|Welch, West Virginia, on a Sunday afternoon in 1946; photograph|
courtesy of Wikipedia
During the first half of the 1900s, railroads were built through McDowell County, making the vast fields of coal economically feasible to mine and ship to markets across the country. Welch became a prosperous city. After the production boom as a result of World War II, oil began to supplant coal as the domestic fuel supply. Mechanization of mining reduced the number of laborers needed in the production of coal. McDowell County's population peaked in 1950 and began to decline during the decades to follow. Today, less than 2,500 people live in the city. During its heyday, Welch proudly described itself as the "Heart of the Nation's Coal Bin."
|Welch, West Virginia, circa 1940 when the population was about 100,000|
people; photograph from McDowell County, W. Va., 1940: The Nation's
|Welch, West Virginia, in May 2015; the population is now less than 2,500|
people. Photograph from personal collection
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. It is believed Kennedy's trip through McDowell County became the basis of the aid brought to the Appalachian region by his and Johnson's administrations. Kennedy said later in a speech, "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."
|Welch, West Virginia, circa 1940; photograph from McDowell County, W. Va.:|
The Nation's Coal Bin
|Welch, West Virginia, May 2015; photograph from personal collection|
'Welch, West Virginia circa 1940, No. 1' McDowell County, W. Va.: The Nation's Coal Bin
'Welch, West Virginia circa 1940, No. 2' McDowell County, W. Va.: The Nation's Coal Bin
'Welch, West Virginia circa 1946,' Wikipedia
'Welch, West Virginia Today, No. 1,' Personal collection
'Welch, West Virginia today, No. 2,' Personal collection