Mansions of Elk Garden
The Stuart Family
Leads to Politics
Lead mining, smelting, and shot manufacturing were
established at Austinville south of Fort Chiswell after the
French and Indian War.
By 1774 so much of the timber around these operations had
been consumed in the manufacture of charcoal used in the
smelting of lead ore, that the county seat of Fincastle County
was moved away. Fort
Chiswell, and later Wytheville, became the economic centers for
These lead mines were the major source of ammunition for the
American military during the Revolutionary War, and later for
In the 1850’s William Alexander Stuart went into the
banking business in Wytheville, where he was Cashier.
The bank in Wytheville made its money primarily from the
lead business at Austinville, and at the salt operations in
At the time of DeSota, and for a long time before, the
Yuchi Indians had made salt at Saltville, and had developed a
widespread commerce in it through the entire South.
In 1714 the Cherokee took over the salt works.
In the 1750’s Charles Campbell started commercial salt
production there, and was soon joined by William King.
Under these two men Saltville again became the largest
supplier of salt to the Southeast.
In the 1850’s the Saltville works were leased by a
company of Northerners, led by George W. Palmer, of Syracuse,
New York. However,
with the Civil War obviously on the horizon, these men thought
it well to return North, and to leave the operation of the Salt
works to “men of Southern sympathies”.
Palmer selected William Alexander Stuart and Benjamin K.
Buchanan, with Stuart soon becoming the dominant partner, and
who wound up owning much of the stock of the Holston Salt and
In 1863 Stuart moved to Saltville from
signed a contract with the Confederate Government to be its
major supplier of salt, and in 1864 he produced 4,000,000
bushels of salt.
Over two thousand slaves were used in that operation.
When Jeb Stuart was killed late in the war,
his widow came to live with William Alexander in Saltville,
where her brother-in-law sat her up in the old log house of
William King, who had owned the salt works in an earlier era.
She taught school there for a number of years, before
moving to Richmond.
The contract with the
Confederate government specified that Stuart would be paid in
Confederate money for his salt.
However, he charged the local counties and individuals in
gold or United States greenbacks.
In 1863 Russell County delegated a special agent to deal
with the Salt Works management to procure salt for the county.
Other counties set up special commissions to deal with
him. He set up a
“certificate” or rationing program.
An Abingdon newspaper of March 27, 1863 published an
article entitled “The Salt Question”, in which “the present
proprietors of the Works