Franklin County, MS

American History & Genealogy Project

Family Histories


Family History of

William Henry Graves &

Helena Marie Seab Graves


John Seab Graves

This is a biographical story of the William Henry and Helena Marie Graves family and was written by one of their son's, John Seab Graves, in Natchez, Ms., in 1968.  It is written to make known their life story and for the purpose of establishing a family tree base to be added to, I hope, from time to time so that descendants to follow may have some knowledge of their ancestors.


My father, William Henry Graves, was born in Franklin County, Ms. in 1858, and passed away in the village of Roxie, (named after his sister, Roxie) at the age of 65, in 1924.


My mother, Helena Marie Graves, who was Miss Helena Marie Seab before marriage, was born in Franklin County,  out on the Seab farm, 3 miles east of what later became Roxie, in 1857, and passed away at the age of 66 in 1923.


Both were laid to rest in the cemetery at the Union Baptist Church situated on the Roxie-Whiteapple Road.


Eight children were born to this union and enumerated below:


1- Willie Lamar                       born 1881        passed away in 1948

2- John Seab                          born 1883        passed away 2-3-83

3- William Henry, Jr.              born 1885        passed away in 1955

4- Leslie                                   born 1888        passed away in 1895

5- Ben Franklin                       born 1890        passed away 1971

6- Sicily Helena                       born 1892        passed away in 1895

7- Myrtle                                  born 1896        passed away 3-12-85

8- Helena Margaret               born 1899        passed away in 1922


My father grew up as a farmer boy and didn't get much schooling, and it may not have been his fault or choice of his as the civil war freed the colored man when he was a boy 7 or 8 years old which, no doubt, put him in the field to help make ends meet.  My Daddy was what I would call a bootstrap individual and lifted himself up by his own bootstraps, so to speak, and made his way through the world, like many others before him had done, without any education to speak of.


His father became a member of the Board of Supervisors of Franklin County,  when I was a small boy, perhaps even before I was born, and remained in that office until he passed away.  My father later entered politics, in a local way, not long after he married, and I image he got the inspiration from his father.  As a starter he became Justice of the Peace of the Roxie District, which took in a large area of the western part of the county.  I really think that my mother thought it was an excuse to be in Roxie with the boys and often voiced her disapproval of the set-up on many occasions when he would be late, some times after dark, coming in.


When his father passed away, leaving the office of Supervisor of District One vacant, my father ran for the office and was elected and in course of time became President of the Board.  He, too, was reelected from term to term until he passed away but did serve as Chancery Clerk a short period of time in between.


John Quitman Graves, father of William Henry Graves, Sr.,


John Quitman Graves, Sr. father of William Henry Graves, was named for John Anthony Quitman who was a prominent politician of Natchez, former Governor of Mississippi in the 1850's, and volunteer Mexican War hero.


John Quitman Graves, Sr., was born in District One of Franklin County, Ms. February 19, 1838, and grew up in this county to be a farmer.  He homesteaded or bought a large tract of land, bordering on Well's Creek, where he worked and lived until he died in 1901 at the age of 62.  His farm and home were near what later became the village of Roxie, named for his baby daughter Roxie.  It is said that because of his high standing as a citizen, the citizens of the community were glad to honor him and his daughter in naming the town for her.


He served in the Regimental Band of the 4th Volunteer Mississippi Regiment in the Civil War.  While in the army at Pensacola, Florida, he joined the Baptist Church; and when the war ended, he had his membership transferred to Union Baptist Church in Franklin County. He was a devout member of this church and was a bee-like worker in it from the time he became a member until he passed away.


He was a staunch member of the S.  B.  Stampley Lodge as early as 1868 and was elected County Supervisor of his District some time in the 80's and served so well and with such distinction that he was reelected from term to term until he passed away.


On June 18, 1859, he married Sicily H.  Darsey, sister to Francis H.  Darsey.  She was born in Franklin County, in 1842 and passed away in 1887 at the age of 45.  To this union four children were born:


William Henry                          deceased

John, Jr.                                   deceased

Roxie                                        deceased---How unfortunate she was in   having to go at the age of only 24 

Sallie H.                                    deceased


In 1889 he married Miss Emma Wilkinson of Roxie, Ms. To this union two children were born:





Both grew up in Franklin County but moved from the state, one going to Alabama and the other (Vivian) to Louisiana where they passed away years ago.


He and his first wife were laid to rest in the cemetery of Union Baptist Church situated on the Roxie-Whiteapple Road in Franklin County, Ms.


His second wife, Miss Emma, died of yellow fever in 1905 and was laid to rest in the cemetery at Roxie where her parents are buried.



William Henry Graves, Sr.


I well remember the evening Bill and I were returning home after school was out at Rosedale and met a darkey standing on the path near his cabin.  He said, Boys, you better hurry home.  Your Daddy shot a man today. We doubted the story but did trot most of the way home.  The story proved to be true.  What happened and what caused it is a long story.


