West Virginia Coal Country – McDowell County – Part 4

July 23, 2012 Travis Dewitz

The last of 4 parts. From Welch west to Williamson is 65 miles. The mountains and roads have a different feel to them and do not follow the mainline as cleanly as they do to the east. I did not venture extensively west of Welch very much but did make it to Iaeger twice. I only made it to Williamson once which was on my drive out of West Virginia and across Tennessee. One famous town that we did visit near Williamson was Matewan known for the Matewan Massacre.  On that last day in West Virginia we did come across a coal train backing up the Tug River Branch chasing a bunch of goats back home. As the goats ran down the tracks they ran right past me and back down across the road to their farm. They lived on this little farm with no fences and no one living there right next to the road. Apparently the chickens were really bad at keeping the goats off the tracks. Well I hope you have enjoyed this 4 part series of photos which covered my trip along the Pocahontas Route through McDowell County in West Virginia.

Iaeger, WV

Downtown Iaeger, West Virginia

Goats Get Chased Down the Tug River Branch

Coal Truck Drivers Wait at the Railroad Crossing

One of the Goats that Happens to Live at a Fence Free Farm

Almost Frence Free Farm – Looks Like Eeyore From Winnie the Pooh

Abandoned House Near Matewan

Sunset Over Williamson Railroad Yard

Coal Hoppers in Williamson Yard

Over Looking Williamson

Williamson, West Virginia

Leaving West Virginia

I would love for you to see more of my photo series from West Virginia below.

Prince, WV Art Deco Amtrak Station

New River Gorge

Abandoned Coalwood High School

Coal in McDowell County – Part 1

Coal in McDowell County – Part 2

Coal in McDowell County – Part 3

Arson Destroyed Coal Company Store

Abandoned Switchback High School


More of my Railroad Imagery can be seen here.

Photo series of Coal in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming.

Through the creative lens of Travis Dewitz; he demonstrates time and time again how much splendor can be extracted from the interplay of the industrial world around us. In the most unusual and unexpected places Dewitz showcases images that embody the forgotten beauty of railways, factory floors, the rolling smoke of steel mills, and the cities that are built around them. He brings a certain magic as he invokes the very souls of these once-glorious industrial areas; his captures overflow with inspirational energy. Click here to view his personal series.

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Travis Dewitz

My name is Travis Dewitz and I am from Eau Claire, Wisconsin. My specialty is commercial photography with a love for expressive portraits. My work is Conceptual, Emotive, Editorial, Surreal and Eclectic. I am passionate about fashioning new worlds through photographs as I extend my visions beyond the realm of the camera. I have incredible vision, which you can see in all of my photos.

Comments (25)

  1. Wylee

    The third one down (b&w), it’s very iconic, it tells a complete story on it’s own.

  2. Michael Bess

    Really nice pictures! Thanks for sharing and showing what we would not regulary see!

  3. I particularly like your photographs of Yaeger. Some real beautiful photos.

    I have an old tipple on Route 52 just south east of Welch. If I emailed it to you could you help me identify it –town and possibly even coal company?

  4. Ron Teska

    Your photography is not only breathtaking in black and white but also begs the question; How much of the billions of dollars depicted in your photos rolling through McDowell Co., via coal trains, stays in McDowell Co. or is used to better the lives of those living in McDowell Co.?

  5. Bob Munsey

    I have worked, and lived in all of these towns and cities, in these photographies. Worked for the Norfolk And Western RW, had a Standard Coffee Route in Welch, Iaeger, and Williamson. This was all in the 1950s. Thanks for bring back old menories. OLD BOB

  6. Patrick Varney

    Williamson and Matewan are both in Mingo County, not Mcdowell County.

  7. Karen Martin-Wilkins

    My husband grew up in Kimball and he was so moved to see these photos of his hometown area. His family moved in the early 1980s as a result of the mines closing down and there being no jobs. Many of his relatives still live there and most are on disability and/or SSI. There is such incredible poverty there. I had a hard time fathoming it when we visited in the mid-90s when we began to date. Very powerful photos…thank you for sharing them.

  8. Linda DeHart Carver

    Thank you for sharing you pictures of McDowell County! My Dad worked for many years in the coal mines of WV and I grew up in Vivian before moving the VA in 1960.

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  10. Priscilla Whitmore

    I enjoyed this article and the pictures. I wish you would have taken some of Davy and Twin Branch, I have great childhood memories from there.

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    You love free, these people?s lives:?And yet exciting, swell or bleeding.The daily chores, in spelling of.Manufactured housing construction tokousahaperintis, the weekends This I love it.And display that, appear after the.,

  12. Mark Combs

    I hope you saw Jenkinjones, near Maybeury…love your eye on these…

  13. Joni Zornes

    I enjoyed your photos from the coal country of southern Wva I am from Williamson and loved the area.It’s so sad to see the poverty that continues to get worse. Thanks for the beautiful memories, though.

  14. Earl

    grew up at Havaco and went to Welch High School. The last time I was there made me leave with a tear in my eye. So sad to see how bad things are now in those areas, wish I could help. All my people were coal miners, they are all gone now but the memories remind me what strong people they were. Thanks so very much for all the photos, nice job.

  15. Jackie Lowman McCain

    I lived in McDowell County in 1940 to 1953. My father was an official @ the coal mines there. Thank you for your marvelous insight in this era. You have given me the feeling of knowing my heritage is vital and lasting.

  16. John Pinter

    A great trip back in time. I traveled through most of these towns during my time in WV. I was born in Hemphill and lived in Gary until my eighth grade year and then spent 1 year in the town of Welch before moving to Cleveland, Ohio. Spent more time after serving 4 years in the USMC and going to college at BSC. It was a great place to grow up in. Still visit at least once a year.

  17. Mildred Hash

    Sad. But I prefer to remember Welch in its heyday. Was beautiful, free, no crime to speak of, just an occasional Sat. night resident who too much to drink. He was looked down on by the neighbors. Ha.

  18. Norma Bailey

    loved pictures i used to live in Coalwood W.Va in the late 50s

  19. James Nickens

    There was also a Colored School in Northfork at the fork of Rt 52 and the road leading to Algoma and thru many small towns leading to Crumpler. All of the Colored children went to, and after Graduation, we went to Elkhorn High School in Elkhorn WV. I graduated from Elkhorn High School in 1958 and that was before integration.
    Is there any history in regards to the Colored Schools?

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