Main Streets hold a lot of history. They kickstart communities, support them and remain constant through growth. Grafton’s is no exception.
The roots of this town’s Main Street date back to the early 19th century. In 1816, two brothers from Massachusetts, Jonathan and Grindall Rawson, decided to join the thousands of others pushing westward. Setting out into the unknown, they traveled to the 160 rural acres in Ohio their father Samual purchased from the Connecticut Land Company.
America was growing rapidly, and this area’s rich natural resources and unclaimed land were promising. Rapid growth in the area began in the late 1840s, when the Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati Railroad finalized plans to construct a track that would cross Jonathan Rawson’s property. This particular spot was selected due to its close proximity to the Black River, a great resource to supply water to the steam locomotives. An agreement was made that the railroad would construct a station in the area if Rawson would develop a town. The town became known as Rawsonville and was officially changed to Grafton in 1877.
According to village historian Doris Wildenheim, the village began to thrive during the 1850s with Main Street serving as the hub for commerce and social activities for travelers and locals alike. A variety of shops, saloons, clothing shops, general stores and tradesmen such as blacksmiths lined the street and aided in the village’s growth. As the development came, so did the need for additional space. Farmers cleared much of the wooded area and pushed the epicenter of town north, where most of the village’s shops, banks, offices and eateries stand today.
Wildenheim points out that while the times have changed in the village throughout the decades, the close-knit feel and deep-seated roots have remained a constant. “The sandstone sidewalks, the mill silos, historic buildings and the whistle of trains remind us Grafton will always be home,” she says.