On December 17, 1845, two partners named John Jordan and A.T. McGee acquired land newly opened for settlement near what is now Grand Saline, Texas. They learned from Native Americans that a salty marsh there could produce salt through evaporation methods.
An area south of town includes a salt prairie. The exposed salt flats are part of a former sea bed that deposited salt as it dried. The deposit protrudes from a salt bed that extends from East Texas to western Louisiana but is covered with layers of sediment in other areas. The town in northeast Van Zandt County originally known as Jordan’s Saline is the official “Salt Capital of Texas.”
When the Texas Pacific Railroad arrived in 1873 linking tracks from Marshall to Dallas, Samuel Q. Richardson donated 50 acres for a townsite. Engineer Grenville M. Dodge built a new railroad depot there and named it the Grand Saline. Dodge also surveyed and divided lots for the town, started the Lone Star Salt Company, and turned over all rights to the railroad company in 1876.
Richardson continued business ventures, opening a general store across from the depot and drilling a salt well to 350 feet. He later leased its operations to a St. Louis company. In 1890, an Indiana company operating as the Grand Saline Salt Company and later as the Morton Salt Company drilled deeper and began mining.
The Morton Salt company bought the mines by 1920. The company produced 500 tons of salt per day by 1931 and employed 950 by 1945. Morton still operates the remaining salt mine today and has mined only 750 feet of the dome’s 20,000 feet of salt. The mine is known to produce some of the purest salt in the world, including salts for medicinal uses. Today Morton has automated many of its processes and employs roughly 200 in the Grand Saline plant.
The Salt Palace in Grand Saline boasts the only structure built entirely of salt and the only building that is (mostly) edible in the United States. The museum includes displays on the history of salt making in Grand Saline and a video about production at the Morton Plant.
Visitors can also see exhibits on two of the town’s famous sons. Chris Tomlin is a leading contemporary Christian singer who now lives near Nashville. Wiley Post was an aviation pioneer who died in a plane crash en route to Alaska in 1935. Visit the museum online at www.grandsalinesaltpalace.com for information.