Much of the growth and
development of Taylor County communities can be traced back to the
construction of railroad tracks through various communities. The largest
and most successful was the B&O Railroad.
In 1847, a Virginia legislative act stipulated that the B&O tracks
should reach or cross the Tygart Valley River within three miles of
Three Fork Creek. That stipulation can be credited with leading to the
formation of the City of Grafton. In 1852, land was surveyed and Grafton
was started, The State of Virginia gave Grafton a charter on March 15,
1856. The first store was opened by Thomas McGraw on May 1, 1852.
Some believe the town was named for John Grafton, a civil engineer
employed by Benjamin H. Latrobe, the B&O’s chief engineer. Others
believe the name came from when the Northwestern Virginia Railroad
Company “graft on” to the B&O’s main steam at the junction of the Tygart
Valley River and Three Fork Creek. Mark Twain once dubbed this Grafton
to Parkersburg rail line as, “the longest subway in the world” because
of the many tunnels that were part of this route.
The county, and especially Grafton, were valued during the Civil War
years because of the railroad. From
May 31 to June 6, 1956, Grafton celebrated its centennial. Over the 2006
Memorial Day weekend, the city is scheduled to celebrate its
By 1957, the steam locomotive era was coming to an end in Grafton. By
the mid 1970s, the B&O Railroad had ended passenger train service
through the area. The Town of Flemington is divided by the CSX rail line
that passes through the community. The forerunners to this rail line
paved the way for the town to develop coal, farming, cattle, sheep, and
B&O Railroad history recalled
Established in 1827, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was the first railway in the United States chartered for both freight and passenger service. The railroad’s name was derived from the initial objective to provide a rail route over the Allegheny Mountains to the banks of the Ohio River. The first stone was laid in 1828 and construction continued until 1852, when the last spike was driven at Wheeling, Va., (now West Virginia).
The construction of the nation’s first trans-Appalachian railroad brought Grafton to life. The railroad played an important strategic role in the Civil War, and was used to carry troops and supplies. Following the Civil War, Grafton continued its growth. From a railroad town, it expanded to become a small retail and industrial center. The coal industry began a boom that would last until the late 1920s, and made up 90 percent of the B&O’s freight, but the railroad also hauled glass, pottery, and brick from Grafton’s emerging industrial plants.
The B&O Depot and Willard Hotel
Between 1852 and 1911, one main building served as a railroad station and hotel for the main line of the B&O. However, that changed in 1910 when a local businessman gave land to build both a new B&O
Station and a new hotel. The new railroad station, completed in 1911, was designed in the Beaux Arts style, and constructed of brick and terra cotta at a cost of $125,000. Another interesting feature was the fact that the facades faced both the railroad tracks and Main Street.
The hotel was completed in 1912, and was named for the B&O president at the time, Daniel Willard. The total cost of the six-and-one-half story hotel was $75,000. Like the B&O•station, the facades faced both the railroad and Main Street. In addition to hotel rooms, the Willard contained a lobby, barbershop, reading room, dining room, restaurant/grill, and barroom.
Today, trains still carry coal, timber, iron, etc. into the rail yards at Grafton, although the B&O merged many years ago with its long time rival, the C&O Railroad, to later form what is now CSX Transportation. In the 1980s, the operations of the railroad were transferred to Jacksonville, Fla, leaving the B&O Station and Willard Hotel vacant. In 1998, under the leadership of West Virginia Congressman Alan Mollohan, the Vandalia Heritage Foundation and Vandalia Redevelopment Corporation secured funding for the restoration of the station and hotel.
More information on this project may be found at www.vandalia.org or www.virtualgrafton.org.
The Consolidated Manufactories Company opened a pottery
near the Park View community in 1914. By 1916, this venture
was bankrupt. According to the Taylor County History Book,
“On June 1, 1916, Carr China Company received its Certification of
Incorporation for owning, manufacturing, buying and selling chinaware,
ironstone china, porcelain ware, semi-porcelain ware and all other kinds
of china, crockery, and sanitary ware. Manager Thomas Carr came from a
family of pottery makers that had a continuous history of making pottery
for more than 100 years. His father, James Carr, was a potter engaged in
the trade in Staffordshire, England, and upon coming to America, he
established one of the first potteries in New York City. In July 1934, the
pottery displayed 13 new designs of ware. Some of the items produced
included ash trays, bakers, bouillon cups, bowls, butters, cake covers,
casseroles, catsup cups, celery trays, coffee cups, coffee saucers, compotes,
covered dishes, creams, cream pitchers, egg and custard cups,
fruits, grape fruits, ice creams, ice tubs, jelly dishes, match stands, mugs,
mustard, nappies, pickles, pitchers, plates, platters, ramekins, salads,
sauce boats, sugars, sick feeders, tea cups, tea saucers, tea pots, and hospital
items. The pottery also produced special items such as commemorative
plates and children's’ items. During the World War years, Carr
Chinaware was sent around the world to serve our armed forces. The handleless
mug was the most popular item. After the war, Carr China began
to face competition from plastic ware. The plant closed July 16, 1952. The
plant was destroyed by fire on July 16-17, 1966. Remaining pieces of Carr
China are now sought after collectibles.”