Design elementDesign elementText Box: The Welch Family

Samuel Ernest Welch, son of Churcwell Welch and Margaret Carr Cox of Scott County, Virginia, followed family to Kentucky after the death of his father sometime around 1876.  He had an uncle, Samuel Ewing Welch, already living in Kentucky for whom he most likely worked in a retail store in Welchburg, Kentucky.

With proud and genuine American and Kentucky heritage, Belle Morris married Samuel Ernest Welch on November 5, 1883.  He was 22 years old.  She was only 17.  Both of her parents had died that year. 

Sam had a dream of building a regional mercantile center for which he needed access to the railroad.  The railroad did not go through McKee where the young family lived but it did go through Berea.  He, Belle and their young son moved to Berea in the late 1880s and located near the railroad.  By the turn of the century, the Welch’s were one of the most prominent families in Berea.  Sam was realizing his dream.

By the turn of the century in 1900, Sam owned a square block of commercial land and had built Belle a magnificent house behind the stores — the first house in Berea to have running water and an inside bathroom.  Streets had not yet been paved.  From a December 14, 1972 article in the Berea Citizen written by Mary Gay Walker comes this description of the house:

The "elegant residence" was built facing the west on Broadway directly behind the Welch business block.  It was a large brick structure with three floors and full basement, with a circular tower on the southwest corner.  The tower room on the third floor became a game room for young John Welch.  A wide curving stairway in the large hall could be seen through leaded plate glass of the front doors.

Mrs. Welch was a lover of flowers and always had a beautifully kept lawn and garden.  The tall clusters of pampas grass which stood on either side of the front walk are still remembered today.  This "elegant residence" also had an innovation new to Berea -- a bathroom.  Water for the residence and the store block came from a deep well behind the store and was pumped by a tall windmill to a still taller yellow wooden water tank.

Sam was successful and powerful, a man who could think differently than others to make innovative things happen for his community, a man who traveled internationally while most people in Berea at that time lived their lives quite locally. 

Samuel Ernest Welch

Samuel Ernest Welch



Circa 1900

Merchant and

Bank Founder,

Berea, Kentucky


married Belle Morris

on 5 November 1883

in McKee, Kentucky


His youngest daughter

Hilda Welch


Thomas J. Wood