Wythe County, Virginia is located in western Virginia. It was formed from Montgomery County in 1790. It was named after George Wythe, the first Virginian signer of the Declaration of Independence. It contains approximately 500 square feet of land. Smyth County was formed from a portion of Wythe and Washington Counties in 1831.
Smyth County, Virginia contains many large salt works. From 1863 to 1893, George W. Palmer and William A. Stuart (died 1890), the father of Governor Henry C. Stuart, owned the Holston Salt and Plaster Company in Smyth County, Virginia. It consisted of 12,000 acres of land and both salt and plaster operations.
The Salt Works' history dates to 1788 when General William Russell moved to the Salt Lick property of General William Campbell, who served at King's Mountain. He had married Campbell's widow, and the Campbell children inherited it. Russell began extracting the salt on his property. After a property dispute arose, the court determined Campbell's daughter Sarah owned it. In 1797, Sarah and her husband General Francis Preston moved to the Salt Lick and increased its output.
For the next few decades, the salt works were rented to a variety of individuals. From approximately 1798 to his death in 1808, William King rented the Preston Works and built a second saline operation. In 1819, John Sanders began leasing the Preston Works. In 1846, Colonel Thomas L. Preston oversaw the Preston estate. In September 1857, Harper's New Monthly Magazine described the operation has having an arched furnace and obtaining the salt by sinking wells into the salt-bed and raising it into large tanks.
In 1863, Palmer and Stuart purchased the property, and Holston Salt and Plaster Company incorporated the following year. During the Civil War, Smyth County's salt works was the Confederacy's sole supplier of salt. During the 1880s, Palmer and Suart also operated a large livestock business with registered shorthorn cattle and Clydesdale horses. Shortly after Stuart's death in 1890, Mathieson Alkali Works purchased the company.