Mary E. McGraw, the “Indian” Woman

Mary E. McGraw is the family legend. The one that says she’s Native American. I’ve seen claims that she was “full-blooded” and heard she was “half-blooded” but not a soul that repeats it can prove it. Not even DNA reveals it. Chalk it up to too many generations between her and the rest of us, I guess. I used to think that perhaps the Native American ancestry came from her mother’s side, Sarah Johnson. It is no secret that many of the folks whose heritage begins in southern and western Virginia have Native American roots. It just doesn’t show up in my genes. I do have a description of Mary’s father Martin McGraw II from his Widow’s Pension application that states he had “black hair, black eyes, a dark complexion, and stood about 5′ 9 or 10″ tall.” Take that however you wish.

Mary E’s life, in my opinion, was one of sadness. About 1850 or later, her father and mother, Martin Jr (or 2nd) and Sarah Johnson McGraw left Putnam County and returned to Fayette County, residing somewhere in the vicinity of Gauley Bridge. It was in this area that Mary E. met her soon-to-be groom, William H. Jacobs. The two got pregnant shortly before Mary’s father, Martin, died. Not married, just pregnant.

I don’t know if William H. Jacobs had to be poked with the business end of a shotgun to the altar of matrimony or if he happily met his pregnant wife-to-be there of his own joyful accord. I simply know it was a short marriage.

I already knew the date that Martin McGraw Jr. died: 25 October 1858. Mary E. and William Jacobs married 21 February 1859*. Their first child, a daughter named Virginia E., was born three months later on 3 May 1859, allegedly in Kanawha County.

As for the marriage record of Mary E. McGraw and William H. Jacobs in Fayette County, I should report that this was not originally found anywhere in the State of West Virginia at the time of discovery. I had purchased a spiral-bound book of “lost” records transcribed by Pauline Haga of Crab Orchard who had Mary’s parents listed as “T. M. and Isabella” McGraw. That was a transcription error: I’ve since seen the digitized record at William H. Jacobs’ (given as William R. Jacobs erroneously in the marriage record) parents were Harrison and Jane Jacobs, his birthplace as Kanawha County. Both were listed as 19 years of age.


Please follow and like us:

Leave a Comment