McDowell County, West Virginia

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Courthouse in McDowell County

McDowell County, the southernmost county in West Virginia (WV), was created in 1858 and named in honor of James McDowell, the governor of Virginia from 1824 until 1844. Its county seat is at Welch. Despite its rugged terrain, drained principally by the Tug Fork River, the county was among the most populous in West Virginia in the early 1900s when coal was being mined in record amounts. Its population has rapidly dwindled. As of the 2010 census, the population was 22,113.

McDowell is sometimes pronounced colloquially as is spelled "MacDowell," with emphasis on the first syllable.  The county is also sometimes referred to as the "Free State of McDowell" as its large black population in the early 1900s elected a record number of black officials to local and state offices. Author and NASA engineer Homer Hickham documented his childhood in the  1950s in Coalwood, in central McDowell County, in the novel Rocket Boys.

Cities & Towns in McDowell County

Parks & Public Recreation Facilities

McDowell County Historic Landmarks

Regional Information for McDowell County, West Virginia

Further information on lodging, dining, and recreation in McDowell County may be found in our guide to travel in the in southwestern West Virginia, in which McDowell County is located.