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The Friendliest County in West Virginia!

How often do movies based on true events actually mirror those true events?  Not often, it seems.  Still, movies are meant to entertain and sometimes the truth is less entertaining than the story we see on the big screen.  We in West Virginia can be a bit skeptical about what we see on the big screen, or especially the small screen, concerning our state.  Too often people from elsewhere come here, not for the purpose of showing an accurate reflection of our state, but rather they come to further their own agenda by highlighting the ugly and passing it off as the normal.

McDowell County Courthouse

Case in point is McDowell County.  As West Virginians we are often made fun of by people who have never visited our beautiful state, and we often take offense.  Yet, we in West Virginia do the same to one of our very own.  I am quick to defend our state against the unjust characterizations heaped on us by an ignorant populace from other states.  Yet I confess that I was part of the ignorant populace within West Virginia that jumped on the bash bandwagon for what many perceive as our poorest county – McDowell.

A view of Welch

Of course, I had never been to McDowell County.  I simply bought the perception of a county where drugs and crime are rampant and of an ignorant people too dumb to move away from their poverty.  The same perception many people from other states have about West Virginia, when those people have never even been here.

Of the 55 counties in West Virginia, McDowell was the last one I visited.  I saved it for last because everyone I spoke to said that there was no reason to go there since there wasn’t anything there.  However, last month was my first visit and I’ve had several since.

Welch in the Forties

What did I find?

I found the county with the friendliest people in the state.  I found a proud people who are misunderstood and often overlooked and left to fend for themselves by the rest of the state for the bogus reason that they’re just too poor and ignorant to be helped.  I found that small town America where neighbors help neighbors and where strangers are treated with a kindness you simply don’t find anywhere else.  I found a county that isn’t asking for a hand-out, but just a fair shake.

In short, I found the county that the other counties in this state would do well to emulate in terms of friendliness and living the golden rule of doing onto others as you would have them do unto you.   And just as I defend this state against the ignorant misconceptions of outsiders, I’m going to defend McDowell County against the ignorant misconceptions of her fellow West Virginians.

After all, if any people should know the injustice of misconceptions and hatchet jobs, its West Virginians.  Why then do many West Virginian’s wield that same unjust hatchet against one of our own?

A gift from the French after WWI

Since the answers to ignorance is information, I’m going to be writing some blogs informing anyone who will listen of what McDowell County has to offer and of the good people who live there.

Some of my upcoming blogs will be about Northfork and her national record.  About the tributes to veterans and defenders of our country throughout the county.  About Coalwood and growing up dreaming in a small town.  In short, about the good people of McDowell County and their fight for survival.

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September 8, 2012 - Posted by | Tourism, Travel | , , , , ,

121 Comments »

  1. Great article! I’m looking forward to visiting there in the near future.

    Comment by Sherry | September 8, 2012 | Reply

  2. Very Interesting article. Makes me want to visit there soon.

    Comment by Shirley Keech | September 8, 2012 | Reply

    • Shirley, I sincerely hope you get the chance soon.

      Comment by Bill | September 9, 2012 | Reply

  3. Great blog post. It’s exactly what we are trying to convey with “Hollow” (www.hollowthefilm.com). Shared the blog post on our Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/hollowtheproject) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/hollowthefilm)…looking forward to your followup pieces.

    Comment by Elaine McMillion | September 9, 2012 | Reply

    • Thank you for sharing our link. I’m now going to have to check out your film. The people of McDowell County made it a very easy article to write and I’m glad you liked it.

      Comment by Bill | September 9, 2012 | Reply

  4. Well said. It’s so nice to have someone else see the value that still hides in my home county. Thanks for this and I look forward to reading more!

    Comment by Lynn Lewis Kessler | September 9, 2012 | Reply

    • It was my pleasure. The people there are bad at hiding how nice they are. Those that don’t see it are simply ignoring it because it apparently doesn’t fit their agenda. I’ll be writing more as time permits, so stay tuned.

      Comment by Bill | September 9, 2012 | Reply

      • Bill, I think you’ll appreciate and enjoy this post from my blog, Kanawha Valley Parent, about why I chose to raise my kids here in WV. I now live in the Charleston area. This has been my most popular post on KVP by far. It just seems to resonate with people, as your post did. Thanks again for your lovely comments about McDowell and its people! http://www.kanawhavalleyparent.com/2012/03/five-reasons-im-raising-my-kids-in-west.html

        Comment by Lynn Lewis Kessler | September 14, 2012

      • Thank you Lynn. I read your article and obviously agreed with everything you wrote. The part about the friend was offended when the clerk paused to answer their question was interesting. I actually laughed at how some people think it’s rude to not be rude.

        The part about driving home from Charlotte was familiar to me as well. I used to live in Florida and when we’d come home we’d start to get excited when we’d see the Blue Ridge as we crossed the state-line going in to Virginia from North Carolina along I-77. However, the shouting didn’t start until we crossed the state-line into West Virginia. Yes, we really did shout since there’s no feeling like coming home.

        Another one of my articles on the blog dealt with why we come back. So you may be interested in reading that one as well.

        Comment by Bill | September 15, 2012

      • Thanks for reading and I’m glad you agreed. The place where you hit the Blue Ridge in Virginia is exactly the spot I was thinking of when I wrote that. So true that there’s nothing like crossing that state line though. We certainly have that connection with Home as West Virginians. I enjoyed your article about coming back as well. Following the blog now and looking forward to reading more. I would love to include some WV travel posts on Kanawha Valley Parent, so if you ever have anything you think is appropriate (geared toward family travel), run it by me, if you’d be interested! Thanks and keep up the good work!

        Comment by Lynn Lewis Kessler | September 15, 2012

  5. thankyou

    for this article we are proud people and yes we do put family, friends first, crime ,and drugs are high world wide, not just in wva. it is a beautiful state, and i know first hand ,not hear say, i was born there,lived there 50 some odd years, and still have family there,

    Comment by reda ward | September 9, 2012 | Reply

    • As you say, crime and drugs are everywhere, but what I saw in McDowell wasn’t as apparent as other places I’ve been to. There was a lot more good than bad, from what I saw, and from what you know.