Several times I had heard my Daddy speak about a guy mistreating his father, and when it reached the point where my Daddy thought it was deliberate persecution, he decided to do something about it.


One day he confronted the guy and a fight ensued.  Jim Wentworth (Uncle Jim as we called him) jumped in between the two men to stop it just as my Daddy pulled the trigger of his pistol and got shot himself.  Luckily the bullet hit Uncle Jim in the groin, and he soon recovered.


After that encounter there was no further mistreatment nor further trouble.  I don't believe there was any one in the county nor anywhere else who could truthfully say that my Daddy or his father has ever mistreated his fellowman.  He resorted to violence in that instance because the provocations were intolerable.


Years after that a bunch of us -- Uncle Jim (Jim Wentworth), my Daddy, Uncle Johnnie, John Seale and I went on a fishing expedition and camped near the Courtland Ferry on the Homochitto River.  One evening Uncle Jim, as we called him, decided to take a swim, and after swimming and diving some time all of a sudden my Daddy plunged head first into the river, followed by Uncle Johnnie and John Seale, in rapid succession.  I ran and found a long pole and pulled them out of the current where they were bunched struggling to get out with Uncle Jim and pulled them on to the bank.  After the water was forced out of Uncle Jim's lungs he regained consciousness and soon recovered.  My Daddy had seen the face of a drowning man before and knew that Uncle Jim was going down for the last time.  The impulse to get a pole came to me like a flash, and I've often thought about the incident and wondered what would have happened if I had jumped in, too, instead of getting the pole.  All may have drowned.


When Uncle Jim became old and unable to work much there were times when he was without funds and his family needed groceries.  My Daddy would send over a supply to them.  All of us at home did not understand why our Daddy did that when there were so many mouths to be fed at home.  I know now why he did it.  Uncle Jim had jumped in between my Daddy and another man in a fight and saved a man's life, and my Daddy had jumped into the Homochitto River to save Uncle Jim's life and had helped him again when in need.


Say what you will, there is a compensation law-----what you do for your fellowman, when done unselfishly, comes back to you in some way.


While serving as Justice of the Peace he learned a lot about the law and stored up enough of it in his mind to be able to write any kind of legal instrument that the people wanted from time to time.  His talent in the respect was in demand all over the western part of the county. He also learned a lot about political fence building and the mending of them during that time which served him in good stead later on.


One time I asked my Daddy if he thought his political enemies ever overlooked anything dirty to say about him just before and election, and he said: AI doubt it but admonished me to not say anything about any false accusations made against him because it might antagonize them and make it more difficult for him to bring them in line.  What I had in mind when I mentioned it was a recent report in circulation that one day he was seem emerging from a hayloft near Roxie loaded to the gills.  Despite the many false accusations made against him, calculated to destroy him politically, he always came out victorious.


Not long after an election he would be seen horse backing his way to the home of a voter out of line and after an hour or so visit, during which time everything under the sun would be discussed, he would rise to his feet, take the guy's hand, and say--By George, old fellow, if there is anything I can do for you, you just let me know:, and it wouldn't be long before a road nearby would be regraveled or something of the sort done, and it often happened that the guy would support him after that.


It was the application of this political wisdom-do for others, or rather do unto others as you would have others do unto you, plus a good performance as Supervisor that enabled him to remain in office until he passed away.


The fact that I never did acquire the cigarette habit, and for the most part followed the wisdom of moderation in all things which came to me from my parents in the way of advice, it the main reason, I think, why I am still around at 85.


Many times my Daddy admonished us not to take up the cigarette habit for if we did we would die of consumption before we reached 35 years of age, and to stay away from the turf and the ponies and the gambling tables for they were highly contagious and often made bums out of their victims.


I remember one time after supper while out on the front porch he gave us some fatherly advice about the dangers in the use of Acorn and Bill said, Papa, you don't practice what you preach, and to our astonishment he came up with: Don't do as I do but do what I tell you. He must have originated this phrase for I never had heard these words used in the combination.


He relied on hard work and adoration to keep us in line, and as it has been said, idleness is a tool of the devil, he probably had something there.


I owed much to him and our mother, for without their advice and admonition, I may have become a cigarette smoker and died early in life, or a gambler, or an alcoholic and gone down as a tramp.


We boys learned that our Daddy always kept a step or two ahead of bad weather that shut down field operations.  He would come up with a project for us to handle to keep us busy such as building wire fences to replace old rail fences or add to the wood supply by cutting down trees chopping and sawing them for both fireplace and cook stove, or cut down pine bushes and other growth threatening the grass supply in the pastures.  The only thing that I can think of that is as relentless in conquest as the forest are the Communists, but the forest wages it's battles with men because it wants back what man has taken away from her, thwarted in it's efforts only until exploitation ends or until death steps in and stills the hand of man.  Whereas the Communists are just as relentless in their determination to conquer the free world, but it's without justification, and they resort to deception, intrigue, revolution, and murder, if necessary, to accomplish their aims.


