Print | Back to e-WV The West Virginia Encyclopedia



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 (B&O) 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 in 1920. The 2020 population was 4,729. 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 to the Grafton National Cemetery, West Virginia’s first national cemetery. It was dedicated in 1868 to inter Civil War dead. Veterans of later wars were added, and the cemetery reached its capacity in 1961. In 1987, West Virginia National Cemetery, the state’s other national cemetery, was established. The downtown historic district features architecture of the early 20th century and is listed in 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.

Read the National Register nomination for the Grafton Historic District.

Written by Ella Belling


  1. Brinkman, Charles. A History of Taylor County. Grafton: Taylor County Historical & Genealogical Society, 1989.

  2. Carvell, Kenneth. Grafton Then and Now. Wonderful West Virginia, (Oct. 2000).

  3. McDevitt, Wayne F. Grafton and the B&O Railroad. A History of Taylor County. Parsons: McClain, 1986.