Businessman and Democratic Party activist John T. McGraw (January 12, 1856- April 29, 1920) was born at Grafton. His Irish immigrant father worked as a laborer to build the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and was among the first residents of Grafton. Young McGraw was educated in the Catholic schools of Grafton, at St. Vincent Academy in Wheeling, and at Yale University, where he received a law degree in 1876.
McGraw entered the practice of law and in 1880 was elected prosecuting attorney of Taylor County, beginning a long career as a leader in the Democratic Party. He served as prosecuting attorney until 1885, and in 1886 was appointed by President Cleveland as collector of internal revenue for West Virginia. McGraw was a member of the Democratic National Committee (1896–1916 and 1918–20), chaired the state party (1904–08), and was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1912 and 1916.
In his rise to fortune and influence, McGraw cultivated the grand old men of the West Virginia Democratic Party, Henry Gassaway Davis and Johnson Newlon Camden, both U.S. senators and both major industrialists. Like them, he speculated in timber lands in the Pocahontas County area in the 1880s, and he tried unsuccessfully to induce Davis to extend a railroad into the region. McGraw was among the founders of the Pocahontas Development Corporation, which built the town of Marlinton and succeeded in having the county seat moved there in 1891. He worked with leaders of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad to bring the C&O’s Greenbrier Division to the upper Greenbrier Valley. It arrived in Marlinton in 1900.
John T. McGraw suffered financial reversals in his later years. His Bank of Grafton failed in 1912, and he reportedly withdrew to Baltimore to live for a period with his sister’s family. McGraw died in Baltimore and is buried in Grafton.
Last Revised on December 07, 2015
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e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia "John T. McGraw." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 07 December 2015. Web. 25 March 2017.