When my Daddy married most of the land was covered by a primitive forest which could be bought cheap.  Realizing that a man's status in the community was measured by how many acres he owned, he got busy and didn't rest until he accumulated close to a thousand acres, including the tract that my mother's mother gave her, presumably a wedding gift, along with a bunch of gold,  some of which my mother had when she passed away.  How she managed to hold onto some of it that long is a mystery to me, when, as a matter of fact my Daddy was often seen standing near the old 6 or 7 foot wardrobe trying to borrow some of it when she opened it to get some kind of a garment.


My Daddy like to fish and encouraged us to fish and hunt.  When Bill and I got big enough to be helpful, and not a liability on a fishing trip, he would take us to the Homochitto River every spring on a catfish expedition.  As soon as we would arrive on the river we would select a suitable place to camp and gather a wood supply.  Then we would head for a bayou or a lake to catch bait.  I remember one time Bill and I and Jim Wentworth, whom we called Uncle Jim, were called on to catch the bait.  After fishing for an hour or more, without any results or even a bite, Uncle Jim lost his patience and let loose a fusillade of cuss words at the fish because they would not bite, and, you known, soon after that they began biting, and we caught all we needed.  That was a strange thing to me, and I have often thought about it.  After solving the bait problem, a trot line, sometimes two would be put over a favorable spot of water, then hooks would be tied to strings here and there and to limbs hanging over the river.  Cane poles would be used to set hooks in good looking spots from the bank.


Fishing involved a lot of hard work, and when fish were not in a biting mood and our efforts met with failure, we would debate whether the pleasure of fishing was worth the price we paid in hard work.  But when the fish were biting, and we were able to fill up on freshly caught and freshly fried fish on the bank of a river or lake the thought of hard work didn't enter our minds; in fact, then we had good luck, we felt that this type of fishing was the ultimate in pleasure, and we would look forward to these trips with boyish delight.  I've been an outdoor enthusiast and nature lover ever since my boyhood, and I believe this fact and the many trips to the Homochitto is the reason why I have an insatiable appetite for fishing which time hasn't been able to eradicate or even lower to any degree.


Helena Marie Seab Graves


It would be expected of a son to say that his mother was the best mother in the world, so I'll put it this way--No mother ever spent more of her time at home in meeting the needs of her family than she did.  Her table was always a delight to get to.  She not only prepared and cooked the food which was always tasty and ample in supply and variety but she saw that the garden came up to expectations and often worked in it to make sure there wouldn't be any shortage.


When I look back and think about those days a chilly and grievous sense of sadness sweeps over me for I feel she made too much of a sacrifice for us, and we should have done something to lighten her burden, especially during the last few years of her life.  How she cooked, darned, patched, mended, washed, ironed, worked in the garden, gave life to eight children and met their needs and had time to read the Bible, which she was often seen doing, with the few home facilities in those days, was then, and still is, a mystery to me.


Although her background was Catholic (having attended a Catholic school at Natchez, and her mother a Catholic and a devout one) she became a Baptist and united, along with my Daddy, with the Union Baptist Church of Franklin County.  I think she felt as I do-that salvation can be secured in any church if the individual meets the conditions laid down by  the great Galilean; but, while the church is indispensable as a support and compass to point the way, it is not the vehicle to get us to and through the pearly gates into the great beyond.  I think one of the most important things our parents did for us, was to have all of us come into the church before we left home.


Our mother's mother-Helena Nieneber-migrated to this country from Oldenburg Prussia (now Germany) and according to tradition, Joseph Seabachorline, later changed to Joseph Seab, also came from Oldenburg and knew Marie before they migrated to this country.  Anyway, Joseph ran away from home leaving behind all that he would have inherited, stowed away on a ship bound for New York and soon after arrival there went to work on a railroad as a track worker.  As soon as he had accumulated enough money to buy a wagon and team and a stock of merchandise, he became a peddler and peddled all over the United States, winding up at Natchez.  In 1845 he married Marie Helen Nieneber.  Some one advanced the notion that Joseph was a German Jew, as most immigrant Jews in those days soon became peddler after arriving in the country.  Anyway, when I learned about this history from one of his descendants (Mildred Seab Ezell) I made a hurried trip over to see Myrtle (my sister) and asked her if she knew she was part Jew, and we had a stomach-shaking laugh over it.


