absent. By 1878, the furnace had been closed multiple times for repairs, and Harpold decided that it was in the best interests of the company to reorganize. This time, the company was known as the Aetna Coal and Salt Company. They continued operating for a short time, but more trouble found the salt furnace, and they were forced to sell out. This time, the company was bought by G.Y. Roots and Albert E. Smith, partners from Cincinnati.

Under the new leadership, the name was changed to the Liverpool Salt & Coal Company. This is the name that most people remember. It seems that no owner could avoid disaster striking this salt furnace. Just a few years after their purchase, the 1884 flood destroyed the Ohio Valley. At Liverpool, they lost an entire barge of salt and were unable to operate for nearly a year.

By 1888, Roots sold his shares to Smith, and the Smith family owned the entire operation. He immediately began making improvements, and in 1890, the local papers took notice, mentioning that “Liverpool Salt and Coal Co. have made quite an improvement on their salt house.” This trend continued, and the salt furnace became one of the most profitable in the entire Bend Area. When the other furnaces formed a Salt Trust to stay alive, Liverpool was one of the few furnaces to continue on their own. They also stayed at the leading edge of innovation. Liverpool was one of the first to use calcium chloride to settle dust on nearby roads. This chemical is still used for this purpose, as well as de-icing roadways.

In 1909, disaster struck Liverpool once again. This time, a boiler explosion nearly leveled the entire furnace and killed two men. It would be months before the furnace would reopen.

Upon A.E. Smith’s death, the furnace was given to his sons. Erwyn Smith emerged as the leader and ran most of the company’s business; however, he died only 7 years after his father. Next, the company went to his son, Donald Albert Smith. He ran the company until his death in 1955, at which point his wife became the president of the company, and his son, Donald E. Smith, took over as manager. After watching the other salt furnaces slowly close their doors, Liverpool Furnace finally put out its fires in 1963. It was the last of the Bend Area salt furnaces to close.

Information from Mildred Gibbs’ “Hartford City, 1853-1922.”


Additional Reading

From Pomeroy Daily Sentinel
Screenshot of Google Earth showing the locations of the 26 salt furnaces once located in the Bend Area

Ohio Valley History: The Great Salt Bend


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