Montgomery is strategically located on a narrow plain wedged between the southern bank of the Kanawha River and mountains behind. A small antebellum settlement here, first known as Montgomery's Landing, served as a shipping point for merchandise distributed throughout the area that became southern West Virginia. The C&O Railway arrived in 1871 and established a depot named Cannelton. I. J. Settle, a county engineer, platted additional lots in 1879, under the auspices of the Coal Valley Coal Company, and the name changed once again, to Coal Valley. In 1891 the community was incorporated as Montgomery. Four years later, the Montgomery Preparatory Branch of West Virginia University was established. Now, several name changes later, West Virginia Tech (or West Virginia University Institute of Technology) is the town's largest presence, physically, architecturally, and economically.
Montgomery flourished throughout the first half of the twentieth century as a trading center for miners employed in both the New River and Kanawha coalfields. By 1911 some 15,000 men were employed at the twenty-six coal operations located within a five-mile radius of the town. Montgomery's commercial district, centered between the railroad and the southern bank of the Kanawha River, belies the city's actual population, which peaked in 1950 at 3,484.
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