      Comment by Bill | September 9, 2012 | Reply

  6. I would like to thank you for your kind comments about McDowell County. This is my home. My husband and I have always worked hard and made a good living here. I teach McDowell County’s youth and we have very intelligent children who deserve to be treated with respect. I would love to have people quit bad mouthing us. I for one ,hold my head up with pride that I am from McDowell County and to be honest I take offense to people calling my home “the County”. I have always told my sons “It doesn’t matter what you become or where you go in life, never forget where you come from and be proud of who you are.”

    Comment by Jennifer Smith | September 9, 2012 | Reply

    • Thanks for you well-written comments. After visiting McDowell, I see no reason why a person shouldn’t be proud to be from there. Friendliness is a desired trait and arrogance is an ugly trait. There’s nothing ugly about McDowell County.

      Comment by Bill | September 9, 2012 | Reply

  7. Awesome article—I was born and raised in McDowell county. I have family there still.

    Comment by Betty Isbell Mcnew | September 9, 2012 | Reply

    • Thank you very much.

      Comment by Bill | September 9, 2012 | Reply

  8. THANK YOU

    Comment by monica | September 9, 2012 | Reply

    • You’re welcome. 🙂

      Comment by Bill | September 9, 2012 | Reply

  9. Proud to be from MCDowell County, and yes we are friendly and caring people. Didn’t know if my mom and dad instilled that in me or good ole WV. Again, proud to be a coal miners daughter!!!

    Comment by ginger maxwell | September 9, 2012 | Reply

    • I’d say a little of both. Mom and Dad taught us the values that belong to WV, which borrowed them from the Bible. (Sounds about right to me. 🙂

      Comment by Bill | September 9, 2012 | Reply

  10. Born and raised in Welch and am so proud to have lived there. We had some of the best teachers,good neighbors who were more like family, and pride in our state and of the County. My Father served a term in the WVa. Legislature, and later was Sheriff of McDowell County. A great place and thanks for your article. Judy Christian Thomas

    Comment by Judy Thomas | September 9, 2012 | Reply

    • This is the West Virginia I fell in love with as a kid. It appears to be on the decline in the rest of the state, but it’s alive and well in McDowell County.

      Comment by Bill | September 9, 2012 | Reply

  11. God bless! You brought a tear to my eye.

    Comment by Alan Cathead Johnston | September 9, 2012 | Reply

    • If you’re who I think you are, someone showed me your pictures you’ve taken around the county, and I was very impressed. Thanks for your kind words.

      Comment by Bill | September 9, 2012 | Reply

      • May have been. I have taken thousands. Thank you much.

        Comment by Alan Cathead Johnston | September 10, 2012

  12. I grew up in McDowell County in the little town of Thorpe which was incorporated in to Gary, WV. When I was 20 years old, I was the first female to run for City Council. I didn’t win but I came really close. I worked for US Steel in Gary until all the mines started closing down and my then husband and I and our 20 month year old daughter moved to Beckley, WV for employment opportunity. Growing up as a child in McDowell everyone knew everyone and everyone looked out for each other. It truly was the friendliest place to live. You didn’t worry about drug abuse then or crime. It is sad that the County as fallen on such hard times and lots of homes are in disrepair there. I still have some family members who live there and my dad who passed away 2 years ago this coming November lived there for 92 years. It would be nice to see road improvements to make the County more accessible and more desirable for businesses to locate there.

    Comment by Debbie Miano Colo | September 9, 2012 | Reply

    • I’m sure you would have made a good councilwoman if you had won the election. Perhaps you’ll make it back someday.

      Comment by Bill | September 9, 2012 | Reply

  13. “As West Virginian’s we are often made fun of by people who have never visited our beautiful state, and we often take offense. ”

    Well said, well-intentioned. But when you misuse apostrophes(West Virginian’s) and forget to proofread before you post things for the public eye, you give outsiders all the ammo they need to poke fun at us.
    Many people will stop reading an article at the first sign of grammatical ignorance.

    Comment by roger | September 9, 2012 | Reply

    • Sorry to have offended you. The sad thing is, I did proofread my post. However, grammar appears to be your strong point, and it’s obviously not mine.

      Comment by Bill | September 9, 2012 | Reply

  14. I am proud to have been born & raised in McDowell County as were my parents and grandparents. Since moving to another state almost 28 years ago when people find out I am from WV I am called a Hill Billy. Well so be it. I am proud of who I am and where I came from.

    Comment by Kerry Andis Kelsay | September 9, 2012 | Reply

    • I had to take the mockery too when I went to high school in Florida years ago. One of the things that binds us as West Virginians is dealing with the ignorance from those that buy into into the misconceptions spread about us. We have reason to be proud of where we come from.

      Comment by Bill | September 10, 2012 | Reply

    • i also was raised in mc dowell county and had a wonderful childhood you didnt have to lock your doors . i moved to nc 27 yrs ago and was picked on and called hillbilly ,but i dont mind being called hillbilly cause im proud of it !!! i feel sorry for the people who didnt grow up in a small town

      Comment by kathy franks | September 23, 2012 | Reply

  15. I am proud to have been born in Welch, WV in McDowell County. I lived in English WV…They created some of the best people in the world.

    Comment by Jennifer | September 10, 2012 | Reply

    • Thanks for reading. West Virginia does tend to create good people.

      Comment by Bill | September 10, 2012 | Reply

  16. Thank you so much for writing this article! It seems anytime someone writes something about our county it’s negative. It was wonderful to read something that highlighted the positives. You really understand the people if our county and for that I am grateful. God Bless!

    Comment by Laura Rhodes | September 10, 2012 | Reply

    • Thank you for your comments. Being a West Virginian, we all understand the injustice of hurtful misconceptions. The kindness of the people demanded I try to write something to show my appreciation for their treatment of a stranger.

      Comment by Bill | September 10, 2012 | Reply

  17. I’m from McDowell so dont forget to travel all the way down it. You cant stop at northfork, Welch, keystone, Kimball, Kyle etc. Travel to iaeger, panther, isaban, and roderfield too!

