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Industrial promoter, land speculator, railroad developer, and Confederate veteran Isaiah Arnold Welch promoted the development of the Pocahontas coalfield in southern West Virginia. Welch was born in Doddridge County about 1825. As a young man he took part in the California Gold Rush, later returning to Western Virginia. He represented Kanawha County in the legislature of Confederate Virginia throughout the Civil War, while also attaining the rank of captain in the Confederate military service.

In cooperation with former Confederate cartographer and fellow New South industrialist Jedediah Hotchkiss, Welch surveyed the mineral reserves of the rich Pocahontas No. 3 coal seam in southern West Virginia in 1873. He published his endorsement of the investment opportunities in Hotchkiss’s journal, The Virginias. The ensuing massive industrialization of the region by the Philadelphia capitalists who created the Norfolk & Western Railway and its subsidiary Flat Top Land Association can thus in part be attributed to Welch’s influential survey report.

The city of Welch, county seat of McDowell County, is named for Isaiah Welch, who is reported to have purchased the strategic site at the confluence of Elkhorn Creek and Tug Fork for $100 and his sorrel mare. Welch died February 15, 1902, at St. Albans, Kanawha County, and is buried in Bramwell.

This Article was written by C. Stuart McGehee

Last Revised on February 16, 2016


Roper, Peter W. Jedediah Hotchkiss: Rebel Mapmaker and Virginia Businessman. Shippensburg, PA: White Mane Pub., 1992.

Lambie, Joseph T. From Mine to Market: The History of Coal Transportation on the Norfolk & Western Railway. New York: New York University Press, 1954.

Hotchkiss, Jedediah. The Great Flat-Top Coal-Field. The Virginias, (June 1882).

Welch, Isaiah A. The Pocahontas-Flat-Top Coal Field. Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 11/1/1896.

Cite This Article

McGehee, C. Stuart "Isaiah Welch." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 16 February 2016. Web. 28 May 2024.


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