SALTVILLE, Va. - An overlook sign gives you an overview of just some of Saltville, Virginia's history on the highway into town.
On Labor Day they celebrate their heritage, a tradition that's been happening for 43 years now. A trip inside the Museum of the Middle Appalachians tells you that 43 years is not even a drop in bucket when it comes the history of this valley.
It's all about salt. "The rock salt 200 feet beneath the valley floor, originally underground water coming in contact with the salt would dissolve it and it would appear at the surface as salt springs," museum manager Harry Haynes says.
Those springs have attracted man and animal to the valley for thousands of years, and those large animals made trails into the valley. Those trails were followed by humans. "The earliest explorers in the Southeast were the Spanish. They found these trails and they called them roads," he said.
They also found the salt and traded for it with the Native Americans. Evidence of that trade is just coming to light with carved seashells found in the valley.
The salt and the resulting mining in modern times has a place in the valley's future. "Now though an interstate natural gas pipeline, Spectra Energy is operating the largest natural gas storage facility east of the Mississippi," Haynes said.
And the salt itself is still being traded just as it was. "United Salt Company has a facility here that produces 23 tons of salt per hour. It's almost 100 percent pure sodium chloride," he added.
A Labor Day celebration is in order for the little town that has a history that goes back before history itself.
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