West Virginia's fifth smallest county comprises only 174 square miles. Named for Virginia statesman John Taylor, it was established in 1844. Pruntytown, on the Northwestern Turnpike near the crossing of Tygart Valley River, was the first seat of justice. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad traversed the county on its way to Wheeling in 1852, a year after the Virginia General Assembly chartered a companion line, the Northwestern Railroad of Virginia, to connect Parkersburg via a spur to the B&O's main line. Grafton was established at the specified junction point, near the confluence of Tygart Valley Creek with Three Fork Creek, three miles east of Pruntytown. When the new line was completed in 1857, Grafton, then only a year old, became a major transportation center. Soon eclipsing the earlier Pruntytown, it became the county seat in 1878.
The 1850 census, the first to count Taylor County, tallied a population of 5,367. A century and a half later, the 2000 population was 16,089. One-third of the residents live in Grafton, which had a population of 5,489 in 2000.
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