    Comment by rochelle haynes | September 10, 2012 | Reply

    • Don’t worry, I’ll be traveling to the other end of the county as soon as possible. I did make it to War Friday and once again met with the same good people I had found in the eastern end.

      Comment by Bill | September 10, 2012 | Reply

  18. i love wv i live in a small place called berwind there are alot of very good people i have some very good friends here and i have lived other places but always come back home and its about time some one sees wv as alot of us see it thank you

    Comment by kristie | September 10, 2012 | Reply

    • Thank you for your comments.

      Comment by Bill | September 10, 2012 | Reply

  19. This was a great article. I’m glad you will be sharing more in depth facts about this part of our state. As for all the negative talk about this area of WV, well I personally have never spoke horrible things about that county, never heard much negativity regarding it. However, that could be because I never pay much mind when other people start gossiping about this or that……when gossip starts, that’s my cue to move away from those who are talking it. I’m from Raleigh County, I lived in NC for nearly 10 years in my 20’s. I know exactly what it feels like to be the butt of a joke, and to be questioned about my Hillbilly heritage. People who have never been to WV love to trash talk this state. Makes no difference to me, I am a mountaineer to the core. I hope Welch and surrounding areas in McDowell County keeo in mind MANY of us here in WV have never had an ill thought or opinion about their neck of the woods. 🙂

    Comment by Amy | September 10, 2012 | Reply

    • That is very admirable. Sadly, I have heard West Virginians say negative things, as I state in the article. That’s why I wrote the article, to share what I discovered when I visited the area. Just trying to set the record straight.

      Comment by Bill | September 10, 2012 | Reply

  20. My family is looking for a place to visit for vacation in November.. what is there to do in McDowell County? Hotels, Restaurants, etc…

    Comment by tinytim | September 10, 2012 | Reply

    • We are in the process of gathering that information now so people can find the kind of information you’re looking for. I will also be writing some more about that information, so stay tuned and your questions will be answered.

      Comment by Bill | September 10, 2012 | Reply

  21. Good people in all the co .

    Comment by Robie | September 10, 2012 | Reply

  22. I was born there too. Raised in Chattaroy. I would love to come back to those hills. But married and husand won”t leave his home town.

    Comment by Judy Bell Wade | September 10, 2012 | Reply

  23. While the nicest people in the world can be found in McDowell County, and McDowell County is home to some fine, fine people, the facts are the facts. Drug abuse is rampant, hundreds of buildings are literally falling down, local government in many of its municipalities is corrupt, unemployment, disability, and public assistance use & abuse is sky high. Sewage runs directly into a public water supply in many parts of McDowell County. Hundreds of homes are unkempt and in disrepair, many of which are occupied and would be condemned in other parts of the state & country. I daresay, 99% of the US population would not believe such conditions exist in this day and age in this country. It is a shame that the disrepair of these fine historical homes take away from the gorgeous architectural and historical beauty of the well kept structures in McDowell County as well as its natural beauty. While there are some gorgeous homes and neighborhoods and communities within our county boundaries, a trip down HWY 52 through McDowell County is all it takes to see every problem I’ve mentioned.
    I believe the citizens of this county have become desensitized to the problems of McDowell County, and in doing so, progress is stalled. With the addition of the Hatfield McCoy Trail systems thoughout this area, we are now hosting tourists from all over the US. Imagine the impression they get of this region based on that same trip down HWY 52. It is no wonder the sterotypes remain. No one is doing anything to address the problems of “The County”, and until they do, the opinions of outsiders will remain unchanged.
    I sympathize and understand the frustration of being sterotyped and labeled based on the location of your birth, but if anyone can deny that what I have stated is true, you’ve got your head buried in the sand.

    Comment by Sarah | September 10, 2012 | Reply

    • What you said is true of every county in this state, and I dare say just about anywhere you go in this country. If you look for the bad you will find it. However, my comments were about the people of the county and how friendly they have been. Not every county can boast such friendly people and I think it’s something to be proud of.

      Comment by Bill | September 10, 2012 | Reply

    • Sara we do have our problems here but there are the same problems everywhere else as well. I just took a 3 week trip out west using two lane roads (back roads). I saw the same in every state in the United States. I did not see the negative image there like we have here. We need to hold our heads up and bring back some pride in who we are and the rest of the problems will eventually fix themselves. Example: Have you ever noticed someone who has low self esteem in their looks and they never fix up to go somewhere? Then they may loose a few pounds or get a new hair job and all at once start fixing up because they feel better about themselves. Well that is what we need to do as far as our county. We need to build it’s self esteem. I don’t have my head buried in the sand. I can see the problems but with negative people unwilling to help us start positive attitudes we can’t move forward.

      Comment by Jennifer Smith | September 20, 2012 | Reply

    • Written well. You have expressed it to a “T” Sara.
      Desensitized. Precisely.
      And if anyone disagrees with any stereotypes, just call me and let me introduce you to some folks.
      Of course, ppl from the County always come back for a visit, and I agree with some of these commenters wo say there will always be good, bad, and the ugly anywhere else.
      If anyone wants to visit, of course there are certain times of year for certain activities. And you just cannot beat the people-even our inmates will treat visitors with politeness!

      Comment by roger | December 9, 2013 | Reply

    • Amen! As a Mcdowell Countian, and I bet I speak for alot of other people, I think most southern counties were used and abused by a state government who saw us as subjects instead of citizens to be respected. The rape and pillage of of all these counties for the past 150 years lies squarely at the feet of a state government that was not created by the consensus of the people but by self appointed oligarchs. Despite trillions of dollars in wealth that came out of our county, it looks like many 3rd world countries that I visited. Many people’s land was stolen and the state government facilitated the atrocities and economic destruction which no other state’s citizens suffered in our country. The economies of the north east were largely built off the essentially free coal taken from McDowell and other counties. As a Mcdowell Countian, I say to the state government in Charleston and their Quissling breathern in Wheeling from 150 years ago, “sic semper tyrannis”.