Joseph, naturalized under the name of Seab, cutting off nine letters and I don't blame him for changing his name.  Anyway, after he married, I would say that he realized that the peddler business while profitable as he has squirreled away a lot of gold was not compatible with married life, and for this reason I would say, the idea was jettisoned; but he didn't give up the idea of selling things in other ways.  I imagine he soon left Natchez with his bride and drove over into Franklin County, as he homesteaded a place which adjoined the Natchez-Meadville road and located about 3 miles east of what was to become the town of Roxie.  He built what I would call a combination of home and store, but it looked only like a home from all angles.  The store part of the structure was half below the surface of the ground and half above the surface, with the home on top which put the front porch high above the ground giving it an imposing look.


He filled the store with goods and was back in business like a Jew does after he accumulates a stake peddling and then changes his status by becoming a merchant.  Joseph prospered as a farmer and merchant and became well to do.  He was not only productive as a farmer and merchant but made quite a contribution to what is now threatening to become a population explosion.  If there were any children in excess of nine (4 boys and 5 girls) I don't know about them but do know that all of the nine children grew up to be fine citizens that perhaps could not be matched anywhere and were revered by all who knew them.


I once heard a guy who had lived in Franklin County, and knew all of the feudists as well as the good people of the county say that only a few Franklin County, people were in heaven and Joe Seab was one of them.  I say this, if Joe is up there all of the other 8 are, too, for they were just as good, if not better.


I do not mean to insinuate that Joseph, my grandfather on my mother's side of the family, was a Jew; but he did follow the Jew line after he got to the United States until he went to farming.  When he became a farmer that cleared him, in my opinion, as all of the Jews I've known never farmed or worked on a farm or dug ditches or helped build and maintain railroads or do any kind of hard work.


The old home has held up well against the attrition of time and looks much like it did when I first saw it as a small boy close to 80 years ago.


Joseph Seab was born December 16, 1809.  All records show that he was born in Prussia; and it is thought that his birthplace was Oldenburg or somewhere close around there as he knew Marie Helena Nienaber before he left Prussia.  He passed away at his home in Franklin County, at the age of 63 on August 17, 1872.


Marie Helena Seab was born September 18, 1822, in Oldenburg, Germany and passed away at the age of 79 on September 3, 1901.


Both were laid to rest in the family burial grounds located 1 1/2 miles east of the Seab home just off the Meadville Road on the north side.


Willie Lamar Graves

Biography of Willie Lamar Graves and family, written by a brother, John, who followed his birth 2 years later and grew up together, played together, sometimes fought, roamed the woods, hunted squirrel by day, possums and coon by night, hunted birds with blowguns, fished the streams and lakes, played baseball, stole watermelons, sugarcane, and did other things together, too numerous to mention.


Willie Lamar Graves, son of William Henry and Helena M.  Graves, was born on the Graves farm, 3 miles southeast of the town of Roxie in Franklin County,  Ms. in 1881 and passed away at the age of 67 in 1948.


Willie married Miss Jeffie Coventry Roark at San Antonio, Texas, July 6, 1910.  Jeffie was born November 13, 1886 and passed away at the age of 78, March 3, 1964.


Both were laid to rest in the cemetery at Baton Rouge, La.


Six children were born to them and enumerated below:


1---Willie Lamar Jr.                            born April 14, 1911

2---Frank Roark                                 born August 10, 1912

3---Henry Elton                                  born September 10, 1914

4---David Waldo                                 born September 30, 1923

5---Lois Coventry                               born November 1, 1926

6---born premature---no name given


Bill, as he was called by us and those who knew him well, was the oldest and most robust of the whole lot of us.  He didn't get much schooling, like his Daddy, and the other children following him. Now, as to whether it was a choice of his I am unable to say, but I do know that both of us were needed in the field to help make ends meet, and I know it was current thought that if a boy had anything in him, it would come out anyway. I know our Daddy didn't force us to go to school when we were big enough to handle an axe, shovel or hoe.  Two thirds of the country was covered by a primitive forest and we loved to roam the woods, and like little savages kill things both edible and inedible.  We loved to fish the streams and lakes which were teaming with fish in those days and liked swimming as much as a duck which is as much to say----he couldn't resist all of that and abandoned the school.


History is full of stories about men who lifted themselves up by their own bootstraps and got rich without much education.  Why couldn't he do the same and make his way through the world, too, on what schooling he had; but later on in life, we came to realize that technology had changed the situation and that without an education we found ourselves greatly handicapped.


Bill and I worked hard on the farm for ten years or more; and as soon a harvest was over we would be sent to the woods to clear more land, to replace worn out land turned to pasturage or put more land into cultivation to increase production or to build wire fences to replace obsolete rail fence or cut wood for both fireplace and cook stove and cord it up to dry and be free of rot until used.  When he finished a project our Daddy always came up with another for us to handle to keep us busy, and as I mentioned in my Daddy's biography--Idleness is a tool of the devil--besides, he thought that if he didn't keep us busy and build the work habit into us, we might not ever work after we left here and become bums.


