Thomas McGraw aka Thomas McGrew

Thomas McGraw was the eighth surviving child of Martin and Margaret McGraw, Sr, and the sixth surviving son. I use the term “surviving” because there is a gap of about seven years between Thomas and his older brother Samuel, born 1792, but there is no room for other deceased children.

Thomas was born 9 February 1799. I placed his birth in Greenbrier County, West Virginia based solely on the fact that his father Martin is listed in the Greenbrier County Tax List on 19 April 1799. Thomas himself first appears in the Tax Lists beginning 9 April 1814 in Monroe County, WV: He would have been 18 years of age on that date.

It appears he moved around quite a bit. Following the tax lists and censuses in which he appears, we’re able to ascertain the county/area in which his children were born:

  • 1815 – Monroe County, WV
  • 1816, 1817 – Greenbrier County, WV
  • 1818 – Monroe County County, WV
  • 1819 – Nicholas County County, WV
  • 1820 – Marriage to Catherine Withrow in Nicholas County, WV
  • 1821 – Nicholas County, WV
  • 1825 thru 1829 – Greenbrier County, WV
  • 1830 – Greenbrier County, WV
  • 1831 – 1835 Fayette County, WV
  • 1840 – 1848 Kanawha County, WV tax lists, Thomas is now listed as surnamed “McGrew”
  • 1850 – Putnam County, WV (formed from Kanawha in 1848) the last census in which Thomas appears.

I believe that Thomas accompanied his Withrow brothers-in-law to Kanawha County after 1835, as several of Catherine’s brothers and her mother Susannah, had moved to the Pocatalico River vicinity. That is an area between Poca, WV and the Tyler Mountain (Cross Lanes) area. Catherine’s mother Susannah Skaggs Withrow is in the household of son William Withrow listed in the 1850 Putnam Census (aged 75). Note that the family living in the next dwelling is my maternal ancestor, Andrew “Falan” or Phalen. Knowing the history of Andrew Phalen and where he lived let’s me know that this family of Withrow’s indeed lived in the Poca/Raymond City area.

1850 Federal Census for Putnam County, WV

I should point out here that the 1850 Putnam County Census was taken by a man named Thomas Hope. Hope was not a native of the area and was in quite a hurry to get the census completed, collect his pay, and head West: The man had his “undies in a bunch” to strike it rich on a gold vein. Thomas Hope completed the entire Putnam county census in about 30 days, quite a feat especially in those days with all the territory he had to cover. Therefore, names are misspelled (ex: Falan instead of Phalen) and ages are missing for many of the residents, including Thomas’ brother Martin and his family. I suspect Mr. Hope didn’t actually visit every household in the county – The names on his list were provided by the neighbors.

As for Thomas’ wife, Catherine Withrow, she lived at least long enough to appear in the 1860 Putnam Census in the household of my ancestor, her son John O McGraw (Catherine is aged 65 per the last entry below). John McGrew/McGraw only appears twice with the initial “O” in his name: (1) The 1880 census and (2) his application in 1882 for a Pension file due to his service in the Civil War. What that “O” stands for is anyone’s guess.

1860 Putnam Census, WV of John McGraw and mother Catherine Withrow.
1860 Putnam County, WV Census showing John “O” McGraw, wife Zippora, son (my direct ancestor) John D. McGrew, and John’s mother Catherine Withrow, aged 65. Dwelling #821 is that of John’s brother James and wife Eliza Lewis McGraw/McGrew.

Although the 1850 Census provided Thomas’ surname as McGraw, closer inspection of the tax lists (not just these shown below) in Kanawha County shows that his surname was spelled M-c-G-R-E-W. The same is true for his older brother Martin McGraw, Jr. who came to the Kanawha/Putnam vicinity prior to 1843, and appears along with Thomas and his son Samuel in the tax lists.

7 Mar 1840, Kanawha County, WV. Thomas McGrew
7 Mar 1840 Kanawha County, WV. Thomas McGrew
17 May 1843 Tax List B, Kanawha County, WV. Samuel (oldest son of Thomas), Thomas, and brother Martin McGrew.
17 May 1843 Tax List B, Kanawha County, WV. Samuel (oldest son of Thomas), Thomas, and brother Martin McGrew.

From the 1860s forward, the children of Thomas, the sons of Martin, and their descendants continued to carry the surname McGrew to the present, this writer included. Yes, you’ll find them listed as surnamed McGraw also, particularly in the Censuses and other early records (Civil War records). I’ve dealt with the same issue myself: In the 1970s and 80s, I would receive my (snail) mail addressed “McGraw.” It was as if McGrew couldn’t possibly exist to some folks. It annoyed me then but I don’t get “tore out of the frame” over it anymore.

Why the name change? They arrived in Kanawha/Putnam County as McGraw and became McGrew. Of course, at no time is it more apparent than 1870.

The truth will out and I intend to follow the evidence as it is presented.

Thomas McGraw aka McGrew is my 4th-great grandfather and is my direct ancestor through his son, John O McGrew. Thomas’ brother, Martin McGraw, Jr, is also my 4th-great grandfather through his daughter, Mary E. McGraw-Jacobs: My great-grandparents were 4th Cousins.

Thomas McGraw/McGrew died on 5 August 1855 of Consumption (tuberculosis) at the age of 60. I’ve added snips of the county registrar’s book showing the record: