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Montgomery was incorporated April 1, 1891 and named for James C. Montgomery, one of the city's first settlers. It is the home of West Virginia University Institute of Technology, popularly called WVU Tech, which will be shut down after the Fall 2017 semester.

In 1890 Montgomery was called Cannelton. But from 1876 to 1890, the town was called Coal Valley Post Office, because of the post office and it was also influenced by the Coal Valley Coal Company. The name then changed to Montgomery's Landing to Coal Valley. Stores did not start getting large in numbers until 1895. The growth was due to the construction of the Kanawha & Michigan Railroad across the river, the new bridge that crossed the water, and the connection of the Virginian Railway at Deepwater. Deepwater is only a couple of minutes from Montgomery. In the early 1910s Montgomery was the shipping center for 26 different coal operations. It was also the largest town in Fayette County at the time.

The novel "Goodbye Miss 4th of July", written by Christopher Janus, is a biographical story of his Greek family's struggles while growing up in Montgomery. In 1988, a film version of "Goodbye Miss 4th of July" was produced by the Disney Channel.

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