If my memory serves me correctly, I was 18 and Bill 20 when we decided the work-habit that our daddy has prescribed for us and put into practice had been completed and that hard work on the farm, raising five cent cotton (the same the Chinese coolie got for his) was not for us.  We didn't want to be a follower of the mule anyhow but as to how we could liberate ourselves from the mule and plow perplexed us for some time.


One Sunday Bill and I went to Roxie using our legs and feet to get there.  After taking a good look around town we wound up at the depot, like most of the town folks did, as well as many from the surrounding country, to see the Cannon Ball come in, an afternoon in those days comparative to a fourth of July celebration with it's barrels of pink lemonade, the drink called pop, popcorn, bootleg and sometimes fights or a baseball game.


After the train and crowd departed, Bill and I sidled up near the bay window where the telegraph instruments could be seen and heard clicking away.  I said to Bill, 'I wonder what those things are saying', and he said, 'I wonder where it's comin' from. The thought of that aroused a strong desire in us to unravel this mystery and the fact that we were looking for some way to liberate ourselves from hard work on the farm, the idea to do something about it soon jelled in our minds.  As soon as I could find out where I could get a beginners' telegraph outfit, I ordered it, and we began study of the telegraph, followed later on by Henry and Judge (two younger brothers) and as soon as we reached the point where we could transmit and receive the Morse Code by way of the key to the extent that we could carry on a conversation, we soon entered the service of the Y&MV.


Bill worked at many stations--Russum, Stanton, Rosetta, Knoxville, McNair, Wilson, Lorman and St. Gabriel--presumably looking for the ideal spot which seemed to have eluded him, unless it was St. Gabriel which he hopped on to like a cat going for a mouse when it came up for bid and remained there until he became eligible to retire on full pension.  The main and perhaps the only reason he bid in St. Gabriel was the fact that he and his family wanted to get as near to LSU at Baton Rouge as possible so that their children would have the opportunity to get a college education.  He and his wife purchased some acreage in the outskirts of Baton Rouge which had a home on it, and he moved his family to Baton Rouge, commuting to and from St. Gabriel to handle his job.


He and his wife held onto this acreage and passed it on to their five children, and the children held onto it intact until it (Bill's nest egg, he called it) hatched out big and have sold five lots from it at a fabulous price; in fact, enough to build each one at a STATUS home, and they still have the most valuable part of it which is up for sale and will bring in at a large sum of money.


Some people would say it's good luck when at a thing like that happens, but I say it was due to rare foresight and good judgment on the part of Bill and his wife in not only buying the acreage but in holding onto it and equally so by the children in holding it intact as long as they have.  Most children under the same circumstances would have demanded their share, and it would have been broken up and sold at a much lower price.


Bill was glad when he reached 65 and eligible to retire on full pension.  He didn't like those so-called efficiency squirts sent out of Chicago to tell him how to run at a station and snoop on him looking for something to turn in against him. It galled and irritated him.  Once in a while a train would slip up on him before he could clear the serephone signal, and the trainman would become bellicose and sometimes insulting, and there were times that they would turn him in and demerits would be levied against his record which irritated and worried hi.  He told me that he had enough of it and was glad to turn the job back to them.


I was two years younger than Bill and in addition to this he was built like pugilist and was as strong as at a Texas steer.  When we got into at a scrap, he would soon knock me down for the count.


I remember the time when we got into at a brawl as we were climbing over at a high rail fence.  He was boiling and when he alighted from the fence, and when my feet hit the ground, he turned loose a fusillade of blows that sent me down. When I got up, he sent me down again for the count.  The encounter convinced me that I was no match for him and resolved to use at a club after that.


One day I was trying to fit at a tongue to boy wagon I had built when we had another run-in.  When he drew back to hit me, I let go the tongue but he warded off the blow.  At a this juncture our Daddy intervened, and while he was giving Bill at a good thrashing which caused Bill to yell out like at a stuck pig, I escaped to the woods, never so frightened until later on.  While sitting on at a log deep down in the hollow looking up at a bird singing, shaking with fear of the devil (which old Cora, our nurse, had pumped into us) my Daddy who had cautiously slipped up on me, grabbed me from behind.  I was so frightened and was trembling so that my Daddy didn't whip me.


After that episode Bill and I became less explosive and managed to avoid any further conflicts of that kind and got along fine most of the time.  As the years slipped by we became closer and closer exchanging letters regularly and visiting as often as we could up to the time of his passing.


