McDowell County, West Virginia

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McDowell County, West Virginia
McDowell County WV Court.jpg
Map of West Virginia highlighting McDowell County
Location within the U.S. state of West Virginia
Map of the United States highlighting West Virginia
West Virginia's location within the U.S.
FoundedFebruary 28, 1858
Named forJames McDowell[1]
SeatWelch
Largest cityWelch
Area
 • Total535 sq mi (1,386 km2)
 • Land533 sq mi (1,380 km2)
 • Water1.4 sq mi (4 km2), 0.3%
Population (est.)
 • (2017)18,456
 • Density38/sq mi (15/km2)
Congressional district3rd
Time zoneEastern: UTC−5/−4
Websitewww.mcdowellcounty.wv.gov

McDowell County is a county in the U.S. state of West Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 22,113.[2] Its county seat is Welch.[3] McDowell county is the southernmost county in the state. It was created in 1858 by the Virginia General Assembly and named for Virginia Governor James McDowell.[4] It became a part of West Virginia in 1863, when several counties seceded from the state of Virginia during the American Civil War.

McDowell County was also home of the famous Rocket Boys, who were from Coalwood.

History[edit]

McDowell County was formed by an act of the Virginia Legislature on February 20, 1858, from what was originally included in Tazewell County, Virginia.[5]

Five years later, the Legislature decided to allow county residents to determine where the county seat should be. They chose Perryville (now called English), which was then the most populated town.[4] "The "Restored Government" commissioners, in October 1866, located the county seat on a farm near the mouth of Mill Creek, where it remained until it moved to Perryville in 1874."[5] The debate over the location of the county seat continued until 1892. The town of Welch became the county seat.[5]

The county is popularly referred to as the "Free State of McDowell," a name originally coined by a local newspaper editor to refer to the unusual politics and demographics of the area.[6]


Increasing rates of poverty in McDowell County led U.S. President John F. Kennedy to remark in a speech in the city of Welch in May 1963:

I don't think any American can be satisfied to find in McDowell County, in West Virginia, 20 or 25 percent of the people of that county out of work, not for 6 weeks or 12 weeks, but for a year, 2, 3, or 4 years.[7]

Geography[edit]

McDowell County, the southernmost county in West Virginia, is located at 37°22′N 81°39′W / 37.37°N 81.65°W / 37.37; -81.65Coordinates: 37°22′N 81°39′W / 37.37°N 81.65°W / 37.37; -81.65. It is bordered by Tazewell County, Virginia, to the south; Buchanan County, Virginia, to the west; Mingo County to the northwest; Wyoming County to the north; and Mercer County to the east. The Appalachian Mountains determine most of the borders of the county.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 535 square miles (1,390 km2), of which 533 square miles (1,380 km2) is land and 1.4 square miles (3.6 km2) (0.3%) is water.[8] The county is roughly in the shape of a semi circle, with the border following the mountains around the county.

Demographics[edit]

Historical population
Census Pop.
18601,535
18701,95227.2%
18803,07457.5%
18907,300137.5%
190018,747156.8%
191047,856155.3%
192068,57143.3%
193090,47931.9%
194094,3544.3%
195098,8874.8%
196071,359−27.8%
197050,666−29.0%
198049,899−1.5%
199035,233−29.4%
200027,329−22.4%
201022,113−19.1%
Est. 201718,456[9]−16.5%
U.S. Decennial Census[10]
1790–1960[11] 1900–1990[12]
1990–2000[13] 2010–2015[2]

2010 census[edit]

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 22,113 people, 9,176 households, and 6,196 families residing in the county.[14] The population density was 41.5 inhabitants per square mile (16.0/km2). There were 11,322 housing units at an average density of 21.2 per square mile (8.2/km2).[15] The racial makeup of the county was 89.1% white, 9.5% black or African American, 0.2% American Indian, 0.1% Asian, 0.0% from other races, and 1.1% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 0.4% of the population.[14] The largest ancestry groups were:13.7% Irish, 12.0% German, 11.5% English, 8.0% American, 2.8% Sub-Saharan African, 2.7% Italian, 2.0% Dutch, 1.1% Scotch-Irish [16]

Of the 9,176 households, 28.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.1% were married couples living together, 13.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 32.5% were non-families, and 28.8% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 2.86. The median age was 43.8 years.[14]

The median income for a household in the county was $22,154 and the median income for a family was $28,413. Males had a median income of $31,229 versus $26,776 for females. The per capita income for the county was $12,955. About 27.5% of families and 32.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 44.3% of those under age 18 and 20.1% of those age 65 or over.[17]

Life expectancy[edit]

Of 3,142 counties in the United States in 2013, McDowell County ranked 3,142 in the life expectancy of both male and female residents. Males in McDowell County lived an average of 63.5 years and females lived an average of 71.5 years compared to the national average for life expectancy of 76.5 for males and 81.2 for females. Moreover, the average life expectancy in McDowell County declined by 3.2 years for males and 4.1 years for females between 1985 and 2013 compared to a national average for the same period of an increased life span of 5.5 years for men and 3.1 years for women. High rates of smoking and obesity and a low level of physical activity appear to be contributing factors to the declining life expectancy for both sexes.[18]

Drug-induced deaths[edit]

In 2015, McDowell County had the highest rate of drug-induced deaths of any county in the United States, with 141 deaths per 100,000 people. (The rate for the United States as a whole was 14.7 per 100,000 people.[19]) Neighboring Wyoming County had the second highest rate.[20]

