Saltaire historians discover Sir Titus Salt’s American venture

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Saltaire historian David King stands by a ventilation shaft of the Richland Mine in Tennessee Saltaire historian David King stands by a ventilation shaft of the Richland Mine in Tennessee

Two historians who travelled to the US to uncover little-known details of Sir Titus Salt’s US coal and iron venture believe its cost and scale was similar to that of Saltaire.

Dave Shaw and David King, both members of Saltaire History Club, were invited to Dayton, Tennessee, where the famous Victorian philanthropist had started to build another model village.

The pair met local historians to find out more about the Dayton Coal and Iron Company, a mining, furnacing and railroad venture started in the 1870s and registered at Salts Mill.

They discovered mine shafts, coke ovens, iron remains and remnants of railway built as part of the enterprise, which was overseen during the 1880s by Titus Salt’s son Titus Junior and company partner Charles Stead.

Mr Shaw, 70, of Saltaire, said: “The visit confirmed the impression we had that the resources the Salts put into the Dayton venture, the financial investment, was similar to Saltaire. It must have been very difficult to get the mine working and furnaces up and running. It’s a very hard terrain to work with. It must have been harder in the 1880’s as transport and communication were more difficult.”

Mr Shaw said the company had failed to dig deep enough to reach the main seam of coal in the area.

The trip also saw the historians attend a ceremony to mark the inaguaration of land once owned by the Salt family into the Cumberland Trail on May 4 – the 94th birthday of Titus Salt’s great-grandson Denys Salt.

Mr Shaw, who said he hoped to return to the area, added: “We are hopeful we will have an ongoing dialogue with historians in Dayton and we hope to supply them with information about Saltaire.”

The Salt family’s interest in Dayton came to an end the week before the collapse of Salts Mill in the 1890s, when all financial interest in the venture was surrendered to a Glasgow-based company, which by then had become partners in the scheme.

A blog about the trip is on the Saltaire Village website, saltaire-village.info.

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