      Comment by Arne | December 12, 2015 | Reply

  24. I WAS BORN AND RAISED IN MCDOWELL AND I LOVED IT THERE . I LEFT BECAUSE MY HUSBAND THEN DIDNT WANT TO WORK IN THE COAL MINES. BUT I GO BACK EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE TO SEE MY FAMILY THAT STILL LIVES THERE.

    Comment by Paula Darlene Box | September 11, 2012 | Reply

  25. I was borned in Yukon WV I still have family in WV I still go home every chance I can I love my birthstate I now live in another state and I get made fun of the way I talk People who has never neen to WV do not know just how we are like them no matter where we may live I still live in the south but it is not home People can be so rude to anyone who are different from them mostly toward us they think that we are the lowest form of people in the USA we talk different from them WE ARE mountainiers and are always faithful to our homestate I am proud to been borned in WV YES we are different for we WV MOUNTAINIERS

    Comment by George Beavers III | September 11, 2012 | Reply

  26. Thank you for your objective, optimistic and kind posting re our residents. Hm… Can we be both objective and optimistic at the same time? : ) Yes, I believe so. Born and raised here in McDowell. Attended college at Bluefield State and have worked right here at home for the past 22 years. Proud and thankful to still be here. Re some of the previous comments, we have our issues and we need to work on them, yes. Gossip and stereotyping is not helpful, no matter what citizens of the world we may be discussing. Facts, however, should not be ignored. #23 made some very valid points. It is the deep hope of many of us “fine, fine people” of McDowell that these issues will improve. We need to all work toward that end and be open-minded to attempted improvements and growth. I have hope for our future!! There ARE many good people in McDowell County; you’re right, Bill. thank you again….

    Comment by beth | September 12, 2012 | Reply

    • Thank you, Beth. The points #23 made are already quite well-known. So well known that I didn’t see the need to soil my comments with all that negativity. I can say that people are working on those problems, so it’s not as if they’re being ignored. We all want the same thing; however, and that is best for McDowell County.

      Comment by Bill | September 13, 2012 | Reply

  27. I WAS BORN AND RAISED IN MCDOWELL COUNTY. IF I COULD FIND GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT THERE, I WOULD GO BACK THERE IN A MINUTE! THIS COUNTY AND STATE HAVE THE HIGHEST LEVELS OF EDUCATION YOUR CHILDREN COULD EVER GET. WHEN I BROUGHT MY 2 CHILDREN HERE IN NC, THEY SAID SCHOOL WAS BORING CAUSE THEY ALREADY NEW WHAT WAS BEING TEACHED, THEY WERE WAY AHEAD OF EDUCATION HERE! I HAVE PERSONALLLY HEARD PEOPLE MAKE FUN OF W.VA. HOW CAN A PERSON JUDGE IF THEY HAVE NEVER BEEN THERE AND MET THE MOST WONDERFUL PEOPLE THEY WILL EVER MEET. MAKE A TRIP THERE, CHECK IT OUT THEN YOU WILL KNOW A LOT MORE FACTS THAN YOU COULD EVER IMAGINE. THANK YOU.

    Comment by hazel marie beckner' williams' | September 13, 2012 | Reply

  28. Oh, man! Now our secret’s getting out. Many think our greatest resource is coal. Not so. It’s our good people. Many have left. Our greatest export. And many have stayed or returned because we love it here and wouldn’t live anywhere else. Good for you – exploding another myth. Thanks, Ed Kornish, Welch, WV

    Comment by Ed Kornish | September 13, 2012 | Reply

    • I just spent three more days in McDowell County and I’ve yet to meet a rude person. I’m sure it will happen, but I’m still amazed by the friendliness. I don’t know if the myth is exploded, but maybe for a few they at least will be more willing to give the county a fair shake.

      Comment by Bill | September 14, 2012 | Reply

  29. I travel from Raleigh County to work In Welch…and this is exactly what I have been telling all my friends for the past 2 1/2 years……The ppl are friendly, they have the sense of “community” that most places have lost and the Mc Donalds in Welch in the ONLY one I have EVER been thru, that either when I pay or pick up my food, they say, ” God bless you and have a good day”

    Comment by Angie Martin | September 16, 2012 | Reply

    • I bet you can’t wait for the Coalfields Expressway to be completed.

      Comment by Bill | September 17, 2012 | Reply

    • Angie if you would like to move to Welch instead of commuting, my brother has my aunt’s house for sale on Stewart Street in Welch. It is a real nice 2 bedroom brick house. You can call him at 304-255-7855

      Comment by Debbie Miano Colo | September 18, 2012 | Reply

  30. Thankyou so much for writing something positive about the county I am from (Iaeger). Everything that you have wrote is very true! When I first moved to the south I actually thought I would get that first hand experience of ”southern hospitality”, but I realized I already had it; I was raised with it. Again, thanks for the positive article.

    Comment by Rebecca Rose | September 16, 2012 | Reply

    • Thanks for the sourthern hospitality.

      Comment by Bill | September 17, 2012 | Reply

  31. I was born and raised in Bartley, McDowell County, West Virginia. Went to Bartley Elem and Big Creek High School. LOVED IT! IT WAS/IS HOME!

    Comment by Bird | October 21, 2012 | Reply

  32. I was born and reared in Welch, the proud son of hardworking, highly educated parents. In fact, my maternal grandfather was a successful math educator with a masters degree, quite an accomplishment for an African American man born in the 1890’s. My paternal grandfather was the esteemed pastor of the Conley Chapel AME Zion Church in Gary. McDowell County has populated just about every state in the nation with very high achievers. I will forever boast about my McDowell County roots and thank God for the foundation I received there. ~Ronald C. Williams, Ph.D.

    Comment by Ron | October 26, 2012 | Reply

  33. Thank you so much for saying this about my county. I’m from Iaeger, WV and just recently graduated from the new high school, River View. I know we have our ups and downs, but we do try to help anyone and everyone. There are new plans coming to the county in order to help education, employment, and just families in general. Hopefully we can build back up and maybe some of the people who want to come back can. Again, thank you so much for being so nice.