Politics[edit]

The power of industrial and mining political systems turned it strongly towards the Republican Party between 1890 and 1932 – being strongly Republican enough to even support William Howard Taft during the divided 1912 presidential election.[21]

Presidential elections results
Presidential elections results[22]
Year Republican Democratic Third parties
2016 74.1% 4,629 23.0% 1,438 2.9% 179
2012 64.0% 3,959 34.1% 2,109 1.9% 120
2008 44.8% 2,882 53.3% 3,430 1.8% 118
2004 37.8% 2,762 61.7% 4,501 0.5% 36
2000 32.2% 2,348 66.3% 4,845 1.5% 110
1996 18.9% 1,550 73.0% 5,989 8.2% 669
1992 19.8% 1,941 71.8% 7,019 8.4% 821
1988 25.4% 2,463 74.2% 7,204 0.5% 47
1984 33.3% 4,284 66.3% 8,546 0.4% 53
1980 27.7% 3,862 70.4% 9,822 1.9% 259
1976 28.0% 4,107 72.0% 10,557
1972 56.8% 8,942 43.2% 6,811
1968 21.2% 4,020 67.8% 12,842 11.0% 2,075
1964 17.0% 3,684 83.1% 18,046
1960 25.2% 6,555 74.8% 19,501
1956 39.8% 11,138 60.2% 16,865
1952 30.2% 10,663 69.8% 24,657
1948 30.8% 9,687 68.5% 21,545 0.8% 240
1944 36.4% 11,023 63.7% 19,300
1940 36.3% 13,906 63.7% 24,449
1936 28.1% 9,975 71.8% 25,471 0.1% 35
1932 56.4% 16,069 43.4% 12,365 0.3% 80
1928 64.0% 14,810 35.9% 8,294 0.1% 31
1924 63.0% 12,422 28.2% 5,561 8.9% 1,749
1920 70.6% 12,198 29.3% 5,068 0.1% 16
1916 65.6% 7,086 34.2% 3,692 0.2% 20
1912 46.5% 4,341 26.8% 2,497 26.7% 2,489

Government[edit]

Position Name
Commissioner Cody Estep
Commissioner Cecil Patterson
Commissioner, President Harold McBride
Prosecuting Attorney Ed Kornish
Sheriff Martin West
County Assessor Dennis Altizer
County Clerk Donald Hicks
Circuit Clerk Francine Spencer

Education[edit]

McDowell County Schools operates the county's public K-12 education system of 7 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, and 2 public high schools in McDowell County including Mount View High School, and River View High School. The county also has a private school, Twinbranch Pentecostal Christian Academy which is located in Twinbranch.[23] The current superintendent of schools is Nelson Spencer.

McDowell County Schools were under state control as a 'take-over' county from 2001 to 2013.[24]

Transportation[edit]

Major highways[edit]

The West Virginia Division of Highways is currently trying to construct new highways, such as U.S. Route 121, known as the Coalfields Expressway.[25]

Airport[edit]

The county also had one airport, Welch Municipal Airport, which is now closed indefinitely.

Communities[edit]

Cities[edit]

Towns[edit]

Census-designated places[edit]

Unincorporated communities[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "West Virginia Counties". West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Archived from the original on September 23, 2001. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
  2. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on July 14, 2011. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  3. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  4. ^ a b Lewis, Virgil (1889). History of West Virginia. Philadelphia, PA: Hubbard Brothers, Publishers. p. 728.
  5. ^ a b c Byrne, George (1915). 1915 Handbook of West Virginia. Charleston, WV: Lovett Printing Company. p. 88.
  6. ^ Deaner, Larry Scott (2004). [Home in the McDowell County Coalfields: The African-American Population of Keystone, West Virginia Home in the McDowell County Coalfields: The African-American Population of Keystone, West Virginia] Check |url= value (help) (M.S., Geography thesis). Ohio University. Retrieved March 20, 2011.
  7. ^ Kennedy, John F. (1964). Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963. Best Books on, 1964. p. 366.
  8. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
  9. ^ "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved April 7, 2018.
  10. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on May 12, 2015. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  11. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  12. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  13. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  14. ^ a b c "DP-1 Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved April 3, 2016.
  15. ^ "Population, Housing Units, Area, and Density: 2010 - County". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved April 3, 2016.
  16. ^ "DP02 SELECTED SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS IN THE UNITED STATES – 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved April 3, 2016.
  17. ^ "DP03 SELECTED ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS – 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved April 3, 2016.
  18. ^ "McDowell County, West Virginia", http://www.healthdata.org/sites/default/files/files/county_profiles/US/2015/County_Report_McDowell_County_West_Virginia.pdf, accessed January 12, 2017.
  19. ^ "Increases in Drug and Opioid Overdose Deaths — United States, 2000–2014". www.cdc.gov. Retrieved March 27, 2018.
  20. ^ "Underlying Cause of Death, 1999-2015 Results". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved January 11, 2017.
  21. ^ Menendez, Albert J.; The Geography of Presidential Elections in the United States, 1868-2004, pp. 334-337 ISBN 0786422173
  22. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". uselectionatlas.org. Retrieved March 27, 2018.
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 21, 2012. Retrieved September 1, 2011.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  24. ^ Mays, Mackenzie (May 8, 2013). "McDowell regains school control after 12 years". Charleston Gazette. Retrieved August 17, 2013.
  25. ^ "Coalfields Expressway". Coalfields Expressway Authority. Retrieved August 31, 2011.

External links[edit]