McDowell County

Minnie Buckingham
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

  On May 15, 1886, Minnie Buckingham was born in Putnam County. She later moved to Keystone in McDowell County and married E. Howard Harper, who was elected to the legislature in 1926. When Harper died in the middle of his term, the county Republican executive committee unanimously recommended Minnie to replace him. In January 1928, Governor Howard Gore appointed Minnie Buckingham Harper to complete her husband’s term, making her the first African-American woman in U.S. history to serve in a state legislature.

A major prescription drug distributor is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit alleging the company fueled West Virginia's opioid epidemic with excessively large shipment of painkillers.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports an attorney for AmerisourceBergen said McDowell County commissioners are misguided in in blaming drug distributors for the drug problem.

Ed Evans
Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

The West Virginia Courtesy Patrol is a state funded roadside assistance service. But as members in the House continue to look for places to cut to balance the 2018 budget, delegates have set their sights on the program’s $5 million budget.

The courtesy patrol has been around for almost 20 years. It’s a non-profit of the Citizens Conservation Corp through a contract with the West Virginia Division of Highways.To-date, the patrol has received over 3 million calls and employs nearly 100 people.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Ohio University Press, publishers of Ancella R. Bickley & Lynda Ann Ewen, eds., "Memphis Tennessee Garrison: The Remarkable Story of a Black Appalachian Woman" (Athens, 2001)

Teacher and civic activist Memphis Tennessee Carter was born in Hollins, Virginia, on March 3, 1890.

Her father, a former slave, was a coal miner who moved his family to southern West Virginia when Memphis was a child.

She eventually married a coal company foreman and became Memphis Tennessee Garrison. She graduated from Bluefield State College at age 49 and taught school in McDowell County.

Mack Day
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On February 14, 1925, lawman Mack Day was shot dead by a bootlegger at Pageton in McDowell County. The Virginia native had come to McDowell as a young man to mine coal.

He built a 14-room house for his wife and 12 children on Belcher Mountain. He joined the local Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, and eventually the Ku Klux Klan, during the Klan’s early-20th-century revival in West Virginia.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign stop Thursday, May 5, at the Morgantown Event Center.
Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The West Virginia National Guard says a scheduled appearance by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at a southern West Virginia armory was canceled due to U.S. Defense Department policy.

Hardy’s hanging probably would have been the end of the story if not for a ballad written about the event.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

John Hardy was hanged in the McDowell County seat of Welch on January 19, 1894.

The black railroad worker had been convicted of murdering a man in a gambling dispute at present-day Eckman.

Hardy was just one of tens of thousands of African Americans who poured into southern West Virginia in the late 1800s and early 1900s to work in the coal and railroad industries.

Hardy’s hanging probably would have been the end of the story if not for a ballad written about the event. The song circulated by word of mouth, with the details changing over time.

A McDowell County official says an agreement has been reached to boost the county's budget and avoid laying off additional sheriff's deputies.

An agreement among the county commission and two other agencies was disclosed at a commission meeting Wednesday.

Pond Creek Number 1
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

On January 10, 1940, the Pond Creek Number 1 mine exploded at Bartley in McDowell County. The blast killed 91 miners; 47 men escaped. Most of the men who perished died instantly. Although, some asphyxiated following the explosion, and two left farewell letters.

Pond Creek Number 1 was a deep-shaft mine owned by an affiliate of Island Creek Coal. Investigators blamed methane gas for the fatal explosion since the mine’s coal dust had been treated properly.

Jessica Lilly

The economy in southern West Virginia is suffering due to the collapsing of the coal industry and it’s not hard to find reports of layoffs. But an international coal company called ArcelorMittal Princeton is expanding operations at a McDowell County mine bringing 50 to 75 jobs back to the region.


McDowell County officials have voted to shift funds in an effort to keep six deputies that are slated to be laid off by the end of the year.

Prior to the McDowell County Commission's vote Tuesday, Sheriff Martin West told officials that if the deputies are laid off, the department would lose its night shift and could be seriously hampered in its daytime emergency responsibilities.

Paula Riley Thomas was living in Alexandria, Va. in 1991 when her son James was born. She moved back to McDowell County, W.Va. when James was a year old to escape a domestic violence situation. She struggled to recover emotionally but found some hope in her Christian faith and writing poetry.

Listen to hear her story and a poem she wrote about her son, James, shortly after she moved back to McDowell in 1992.

Roxy Todd/ WVPB

What happens to a community as coal jobs go away? Here are some things you might expect: many people leave, schools empty, local businesses struggle to keep their lights on. But here’s something that may not come to mind: extra curricular sports go away.

That’s what happened to children in McDowell County over 25 years ago. They lost their local soccer league. And while the thousands of lost coal jobs may not come back, thanks to a 4-H project, and about a dozen volunteers, soccer is making a comeback in McDowell County.

Soccer Returns to McDowell County

Nov 7, 2016
West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning, politics and the addiction crisis. A report on two key races that could shape how the state approaches the problem and soccer returns to McDowell County after a long absence.

That’s on West Virginia Morning from West Virginia Public Broadcasting – telling West Virginia’s story.

In coal country, thousands of miners have lost jobs. While there aren't any easy solutions, in West Virginia, two farmers are doing what they can to keep wealth in their community and provide healthy food to more people.

In the parking lot of the Five Loaves and Two Fishes Food Bank in McDowell County, squash and basil are growing in 18 tall white towers without any dirt. It's a farming method called hydroponics. The vegetables sprout from tiny holes as water and nutrients flood the roots.

Roxy Todd/ WVPB

This week, we've been hearing a series of stories from the Inside Appalachia team about the challenges that some Appalachian families face when trying to eat fresh food. Sometimes it’s the cost, or poor choices. Sometimes it’s limited access because they live in what’s called a food desert.

Seven months ago the Walmart in McDowell County closed, and this was especially difficult for the Five Loaves and Two Fishes food pantry, run by Linda McKinney and her husband Bob. They say the superstore’s closing has actually inspired their family to rethink how they get food for the pantry.

Roxy Todd. WVPB

Eating your fruits and veggies is good for you, but it’s not always an easy choice. On this episode, we explore some of the challenges, choices, and barriers to eating healthy. Sometimes it’s the cost, or poor choices, sometimes it’s limited access because they live in what’s called a food desert.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, earlier this year in McDowell County, the Walmart superstore—the county’s only chain grocery store-- closed, making it tougher for residents to access food. Even before the Walmart shut its doors, much of McDowell County was already considered a food desert- an area where a large number of people don't have a large grocery store in their town.

Sid Hatfield
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

On August 1, 1921, Matewan police chief Sid Hatfield and his friend Ed Chambers were gunned down by Baldwin-Felt Detectives in front of the McDowell County Courthouse in Welch.

The trouble between Hatfield and the Baldwin-Felts had started more than a year earlier. In May of 1920, a shootout in the Mingo County town of Matewan had pitted Baldwin-Felts detectives against Hatfield and a crowd of angry miners.

A shootout left seven of the detectives, two miners, and the town’s mayor dead in the streets of Matewan.

Starland Theatre entrance.
A.M. / WV Humanitites Council

On July 6, 1950, the Starland Theatre opened along U.S. Route 52, four miles east of Welch. The drive-in—the first in McDowell County—was the brainchild of Weldon Cook of Man and Robert Livingston Russell Sr. of Bluefield.

When it opened, Starland had speakers for 450 cars and showed six different movies a week. It was right at the beginning of the drive-in craze. By the mid-1950s, West Virginia had 76 drive-ins.

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