In 1809, Samuel McGraw moved to the site of McGrawville (which was named for him) where he purchased 200 acres. At that time there were but three families in the vicinity of the McGrawville village. Mr. McGraw died in February 1836. McGrawville was shortened to McGraw in 1932.
The first school in McGraw was organized about 140 years ago. This school was built of logs. The actual erection date is unknown but is thought to have been built before 1811.
In 1848, construction started on the Free Mission College. This was to be an institution of higher learning, which would be available to any Christian regardless of race, color, religion, or economic background. The name was later changed to The New York Central College because people were traveling great distances to enroll thinking that this meant a free education.
In considering locations for the institution, the Board of Trustees decided that McGrawville was a more suitable place than Perry, NY. The knowledge that a direct route of the Underground Railroad into Canada followed the Tioughnioga Valley may have added weight to their decision because soon after the college opened, an underground "station" was operated on the college grounds.
The building committee acquired 167 acres of land for a total cost of $6500.00. By September 1849, the main college building was ready to receive the faculty and 20 registered students. The tuition was $30 a year. The male students paid $5.00 a year for room, and the female students paid $3.00. Both men and women had to pay $1 a week for board at the college. Any student could obtain board at a private home for a $1.25 a week. The first faculty was unique in that a colored man and two female instructors had been hired.
By 1850, there were 110 students enrolled. In May of that year, smallpox broke out among the students. Some of the Negro students succumbed to this disease and were buried in a small plot of land located on the hill south of the college. The headstones designating the final resting place of these young men are the only markers on the old New York Central College.
On June 18, 1861, the college was forced to close its doors due to financial problems.
Three female black students of the College (the Misses Russell, Emily and Mary Edmundson) were used as characters in Harriet B. Stowe's book, Uncle Tom's Cabin.
In 1885, the McGraw High School which stood in front of the present day building was built. The first athletic event was held in 1920. In 1929, the present day school building was erected on the site of the old college.
The house at 19 W. Academy St. was once a "station" in the Underground Railroad during the pre-Civil War days. This house at the time was known as the "Farm House" and was on the grounds of the New York Central College.
In the cellar of the "Farm House" was a secret door leading to a 1700 foot tunnel with an exit onto the bank of Smith Creek. The secret door was a part of the wall, which was built on a frame in such a manner that the stones were left in a natural jagged position. By pushing on a certain stone, the door swung open to allow the passage of a person who first had to walk down five steps to the tunnel's entrance. A person had to walk through the tunnel in a "stooped" position. The tunnel was made of dry masonry and lined with large heavy stones. This tunnel was not only used as an "escape" but also to hide the slaves during the day. At night, the fugitives could start their journey to the next "station" near Peterboro, NY.
If you would like any further information on the history of McGraw, please visit the Lamont Free Library located on Main St. in McGraw. The friendly staff there will be glad to assist you.