Traveled twelve miles to Stockton’s for breakfast, excellent fare. The turnpike ends eight miles from Ganly [Gauley]. A new contract had just been taken by Trimble and Thompson to continue to Charleston, 30 miles at the rate of $1595 per mile, bridges included. Very cheap road. The sixty miles between Charleston and Sandy will be let out on the first of October. We this day passed through the rich narrow bottoms of Kanawha, a great part of which is covered with a heavy crop of corn. Ten miles of the valley are called “the Licks” from their being covered with salt works. There are sixty furnaces which manufacture 2,000,000 bushels of salt annually.* The manufacturing of salt would be much more extensive if it were not entirely monopolized by a company. It will someday be a place of much more importance. The buildings about the salt works are miserable shells and hovels, temporary and unsubstantial. We passed the Burning Springs and came to Charleston about night. Charleston is a town about as large as Lexington, Virginia. It is built on a bottom along the Kanawha River. One street is laid off along the margin of the river, scarcely leaving room for a row of houses between the street and the river; here all the business is done. The other street has but few houses on it. The beauty of the town is very much diminished by the row of houses on the river bank. The houses are principally of wood, some brick.
After the Revolutionary War, settlers began moving westward from the early settlements. Many slowly migrated into the western part of Virginia. Charleston’s history goes back to the 18th century when Thomas Bullitt received 1,250 acres near the mouth of the Elk River, then it was inherited by his brother, Cuthbert Bullitt, upon his death in 1778, and then sold to Col. George Clendenin in 1786. The first permanent settlement, Fort Lee, was built in 1787 by Col. Savannah Clendenin and his company of Virginia Rangers. Six years later, the Virginia General Assembly officially established Charleston, on land that made up the town in 1794, 35 people inhabited seven houses. Daniel Boone who was commissioned a lieutenant colonel of that Kanawha County militia, was elected to serve in 1791 in the Virginia House of Delegates. Daniel Boone would move to the Spanish Territory in 1799, and settle on land that was was the St. Charles District in the Louisiana Territory purchased by the U.S. in 1804. This is the same location this caravan is headed for in 1829.
In 1804, Daniel Boone’s son’s Daniel Morgan Boone and Nathan Boone, were partners with James Morrison in what became know as the Boone’s Salt Lick enterprise in Missouri’s Howard County. The road from Morrison’s mercantile to the Salt Lick and its’ surrounding region called “the Booneslick” ran from the village of St. Charles on the Missouri River to the town of Franklin, the beginning of the Sante Fe Trail, and was known as the Boone’s Lick Road.
*The Kanawha salt furnaces were labor intensive. The saltmakers employed many slaves, making Kanawha County an exception to the fact that Western Virginia had relatively few slaves. By 1850, there were as many as 1,500 slaves at the salt works, owned by the salt barons or leased from other owners.
The town continued to grow until the Civil War began in 1861. The state of Virginia seceded from the Union, and Charleston was divided between Union and Confederate supporters. On September 13, 1862, the Union and Confederate armies met, but occupation of the city was short-lived, as Union troops returned just six weeks later and stayed through the end of the war. Charleston is the largest city and state Capitol for West Virginia, with an estimated population of 51,400 in 2010.
This is the journal of William Campbell (1805-1849),, on a journey from Lexington, in Rockbridge County, Virginia to St. Charles County Missouri, written in 1829, and includes the story of the enslaved Archer Alexander. It can be found in the Leyburn Library, Special Collections and Archives, located at the Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia.
For more about the Booneslick Road see https://booneslickroad.org/