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Keystone is a city in McDowell County, West Virginia, United States. The population was 282 at the 2010 census. Keystone is one of few municipalities in West Virginia with an African-American majority, with 65 percent of the residents being black.
The term "Free State of McDowell" was coined by Matthew Thomas Whittico, a local newspaper editor and community leader from Keystone in the early 20th century. Keystone possessed a unique combination of political, social, and economic characteristics that made it an attractive place for African-Americans to migrate to in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Keystone was founded in 1892 by the Keystone Coal & Coke Company. Keystone was then incorporated in 1909 by the Circuit Court of McDowell County. Its name is derived from the name of the coal and coke company operating at that point. The city was formerly known as Cassville.
On May 1, 1895, 15,000 union miners (predominantly black) assembled in Keystone and armed themselves, planning to march across the state line to Virginia in order to force the Virginia miners in one bordering mine (also predominantly black) to unionize. The governor of Virginia, Charles O'Ferrall ordered an artillery company and six infantry companies to the Va border, but WV Governor William MacCorkle refused repeated requests from O'Ferrall to reciprocate.