Grafton is home of the first National Military Cemetery in West Virginia. Established in 1867, it is the final resting place for 1,215 soldiers, 664 of whom are unknown, from the War Between the States. Private T. Bailey Brown, the first Union soldier to be killed by a Confederate, is buried here.
Veterans of other wars, Including the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam, are also buried at Grafton. Since 1961, the cemetery, with only 3.21 acres, has been full, with more than 2,000 graves of West Virginia veterans and dependents.
The entry to the cemetery becomes an "Avenue of Flags" on Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and other designated holidays when over 150 flags line the road.
This small park in downtown Grafton is dominated by a caboose which once ran through Grafton on the B&O Railroad. Vistiors can tour the caboose and also read interpretative displays which tell of the importantce of the Railroad to the development of Grafton. Heritage Park was dedicated in May, 1992 as a project of Main Street Grafton.
Grafton's stately B & O Railroad Station was erected in 1911 along the mainline of tracks that cut a path west through the Appalachian Mountains. Carrying hundreds of passengers and freightcars in and out of the Grafton yards, the B & O Railroad expanded the town into a small retail and industrial center.
IThe tallest building in Grafton, the seven story Willard Hotel, was built by the Railroad in 1912, and named for the B & O President of the time, Daniel Willard. An interesting feature of the Depot and the Hotel is that their facades face both the railroad tracks and the Main Street.
Regretably, these magnificent old buildings are currently vacant and not in use. However they have recently been acquired by the City of Grafton, and are slated for restoration with the help of the National Park Service.
The most notable grave in the Grafton National Cemetery is that of Private T. Bailey Brown, a Union soldier who was the first casualty of the War Between the States.
On May 22, 1861, Brown, a member of the Grafton Guards, was on his way back home to Grafton, after being in nearby Pruntytown to recruit forces for the Union army. With him was another Guard, Lt. Daniel Wilson. When they reached the Fetterman Bridge, the two men were ordered to halt by three Confederates, George E. Glenn, Daniel S. Knight, and William Reese, who were doing picket duty at the Bridge where the Northwestern Turnpike crossed the tracks of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad. Brown fired his pistol at the Confederates, injuring Knight in the ear. Knight returned fire in self defense, killing Brown almost instantly. Thus, Thornsberry Bailey Brown became the first casualty of the Civil War. A couple of weeks later, June 3, 1861, the first land battle of the Civil War was fought at Philippi, sixteen miles south of where T. Bailey Brown fell.
On the grounds of the Mother's Day Shrine you will see this statue called "Mother with Children." The sculpture is the work of William Douglas Hopen. It was presented as a gift from the West Virginia Chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa in 1982. You can see the statue on the north side of the Shrine, in a parklike setting.
Of all the attractions in Grafton, perhaps the most popular and best known is the International Mother's Day Shrine.
The Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Grafton holds the distinction of being the Mother Church of Mother's Day. The first Mother's Day observance was held here in 1908, and soon spread to become an international holiday. The Andrews M.E. Church became the International Mother's Day Shrine when it was incorporated on May 15, 1962. The beautiful, historic structure dates back to 1873. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992.
I was disappointed that I did not get to see inside because I was in Grafton on Monday and Tuesday. It is open only on Thursday - Saturday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., except by appointment. Inside the church is a museum, gift shop and visitor center.