The West Virginia. Cyclopedia

McDowell County

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McDowell County

MacDowell County was created in 1858 from Tazewell County (Virginia) and named in honor of James McDowell, Governor of Virginia, 1842-44. The rapid development along the Norfolk & Western Railway (N&W) in McDowell County during the 1890's determined the removal of the county seat from Perryville (now English, WV) to the village of Welch. A large courthouse building was erected at Welch in 1894, an annex added in 1910.

The county seat of McDowell County was established at Perryville soon after the formation of the county (1858). In 1866 the county seat was moved to a location opposite the mouth of Mill Creek, near Wilcoe. The Legislature of 1867 passed an act establishing the county seat at the mouth of Snakeroot, at or near the present site of Coalwood, on Clear Fork of Tug River, where the county seat remained until 1874, when it was returned to Perryville. In 1892 the county seat was moved to Welch.

County Seat: Welch, WV
Population: 27,329 (2000 Census
McDowell County Profile

Lodging: McDowell County Hotels

Schools: McDowell County Schools
Libraries: McDowell County Public Library

Cities and Towns

Downtown Welch, WV in the 1940s

Davy, WV
Iaeger, WV
Keystone, WV
Kimball, WV
Northfork, WV
Welch, WV
War, WV

Tall Tales and Legends

Coal plant at Gary, WV, one of the largest of its type in the world

Numerous tales and legend abound regarding the so-called "discovery" of coal in McDowell County. One tale claims that a mining engineer offered to eat all the coal that could be found in McDowell County. Another legend claims coal was "discovered" by an engineer who was while preparing a survey of land for timber operations. Yet another legend tells of a family which allowed their land, on which the Gary mines were later located, to be sold for back taxes, saying that the land wasn't even fit for a goat pasture.

Despite the existance of such accounts, it is a fact that Rogers, Prof. Harries S. Daddow, Maj. Jed Hotckiss and other mining engineers and geologist knew of the valueable coal seams that were located in the region, many decades prior the the coalfields being developed. John Peter Salley is credited with the discovery of coal along the Coal River during his 1742 exploration of western Virginia and present-day West Virginia.


Temperature Mean Annual Average: 53 (Degrees F)
January Averages: High 43 (Degrees F) -- Low 20 (Degrees F)
July Averages: High 85 (Degrees F) -- Low 61 (Degrees F)

Long Term Precipitation

January: 2.94 inches -- July: 4.27 (inches) -- Annual: 40.2 (inches)

Mean Annual Snowfall Range

25 - 35 inches

McDowell County Weather Forecast

A History of Middle New River Settlements and Contiguous Territory, published in 1906