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GRAND SALINE, TX

GRAND SALINE, TEXAS. Grand Saline is on U.S. Highway 80 and State Highway 110, fifteen miles northeast of Canton in northeastern Van Zandt County. It is known, because of its extensive salt mines, as the "salt capital of Texas." The town was called Jordan's Saline until the arrival of the Texas and Pacific Railway on its route from Marshall to Dallas in 1873. Landowner Samuel Q. Richardson donated fifty acres for the townsite and constructed a general store facing the train tracks. The new railroad depot, built by chief engineer Grenville M. Dodge, was called Grand Saline, and the new commercial center subsequently expanded to include what had been Jordan's Saline. A local post office opened in 1874. Dodge located and divided the townsite into lots and blocks, constructed the Lone Star Salt Company, and on May 9, 1876, turned over all rights to the Texas and Pacific.

After the Civil War Richardson drilled a local salt well to 350 feet. In 1875 the Richardson Salt Works was leased to a St. Louis company organized by G. M. Overlease. In 1890 an Indiana firm known as the Grand Saline Salt Company and later as Morton Salt Company drilled further at the site and began mining. Under the management of English engineer Andrew Wilderspin, improved methods were introduced, and in 1891 Byron Parsons organized the Lone Star Salt Company as the area's first steam-powered salt plant.

Early Grand Saline businesses included T. B. Meeks's general store, a saloon, and a restaurant. Meeks, a teacher, promoted the Texas Short Line Railroad, which completed its Grand Saline to Alba line by 1900 to bring coal to the salt works and carry salt to North Texas. Grand Saline was first incorporated on December 16, 1895, but was disincorporated by an election on August 12, 1898, called at Meeks's request, and was not reincorporated until July 6, 1900. The area's first school, taught by James J. Kuykendall, was established in 1849 on Saline Creek five miles south of the city; the Grand Saline school, in existence by 1890, reached an enrollment of 378 in 1903. A Grange was established by 1876, and by 1892 the town had six groceries, three dry goods stores, three hotels, and sixty-five houses. The Grand Saline Rustler, started by Sim Florence and first published by J. B. Spinks around 1891, was followed by the Grand Saline Sun in 1894. Poultry, timber, and dairy goods supplemented cotton production, and a cotton gin built in 1890 ended the town's reliance on Mineola and Canton. By 1911 Grande Saline had a population of 2,500, two banks, two weekly newspapers, a lumberyard, an ice plant, two gins, one school, and five churches. Fires in 1917 and 1919 damaged local businesses. Morton Salt acquired all the local salt companies in 1920, sank the Kleer Salt Mine into the area's salt dome by 1931 to produce up to 500 tons of salt daily, and became the sole salt-mine operator in the county, employing 950 by 1945.

The discovery of the Van oilfieldqv in 1929 brought twelve petroleum-supply companies and five lumberyards to the community, and a local well was discovered in 1963. The population was 1,799 in 1930 but declined during the Great Depression. Local sewing rooms made garments for the poor in 1937. The population declined after the Morton Salt strike in 1943 led to formation of the Grand Saline Industrial Foundation in 1953 to attract new industry to the area. The Southwestern Mobile Home Company responded, and the town developed clothing manufacturing, meat packing, and sulfur-processing firms and produced sweet potatoes, truck crops, and livestock. Early actress Louise Fazenda, wife of Warner Brothers' Hal Wallis, once lived in the Lone Star Hotel in Grand Saline. Between 1976 and 1978 the United States government considered filling the local salt mines with crude oil from Saudi Arabia or Nigeria but did not take action. In 1982 Morton Salt produced 400,000 tons of salt from its mines. In 1990 Grand Saline had a population of 3,402, shipped fruits and vegetables, and celebrated a June Salt Festival and Rodeo and a December Christmas Parade. In 2000 the population was 3,028. The Rogers Center and Woodside cemeteries are located near the town, and the Main Street Salt House, with huge salt crystals from the Morton mines, is a local attraction. See also SALT INDUSTRY.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Dallas Times Herald, February 28, 1982. William Samuel Mills, History of Van Zandt County (Canton, Texas, 1950). Marker Files, Texas Historical Commission, Austin. Van Zandt County History Book Committee, History of Van Zandt County (Dallas, 1984). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Diana J. Kleiner

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Diana J. Kleiner, "GRAND SALINE, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hgg04), accessed November 22, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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