The settlement of Grafton was part of a rapid movement west to the new frontier in the early to mid 1700's. The Current Family, one of Grafton's first residents, were late seventeenth-century Irish immigrants who entered the continent by the way of Maryland. When James Current traded a horse for 1300 acres of virgin land in Virginia it was situated where the City of Grafton, West Virginia is today. His first act was to hire a surveyor from the Eastern part of Virginia to stake his property. This was a young man, 19 years old, who started surveying for fees at the age of 15. He had previously made a survey of Western Virginia. His name: "George Washington". James Current fought in America's Independence against the British and died August 15, 1822 at the age of 92, and his wife, Margaret in 1830 at the age of 93. Their bodies were interred in the cemetery on their plantation which today is a part of the City of Grafton and known as "Bluemont Cemetery", the only Revolutionary War Soldier buried in this municipal cemetery.
In 1835, John Blue purchased 300 acres from the Current family and shortly thereafter the are called "Bridge Valley" (present day Fetterman) began to grow. The B&O Railroad arrived in 1852 during the construction of the nation's first trans-Appalachian railroad. By 1853, Grafton had emerged as a railroad town with several residences and stores catered to the development of the railroad. As the railroad facilities were being built, land was surveyed for the new town which was chartered March 15, 1856 in the Virginia General Assembly, and named in honor of John Grafton, a civil engineer in the employment of Colonel Benjamin Latrobe, who laid out the route of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
Due to the importance of the B&O Railroad for the movement of troops and supplies, Grafton was a strategic point during the early stages of the Civil War and both sides tried to control it. Although, most residents sided with the Union, people of Grafton and this area were divided. Union supporters joined the Grafton Guards and southern supporters joined the Confederate Letcher's Guard. On the evening of May 22, 1861, the two forces had a small skirmish in the Town of Fetterman (now a part of Grafton) resulting in the death of Thornsberry Bailey Brown, the first soldier killed in the Civil War. His body now lies in the Grafton National Cemetery, one of two National Cemeteries in Grafton and the only National Cemeteries in West Virginia. The Confederate forces were pushed south of Grafton under General B.J. Kelley and General George McClellan to Philippi where Mr. Kelley's forces defeated the Confederates under Colonel George A. Porterfield on June 3, 1861. Although the Union controlled the B&O terminal in Grafton, the Confederates often raided the area to disrupt its importance.
In 1867, Grafton held a "Flower Strewing Day", later called Memorial Day to honor those who served our community and country during the Civil War. Grafton has the honor of celebrating the longest ongoing Memorial Day observance in the country.
Following the Civil War, Grafton continued to grow and prosper from a railroad town to a major retail and industrial center for North Central West Virginia. In 1878, Grafton became the county seat after it was relocated from Pruntytown.
Most of present day Grafton was built during the period from 1890 to 1930. John T. McGraw, a financier and major contributor to most of Grafton's buildings was the principle town builder. Besides his bank, Mr. McGraw built a number of buildings along Main Street, and also the streetcar system that was used for many years.
In 1908, at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, located along Main Street, the first Mother's Day observance was held. At the request of Ms. Anna Jarvis, the congregation of this church recognized mothers and their significance to the formation of our country. This service lead to the creation of Mother's Day and the second Sunday of each May annually, the International Mother's Day Shrine, formerly Andrew's Episcopal Church holds a service to recognize mothers everywhere.
Grafton continued to prosper throughout much of the early 20th century with much of this growth centered on the importance of the railroad. In the early 1950's, the Carr China Plant closed and left hundreds of residents unemployed. In the late 1950's, Hazel Atlas Glass Plant closed and also left hundreds of residents without jobs. In 1958, the women of Grafton organized a parade on Main Street to attract jobs for the men and women in the community. This parade received national recognition and ultimately helped Grafton acquire a plastic baby toys manufacturer and because of their efforts and the efforts of many in this community, Grafton was awarded an "All American City" by the National Civic League in 1962, the smallest city that year to receive the award.
In the early 1980's, the railroad relocated hundreds of jobs to Jacksonville Florida, leaving Grafton with a severe economic and emotional loss that existed for many years. Today, a new Grafton is emerging with ideas and vision for a brighter tomorrow. The Historic Main Street Revitalization Project aimed at spear-heading economic and tourism development for Grafton is beginning to show results with the opening of four new businesses along Main Street in 2005. The city is experiencing new home and commercial development for the first time in many decades. With low crime rate, affordable housing, low taxes, and newly paved streets, Grafton is beginning to overcome many obstacles that prohibited growth for the last 30 years. The City of Grafton recently completed a Strategic Plan as a model for growth and development for the next 10 years. This plan written by the City Manager, is an economic tool designed to help with grant funding, long range planning, tourism, infrastructure, public health, recreation, cultural activities, and other important facets designed to make Grafton a more sustainable community. The City of Grafton has taken an active stance in enforcement of Property Maintenance Codes to sustain property values and make Grafton more appealing for visitors to relocate to a historic community. In 2007 Pebbles Department Store opened a new location in Grafton at the Blueville Intersection. In 2008 Walgreens will be locating in Grafton and construction is expected to begin on a new 32 unit middle-income apartment complex and there is some interest in further retail development throughout the city. The City of Grafton, "One of West Virginia's Most Historic Communities".