    Comment by Trey Lockhart | October 26, 2012 | Reply

  34. Good post however , I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this topic?
    I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Thank you!

    Comment by mastershandproductions.com | January 25, 2013 | Reply

    • I’m not quite sure what you would like me to elaborate on? If you have a suggestion, or question, I’d be happy to do what I can to explain or answer in more detail whatever you’d like to know.

      Comment by Bill | January 25, 2013 | Reply

  35. I’m not from McDowell County, but my mother’s family is. My Grandmother (Kailing)b.1906 lived there most of her life and raised a family in Wilcoe. The family owned a grocery store and ran a beer garden. My family has long since been gone from McDowell county, many decades. I still make trips there to check on gravesites of family members. Each time I go I am struck at how many buildings are falling in. Seems each year a few more structures are gone. The people are still nice for the most part. I have noticed and interacted with a few begging for money from me, which seems to be more common now. The last time I spent several days in the county was in 1990, which in my opinion everything started to go down quickly since. More stores were open, more residents and Welch seemed more lively. I still think the area is beautiful and I am positive most residents are very friendly. It just saddens me to see what once was and what now is.

    Comment by Scott Bird | April 2, 2013 | Reply

    • Scott, McDowell County has been struggling over the years as you say. However, there is a lot more the area has to offer than most people realize and the greatest resource is the people. Will the area ever return to what it once was? I don’t know, but I do know that nothing is ever as it used to be. McDowell County can grow and prosper again. With the Hatfield and McCoy trail system in the area and the proposed new four-lane, the county has reason to be optimistic. Thankfully, there are some in the area that have not accepted apparent defeat and who are working hard to bring about that positive change. I hope next time you’re able to visit the area you will be able to see some good things. We here at WVyourWay will be doing what we can to promote the area and I will be returning soon to help do just that.

      Comment by Bill | April 3, 2013 | Reply

  36. Hey! I’m actually headed down to McDowell Co this week for a quick day trip…I happened on this awesome post and was wondering if you had any recommendations on places to eat…anything would be appreciated.

    Thanks for representing WV well!

    Comment by patricksnyder5 | April 29, 2013 | Reply

    • I wish I could help you find places to eat in McDowell County, but when we were down there gathering this kind of information so travelers like you could find restaurants in McDowell County, none of the restaurants would register with http://www.WVyourWay.com. The owners of the restaurants, in most cases, did not think that people would use the internet to find their restaurant. The belief appeared to be that their restaurant had, in most cases, been there for years and everyone knew where they were already.

      We are returning to the area next week for the next several months to again try and gather this kind of information. Perhaps you could help us by telling the restaurants it would be helpful if they would register with WVyourWay so people like you could find them.

      I wish I could be of more help, but until they register with us, there’s not much we can do.

      Comment by Bill | April 29, 2013 | Reply

      • mm :/ That small-town, never-changing mind set….I’ll go ask around and let them know how much of a help it could be to register.

        Comment by patricksnyder5 | April 29, 2013

      • In all fairness, this is just not a small town, or McDowell County problem we have with registering restaurants. It’s a stressful business, so we encounter this all over the state. Hotels and visitor centers even give us letters urging restaurants to register with us, but of all businesses, they are the most difficult to register. Still, we will continue to try and thank you for your help.

        Comment by Bill | April 30, 2013

      • The Sterling Drive In on Stewart Street in Welch is a local favorite. There is a new place at Coney Island on Rt 103 called The Harvest Moon Country Market. Also, consider the Ya’Sou Deli on Rt 52 in Kimball. Welch also has a Subway, KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and LJS.

        Comment by Alan Johnston | April 29, 2013

      • Thank you Alan. I couldn’t remember the names of the restaurants, so I hope this is helpful for anyone needing this information until we can get them registered.

        Comment by Bill | April 30, 2013

  37. I like McDowell county it is beautiful…. we moved from va to here last yr and wouldnt change it. We bought a house and moved the whole family,people are nice as article said. It ia definitely worth a visit. There is a carnival here soon

    Comment by Shannon | May 4, 2013 | Reply

    • Thanks for your comments Shannon. Welcome to West Virginia!

      Comment by Bill | May 5, 2013 | Reply

  38. Visited all the way from Australia last September. Was shocked at the poverty but loved the county. Yes people friendly – something special. In the mountains. Visited because of rocket boys. There is potential to exploit the rocket boys theme I think. Great to read a positive article on a fascinating place.

    Comment by Alan | May 27, 2013 | Reply

    • Thank you for visiting the land up over. They have moved the Rocket Boy’s Festival to Beckley this year instead of Coalwood. I heard it was because of the roads, but not sure.

      Comment by Bill | May 27, 2013 | Reply

      • Was not because of the roads. The people in Coalwood that always did all the work are getting older and just basically they got burned out on all the hard work getting it ready.

        Comment by Alan | May 27, 2013

  39. I am a New Jersey native and have lived nowhere else my whole life. I am a huge fan of WV and go every opportunity I get. I will be on the coal heritage trail in mid August and cannot wait. I completely agree that the people of WV are some of the nicest people I have met. I would love the opportunity to relocate unfortunately for me its not in the cards right now. Those of you from WV hold your heads high and be proud of your heritage and your beautiful state 🙂

    Comment by TRICIA DIGIACOMO | July 31, 2013 | Reply

    • Enjoy your visit to WV. I hope you find a lot of what interests you on WVyourWay.com. If you have any questions or let us know and we’ll do what we can to make your trip more enjoyable.

      Comment by Bill | July 31, 2013 | Reply

  40. My uncle who’s name is Raymond was a world war 2 soldier who died in the war in France at Normandy. His whole childhood before the war was spent in McDowell County.Yes sirs he was a West Virginia boy who served his country well and died serving it.So I can tell you as his niece he was a great uncle & I’m honored to have been part of his family.He may have died there but he will always be remembered by me & our family.Mcdowell County is a poor county but there is many good people there who are people of great integrity, so when someone stereotypes McDowell County remember the facts & not the false things that are said of West Virginians.

