Searching For Shadows: My Love Affair With McDowell County. RIP Welch Magic Mart

Back in the Spring of 2008 I had saw a news story on WCYB about the relocation of the entire town of Grundy, Virginia.  I hopped in my Celica and decided I had to see that project.  Somehow I ended up driving and driving and driving and ended up in Welch, West Virginia.  I fell in love, I guess its one of my quirks.  I truly love the off-beat places and McDowell County is at the top of that list.  Over the past 10 years I have explored, at last count 12 abandoned schools, most of which have been demolished. I was amazed.  There was abandoned greatness everywhere.  So much history was right there ready for me to discover.  I fell in love with Welch and McDowell County that day and that love affair is still going strong.  I remember in 2008 Welch, which is the county seat had a Big Lots store and a Magic Mart store. A few miles away there was a Walmart Super Center. In the 1950’s McDowell County had over 100,000 residents. Today, it sits at 18,546.

Over the last 10 years I have made at least 8 visits exploring and documenting.
I’ve even made a few friends from the area. Is it because I see commonalities between McDowell County and my own home town? Granted Harlan County hasnt seen the decline that McDowell has, we have still had our stumbles. A lot of my documentation has been sad happenings. From the old Iaeger High School demolition (which I still use to this day photos from as my cover photo on Facebook) To the fire at Big Creek High School, the closing of the Walmart store in Kimball, to the reworked riverfront in downtown Welch. Today another sad chapter has come to pass for the town and county.  The town’s Magic Mart closed it’s doors for the last time.
Magic Mart -- Welch, WV

Since my first visit in 2008 all of the mass merchandise discount stores (Big Lots, Walmart and now Magic Mart) have all closed their doors in McDowell County. There are parts of the county that are at least 40-50 miles away from their nearest get everything store I feel such sadness for this county and its people. At the same time I feel a weird sense of being grateful in that I found McDowell County and I have been able to document this area and its rich history.

St. Charles, Virginia 24282

Saint Charles is the second westernmost incorporated community in the commonwealth of Virginia, only beat out by Jonesville.
St Charles, Virginia The Saint Charles post office was established in 1908 and named for a local coal and land Baron, Charles Bondurant. St Charles, Virginia
Today the town is home to 116 residents.
St Charles, Virginia St Charles, Virginia

Stony Fork, Kentucky

Stony Fork, Kentucky is a neat community to drive through and check out the relics on the road side.  Stony for is located about 10 miles east of Pineville on Kentucky 221.  Stony Fork is a coal mining camp that was founded in 1908 with the start of the Stony Fork Coal Company.  Many former coal camp houses and even buildings still remain today.
Stony Fork ( Bell Co ) - Kentucky//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
I havent been able to confirm, but I am pretty sure this at one time was a Company store and later a general store for the community of Stony Fork. Today, it is for sale.
Stony Fork ( Bell Co ) - Kentucky//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Stony Fork ( Bell Co ) - Kentucky//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Stony Fork ( Bell Co ) - Kentucky//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Stony Fork ( Bell Co ) - Kentucky//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Stony Fork ( Bell Co ) - Kentucky//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Martin Kentucky City Hall — Floyd County, Kentucky

When I was growing up watching WYMT and I would hear Martin or Martin County, I always thought it was like Harlan and Harlan County.  I had no idea that Martin wasn’t even in Martin County.

City Hall -- Martin, Kentucky
As you can see, the town has had its battles with flooding in the past.


Martin is  about seven miles south of Prestonsburg on Beaver Creek at the mouth of Bucks Branch. It was an early twentieth century coal mining town originally known as Bucks Branch, but the name Martin was in use by about 1915, for Martin Van Allen, the local postmaster. The Bucks Branch post office opened in 1910, was renamed Smalley in 1913 for Smalley Crisp, a landowner in the area, and finally named Martin in 1926. Martin was incorporated in 1920.

Levisa Branch Trestle — Pike County, Kentucky

If you dig long and deep enough every one of these train trestles you come across have a unique history and story. This bridge in particular however has a very unique story and history in the fact that it was relocated to this spot.

Pike County, KY The bridge was originally constructed in 1894 by the Pencoyd Bridge & Construction Co. and crossed the Ohio river. At that time when it crossed the Ohio the bridge carried two tracks. Pike County, KY

In 1960 the bridge was relocated to its present home in the Millard community of Pike County, Kentucky by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, which is now part of CSX.

Pike County, KY Pike County, KY

Pike County, KY

Floyd County Kentucky Ramblings

A couple of weeks ago I finally went up to Floyd County to see the old Drift Theater for myself.  On the way I saw some other pretty neat stuff.  Some of these pictures are of places or buildings that will be featured in their own entry later on in this blog, some are just random shots.  Floyd County is a very interesting county with a lot of history, a lot of coal mining history to be specific. I hope to explore more there in the near future. In the meantime enjoy & goodnight.
Floyd County, Kentucky IMG_5479

IMG_5508 DSC05424

DSC05421

Russell Fork Railroad Bridge — Pike County, Kentucky

ElkhornCity

With the completion of the railroad and the bridge across the Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River in Elkhorn City, eastern Pike County and southwest Virginia was linked to the Kentucky Coalfields via railway.

RussellForkBridge

The bridge was completed in 1912.   After the completion the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Railroad and the Carolina, Clinchfield & Ohio Railroad were junctioned up and Elkhorn City became a hub of action and traffic because this is where the two railways interchanged.  More information and photos about Elkhorn City and the vital role that this town played in coal transportation will come in this blog when I cover the Elkhorn City Railroad Museum at a later date.  Until then check out this website for more information and historical pictures:  CLICK HERE