William King

In 1795, William King, an Irish immigrant who, after completing a trade contract in Philadelphia, traveled like many others of his time down the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road through the Valley of Virginia to settle and make his fortune the Southwest Virginia. King moved into the Saltville Valley, purchased 150 acres, built a log house (the King Stuart House) and began to manufacture salt.  The first salt mine in the United Stated was sunk by him in 1799 on a site 200 yards northwest of his house. This endeavor soon failed due to seepage of water into the mine.  King then resorted to the evaporation of salt water in a series of large kettles.  Brine from this shaft supplied the Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Carolina, Virginia and Scott Furnaces during the War Between the States.   In 1802, King purchased a landing there where salt from Saltville was unloaded from rafts onto flatboats to be sent on down the Tennessee River.   

William King was an early trustee of Abingdon Male Academy, which was chartered by the Virginia General Assembly in 1803.  King died fairly young in 1808, leaving a lasting legacy to local education acknowledged forever on the front of this building.  As a trustee of the Male Academy, William King knew it needed to move from its location on present day Park Street near Courthouse Hill and when he made his will, left it in a generous legacy of “10,000 or lands to amount” to be used for that purpose.  Due to the farsighted generosity of this young philanthropist  (historian Lewis Summers would later call William King’s legacy the “crowning act of his life”), the Academy trustees secured ownership of 25 acres “more or less” on a hilltop at the west end of town.  In 1824, they built the first Academy building, replacing it in 1872 with a second building, which provided the site for instruction until the early 20th century when the Abingdon Male Academy closed its doors forever.  The first Academy trustees were individuals such as Francis Preston, David Campbell, James White, and Robert Craig Sr, Their foresight, like fellow trustee William King’s, established a commitment to education that guided even the Academy over one hundred years later to ultimately ensure the hilltop land for the benefit of future generations.     

King's name and memory are perpetuated today in the William King Arts Center in Abingdon and the City of Kingsport, which was originally spelled King's Port.

William King of Abington who left a million dollar estate upon his death in 1808. William King was married to a Mary Trigg; however, King's will proves that he left no issue. William's estate went to his brother James and sister, along with an allowance to his half-siblings Hannah Allen and Samuel King.


Bios and Historical Documents