The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was built to a location near the headwaters of the Monongahela River in 1852. The important trans-Appalachian railway established a railroad facility center at that location near the river. Railroad buildings and shops were built and a town was laid out. John Grafton was the railroad’s surveyor and the town was named after him. Business and industry pertaining to the railroad were instrumental to the community’s success in this era.
During the American Civil War, Grafton’s railroad interests were of much dispute. The town was divided, with the Union supporters joining the Grafton Guards and southern supporters joining the Confederate Letcher’s Guard. On May 22, 1861 at the bridge at Fetterman, the two forces clashed, resulting in the first enlisted soldier death of the war. Ensuing skirmishes between the two forces resulted in the Union gaining control of the Grafton railroad terminal. Still the Confederates performed countless assaults upon the terminal during wartime.
Grafton’s railroad industry continued to grow after the war. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad had been extended from Grafton to Clarksburg in 1856. During the civil war, Clarksburg was a key supply depot for the Union army. Following the war Clarksburg grew as an industrial and manufacturing center fueled by the region’s valuable coal industry.
The 1858 completion of the Northwestern and Virginia Railroad led to the rise of Cairo. Cairo was incorporated along the banks of the North Fork of the Hughes River. At that time the community was a booming oil town prospering with the discovery of oil-rich fields throughout the area.
West Virginia ranked high in the production of quality oil and gas, and Ritchie County was one of the leading oil producing regions in the state. The beginnings of the area’s oil industry date back to the “Wildcat Wells” of the 1860's when a well near Cairo, “Big Run”, showed great promise. After a devastating conflagration and decline at the nearby oil field, “Volcano Fields”, the industry concentrated on Cairo. Much speculation and development occurred in Cairo at the time, as reports of abundant oil fields circulated.
These maps were published in 1873 by G.W. & C.B. Colton & Co. The main map shows central West Virginia and the general map shows the northeastern United States. Cities, towns, waterways, the West Virginia coal regions, and railroad network of 1873 are indicated.