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The Origin of the Town Name The Matewan
A Brief Look 
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Matewan, West Virginia

A brief look

Matewan in the early 1900'sThe Matewan area, located on the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River in Mingo County, West Virginia, is referred to as "a peaceful place with a violent history." Its topography consisting of sharply rising mountains rearing up from twisting creeks and narrow valleys existed for generations as a region apart from the industrialized east coast, isolated physically and culturally by the impenetrable terrain. The Tug Valley remained largely unchanged until the Industrial Revolution demanded coal to fuel the nations industries. Matewan was founded in 1895 when the Norfolk and Western Railway entered the valley to open the Williamson Coalfield. As a stop on the N&W's main line, the town supplied goods to the surrounding mining communities. Miners, railroad workers and locals caroused and gambled in Matewan's saloons. The influx of outsiders and exploitation of the resources dramatically changed the physical and socioeconomic makeup of the region. Today, these regions of Appalachia have been described as "rich yet poor, exploited yet underdeveloped, scarred yet beautiful."

Matewan in the early 40'sMatewan has nurtured a distinctive folklore and has intrigued visitors over the past century. In the 1880s, the feud between the Hatfields and McCoy's raged near Matewan. Forty years later, the town was the scene of the "Battle of Matewan," a bloody conflict in the West Virginia Coal Mine Wars. Historical events, the rugged terrain, and it's people have shaped the unique contemporary character of the Matewan area.

Times are changing in the Tug Valley. The area faces a major transformation in the new Millennium. The periodic flooding which has caused social havoc and stymied economic growth throughout the valley has prompted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by Congressional mandate to undertake extensive flood protection programs such as the newly completed floodwall that surrounds the town. Coal mining has re-emerged in the late 1980s as a major economic force within the Matewan area; the forthcoming completion of Appalachian Corridor "G" will link the area to the Interstate Highway System; and, scholars and artists are returning their focus on the attention of wealth of history associated with Matewan, as demonstrated by the release of the movie, "MATEWAN" in 1987 by filmmaker John Sayles, and the recent publication of the books Storming Heaven, by Denise Giardinal; Thunder in the Mountains, by Lon Savage; and FEUD, by Altina Waller. These events have served as a catalyst for a series of revitalization efforts in the Matewan area. 

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