Grafton, the county seat of Taylor County, is situated on hills rising from the Tygart Valley River at the intersection of U.S. 50 and U.S. 119. Chartered in 1856, Grafton is a child of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and was named for John Grafton, a prominent B&O engineer. Grafton has the distinction of being one of the nation’s first railroad towns. It was the site of the first Mother’s Day celebration, honoring Anna Reeves Jarvis, a Civil War nurse and a leader in the reconciliation movement after the war.
The railroad brought boom-town prosperity to Grafton, as the city became an important switching area for both freight and passengers. Coal and timber were major commodities hauled through Grafton. Passenger trains operated between Baltimore, Washington, Cincinnati, and St. Louis via Grafton, with links to New York and Chicago.
Grafton reached a peak population of 8,517 people in 1920. The 2010 population of Grafton was 5,164. Today, though railroad operations are greatly reduced, the Chessie System (B&O’s successor) still operates through Grafton. Glass and manufacturing industries, recreation and tourism, and the Grafton Hospital contribute to a more diversified economy. Grafton is home to the International Mother’s Day Shrine and the Grafton National Cemetery, West Virginia’s only national cemetery, established in 1865 to inter Civil War dead. The downtown historic district features architecture of the early 20th century and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Grafton’s rich family, military, and railroad heritage has given it national recognition on the Civil War Discovery Trail and the American Discovery Trail.
This Article was written by Ella Belling
Last Revised on December 27, 2012
Brinkman, Charles. A History of Taylor County. Grafton: Taylor County Historical & Genealogical Society, 1989.
Carvell, Kenneth. Grafton Then and Now. Wonderful West Virginia, (Oct. 2000).
McDevitt, Wayne F. Grafton and the B&O Railroad. A History of Taylor County. Parsons: McClain, 1986.