    Comment by Marilyn | August 12, 2013 | Reply

    • Your uncle’s sacrifice, and that of the family, is much appreciated by those of us who cherish our freedoms. McDowell County is still the friendliest county in the state, and I’ve spent a lot of time in the county since I wrote the original post. There are a lot good people working hard to prove those stereotypes wrong.

      Comment by Bill | August 13, 2013 | Reply

  41. I taught at Panther Elementary in the late 70s early 80s…the people were so warm and welcoming…appreciative and helpful. No other experience in my life has compared!!!

    Comment by Kathy Dengel Irvin | August 12, 2013 | Reply

    • The one community in McDowell County I’ve not been to yet is Panther. I’m sure the people haven’t changed. I wonder if I’ll run into any of your old students when I do make it there?

      Comment by Bill | August 13, 2013 | Reply

  42. West Virginia is not a bad place to live and the people i think are the friendlies here, and it’s a very safe place to shut your eyes to get a good night sleep, If the people is poor here and living from check to the next month check is because the local business is robbing the poor people blind, like for example, check out how much the city of Welch charge people for water that you can’t drink and have to go out to spend money to buy bottle water, sewer and cabbage, most of the people are payiny out each month between a hundred and something each month and you can go to the city and they don’t pay near as much. A for this to be a low income county, you should see how much rent we pays, some don’t even go by your income, they take most of your check for rent and then you are struggling to try and pay your utility bills, and pray that you have enough, and most of the time you don’t.. So their you are bills doubleing,, it’s sad.. They can make it a little easier on the low income people… That is the only thing that i feel about this place,, they are the ones who have chased the people away,, Always talking about building up! Ti has’nt happen either, just taking what they can get from the poor…

    Comment by Mildri Stone | August 13, 2013 | Reply

    • Over the last year I’ve worked all over the county meeting each business and several others through organizations and service providers. I’ve also talked to numerous people from all walks in life in the county and I’ve been in nearly every community. As a result, I believe I have gained some insights into the root problems and I will be writing a blog discussing those problems in the near future.

      Comment by Bill | August 13, 2013 | Reply

  43. I am from McDowell Co. I currently do not live there but any time someone asks where I am from I am proud to tell them! Thank you for such a wonderful article. It is so nice to read positive things about my home county! 🙂

    Comment by Bobbi Brown | August 13, 2013 | Reply

    • Thank you for your comment. Sorry it took me so long to respond, but I’ve been spending a lot of time in your former county and lost track of your post.

      Comment by Bill | August 29, 2013 | Reply

  44. Proud of my home, my friends, and can’t wait to go back and visit! Born and raised in Thorpe, and Elbert, this place made me what I am. Thank you! I love this! Proud to be a Coal Miner’s Daughter! Had to leave for employment opportunities, and it saddens me to see what has happened there. If I could win the Lottery, I would invest in a business there! Would LOVE to have my grandchildren grow up in McDowell County. Only the greatest place on earth! 🙂

    Comment by Treva Collins Everingham | December 9, 2013 | Reply

  45. I was born in McDowell County in Welch, WV at the Grace Hospital in 59…my brother was born there in 60. We were raised in Iaeger, WV. Thank you for your kind words about our little County. I do get very tired of hearing people put down our state in general much less the area I hold dear to my heart!!! At one point years ago Iaeger and Welch were booming little towns and I’m very proud to always tell someone that’s MY home!!!! Thanks again and have a good day….

    Comment by Susan Pennington | December 9, 2013 | Reply

  46. I grew up in McDowell County in a little community known as Bull Creek. Although I haven’t lived there in 35 years, my parents are still there and it warms my heart to go “home” for a visit. Thank you so much for the article. Maybe others inside and outside of West Virginia will view McDowell County in a different light now

    Comment by Donna Coleman Bowen | December 9, 2013 | Reply

  47. I was born in Welch, WV. Moved to Ohio when I was a baby. My Mom however has lived in Hensley my whole life. I went to visit 3 summers there with her and it will always remain the best part of my childhood! I love the people there and how everyone knows everyone and they never forget you. Example I last visited when I was 16 and then not again until I was 34. My sister n I stopped at the gas station before heading up the mnt to my Moms and was shocked to see how excited the cashier (who was a complete stranger to us) was. She started carrying on saying oh my gosh girls does your a Mom know you are coming? We later found out that she babysat us before we relocated to Ohio with our Dad. No one there has forgotten who we are and even remember our Dad. When we first started visiting I was 13 and thought it was very strange how strangers didn’t shake hands, they all have a huge hug to give! You will meet the kindest most caring people there that is for sure! My favorite place to visit still to this day!

    Comment by Cindi | December 9, 2013 | Reply

    • Good story that demonstrates what I wrote well.

      Comment by Bill | December 10, 2013 | Reply

  48. I was born and raised in McDowell county and have read negative comments on social media sites for far to long. It is a shame when the people who live there talk bad about there own hometown. I moved away almost 19 years ago and still get homesick. You really don’t know what you have until it is gone. I visit numerous time a year and I am so anxious to get there that I time myself every trip, make 1 stop for gas, and don’t eat until I’m HOME!!! There is so much beauty in this county that people don’t even realize is there. I can get up in the morning, hop on a ATV, be gone all day and never run out of things to see. I’ve spent hours on Facebook looking at Alan’s pictures and wonder how I never noticed how beautiful the county I grew up in was!! Your article is absolutely correct!! The people there are such good people. Although I miss the mountains, I miss the people more! I never make a trip without stopping at Jimmy’s Hardware, Goodson’s, or a church!! Don’t always go to the same church, because I want to see everybody!!! I will always be a proud coal-miner’s daughter from McDowell County, West Virginia!!!

    Comment by Jonjonsmom | December 9, 2013 | Reply

  49. I would love to see you write something on the town of Amanota, WV. The whole area around Valls Creek, Amanota, Squire and all the other communities from the the VA line to War.

    Comment by ML | December 9, 2013 | Reply

    • I drove that way once, so I haven’t been there enough to know what to write about. However, feel free to write something yourself and if it works I’ll post it.