We had an adventurous and exciting boyhood together, and John Q.  Graves (son of Jim Graves) played at a great part in making it so.  John Q.  was at a great hunter and could outwit any animal that roamed the woods or lived in the trees, not only that, he could train dogs like professionals could to hunt coon when he wanted them to or hunt possum by night and squirrel or rabbit during the day.  Whatever he wanted them to hunt, he knew how to get them to do it and always had plenty of dogs to hunt with.  In all probability Bill and I would have missed at a lot of excitement and adventure in hunting and fishing if it had not been for John Q.  Who during the fall and winter would be at our home Saturday evening or we would be at his home Saturday evening which always meant at a squirrel, bird, or rabbit hunt that evening and at a coon or possum hunt that night.  In those days two thirds of the forest was in at a primitive state and game was plentiful.  Bill and I seldom ever missed an opportunity to hunt with him and his dog, a big dog that bounded through the woods so fast and treed so fast that we could hardly keep up with him from tree to tree.  When I see a tree of any size, I think of the many large trees we cut down to get coons. What at a waste of timber but no one thought anything about it because timber had little value in those days.


John Q.  had at a insatiable appetite for hunting, and sometimes he would hunt alone when he failed to find someone to go with him.  When his dog treed a possum in  a sink hole, he would excavate  a whole hillside to get a possum, if necessary, to prove the infallibility of his dog.  I don't think that any Indian ever excelled John Q.  as a hunter or knew any more about the habits of wildlife and how to outwit it that John.  Q.  One time Bill and I were on a squirrel hunt with him when there was  a heavy overcast; in fact, there had been a shower or two and after an hour or more hunt over the woods, his dogs had failed to pick up a trail; and he decided to do the hunting himself.  He climbed to an elevated spot and after surveying  the woods all around him, said, Boys, I see a squirrel's den', and you know, by beating on the trunk of that dead tree we ran out and killed three squirrels to take home for the frying pan.  I've often thought about this incident and have wondered if he had an occult type of mind and could foretell things.


One year, when small boys, Bill and I attended school at Whiteapple, which was five miles south of where we lived, and we had to walk it both ways but thought nothing about it.  As I said, I was a young boy, around 8 or 9 years old and my memory is not clear on but two things that I can come up with.  Both will reveal traits in Bill's character that I always admired.  Paddler Collier, a boy around Bill's age, who lived about 3 miles up the creek, occasionally walked along with us.  After school was out on our way home, all of  a sudden Paddler challenged Bill to box with him.  Bill told Paddler that he didn't want to hurt him, and Paddler began punching him anyway.  Bill came back with  a rain of blows that stunned Paddler, and the old boy backed away. After that encounter, Paddler never challenged him again, nor walked along with us again.


Years after that, perhaps 30 years after that, Paddler had to shoot Carl Middleton, whom I knew well, to protect himself so I heard.  If I knew who was to blame, it wouldn't be the thing for me to say who was to blame.  It wasn't too long after that before Paddler dropped and bowed to the grim reaper and passed on.


The next year Bill and I attended school at Rosedale which had been built the previous year.  It was located in a pine thicket just off the Meadville Road about 1 1/2 miles east of the Seab place.  It wasn't long before Bill Davis challenged Bill.  Bill told him the same thing as Paddler--that he didn't want to hurt him, and Bill Davis went after him anyway.  It wasn't long before Bill Davis got enough, and backed away.  After that encounter Bill Davis let him alone.


If my memory hasn't failed me, May Seab was our teacher.  Bill and I thought she was the nicest teacher we had seen.  I'm sorry to say May succumbed to the grim reaper and passed away several years ago.  She was up in the 90's.


Bill Davis became a railroad man and was agent at Roxie for a long time, and I am sorry to say he also bowed to TIME and passed away years ago.


Despite the fact that Bill had a cross eye, he was a crack shot with a rifle and often took it along when we went squirrel hunting to bag game beyond shotgun reach or when we failed to bag one hidden behind a limb.  I remember the time when our dog treed an old fox squirrel up a big pine tree.  He was so well hidden behind a limb that only the top end of his tail could be seen, and although we used all of our know-how, in the way of noise, including four or five shotgun blasts at the limb where he was hidden he would not budge.  Bill said Stand back, boys, and let me put a bullet through that limb, and you know, that's what he did and the wise old strategist of the squirrel specie turned loose and tumbled down.



William Henry Graves, Jr.

William Henry Graves, Jr., son of William Henry Graves, Sr., and Helena M. Graves was born October 17, 1885, out on the Graves farm 3 miles southeast of the town of Roxie, in Franklin County, Ms. and expired on September 1, 1955, at Charleston, Ms. and was laid to rest in cemetery there.  His wife Ruth, daughters Charlotte, Phebe and Jack survived him.


 Henry, like Bill and John before him, didn't get much schooling.  In those days it was current thought that all a boy needed to know was the ABC's and the numerals and be able to manipulate them to the extent that he could spell, read, add, divide, subtract and multiply and speak English well enough to be understood by the average hillbilly.  It was also current thought that if a boy had it in him it would come out anyway and if he didn't have it in him, it would be a waste of time and money to try to further educate him, an opinion held by our Daddy with all due respect to him.  Besides, Henry was needed on the farm or in the field to help make ends meet.


