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McDowell County, West Virginia
Map of West Virginia highlighting McDowell County
Location in the state of West Virginia
Map of the U.S. highlighting West Virginia
West Virginia's location in the U.S.
Founded 1858
Seat Welch
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

535 sq mi (1,386 km²)

0 sq mi (0 km²), 0.03%
 - (2000)
 - Density

52/sq mi (20/km²)

McDowell County is a county located in the U.S. state of West Virginia. As of 2000, the population was 27,329. Its county seat is Welch6. McDowell county is the southern-most county in the state, geographically.


McDowell County Courthouse, Welch

The county is named in honor of James McDowell, Governor of Virginia from 1843 to 1846. McDowell County was nationally known for its prominence in the coal mining industry, setting records for coal production and was a major player in the state's economy. Before the industry's decline that began in the 1950s, McDowell's population was almost at 100,000 residents, third highest in the state in 1950, then declined at a rapid pace after each decennial census afterwards, setting the highest percentage in the state for population loss each time as younger residents move out of the county to seek better futures and leaving behind a much older population and many that lack transportation to find work.

For many years McDowell County was nicknamed the "Free state of McDowell" due to social and political race relations that is uncommon in the rest of the state.

In 2001 and 2002, horrific floods leveled many of the small towns within this county. Over ten inches of rain had fallen in a period of 12 hours in many of the areas. Many towns were left completely demolished by the violent flow of water which was channeled by the mountains and surrounding hills. Over 40 people died, or were declared dead as a result of being missing for over 1 year as a result of a 4 day period of rain.

McDowell County is considered as one of the core counties in Appalachia on which the national War on Poverty focused, a national effort started during President Lyndon B. Johnson's administration.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,385 km² (535 sq mi). 1,385 km² (535 sq mi) of it is land and 0 km² (0 sq mi) of it (0.03%) is water.

Major Highways[]

Adjacent Counties[]


Historical populations

1860 1,535
1870 1,952
1880 3,074
1890 7,300
1900 18,747
1910 47,856
1920 68,571
1930 90,479
1940 94,354
1950 98,887
1960 71,359
1970 50,666
1980 49,899
1990 35,233
2000 27,329
2004 (estimate) 24,726

As of the census² of 2000, there were 27,329 people, 11,169 households, and 7,840 families residing in the county. The population density was 20/km² (51/sq mi). There were 13,582 housing units at an average density of 10/km² (25/sq mi). The racial makeup of the county was 87.06% White, 11.89% Black or African American, 0.17% Native American, 0.06% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.07% from other races, and 0.74% from two or more races. 0.48% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 11,169 households out of which 29.20% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.10% were married couples living together, 14.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.80% were non-families. 27.30% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.10% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 2.92.

In the county, the population was spread out with 23.20% under the age of 18, 7.90% from 18 to 24, 26.80% from 25 to 44, 26.10% from 45 to 64, and 16.10% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 90.40 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.20 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $16,931, and the median income for a family was $20,496. Males had a median income of $25,994 versus $18,685 for females. The per capita income for the county was $10,174, which is the lowest in the state and the 28th lowest in the country. About 33.80% of families and 37.70% of the population were below the poverty line, including 52.50% of those under age 18 and 21.60% of those age 65 or over.

Cities and towns[]

Incorporated cities and towns[]

Unincorporated communities[]

See also[]

McDowell County links[]

Coordinates: 37°22′N 81°39′W / 37.37, -81.65

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at McDowell County, West Virginia. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.