Pictorial History of McDowell County


From Rural Farms to Coal Kingdom


Jean Battlo

Published in February 2003, this book provides a comprehensive pictorial history of McDowell County, West Virginia. The book contains over 900 photos including photographs of the ravaging flood of 2001.

Contact the author, Jean Battlo, at emily@inetone.net  and/or Box 415, Kimball, WV  24853
to place your order - $49 which includes cost + shipping

or click HERE to order online

The book may also be obtained at:

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

Following jury acceptance A Pictorial History of McDowell County will be available for purchase at Tamarack alongside Jean Battlo’s other books

Click HERE to review the back cover of the book
and for a  preview some of the pictures provided inside its covers.

Click HERE for a Welch Daily News review.

Press Release

A Pictorial History of McDowell County -- From Rural Farms to Coal Kingdom
By Jean Battlo

McDowell County native, Jean Battlo, has written and compiled photos that form a historical definition of the area, once the core of the coal mining industry. The historian's chief focus is the years between the creation of McDowell County out of Tazewell County, Virginia in 1858, through the centennial celebration throughout the county in 1958. Approximately 500-600 photographs in the 500+ page 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 of the county's opening century, Battlo has implemented a number of unique features as well as engaging the talents of other writers, natives and professionals, to be “voices” in certain areas. Some features include: Faces -- both the back and front inside covers are collages of unidentified photos. These are the faces of McDowell Countians who responded to press calls for current or past photos of anyone who lived in the county during its first hundred years. The collages of faces also appear though out the text.

Representative Persons or Families -- these were selected to present 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, provided by local voices. These 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 days, when her ancestor George Washington Payne’s home was used for county court. Geneva Brown and others write personal memoirs of having a husband at war during WW II. 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.

In addition to the local voices that so texturally reproduce the McDowell essence, professional writer Lawrence Messina of the Charleston Gazette, who covered the Keystone Bank story from September 1999-2002, wrote a summary article for the book . Norman Julian, a journalist from Clarksburg, added his article, one of the first written in the state, of Homer Hickam's 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 were of major and sometimes, national news.

The publication also includes approximately 200 photographs from all over the county related to the flood of 2001.  However, the author, publishers and previewers 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 Cassell of Frederick, MD, (who also wrote the feature on the 1950s) and Janet Belcher of Gramlich, New York, the centerpiece of the picture history is 57 postcards, from approximately 1890s –1950s.

Also, published here for the first time are some notations from Sallie Chambers, and some rare materials of C.E. Lively and others who were tried for the murders of Sid Hatfield and Ed Chambers on the Welch court house steps in 1921. The late Paul Lambert gave the papers to Battlo after discovering them in the courthouse.

The book was edited by Michele Mullenax, editor and vice president of McClain Printing Company, and JoAnn Dadisman, English professor at WVU.
Note: Jean Battlo and Barbara Dawson Cassell are members of the Welch High School class of 1957.

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Click HERE for information on other publications by Jean Battlo