William Graw

A man of many names
William Graw picked a bad night to work toward his career goals. He was on board the train working as an extra express messenger with the primary express messenger, Robert Ashmore. Graw’s plan was to learn the route and secure a job with the Southern Express Company.1 He may have reconsidered that plan after he was forced to jump from the train as it plunged into the washout that night. He ended up with a sprained ankle and burns to his hands and face.

The proper spelling for Graw’s name was a small mystery. In the official report, Norfolk & Western listed the extra express messenger as W.H. Graid from Knoxville.2 His hometown paper, the Knoxville Journal, first printed his name as William “Graf” in a July 3 article which covered the wreck.1 Subsequent articles referred to him as William Graw, and a July 26 edition of the Knoxville Journal refers to him as William Graw of 13 East Depot Street.3 The 1889 Knoxville City Directory confirms the spelling as “Graw” for the man who lived at 13 East Depot Street.4

Graw’s life after the wreck is unclear, although there are some records of a William Graw marrying Agnes Curtain in Knoxville in 1894. There is nothing to connect that William Graw to the man on the train other than the hometown and name, but I have included that information here as a possible clue for anyone that might be researching.

Do you have more information about William Graw? If you think he might have been an ancestor of yours, or if you have some additional information that you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you. Thanks!


  1. “Railroad Wreck.”, The Knoxville Journal (Knoxville, TN), July 3, 1889, Volume V, Number 114: p.1.
  2. Fourteenth Annual Report of The Railroad Commissioner of the State of Virginia, J.H. O’Bannon Superintendent of Public Printing, Richmond, VA, 1890: p. xlv. http://books.google.com/books?id=CFopAAAAYAAJ
  3. “Beyond The City’s Center”, The Knoxville Journal (Knoxville, TN), July 26, 1889, Volume V, Number 137: p.5.
  4. E.W. Crozier,Knoxville City Directory, 1889, p. 177.

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