Thomas McGraw

Thomas McGraw was my 4th-Great Grandfather, just like his brother Martin McGraw, Jr. My great-grandparents, Nora Belle Jacobs and Homer H. McGrew were fourth cousins. So there you have it: Endogamy.

Thomas was1 next to the youngest son of Martin and Margaret McGraw Sr, his brother Henry McGraw being the youngest son. Thomas was born in 1799 in Greenbrier County. I say Greenbrier because his father is listed in the Greenbrier County Tax Lists up through 1810 after which his mother Margaret is listed: Wherever the mother is, that’s where the baby is in the majority of cases. Thomas married Catherine “Caty” Withrow, daughter of William Withrow and Susannah Skaggs, in Nicholas County, West Virginia. (It is believed Caty Withrow was a younger sister of Lucretia, wife of Thomas’ brother William McGraw).

  1. updated April 2023 based on new evidence.

There’s a bit of history surrounding William Withrow the elder, father of Caty. While he lived in the vicinity of Alderson he got into some legal trouble over some land he’d purchased but, if I remember correctly, was unable to pay for it. The poor man when to jail for a while. Meantime, William’s wife Suzannah, his son William and the younger children moved to Nicholas County – as did Martin McGraw, Jr. It could very well be that Thomas, Henry and possibly their mother Margaret were living with their brother Martin Jr. in Nicholas County after their father died which would explain the mysterious males in the census for Martin. But with Caty Withrow there in proximity and age creeping up on him, he married his sweetheart in July 1820.

But I hardly think that’s where they put down roots: We find Thomas (and brothers Henry and Samuel) in Greenbrier County in the 1830 Census, most likely on their father’s farm. *Note that there is one female aged 70-80 living in the household of Henry, possibly mother Margaret. However, in 1831 we find all three younger brothers in the Fayette County Tax List along with older brother Martin (Big Creek/Chimney Corner), cousin Big George McGraw (Turkey Creek), and William Withrow the younger. Now bear in mind that the section of Nicholas County these folks were living in (New River Gorge) was carved out to form part of Fayette County in 1831. And I’ve seen these men’s names on the petition to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the formation of the new county.

Apparently, Thomas was still not ready to put down permanent roots because, in the 1840 Kanawha County Tax List (Tax List B), we find him on March 7 charged with tax for one horse. His inlaws, the Withrows, are also here (Isaac, Samuel, William, and Abel). Get ready for another county change: In 1848 the section of Kanawha that these gentlemen had settled in became Putnam County. While Thomas settled in an area more commonly known to us as “Midway” or “this side of Buffalo” the Withrows settled along the Pocatalico River (more commonly called the Poca River). It is a branch of the Kanawha and stretches from the town of Poca out toward Cross Lanes. So, in 1850, all of them are found in the Putnam County Census.

As is Martin McGraw, Jr, Thomas’ older brother. Prior to 1850 Martin came to Kanawha/Putnam County and brought his family, each of them (unmarried) listed in the 1850 Putnam County Census. Several of Martin’s married daughters and their families moved here as well: Malinda McGraw and Richard Milby; Sarah McGraw and Harrison Hays; Martha P. McGraw and John Hedrick; and Ida B. McGraw who married James M. Duncan. Before Ida’s marriage in 1855 however, Martin and his family went back to Fayette County. Ida’s cousin James McGrew, son of Thomas and Caty, provided permission for her to marry James Duncan to the Clerk of the Putnam County Court.

Thomas McGraw and Caty Withrow had seven children that I have been able to account for (note the surname change from McGraw to McGrew):

  1. Martha A. McGraw b. abt. 1820 Nicholas County; m. John Hedrick possibly 1843 Kanawha County (added/updated 5/19/2024);
  2. Samuel McGrew b. abt. 1821 Greenbrier County; m1. Priscilla Coulter Harrison; m2. Mary Ann Hedrick.
  3. Susannah or Lucinda J. McGraw b. abt 1823 Greenbrier County; m. Moses Higginbotham.
  4. John “O” McGrew b. abt 1825 Greenbrier County; m. Zipporah Fielder.*my ancestor
  5. Mary L. McGrew b. abt 1829 probably Fayette County; m1. William H. Hayes; m2. George Fayette Washington.
  6. James R. McGrew b. abt 1834 probably Fayette County; m. Eliza Jane Lewis.
  7. Margaret F. McGrew b. abt 1835 probably Fayette County; m. Henderson Jones.
  8. Joseph McGrew b. abt. 1836 probably Fayette County; no other info.

The surname changed from McGraw to McGrew and occurred either during or shortly after the Civil War. However, it is important to note that the Y-DNA of our males in the family has tied us to Thomas McGREW of South Carolina and Kentucky; research shows that the McGraws originating out of Greenbrier County, WV from Pennsylvania are descendants of Miler Magrath born in what is now County Donegal, Ulster, Ireland.

Thomas McGraw died 5 Aug 1855 of consumption (tuberculosis) at 18 Mile Creek (or Midway or Buffalo) in Putnam County, West Virginia. He is likely buried on the farm with no headstone along with his wife Caty. She followed him in death in the 1860s.

And here I am, one hundred sixty-six years later, writing about and breathing life into Thomas’ memory. Funny, I’ve lived in every one of the counties in which he lived. We have that as well as our surname in common.

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