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A Pictorial History of McDowell County
From Rural Farms to Coal Kingdom

McDowell County native, Jean Batllo has written and complied photos that form a historical definition of this area, once the core of the coal mining industry. The historian’s chief focus is the years between the creation of McDowell out of Tazewell County, Virginia in 1858, through the centennial celebration throughout the county in 1958. Approximately 500-600 photographs in the 500+ volume walk the reader through the first pioneering days and settlements in the territory, through the discovery of the Pocahontas coal seam and the unexpected economic boom in the remote rural region, through the World War II era and the pageant and ceremonies of the 1958 centennial.

Further enhancing the tour the county’s opening century, Batllo has implemented a number of unique features as well as engaging the talents of other writers, natives and professional, to be “voices” in certain areas. These features include: Faces: both the back and front inside covers are collages of unidentified photos. These are the faces of McDowell’s who responded by the press calls for current or past photos of anyone who has lived in the county during its first hundred years. These collages of faces also appear thought the text.

Representative Persons or Families: were selected to represent the biographical and personal stories of the region during chronological periods. In this, the author was guided by the 1922, 1927 and 1958 historical issues of the Welch Daily News. Some of the “representative” stories related are those of families, represented by Local voices. This writers are individuals who responded to calls in local papers for individual family stories and photos from a given region. For example, Marie Woolridge writes the history of the Payne family in the county’s first day, when her ancestor George Washington Payne’s home was use for county court. Geneva Brown and others write personal memoirs of having a husband at war in WWII. WW II is especially evocative in the text, as Melly Woolwine’s scrapbook containing all news items related to McDowell County servicemen, was intact and printed in the book. Besides the local voices that so texturally reproduce the McDowell essence, Professional writers: Lawrence Messina of the Charleston Gazette, who covered the Keystone Bank story from September, 1999-2002 wrote an summary article just for the book . Norman Julian, a journalist from Clarksburg added his article, one of the first written in the state, of Homer Hickam’s Jr. rise in American letters. The latter two do not fit the chronology and are in Odd Bytes and Updates which form the coda of the planned text and includes oddities, special notes and persons or events in the county after 1958, that are of major and sometimes, national news. Having completed the work and preparing for print, The Great Flood of 2001 occurred on July 8, 2002 and the writer and publishers literally stopped the presses. Batllo did a quick two week journal and took approximately 200 photographs all over the county. Many of the photos, along with aerial views provided by the state police are here. However, the author, publishers and pre-viewers of the text-in-progress agree on the favorite section: Postcards from the Past. With the generous collections provided by Pat Damron of Welch, Barbara Dawson Of Frederick, MD (who also wrote the feature on the 1950s) and Janet Belcher Gramlich, New York, the centerpiece of the picture-history is 57 postcard, from approximately 1890s -1950s. Also, published here for the first time is some notations from Sallie Chambers, and some bare materials of C. E.Lively and others who were tried for the murders of Sid Hatfield and Ed Chambers on the Welch courthouse steps in 1921. The late Paul Brewster gave the papers to Batllo after discovering them in the courthouse.

The book was edited by Michele Mullenax, editor and vice president of McClain and JoAnn Dadisman, English professor at WVU.

The new book by local writer Jean Battlo is published by McClain’s. The cost is $45. The book may be obtained in the region at:

  • Flowers by Reba(Welch)
  • Chris-Ann (Welch)
  • Gianato Hardware (Kimball)
  • Yasou Restaurant (Soon to open: Main St. Kimball)
  • The Lunch Box( Roderfield)
  • Sisters Coffee House (Princeton)
  • Hearthside Books (Bluefield)