HISTORIC BRAMWELL'S OAK HILL CEMETERY

BRAMWELL PIONEER CAPTAIN ISAIAH A. WELCH

Captain I. A. Welch

Isaiah A. Welch was a Confederate Captain and Assistant Quartermaster officer on the Staff of the 13th Battalion of Light Artillery. He was from Doddridge County, WV and resigned from service on 1 August 1864. As the below referenced letter shows, in 1866 he was running a steam saw mill at Dublin Depot near the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad. In 1873, Captain I. A. Welch was sent by engineer and geologist Jedediah Hotchkiss to explore areas in West Virginia for minerals and timber. His report of the extraordinary seam of coal at Pocahontas came to the attention of railroad investors, who began a drive to reach to Pocahontas with a rail line. This was not achieved until 1883 when the New River Division of the Norfolk and Western Railroad arrived at Pocahontas. Welch became a surveyor for the subsequent Pocohantas Mines, and the town of WELCH, the county seat of McDowell County West Virginia was incorporated in 1894 and named for this same Isaiah A. Welch, captain in the Confederate Army. Welch died in February 1902 at St. Albans, WV.

Captain Isaiah A. Welch was a surveyor for Pocohantas Mines. Captain Welch was born in Charleston, WV on March 3, 1823. I. A. Welch served as a captain in the Confederate Army. According to text on his tombstone Captain Welch died in 1897. However, Captain Welch most likely died on Feb. 15, 1902 at the age of 73. This date is confirmed by the obituary listed below from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph dated February 16, 1902. That would have meant that he was born in 1829 and not the tombstone date of 1823. Captain Welch is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery near Historic Bramwell, WV in the community of Freeman,WV. He was the brother of Ms. Jemima Welch.

The below paragraph from site that advertizes Captain Welch's letter:

Isaiah A. Welch was a Confederate Captain and Assistant Quartermaster officer on the Staff of the 13th Battalion of Light Artillery. He was from Doddridge County, WV and resigned from service on 1 August 1864. As the below referenced letter shows, in 1866 he was running a steam saw mill at Dublin Depot near the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad. In 1873, Captain I. A. Welch was sent by engineer and geologist Jedediah Hotchkiss to explore areas in West Virginia for minerals and timber. His report of the extraordinary seam of coal at Pocahontas came to the attention of railroad investors, who began a drive to reach to Pocahontas with a rail line. This was not achieved until 1883 when the New River Division of the Norfolk and Western Railroad arrived at Pocahontas. Welch became a surveyor for the subsequent Pocohantas Mines, and the town of WELCH, the county seat of McDowell County West Virginia was incorporated in 1894 and named for this same Isaiah A. Welch, captain in the Confederate Army. Welch died in February 1902 at St. Albans, WV.

1866 LETTER - I. A. WELCH , WV COAL MAGNATE TO THE FORMER CSA CAPTAIN OF THE RINGGOLD ARTILLERY - This is interesting reading on Captain Isaiah A. Welch. He was captain in the Confederate Army. Captain Welch died in February 1902 at St. Albans, WV.

The town of Welch in McDowell County, WV was named after Captain Welch in 1894. Captain Welch is reported to have purchased the strategic site at the confluence of Elkhorn Creek and Tug Fork for $100 and his sorrel mare. He died February 15, 1902, in St. Albans, Kanawha County, and his body was returned to Bramwell, WV for burial in Oak Hill Cemetery.

Bramwell's namesake, Joseph H. Bramwell accompanied Captain I. A. Welch on his 1873 survey of the Pocahontas Coalfields.

The Bramwell Public Grade School was established in 1894 with Professor E.S. Baker becoming the first principal ( 1895 - 1900 ) of the school. With private donations from several local coal barons like John D. Hewitt, Jenkin Jones, Harry Bowen and CAPTAIN I. A. WELCH the school term was extended from five to twelve months a year for the 200 students and five teachers.

The Oak Hill Cemetery cemetery is presently grownup and and in need of extensive restoration. However, there is a project underway to restore the cemetery and is being spearheaded by Sharon Scott Workman and several of Bramwell's residents. Sharon and her coworkers need as much help and funding as they can get to insure success of this project. Sharon can be contacted Sharon Scott Workman if you care to your support this initiative.

Efforts are underway to document the cemetery history which is believed to have been started in about 1885. Many of Bramwell's pioneers are buried in Oak Hill Cemetery. The cemetery and along with the Baptist Church is physically located just West of the community of Freeman on River Road.

Isaiah A. Welch wife, Mary Welch:

BIRTH: 3 Mar 1823

DEATH: 3 Dec 1897 (age - 74)

BURIAL: Oak Hill Cemetery Freeman, Mercer County, West Virginia

Material furnished by: Sharon Scott Workman.

Captain Isaiah A. Welch Obiturary
( Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 16 February 1902 )

Captain I. A. Welch

Pioneer Passes to Eternal Rest
Capt. I.A. Welch Died at St. Albans Yesterday.
Ripe in Years and Honors
Highly Esteemed Citizen, Identified with Coal Field's Development and Growth.
Funeral Will be Tomorrow.

