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McDowell County Courthouse in downtown Welch

Welch is a town of 1,600 people (as of 2019) in West Virginia, and the county seat of McDowell County. Incorporated in 1894, it was named for Confederate captain Isaiah A. Welch, who founded the city and was a leader in the area's coal development. Historically, Welch was a prosperous coal town, but the community fell on severely hard times when the coal boom of the early 20th century came to an end. The area still suffers from regular flooding, which has kept the economy depressed.

These days, the area has become well-known for its connection to author Homer Hickam Jr, a native of nearby Coalwood, whose 1998 autobiographical book Rocket Boys: A Memoir was adapted as the 1999 film October Sky.

Get in

Map of Welch (West Virginia)

Welch is located on US-52 between Williamson in the west and Bluefield in the east.

Get around



  • 1 McDowell County Courthouse, 90 Wyoming St, +1 304-436-8544. An imposing Romanesque Revival style stone building atop a hillside overlooking downtown. The courtyard steps were infamously the site of the murders of Edward Chambers and Sid Hatfield, who was the sheriff of nearby Matewan and an outspoken union organizer, by agents of the coal company. McDowell County Courthouse (Q14714203) on Wikidata McDowell County Courthouse (West Virginia) on Wikipedia
  • Many abandoned tipples, which were used to transport coal and slate to dump sites, can be seen throughout the county.
  • The interestingly-named town of War, a mining community on WV-16. Homer Hickam's 1960 science fair award was on display in Big Creek High School, which unfortunately was demolished after catching fire in 2015.
  • The Pocahontas Theatre, 60 McDowell Street, +1 304-436-2236. 3 screens. Admission $4.25 (matinee), $6.75 (adult).
  • McArts Amphitheatre, +1 304-585-7107. Annual performances in July and August of "Terror of the Tug", a dramatization of the Baldwin-Felts coal company murders outside the Welch courthouse in 1921. Admission $10.
  • 2 Berwind Lake Wildlife Area, WV-16 near Warriormine, +1 304-875-2577. 18,000 acres of rugged mountain terrain and 20-acre lake, with picnic areas, swimming pool, hiking trails, hunting and fishing. 8 camping sites. Berwind Lake Wildlife Management Area (Q4896031) on Wikidata Berwind Lake Wildlife Management Area on Wikipedia
  • Panther State Forest, +1 304-938-2252. South of Panther. Swimming, picnicking, hiking, hunting and fishing. 6 rustic camping sites. Camping $13.




  • Autumn Harvest Festival. Live entertainment, fairground rides, food booths.
  • October Sky Festival, in Coalwood. Held annually in early October. Book signings by Homer Hickam and the Rocket Boys, representatives from NASA and Space Camp USA, rocket shootings, parade, speeches, live entertainment, food and souvenir booths.


  • If you want a local souvenir, the Coalwood Community United Methodist Church has published a cookbook entitled Cooking the Coalwood Way with favorite regional recipes.
  • As McDowell County is the heart of West Virginia's coal-mining territory, coal sculptures are also a popular local souvenir.


  • Friendly Mart Diner, in Panther, +1 304-938-3031. Try the slaw-topped hot dogs and french fries.
  • Sterling Drive Inn, 788 Stewart Street, +1 304-436-3271. Try their famous submarines with deep-fried buns.
  • Ya'Sou Deli, 138 Main Street Kimball, WV, +1 304-585-7959. M-F 8AM-6PM, Sa 8AM-5PM. Breakfasts, subs, sandwiches and Greek dishes. $2-9.






  • Big Four Motel, in Big Four, 304-585-7313.
  • Count Gilu Motel, Vocational School Road, 304-436-3041.
  • Pocahontas Motel, +1 304-436-2250.

Bed and Breakfasts

  • Elkhorn Inn, US-52 in Landgraff, +1 304-862-2031, toll-free: +1-800-708-2040. 13 rooms. A restored 1922 miner's clubhouse with train-view guest rooms near the trout-filled Elkhorn Creek. On-site cafe, gift shop and restored theatre. $75 - 145.


  • Ashland KOA and ATV Resort, WV-17 (Northfork-Ashland Road), +1 304-862-2322, toll-free: +1-800-562-5141. 2,500 acres of private hardwood forest with cabins, cottages, RV and tent sites. Camp store, bathhouse with showers and hot water, pay laundromat, covered kitchen, wireless internet access, playground and horseshoe pits. ATV trails nearby.

Go next

  • Bluefield is about 1 hour southeast on US-52.
  • Williamson is a little over 1.5 hours northwest on US-52.
  • Pineville is less than 30 minutes north on WV-16
Routes through Welch
HuntingtonWilliamson  NW  SE  BramwellBluefield

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