Grafton is the childhood home of Anna Jarvis,
Founder of Mother’s Day
GRAFTON—Grafton, where Mother’s Day began, is the childhood home of Anna Jarvis, founder of Mother’s Day.
The first Mother’s Day was celebrated on May 10, 1908, at what was then Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church. The observance was at the request of Anna Jarvis, founder of Mother’s Day. Anna worked with church officials to plan the first Mother’s Day in detail. Andrews had been the home church of Anna and her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis.
An annual observance continued at Andrews through Mother’s Day 1966. The congregation moved in January 1967 to the Church of the Good Shepherd United Methodist along Lucas Dairy Road in Grafton.
In advance of the move, a nonprofit, the International Mother’s Day Shrine, was charted on May 15, 1962. The nonprofit took ownership of the historic building where Mother’s Day began. The structure became a shrine to all mothers everywhere. It was named a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service on Oct. 5, 1992.
The NPS recognizes the Shrine as where Mother’s Day began. When that occurred in 1908, the structure was Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church and the NPS uses that name in the National Historic Landmark designation. No church congregation has met weekly at the landmark since 1966, and the landmark is no longer affiliated with any religious denomination but instead is a shrine to all mothers everywhere.
From 1962 through Mother’s Day 1966, the church would host a morning Mother’s Day observance and the nonprofit would host an afternoon public observance. Since Mother’s Day 1967, the nonprofit has continued an annual 2 p.m. afternoon Mother’s Day observance, with roots back to the first observance in 1908. This tradition will continue this year. However, like last year, the Shrine’s observance will be online because of the COVID-19 pandemic and continuing concerns over large indoor gatherings. You can begin accessing the virtual service at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 9 by visiting: https://www.internationalmothersdayshrine.org/
The service will remain posted, so if you miss the inaugural 2 p.m. showing, you can log on at your convenience and still view the entire 113th annual Mother’s Day observance.
The Board hopes that by Mother’s Day 2022, it can return to an in-person observance within the National Historic Landmark. The Board hopes that as COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are lifted, everyone will plan to come tour the Shrine where Mother’s Day began.
Grafton—Childhood home of Anna Jarvis
Grafton has the distinction of being the childhood home of Mother’s Day Founder, Anna Jarvis. She was born May 1, 1864 at the Webster community of Taylor County. However, within months of her birth, the family moved to Grafton. Granville Jarvis, the father, purchased a structure along Latrobe Street for his mercantile business and the family lived there for 15 years. The Latrobe Street property also served as a hotel, operating under the names of Central Hotel and/or the Commercial Hotel. Unfortunately, it was lost in the great fire of 1887.
Ann Reeves Jarvis and Granville Jarvis were the parents of at least 12 children, with only four surviving into adulthood. These four included Dr. Josiah W.P. Jarvis. He lived and practiced in Marion County and is the only one of the four adult children who married and had a family. Claud S. Jarvis moved to Philadelphia and established a successful taxi business. Lillian Elsonone Jarvis was blind and required health care throughout her life. Anna was educated in Grafton public schools. She went to college in Virginia and became a schoolteacher. She returned to Grafton and taught at Central High School. The school was adjacent to the family home along Wilford Street, where they moved when Granville leased the Latrobe Street business above which they had lived until 1880. The Jarvis family resided along Wilford Street until Mr. Jarvis died on Dec. 31, 1902. The family then moved to Philadelphia to live with Claude Jarvis.
Mrs. Jarvis taught Sunday School at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church for a quarter of a century. She and daughter, Anna, attended Andrews. Mr. Jarvis attended the First Baptist Church.
For at least 50 years, Mrs. Jarvis called for someone, somewhere, sometime to establish a day honoring mothers. When Anna was 12, her mom taught a Sunday School lesson on “Mothers of the Bible” and ended with a prayer calling for establishment of a Mother’s Day. Daughter Anna said, “This heart-rending, agonizing prayer burned its way into my mind and heart so deeply, and it never ceased to burn. I could never forget it.” After Mrs. Jarvis died May 9, 1905, daughter Anna, standing at her mother’s gravesite, recalled their little church in Grafton and her mother’s plea for a day honoring mothers. She pledged to be the someone. History records her saying, “The time and place is here and the someone is your daughter, and by the grace of God you shall have that Mother’s Day. Anna said she never forgot her mother’s Sunday School prayer made on May 28, 1876. It was one of many times she heard her mom call for mothers to be honored with a special day.
On May 13, 1906, the first anniversary of the death of Mrs. Jarvis, Andrews Church conducted a memorial service in her memory. On May 12, 1907, Andrews hosted an unofficial Mother’s Day. Finally, on May 12, 1907, Andrews hosted the first official Mother’s Day. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson officially proclaimed the second Sunday each May as Mother’s Day.
Anna Jarvis died Nov. 24, 1948 in Philadelphia. She had accomplished her pledge to establish Mother’s Day and she fulfilled her mother’s wish. However, she then spent years fighting with florists, card makers, candy makers, businesses, and others who she believed were commercializing her holiday. She failed to be able to remain in complete control of Mother’s Day. This upset her to the point that late in life she would initiate an unsuccessful petition drive to abolish the day she had fought so hard to establish.
The International Mother’s Day Shrine at 11 East Main Street in historic downtown Grafton is now a Shrine to all mothers everywhere. It also maintains and promotes the remarkable lives of Mother’s Day Founder, Anna Jarvis and her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis. It is one of only 16 National Historic Landmarks in West Virginia. It is a must see for anyone wanting to understand the full historical background of a holiday whose celebration has spread around the globe. The rich history of Mother’s Day is tied to Taylor County, to West Virginia, and especially to Grafton as the childhood home of the founder of the day honoring all mothers.
The initial vision statement Anna Jarvis gave as to what Mother’s Day should be remains valid today. She called for, “making the lives of our mothers happier and brighter, and to see where we can improve on the past.” A very Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers everywhere.