Capt. I.A. Welch, one of the pioneers of the Pocahontas Flat Top Coal Field, died at his residence in St. Albans, W.Va., yesterday morning, aged about 73 years.

Capt. Welch came to this section in 1873 to examine and report on the coal deposits. He became identified with the development of the section, and was probably the most widely known man in the field. The town of Welch was named in his honor.

Several years ago Capt. Welch was married to Miss Thrasher of Giles county, Va. and moved from Bramwell to St. Albans, WV.

Four sons and three daughters, children of his first marriage, are all dead before him.

He was a man universally esteemed, and his death casts a gloom over the community.

His remains will be brought to Bramwell, where the last sad rites will be observed tomorrow afternoon at 3 o'clock.

CAPT. ISAIAH WELCH'S COAL EXPLORATIONS

In 1873, seven years after Jordan Nelson bought out Andrew Stowers Holdings on Laurel Creek, Major Jed Hotchiss of Staunton, Virginia, a noted geologist, engineer and promoter of his day, engaged Capt. Isiah A. Welch to explore and prospect for timber and minerals on the Wilson Cary Nicholas Survey. Capt. Welch came into the area early in the year and first came upon the coal lands on the property of Jordan Nelson within the boundaries of the David Patterson Survey on Laurel Creek.

The story of his explorations was printed in the Industrial Edition of the “Bluefield Daily Telegraph” of November 1, 1896, twenty-three years after his findings were reported. His story was called, “The Pocahontas Flattop Coal Field, a Brief History of its Location and Development”. Without question the report of Capt. Welch had much to do with the rapid development of the Pocahontas Coal Field, beginning at Pocahontas. The timber Capt. Welch was looking for was there, and which he estimated to run 5,000 feet per acre. Not much was known then about the minerals that might be found. In Capt. Welch’s words, “I entered upon the property of Laurel Creek, than the residence of Jordan Nelson, one of the pioneer settlers of that section. He was a blacksmith and had outcropped a bed of coal for use in his shop, which showed a thickness of 13 feet.” Interested in such an unexpected discovery, the continuity of the bed was traced down the Valley of the Bluestone River.

Prospecting was done on the following creeks, Mill, Simons, Flipping, Crane, Widemouth, Rich, and Camp Creek. Thence to the headwaters of the Guyandotte River, thence to Elkhorn at the mouth of Brown’s Creek, below Welch ( city which was named for him) in West Virginia. All the branches of Elkhorn Creek were prospected back to the headwaters of Flat Top Mountain”. While prospecting on the Bluestone, Capt. Welch lived with Mr & Mrs. Henry Tabor, below Pinnacle Rock on the north side of the mountain. He rode horesback up and down Bluestone River, his two helpers were paid .50 cents per day. Capt. Welch said, “There were few inhabitants”, and that between Pocahontas and the Mouth of Simmons Creek there was a solitary cabin, in 1895 the home of Mr. Jenkin Jones, the survivng partner of Freeman and Jones, who opened Caswell Creek Mines in 1884. Capt. Welch said of 1873, “there was not a shovel or spade, the prospecting had to be done with a narrow hoe, used by the natives for digging roots of genseng, then the most important industry in the entire section”. Capt. Welch continues, “For a shovel, a seasoned white oak board, sharpened, with a handle made from the body of the board, served the purpose for moving the loose material overlying the coal. In this manner the entire area of 480 square miles was examined, and is underlaid with Pocahontas coal, all above the water level of the streams”.

In his report Capt. Welch told of the mine openings on Bluestone River thru 1886. The total area covered in the Welch Report amounted to 307,200 square miles. The coal was 13 feet thick at Pocahontas, 10 feet thick at the mouth of Elkhorn Creek, thinning to 6 feet thick where the coal goes under water level at the mouth of Bottom Creek in McDowell County. The report gave an average thickness of 6 feet for the entire area surveved, and was estimated at 9012 tons per acre. Allowing for one third of the area as being barren, the estimate left 204,800 acres of minable coal or a total of 1, 845, 657, 6000 tons of 2240 pounds. In the early days a gross ton of 2240 pounds was the unit of weight. Capt Welch carried his calculation furthur by saying that against the output in 1894, it would take 474 years to exhaust the field, and even if the 1894 production was doubled, the time required to mine out the coal field would be 237 years. All know this is not the way things have worked out. Recently the graves of Capt. Welch, his wife and son were located in the old cemetery on the hill at Freeman, West Virginia. The inscription on the gravestone of Capt. Welch reads: Born: November 3, 1824 Died: February 15, 1902.

The report of Capt. Welch was widely read and came to the attention of the Maitlands of Pennsylvania who had become the owners of the Wilson Cary Nicholas Survey. Daybreak was near for the great development that would have its climax in the pushing of a rail line into the coalf ields bringing the great impact on the area and its people. The odds were tremendous but nothing could stop the march of progress, however ten years elapsed following Capt. Welch’s exploration before the first car of coal left Pocahontas.

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