      Comment by Bill | December 10, 2013 | Reply

    • Amonate is not in WV. Amonate is in VA.

      Comment by Alan Johnston | December 10, 2013 | Reply

  50. this is home people don’t realize the struggles over coming unemployment floods but you know what we are survivors we stand strong,,
    and we will survive by the knowledge we have when others will fall because they loose their wealth and don’t know how to survive great article

    Comment by vicki | December 10, 2013 | Reply

  51. Like so many others who read the blog I’m very appreciative of all the kind words used to describe the people of McDowell county. Its very rare to read something positive about WV, much less our county. As one poster pointed out there is a desperate need for improvement in many things. Thankfully this article isn’t focused on those things. The author of this blog took the time to write about the friendliness of the people so naturally all of us who read it felt the need to thank him. Like the majority of you we were raised that way. We are a very compassionate community and we genuinely care for our family, friends, and neighbors. We come together and unite in good times and bad. At the end of the day we know that somebody has our backs. Its a great feeling.

    Comment by Debbie | December 10, 2013 | Reply

  52. I AM ALWAYS ENTHRALLED BY MCDOWELL COUNTY. WHEN I WENT INTO SERVICE OF OUR COUNTRY I WAS AMAZED THAT THE PERSONS ASKED WHAT COLLEGE I ATTENDED. THIS LINE OF THOUGHT HAS TRAVELED WITH ME FOR FIFTY FOUR YEARS.
    I STILLCOMMENT TO FRIENDS FROM SOUTHERN WVA THAT IF THEY GET OUT OF WORK THEY COULD COME TO NC TO TEACH SCHOOLS.
    IT IS SAD THAT PEOPLE WHO HAVE REALLY CONNECTED WITH US, HAVE SUCH OF ARENA OF BELIEFS.
    I KNEW WHEN I WENT TO SCHOOL AND GRADUATED THAT I HAD BEEN GIVEN THE BEST EDUCATION POSSIBLE.
    I BELIEVED AND STILL DO THAT WE HAD TEACHERS THAT WEREN’T TRYING TO PUT A FEATHER IN THEIR CAPS AS MUCH THAT THEY HAD A GREAT DESIRE TO WORK WITH EACH INDIVIDUAL STUDENT TO KNOW THE TEACHERS HAD GIVEN THEIR BEST EFFORTS.
    I AM VERY PROUD OF MY TEACHERS AT NORTHFORK-ELKHORN HIGH SCHOOL.

    I AM ALSO PROUD OF EVERY TEACHER,PRINCIPAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF THAT SUPPORTED US SO WONDERFULLY.

    I CLOSE WITH THE STATEMENT THAT YOU CAN DETERMINE I WASN’T GOOD I IN ENGLISH CLASS. THEN AGAIN WE CAN’T ALL BE SO BLESSED TO LEARN AS WELL AS OUR PEERS.

    MANY THANKS TO MCDOWELL COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION.

    Comment by Donald Dean Hanchock | December 10, 2013 | Reply

  53. I also was born and raised in the welch wv and i have been many places since I left to live in fairmont wv. I can truley say that there is no place like home! i have so many friends and family that still live it that awesome county I still call home. Im proud that I was rasied in such a awesome community with awesome morals and kindness. You will never find the warm heart people in state of wv that you will find in the county of Mcdowell period. Thank god for welch Wv. AND THE PEOPLE IN IT STILL! GOD BLESS MCDOWELL WV.

    Comment by TERRENCE HAYES | January 8, 2014 | Reply

  54. The Merci Train or Gratitude Train was a gift to each state and one to share DC/Hawaii after WWII not 1 as the caption on the picture. They were filled with various gifts from the people of France to the people of the United States. It is a vsry interesting story. Not all States have their train or the artifacts which includes note cards from the children of France to bridal gowns. Renault put a model car in each train. The Connecticut lady who won the contest for the dress was still alive a few years ago. The train cars were called 40 and 8s because they held 40 men or 8 horses. Some American Legions have 40 and 8 societies. Iwas the caretaker of PAs as it’s located in Fort Indiantown Gap where I was the PA Army National Guard Cultural Resources Manager for 13+ years. Originally from South Charleston, WV. I’ll always be a West Virginian no matter where I live. Mercitrain.com.

    Comment by Rita Lawrence Meneses | December 9, 2015 | Reply

  55. This article was great! I can’t believe I’m just seeing it for the first time…It’s exactly what I want to say but could never find the right words….Keep this up, we need the ignorance to stop!

    Comment by Felicia Spencer | December 11, 2015 | Reply

  56. I was one of the West Virginians that had a bad attitude about McDowell County until I became a teacher and started my career in McDowell County. Now, I wouldn’t teach anywhere else. I love my students, my co-workers, and the families that I work with each day. McDowell County is a wonderful place with some of the nicest people you will ever meet.

    Comment by Laura | December 12, 2015 | Reply

  57. I forgot to mention this in my previous post, this is a great message!! Thank you for write it!!

    Comment by Laura | December 12, 2015 | Reply

  58. I was born and raised there my daddy was a coal miner, & yes neighbors were always there for one another, we all were like one big family & I loathe the comments out of staters say about us, what goes on in our state goes on in all states but for some idiotic reason people pick on us, I am proud of where I come from and one thing for sure we were taught about the love of God, you will find so many people who love the Lord and will help you in any way they can. Just like the song says Almost Heaven West Virginia, the song is Country Roads and it most certainly is true.

