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Matewan, West Virginia

Where did the name come from?

Ask anyone in Matewan how the town got its name and you're liable to hear several different stories.  This confusion stems from the likelihood that the town of Matewan acquired its name through a combination of two events.  The first event dates from Matewan's pioneer/frontier era, and the second from the dawn of the modern period of industrialization.

Richard Ferrell and his older brother John settled the Tug River Valley in the vicinity of present-day Matewan in the early decades of the 19th century (the ownership of the plot of land on which the town of Matewan was laid out in 1890 had by that time passed to John's grandson Fulton Anderson Ferrell).  It has been said that Richard Ferrell loved to hunt more than anything.  One winter day in the early period of settlement, sometime in the mid 1800's, Richard was bear hunting with Mate, his favorite hound dog.  Mate chased a black bear across the frozen mouth of the unnamed creek which emptied into the Tug Fork River on the West Virginia bank.  The combined weight of bear and dog broke the surface of the ice, and both animals drowned in the chilly water.  Richard named the creek Mate Creek to memorialize the dog that was killed.

Years later in 1890 when the Norfolk & Western Railway built a railroad through the region it spurred the growth of a new town along the bank of the Tug Fork.  Erskine Hazard, a civil engineer who worked for the N & W Railroad, laid out the town in 1890 and drew up the first map of the new community.  Hazard suggested that the new community take the name of his hometown of Matteawan, New York.  

The name stuck, though locals changed both the spelling and pronunciation of Matewan, to match the creek which already carried the name Mate.  Thus a valiant hound dog and a homesick engineer combined to give Matewan its unique name.

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