Welch got its name from A.L. Welch, an official with the Missouri-Kansas & Texas Railroad, which had built a switch there in 1891. The town had been settled in 1888 by D.B. Nigh, who leased the townsite from Frank Craig. Once the switch was completed, the town became a hay and grain center for the north end of Craig County. It progressed into a center for livestock production and strip coal mining.