In his early boyhood, Henry was a chunky, robust boy up to the time he became a victim of typhoid fever and before he recovered from that, pneumonia seized him, causing a lingering illness that almost took his life and although he recovered from those two killers he was never a robust boy afterwards; and I believe his heart was damaged which may have ultimately caused his death.


Now, as to whether John stirred up discontent in Henry when he (John) liberated himself from the mule and plow by getting into the railroad game is a moot question and can not be answered but apparently Henry didn't wish to be a follower of the mule and plow any more than John did; and as Mississippi was mostly agricultural and had no industries to speak of except the railroads, he probably felt that he had no alternative but to get into the railroad game, too.


Anyway, he proved himself and the world about him that he, too, could lift himself up by his bootstraps and make his way through the world.


Before I left home, Henry had helped me in the study of the telegraph by transmitting the code to me with another instrument from another room and in a year or so after that, he resumed the study of it and soon entered the service of the Y&MV.


In 1907 I was working for the Southern Pacific at El Paso when Henry got travel  fever and came out to El Paso.  I spoke to the chief about him and he put him on the extra board and sent him to historical Langtry (just west of the Pecos River) to relieve a guy for 30 days.  Decades before that Lilly Langtry, a theatrical star and beauty from New York was on her way to California via Southern Pacific; and her train was sidetracked there for many hours because of a freight train wreck west of there, and while delayed there she put on a show for the town folks, and they honored her by naming the town Langtry.


The town was given another boost in fame by Judge Roy Bean who immortalized himself and the town when he became famous as the Law west of the Pecos which resulted from a trial of a china man.  The Judge had read the law books from cover to cover and had failed to find where it said anything about a china man and he had to find him guilty as charged.


The town was given another boost in fame by Zane Gray, the great novelist, who  used Langtry and the surrounding country west of the Pecos as a background for one of his great novels.  I remember that the Supt.  of the Southern Pacific Railroad allowed Grey to use his private railroad car while he was down there getting what he needed.


When the regular assigned man returned, Henry came back to El Paso to wait until again needed.  Henry told me that the country down in there was not only wild looking but had a lot of wild things in it, and I told him what Robert Murphy, a good friend of mine, told me about what happened at Langtry when he worked there a few years before that.  He said a bunch of cowboys came to town late one night, and took over the waiting room in which to stage a party. Along about two A.M. they began firing their pistols.  He said he didn't know what was going on and didn't stop running to find out.  Later on he found out that they were practicing their quick draw shooting each time they drew.  He said the upper walls riddled with bullets.


A short time after Henry got back to El Paso the Chief asked him if he could run a pumping plant and Henry told him that he had never fired a boiler in his life but thought he could soon learn how, and I told Henry that anybody who had followed a mule as long as we did could soon learn how to run a pumping plant.  The Chief told him that the job he had in mind was a double-barreled job--telegrapher and pumper; and he sent him to Hot Wells for ten days and after that he sent him to Marathon where he worked until the regular assigned man returned to work.  Then, one of the worst economic slumps hit the business world, almost paralyzing it, even causing the banks to use SCRIP to cash pay checks.  Money seemed to have evaporated, and the railroads had to reduce their forces, cutting off many employees; and Henry was one of the first to get the axe.


Our Daddy had been after Henry to come back home and help him make a crop; and Henry bowed to his wishes and went back home, which was a magnanimous thing for him to do.  I have thought a number of times about what would have happened to Henry's destiny if there hadn't been a severe depression nor had been any need for him to return home and he had remained with the Southern Pacific as I did, would he have married out there and raised a different family.  In his case a bad break turned into a blessing and who knows but what fate, in some mysterious way, had a hand in this.  I believe what we are to a great extent is because of the thoughts we've thought and the things we've done; and I believe that circumstances arise in our lives over which we have no control play a great part in shaping our destiny and it seems to have been true in Henry's case.


After helping his father raise and harvest a crop he re-entered the service of the Y&WV and in time wound up in the Delta country, where Judge later migrated to and where both express and ticket commissions were good.  It has been said that the Jew when in migration looking for a spot to exercise his skill as a trader and get ahead he comes down to a landing when a rich country like the Delta comes in view, and this must be so as there are many rich Jews in the Delta country.  Henry and Judge knew about this and went to where the money is.


I came back east in 1908 and went to work for the I.  C.  at Memphis in their Poplar Street station.  Henry was working at Clarksdale at the time; and occasionally, I would get over on the local wires and clear the hooks of any messages we had for points south on the Y&WV.  One day we had an accumulation of messages for Clarksdale that had been delayed by wire trouble, and I said to myself-This is the time to test the guy out and see if he can take it. I had good arm speed, and I poured it on him; and, you know, he didn't open the key until I had finished and then only to say OK.


