John A. McGraw: “Lost Son” of John and Sarah

I ran across another McGraw in December last year quite by accident. I was scouring records of West Virginia vital records through – records that have not been posted on the WVCulture site due to the near inability to read them – when I came across an entry for John A. McGraw and Eliza Johnson. Eliza Johnson, as we later learned, was Eliza Wood, daughter of George Wood and Nancy __.

And when I say “we” I mean Cathy Meder-Dempsey and myself. We spent an entire Sunday afternoon collaborating on both this find and a different individual surnamed McGraw.

These records are next to impossible to see let alone read which explains why they aren’t indexed at the WVCulture site. Nevertheless, here they are for your semi-viewing pleasure:

Marriage John A McGraw to Eliza Johnson

The entry for this marriage recorded on 6 May 1856 is the sixth row down: John A. McGraw and Eliza Johnson

John A. McGraw and Eliza JohnsonHere is the image inverted – the “negative” view, as I call it.

John A. McGraw and Eliza Johnson invertedSo, we’re going to stick with the inverted images. Here is 44-year-old John A’s and 43-year-old Eliza’s birthplaces: Russell Co and Bedford Co. Now, back then when two “SS’s” appeared in handwriting together, the first S was shaped like an “f” and the second a regular “s” in case you were wondering what “fs” could possibly mean.

John A McGraw birthplace RussellFinally, John and Eliza’s parents’ names are provided. His are listed as “John and Sarah McGraw.” Eliza’s were listed as George and Nancy Wood.

parents of John A McGraw and Eliza Johnson

Citation: “Familysearch: Sign In”. 2020. Familysearch.Org. Vital statistics, 1853-1860 of West Virginia, Calhoun – Hampshire Counties; Film # 007499353; Image 137.

So, how does this couple appear in the 1860 Census? Surprisingly, they are listed in two different households, next door to one another in Fayette County. This is in two images because they appear on separate pages in the Census: The highlighted segment at the bottom of one page, the black and white at the top of the next page:


1860 Fayette Census John A McGraw

1860 Fayette Census John A McGraw contNow, why there were Dempsey’s living in John’s household remains a mystery but I can tell you this was quite interesting to Cathy, since her paternal line is Dempsey but remains a tangled mystery. But as you can see, Eliza McGraw is listed as living in the very next household as a Governess to her own children.

So, we’ve established that John A. McGraw came to Fayette County from Russell County – for reasons unknown – to live and work and marry. When did he arrive? Working backward, we found that John A. McGraw appeared in the 1850 Census of Fayette County with a wife named Nancy. Working the data, Cathy and I found that Nancy was none other than a daughter of Samuel McGraw and Elizabeth Wood!  The couple were married 18 April 1841 by William G. Margrave in Fayette County, WV:

Marriage John A. McGraw and Nancy M. McGraw
Citation: “West Virginia Vital Research Records – Record Image”. 2020. Wvculture.Org. By Wm. G. Margrave

While I haven’t chased down the actual document that lists Nancy’s death, Ancestry provided clues as to where I could find it. I simply added the date of death and info from the following record so that I can dig this out at later (See that FHL Film Number at the bottom? That stands for Family History Library). Shown are Nancy’s parents’ and her spouse.

Death Nancy M McGraw Fayette County WV

That brings me to the 1830 Nicholas County Census in which a male between the ages of 15-19 appears in the household of “Martin McGuire.” For years I assumed – and you know what happens when you assume – that this was John McGraw who lived and died at Bell Creek near Gauley Bridge with wife Ann Nichols and family. That John McGraw, although Bell Creek is in close proximity to Chimney Corner, was allegedly born in Monroe County in 1809: It’s written on his death record. Had he been born in 1809 Monroe County, the ONLY possible candidates for parents are Martin McGraw and Nancy Wood who married in 1806. There are no other McGraws in Monroe County for those years who were of marrying age. I also need to add that I have cousins through my Martin family line who descend from John McGraw of Bell Creek and there is NO DNA MATCH in my family to his. I began to think perhaps there was an NPE (non-parental entity) in their McGraw line but it appears NONE of the descendants of John McGraw and Ann Nichols match me nor a multitude of the other McGrew-McGraw test takers at Ancestry. So, I’ve ruled him out as related to Martin McGraw Jr. or any of the other McGraw siblings.

So, who was the male aged 15-19 in the 1830 Nicholas County Census living with Martin and Nancy? My money is John A. McGraw, son of John McGraw living in Russell County, Virginia. Be advised that I took into consideration that this census had several errors starting with the fact that Martin himself would have been between the ages of 40-49 so the wrong column for his age was ticked. But looking back over the censuses prior to this one – 1810 & 1820 – there were no males listed in Martin’s household of any age. So, BOOM, 1830 rolls around and here’s a male in the household!
1830 Nicholas County WV Census

Then, there was this little slip of paper included in Martin’s War of 1812 Pension files referring to John McGraw:

[13 Mar 2022 – CORRECTION: Recent research revealed that Martin McGraw was living in Kanawha County, WV in 1843 and was taxed along with his brother Thomas and Thomas’ sons, Samuel and John. The John McGraw referred to below was Martin’s nephew John “O” McGraw, not nephew John A. McGraw. Funnily enough, Dudley Montegue was also responsible for taking the taxes for this section of Kanawha County at that time. Familysearch.Org.]

Handwritten note by Martin McGraw Jr.
December the 12th 1845 Mr. Dudley Montegue, Sir please to send to me by the bearer John McGraw one dollar to get me some coffee and o blidge your friend. Martin McGraw

None of Martin’s brothers (Samuel or Henry) or nephews (i.e. George A. McGraw) living in this vicinity had a son named John (and I’ve documented a host of McGraws). Since John A. McGraw married his first cousin Nancy M. McGraw in Fayette County in 1841, the John McGraw in the note and the male aged 15-19 in the 1830 Census is most likely him. I did the math: 1830 minus (b.) 1813 equals 17 years old. The evidence is circumstantial but I think my assumption actually fits.

Finally, when John A. McGraw died is unknown but I suspect the death occurred in Roane County, West Virginia. He is listed as living in Harper, Roane County, West Virginia in the 1870 Census. He does not appear in the 1880 Census therefore his death likely occurred sometime in that decade. One son, James A. McGraw, was born October of 1847, making him the son of Nancy M. McGraw, and died 3 December 1925 in Clay County, West Virginia. Of his two sisters, I’ve yet to learn more.

And that is the extent of my knowledge of John A. McGraw, son of John McGraw and Sally Anderson of Greenbrier County, WV and Russell County, VA.