    Comment by Donna kennedy | December 12, 2015 | Reply

  59. Thanks So Much for All that you do to get the WORD OUT ABOUT THE STATE OF WEST VIRGINIA. I don’t normally respond, but I had to because It’s about “My State”, My County! Daddy was a Coal Miner, Mom was a “stay at home Mom” ( I mean with ten (10) kids, where would you have time to go?) (that was her job) (LoL). I didn’t realize we were classified as “POOR” until other people made “the comparision”. I mean, we had , “Food, Clothing ( not name brand, some times hand me downs) ,shelter. We had “An Out house”, but so did our neighbors. Had running water, (inside) when it didn’t freeze – up in the winter. ( ya know, the necessities) Money was “tight then and even tighter now”! Older Brothers, “swore”, they would ever go in “The Mines”, so they left for “The Motor City” (Detroit) for employment. Living in the Big City just wasn’t what it cracked up to be, So Back to WV they came. Acquiring means of employment for “People of Color” was still a hard thing back then (not being racist), but it was still a “Not what you know, but who you know. So Brothers employment was not so lavish. I was born at Grace Hospital in 58′ (Welch , WV.) During My stay there. the opportunity for me to received the same level of education was offered, IF I APPLIED MYSELF. i was even able to enter a “Miss McDowell County Beauty Contest” in the 70’s, (As a Woman of Color) and place second (2nd) runner up! (Can you imagine that in the 70’s in McDowell County) Left WV, in 78 to persue career in AL. All the “unnecessary, negative, ignorant comments other States make concerning My State really “burns my butt”! But I always “shut them down” when I speak! I speak with intelligence, pride, and “a matter of fact” when it comes to My State! And when jokingly, I always refer to it as: West “By God” Virginia! Because it’s “By God’s Grace” that any of the States are maintaining. With “the Crime, Proverty, other Craziness growing rampant, I’d rather be in West Virginia (The Almost Heaven State)

    Comment by Carmella | December 13, 2015 | Reply

  60. Great story! I’m from Welch..
    Still have family there..
    I’ve always said if people there like you, they’ll do anything for you..If they don’t like you , they don’t like your dog either!
    There’s good people there always will be!

    Comment by Beth | December 13, 2015 | Reply

  61. I was born and raised in coalwood in 1950 –was given a great education -served my country and saw the world –didnt like what i saw so came home and raised a family and worked in the mines at coalwood till they shut down -left the state for 25 years but came home every chance i got a few days off -i and wife retired 2 years ago and moved back to wva –and have never been happier –for the poor people who were never raised in a coal camp you can never understand the pride of being from the county -pride of country -god and family runs deep as the hollows -you can take the boy out of the county but you cant take the county out of the boy-very good article and well said look forward to more–go to coalwood historical society on face book to see then and now in coalwood and caretta

    Comment by David Goad | December 22, 2015 | Reply

  62. Sir…you are exactly right…I only lived in the county 6 years but I worked in education there 30 years. Greatest n strongest people I have ever met. Two one hundred year floods back to back within nine months…homes schools lost…the stood tall helping each other. I drove the state alot and never once was I scared to stop n ask for help. These people taught me so much…especially that I could lose it all n still be ok. MvDowell Country will always be my second home.

    Comment by Ellen Wallace Wood | July 31, 2016 | Reply

  63. I was born in Blacksburg , Virginia and we moved to McDowell County when I was 5 , I thought I would hate being apart from my family in the city but I am now 19 , married a year today and am pregnant with our first child and I honestly cannot imagine raising our child anywhere else . Reading this , even though posted a few years ago , made me happy that someone else realizes that not all of us are ignorant druggies . We’re just trying to make things work with what little we have . Thank you for your kind words .

    Comment by Courtney B. | August 5, 2016 | Reply

    • Happy Anniversary, Courtney. Congratulations on the baby as well. Yes, I wrote this a few years ago, but the continued comments are a testament to just how accurate my simple observation was and still is.

      Comment by Bill | August 5, 2016 | Reply

  64. Thank you for shedding a positive light on my home county. Please come back often and bring your friends. We love where we live and hope to change the minds and hearts of our fellow West Virginians as well as our Country.

    Comment by Scarlett Rice | August 5, 2016 | Reply

    • I would love to come back and build a site for McDowell County like the ones we’ve built in Monroe County, Peterstown, Union and Hinton. Maybe one of these days I’ll be invited back to do just that. I would love to show the county off since I know the true character of the people in McDowell County.

      Comment by Bill | August 5, 2016 | Reply

  65. My parents were born and raised in McDowell county snd my grandparents lived there til their health declined severly. We would “Vacation” there several times a year and it was the most wonderful time for me. I could walk into town and everyone said hello snd most would ask me if I was my Dad or Mom.’s daughter. I thought it was so amazing. To play in the creek with my cousin, we didn’t have creeks in my neighborhood in Michigan. To play in the alley’s and just generally go where I wanted was amazing. My family was from War, Coalwood and Caretta. I never realized how truly beautiful the state was til as an adult went to Princeton. It was so beautiful, my husband and boys went fir a nice vacation to Pipestem state park and went white water rafting. Ok, check that off my bucket list but my guys loved it so much they went again the next day. I stayed in the lodge. My parents were so proud of their heritage and as an adult, I fully understand.

    Comment by Jane Caldwell | August 5, 2016 | Reply

  66. I spent a lot of time in Nortfork growing up I took every chance my Mom gave me to spend a week there during summer vacation with my cousins. Back then the coal mines were booming and times were good. Now that the government has all but crippled the whole state by all the regulations that’s been put coal companies jobs are hard to come by but the people of love their state and continue to try and survive. McDowell county has been one of the hardest hit with job loss but the people there continue to try to build it up. My cousins in Northfork have opened a restaurant in Northfork (Shupsters) and a lot of their business comes from the people coming their from other states to ride their ATV’s in the beautiful mountains surrounding the country side. They refuse to give up and hard working people there that would give you the shirt off their back.

    Comment by Pam Mills Brown | August 5, 2016 | Reply

  67. Thank you!! I was born in Welch and left when my Dad died at 15. My mom left for a better life. Each time I go home I want to cry. I remember when it was booming and I loved it there. Thank you for the positive comments and telling their story.

    Comment by Fran | August 6, 2016 | Reply

  68. I moved to Welch from Colorado and originally from Texas. I absolutely love living in this area due to having the time to reflect on what is most important in life. The beauty of the mountains and experiencing the four seasons was one thing I never had the opportunity to see living in Texas. The people in this county are welcoming and hard working. Yes this county has problems but no different and less than major cities. I plan on living here for a long while.

    Comment by Roland Gonzales | September 12, 2016 | Reply


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