A friend of mine asked some questions about the origin of McKinney Field at a middle school football game last fall. With the help of my brother and some research, I think I can now answer his questions. In 1923, the Grafton Board of Education purchased nine acres of land on Yates Avenue for the purpose of laying out a football and baseball field. It was anticipated that someday a new school would be built there. In 1924-25, wooden bleachers were constructed and in 1926 a small field house and shower rooms were built. In 1930, lights were installed, the first high school field in the area to have lights. I can remember when I was in grade school GHS playing a home game against East Fairmont on a Friday afternoon and going to Philippi and watching the Cats play a day game on the old Philippi football field, now AB baseball field. Another bit of information, the first QB at Philip Barbour was none other than Austin Upton, former teacher, coach at GHS and current Taylor County Board of Education member. In 1933-34 concrete bleachers were completed at Riverside Field, now McKinney Field.
From 1904 to 1924, the Cats played their home games on the old fair grounds, in the area where Rosewood, the Armory, and R and R Construction is located.
For you basketball fans from 1904 to 1916 Grafton High (school was located on Wilford Street) did not have a gymnasium. All basketball games and practices had to take place at the YMCA on Main Street. The first Bearcat Band was formed in 1925, for you band members. Still having problems locating where they came up with the mascot Bearcats.
In fact, in 1909 the voters voted down a $110,000 bond to build a new high school. In June of 1914, the voters passed the bond level election, and the new Grafton High School was built on Washington Street for $110,000. It was completed and occupied in the spring of 1916. Unfortunately, it was built to house 400 students, by the time it was built there were over 800. In 1934, three rooms were added.
One of the other things I found interesting in the 1900’s through the 1930’s, middle schools-junior high was for the 8-9 graders. Grafton High School enrollment in 1935 was 808 students. If any of you sports fans have any other questions contact me, I’ll try to get an answer.