History Comes to Life in Malden, WV

by | Aug 9, 2023 | Articles

Recently, our homeschool group had an opportunity to experience living history at its finest. We visited small, but sensational, Malden, West Virginia, located just outside of Charleston.

First we went to the J.Q. Dickinson Salt Works where we were given an exceptional demonstration of the salt-making process. Salt was actually one of the very first industries in the Kanawha Valley. An ancient ocean located under the Appalachian region is the source of the salt. 

One local lady refers to the salt as “Noah’s salt”. Historically, herds of bison and deer would gather in the fields and feed on the salt deposits which rose to the earth’s surface. Although the methods of making salt have changed over the years, there is much history surrounding the salt industry in this region. 

Our tour ended with a taste of delicious caramel sauce topped with WV salt! The Salt-Works gives tours nearly every day, but they recommend calling ahead for large groups.

The salt and coal industries brought many people to the area, including Booker T. Washington and his mother. A great statesman, educator, and innovator, Washington never forgot his humble beginnings in Malden, West Virginia. 

Our next stop for living history took us to the African Zion Baptist Church – one of the very first churches established for the African-American community in the area. The simple, yet impressive, church building gives a glimpse into the spiritual life of the local people. Studying the Bible and knowing the ways of God were top priority.

Directly behind the church building lies replicas of Booker T. Washington’s home place and schoolhouse. These buildings give grave insight into the simple ways of living during that era. Attorney Larry Rowe led our tour and offered valuable information about the history of slavery, salt, and freedom in the area. 

Attorney Rowe is also a delegate for Kanawha County. The visit with him was a great opportunity to make a positive impression for homeschooling in West Virginia. Attorney Rowe offers tours on a regular basis and welcomes groups of all sizes.

Last on our tour, we visited the Kanawha Salines Presbyterian Church, just a couple blocks away. Built in 1840, this church reflects the name of the area before it changed to Malden. There is a HUGE tree in the front of the church. Due to its size, many in our group thought that perhaps the tree was there when the church was built! 

It was interesting to note the style of the locally-made bricks on the building. Inside, there is a balcony area where the slaves would usually sit. The pastor of the Kanawha Salines Presbyterian Church was very gracious in allowing us to take a look around and share the significance of the church as it related to Booker T. Washington’s life.

Although I have lived within an hour of Malden all my life, I have never visited this amazing town until this past spring. I’m so glad I did! This area is a treasure trove of living West Virginia history. Be sure to visit this coming school year! If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at hello@teachingnaturally.net. 

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