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Dickinson & Shrewsbury Records
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Preferred Citation
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Biographical / Historical
  • Scope and Contents
  • Processing Information
  • Arrangement

  • Contributing Institution: The Huntington Library
    Title: Dickinson & Shrewsbury records
    Identifier/Call Number: mssDS
    Physical Description: 35.50 Linear Feet (33 boxes and 2 oversize folders)
    Date (inclusive): 1779-1915
    Date (bulk): 1804-1860
    Abstract: Business, legal, political, and personal correspondence of the founders, officers, employees, and legal counsel of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt company in Kanawha County, West Virginia.
    Language of Material: Materials are in English.

    Conditions Governing Access

    Open for use by qualified researchers and by appointment. Please contact Reader Services at the Huntington Library for more information.

    Conditions Governing Use

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item]. Dickinson & Shrewsbury records, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Purchased by William Reese Company on behalf of The Huntington from Swann Galleries Sale 2517, Lot 204, September 26, 2019.

    Biographical / Historical

    William Dickinson and Joel Shrewsbury founded Dickinson & Shrewsbury in 1814. The company had been proceeded by several other corporations based on land first purchased by Colonel John Dickinson in 1784 along the banks of the Kanawha River, Virginia (later to become West Virginia). John Dickinson conveyed his land to his sons-in-law, Samuel and John Shrewsbury. They settled there and established farms, bought more land, and started a salt business. They invited their brother Joel Shrewsbury and his business partner and brother-in-law William Dickinson to come to Virginia and join their business enterprises. Joel Shrewsbury and William Dickinson began to purchase property, rented a salt furnace, and moved their business to Kanawha in 1814. The firm of Dickinson & Shrewsbury was a large user of slave labor in their salt works and mines often using enslaved people "hired out" from enslavers in the area. Enslavers would often "hire out" their enslaved people to others, which could earn the enslavers more money; they would even take out insurance policies on the enslaved laborers at times. In December 1865, William Dickinson initiated dissolution proceedings against Joel Shrewsbury. At the time, the company owned four salt furnaces and fifty-nine parcels of land in Kanawha County and Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, and the company claimed ownership of 130 enslaved laborers. The dissolution proceedings lasted until 1882, long after the founders' deaths. The Dickinson family was later involved in the founding of the Kanawha Valley Bank, and in 2013, descendants of the Dickinson family re-opened the salt mines under the name of J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works.

    Scope and Contents

    The Dickinson & Shrewsbury records contain personal and business correspondence related to Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt mine company, their business and legal records, and files related to the enslaved labor that the company used in their salt mines including the family of Booker T. Washington, who were enslaved by the Ruffner family. The correspondence series, 1799 to 1880, is mostly between prominent company members and family members. The business files series, 1801 to 1857, are made up of financial accounts for the company. The enslaved labor files, 1806 to 1863, contain a variety of documents related to the enslaved people the company "hired out" from other enslavers to work at the salt mines. Many of the documents of the collection are the result of the dissolution of the company and the many lawsuits that were brought about near the end of the company. The topic of the enslaved people the company used is present in each series. The records also relate to several other companies in the same region such as Joel Shrewsbury & Company, and Dickinsons & Shrewsbury. There are also two maps, 1838 and undated.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Brooke M. Black in August 2021. In 2022, Brooke M. Black updated the finding aid after an item was treated and rehoused. Box number and folder numbers were changed.


    Organized in the following series: 1. Correspondence; 2. Business files; 3. Enslaved labor files; 4. Maps and deed.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Businessmen -- West Virginia -- 19th century
    Fugitive slaves -- United States
    Salt industry and trade -- West Virginia -- History -- 19th century -- Sources
    Salt mines and mining -- West Virginia
    Slaveholders -- West Virginia
    Slavery -- West Virginia -- History -- 19th century -- Sources
    Slaves -- West Virginia
    Business records -- United States -- 19th century
    Legal documents -- United States -- 19th century
    Letters (correspondence) -- United States -- 19th century
    Dickinson, William, 1772-1861
    Dickinson family
    Shrewsbury, Joel, 1778-1859
    Shrewsbury family
    Washington, Booker T., 1856-1915
    Dickinson & Shrewsbury