CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The Archives and History Library at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston, will present two additional lectures this month. Both programs will begin at 6 p.m. and are free and open to the public.
On Thursday, May 14, Carter and Nancy Bruns will discuss “The J. Q. Dickinson Saltworks.” The Dickinsons were early saltmakers in the Kanawha Valley, and in 1832 the John Q. Dickinson salt furnace was established at Malden. The facility remained in operation well into the 20th century, being the last salt operation in the area for several years.
Carter Bruns will speak about the industrialization of the Kanawha Valley by the salt industry, and on the industry nationwide. Nancy Bruns, a descendant of the Dickinsons, will talk about the family history from the Civil War to the present and how she and her brother came to revive the family salt business.
The Bruns owned and operated a restaurant in North Carolina until 2008, when Carter decided to pursue the study of early American history. He became interested in colonists’ frequent complaints concerning a lack of abundant salt and the lackluster efforts to produce the essential mineral in the English colonies in America. His master’s thesis, “The Whole River is Abustle,” examines the antebellum Kanawha Valley salt industry as an example of American frontier industrialization, and resultant environmental degradation predating the early industrial centers of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Nancy revived her family’s salt enterprise in Malden with her brother Lewis Payne two years ago. The J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works now harvests an all-natural gourmet salt by hand.
Lewis R. Smoot Sr. will present “African American Life: A Personal Perspective” in the Archives and History Library on Thursday, May 21. The program is the first of the 2015 Block Speakers Series.
Smoot graduated from Garnet High School in Charleston in 1951 and received a bachelor’s degree in building construction management from Michigan State in 1956. He spent two years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before coming home to work at the Sherman R. Smoot Company, a masonry company that had been started by his father Sherman and other relations in Charleston.
Smoot is chairman and chief executive officer of Smoot Construction Corporation. He also is responsible for executive management operations for Smoot Construction Company of Ohio, Smoot Management Corporation of Ohio, Smoot Construction LLC in Indiana, and Smoot Construction Company of Washington, D.C. He has received numerous awards for his participation in the community, and has served in various capacities as trustee or on the board of directors of many organizations and foundations.
“The Block” was once considered the heart of Charleston’s black community. It comprised a 25-acre area bound by Washington Street East, Capitol Street, Smith Street and Sentz Court.
For additional information about the Archives and History lecture series, contact the Archives and History Library at (304) 558-0230.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts with Kay Goodwin, Cabinet Secretary. The division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the division’s programs, events and sites, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.