Welch, West Virginia

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Welch is a city located in McDowell County, West Virginia, USA. The population was 2,683 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of McDowell County[3].

Contents

History

Welch was incorporated in 1893 and named after Isaiah A. Welch, a former captain in the Confederate Army who came to the region as a surveyor, and helped establish the plan for the beginning of a new town at the confluence of the Tug and Elkhorn rivers.

Welch was made the county seat of McDowell County in an election by county citizens in 1892 [1] even before Welch was incorporated as a city. The previous county seat was in Perryville (now English, WV) near present day Coalwood. Results of the election were contested so to avoid violence county records were secretly moved from Perryville to Welch at night in 2 wagons by James A. Strother and Trigg Tabor.

On March 2, 1921 the Welch City Council met to discuss impeachment of then Mayor J. H. Whitt. Whitt showed up at the meeting and disrupted the proceedings. The Welch City Council then asked the McDowell Co. Sheriff's Dept. to investigate Whitt. Later that same day, Mayor Whitt shot and killed McDowell County Deputy Sheriff William Johnson Tabor who was investigating the matter. Mayor Whitt was arrested and charged with murder but won acquittal at his trial (allegedly based on perjured testimony). Whitt left the area for parts unknown on September 27, 1921.

On August 1, 1921 detectives from the Baldwin-Felts agency assassinated Matewan Police Chief Sid Hatfield as well as Ed Chambers at the McDowell County Courthouse located in Welch. [2]

In the first half of the 20th Century during the opening of railroads and coal mines throughout the region, Welch became a prosperous city: the hub of retail business for a county approaching 100,000 in population, and the location for three hospitals. After the production boom of World War II, oil began to supplant coal in many areas of domestic fuel supply. Mechanization of coal mining reduced the number of laborers needed in coal production. McDowell County's population peaked in 1950, and began a decline over decades to follow. In 1960, however, McDowell County still ranked number one in the United States in total coal production. The City of Welch proudly proclaimed itself "The Heart of the Nation's Coal Bin."

When presidential candidate John F. Kennedy visited Welch by automobile caravan in 1960, he saw a city whose businesses were struggling due to a growing poverty rate throughout the county. What Kennedy learned here during his campaign for the 1960 West Virginia primary was believed to be the basis of the aid brought to the Appalachian region by the Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson administrations. During a speech in Canton, Ohio on September 27, 1960, he stated "McDowell County mines more coal than it ever has in its history, probably more coal than any county in the United States and yet there are more people getting surplus food packages in McDowell County than any county in the United States. The reason is that machines are doing the jobs of men, and we have not been able to find jobs for those men." [4]

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