EPISODE AND STORY OF THE SALT
One of Hyrum Smithís sons, Ruel Smith, got a call to go to Overton, Nevada, years ago to take over a job of school teaching and be a music director, so he packed up and made his abode in that town. After he had been in that place for some time he heard about a Salt Mine back in the hills from where St. Thomas used to be, so he had to go explore it.
He said it was a job getting thereóroads washed away and rocks rolled into it. He managed to find the opening from descriptions given him and he walked into it. Tall bare hills were all around with a pretty inland lake with no vegetation growing around it, denoting the water was salty.
Ruel said he expected to find salt everywhere but all he could find was a few white strips here and there. He gathered a few specimens of it and took it home. To Ruel, it was beautiful. Two of the strips were almost alike; about 8 inches long and about 3 inches wide and more than an inch thick. They were hard as rocks and as clear as crystal. It looked just like glass and tasted like salt. It was salt in itís purest form. Ruel was happy over his discovery and showed his friends his souvenirs.
The first time Ruel came home this salt specimen came with him, and was kept in the Smith home for years. All the neighbors and friends around saw and held the rocks in their hands and marveled about it, as they had never seen anything like it before.
Hyrumís oldest brother, Charles, lived in Beaver, Oklahoma, with his daughter, Wilda, and her husband, Al Schuster, during his reclining years. In fact, he died there and was shipped back to St. David, Arizona for burial.
Charles made several trips back to visit his folks, first in the Chiricahua Mountains, which meant so much to him. After a good visit with his nieces and nephews, he wended his way to St. David where there were more relatives; then later to the Gila Valley, where he wound up his visit with his brother, Hyrum, and his family, before returning to Beaver. It was while he was visiting with Hyrum that the Salt Mine business was mentioned and these salt rocks were shown to Charles. He recognized them immediately and told from whence they came. He handled them and was very much interested. He told how he went with his father to this mine with team and wagon and had gone into that very mine. They would cut off great blocks of this lovely salt; clear and clean. They used picks, hatchets, and crowbars to extract the salt; then filled the wagon box with the precious salt and be homeward bound.
Charles told us his father made quite a bit of money selling this salt to cattle men and to homes for use in the kitchens. Salt was hard to get, and this salt was so nice for cooking purposes..
This is from Val Smith, Ruelís brother, who also went to Overton, Nevada
In 1947 when I first came to Overton, I went to the salt mine and one could still go into the opening. A person could crawl up onto a ledge and see remains of old campfires and bones of animals that were roasted and eaten inside the cave. There were still a few Indian Hieroglyphics on the far wall of the upper ledges of the cave. The local people told me that the cave was much bigger than it was at the time I visited it, due to the lake right outside beginning to undermine the whole area. The lake rose to itís highest level ever in 1967 (I think that was the year.) Now the whole area has tumbled into the cave area and there is no mine left. You can visit the area and see what used to be the cave but the only thing you can see now is large blocks of salt. In other words, it is completely unrecognizable now. One must know what to look for to even be able to find it. The only thing left that shows you where it was is the road that moves up on the east side and the front of the opening, and even the road has nearly been washed away by the lake. The salt was of the purest kind way back in the cave. Now one must search around for a long time before getting a sample of the clear salt rock that was there. The mine was the upper layer of a huge layer of salt that extends down about 300 feet below the surface. Drilling rigs were brought in a few years ago to find out the extent of the salt in preparation to pump water underground and dissolve the salt then pipe it 50 miles to the chemical plants in Henderson, Nevada. They drilled through about 300 feet of hi-grade salt.
As for St. Thomas: there isnít much to tell about now. Lake Meade has covered it off and on for the last 30 years. There were a few houses moved out and brought to Overton. One that was standing next to Ruel and Marilyn that burned down years ago was one of them. Across the street from Ruel and Marilyn is the old Swapp home. It is reported to have come from St. Thomas, but I canít get any of the old timers to say for sure. Lots of lumber and brick were brought out and homes still standing were made from these.
Suffice to say, this Muddy Valley has a very colorful history, and little did I know when I came here that my Grandfather had been here and was a part of this area...Amazing!!
Family Stories & Histories