Historian, physician, and businessman John P. Hale died on July 11, 1902, at age 78. The great-grandson of the legendary Mary Draper Ingles, Hale was born in present Virginia before moving to the Kanawha Valley in 1840.
He earned a medical degree but decided that medicine wasn’t as lucrative as the booming salt business. By 1860, his salt works, located between Charleston and Malden, was possibly the largest in North America.
When the Civil War began, Hale organized a Confederate artillery battery that fought at the Battle of Scary Creek in Putnam County. He also served as a surgeon in the 1862 battles around Richmond.
After the war, Hale started the first mechanized brick-making in the Kanawha Valley, helped found a bank, and formed Charleston’s first gas company and steam ferry.
He played a major role in getting the state capital moved from Wheeling to Charleston in 1870—after which, he served as mayor and built Charleston’s first luxurious hotel.
He also was an important historian, documenting the Kanawha Valley’s early history and founding a historical society that would evolve into the State Archives and Museum.