Grafton, West Virginia Birthplace of Mother’s Day


You’ve probably never heard of Grafton.  You’ve probably never heard of Anna Maria Reeves Jarvis.  But you have observed Mother’s Day, and that means you have a connection with this small mountain town in northeastern West Virginia.


Grafton is located on US 119 just off US 50.  From Fairmont and I-79, take WV Route 310 south.

My Visit

If you happen to be entering town from the east, this is the view that greets you (above).  That surprisingly large building is the old B&O Railroad Willard Hotel, built somewhere around 1912.  No one has stayed there in a very long time, and the building is slowly crumbling away (although restoration would still be possible).

Grafton’s B&O Hotel received the name of the railroad’s president at the time, Daniel Willard.

Next door to the old B&O Hotel is the old B&O railroad station.  It has been restored in recent years, and reopened as a museum in 2006.  The station has two ornate entrances, the one on the backside is next to the railroad tracks.

Next to the old Manos Theatre, you’ll find an old wall full of excellent ghost signs, ranging from Mail Pouch and Natural Leaf tobacco to a piano store.

Unfortunately, it’s also a parking lot, so there will likely be cars in your way, as you try to take a picture.

International Mother’s Day Shrine

On the other side of the street, in the middle of downtown, is Grafton’s world-famous roadside attraction. The International Mother’s Day Shrine was originally a Methodist church, built in 1873.

For more than 20 years before her death, Anna Maria Reeves Jarvis taught classes at the church.  She died on May 9, 1905.  Three years later, her daughter Anna Marie Jarvis was seeking a way to honor her memory, and asked the church to honor mothers, around the anniversary of her mother’s death.  That service in 1908 became the first Mother’s Day.  In 1912, the Methodist church recognized Jarvis as the founder of Mother’s Day, and in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson approved a resolution which made the day official, nationwide.

You can arrange for a tour of the shrine.  I assumed it looked a lot like a church on the inside, and I didn’t have a lot of time to spare, so I skipped the tour.  There are, however, a few statues honoring mothers on the grounds of the shrine, which was enough to satisfy me.

Headed out of Grafton, take US 50 east, then WV Route 26 north.

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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