After working at various places on the Memphis Division he bid in Marigold agency, settle down, married, built a home and remained there for a long time or until his health began to fail him.  To lighten his work load he bid in Charleston agency, where he remained until his death.


I lost my wife in 1947 and most every spring after that I would show up in Memphis, and about the first thing I would do after my arrival I would go around to the office where I had worked years before and call Henry over the telegraph wire to let him know in time to have his fishing gear ready.  One time I called him and said, This is the Superintendent talking and asked him how many bales of cotton moved from his station the previous year, but I could not disguise my key style, and here is what he said, John are you coming down?


We enjoyed many trips together in quest of the finny tribe, and I am here to tell you that when a fishing excursion ended he would be ahead in number caught most every time.  We boys grew up on a stream teaming with fish and acquired an insatiable appetite for the Isaac Walton sport, and I don't believe that time, nor circumstances ever lessened the desire in Henry: in fact, the evening before he passed away he had loaded his fishing gear and other paraphernalia into his Buick so he could get moving to fishing ground without delay the next morning.  The thought of this saddened me--death had stepped in and denied him another day's pleasure on the lake.  It wasn't fishing alone that brought Henry to the lake or stream.  He was a God-loving man and perhaps felt a nearness while in the lap of nature more than anywhere else; but he was a devout church man-supported it financially, attended it regularly and worked in it and saw that his children were well grounded spiritually before they left home to face a world full of snares, set everywhere, and since that time had added the Communist.


In writing a biographical story about a brother it would be expected of me to write only in commendable way about Henry; and I would trust those who knew him to do that but will say this--if he ever made an enemy no one ever heard about it.


One time while on a visit with him at Charleston we were at the depot and Myles, his cashier, brought in a hobo dog.  It was in the potbellied stove era, and Henry had it going full blast, and it was red all around the middle for it was cold outside.  The dog chilled by the cold outside stretched himself out near the stove for a much needed rest and sleep.  It wasn't long before a terrible odor began to build up, something approximate that of a buzzard's roost; and Henry turned to me and said, John, let's take a walk. When we got outside, Henry said, If I had put that dog outside in the cold Myles would have disliked me from then on, and rather than hurt his feelings he suggested that we go out. Well, soon after we returned Myles took the dog to his kennel.


One day Myles called me over to his desk.  I had thought that the pictures upright on his desk were of his family.  He said, Mr. Graves, the dog in this picture died in Detroit, and then he unfolded the whole story saying that the dog in the picture had gotten sick, and the veterinarian doctor here had failed to cure him, and he sent him to a renowned doctor in Detroit.  This doctor after treating the dog for some time wrote Myles that the dog had failed to respond to his treatment.  Myles called the doctor by phone and asked him to bring the dog to the phone, that he wished to talk to him, and the doctor said the dog seemed to improve some after that.  Later the dog became worse and died, and Myles said he sent $35 to the doctor to have him buried there.  I thought all of this was very unusual and wondered if he had shown the same humanitarianism toward his kind; if not, it was indeed strange, but I must say he was the good Samaritan in saving a dog from being shot by the night watchman and in bringing him in from the cold.


It was a great shock to me when Jack called by telephone to tell me of Henry's death.  I had resolved not to ever go up in a airplane; but when I got this sad news, I took the first plane out for Memphis to be with him for the last time.


I remarked to a number on the porch of his home that Henry's character combined the finest qualities of both the Seab and Graves strain; and I'll go further in saying that if both families had any bad traits in them, heredity didn't pass any of them on to Henry.



Leslie Graves


Leslie, son of W.  H.  And H.  M.  Graves was born out at the Graves farm 3 miles southeast of Roxie in Franklin County, Ms., in the year of 1888 and passed away at the age of 7 in 1895.


Leslie by far was the best looking of the bunch and unfortunately met with accidental death at the age of 7.


He was on a seesaw that we had erected in the front yard.  It consisted of several large blocks and a long heavy pole; and in some way, he lost his balance, and I suppose the pole fell on top of him killing him almost instantly.


I've thought about this many times and wondered how come he had to lose his life, in perhaps his first fall, when, as a matter of fact, I've gone through four different runaways during the mule and horse period; and in each instance I had such a narrow escape that I thought it a miracle that I escaped death.  In addition to these narrow escapes, I'll mention two other instances--one time another deer hunter and I were on horseback half way up the Eagle Mountains in west Texas looking for a deer that had topped out on a rise and disappeared when my horse slipped down on a rock surface hurling me 20 or 30 feet down the mountainside into a big bunch of cactus.  I felt and looked like I had collided with a porcupine--a miraculous escape but otherwise only bruised up. One time my wife and I took a drive down on the Rio Grande River, bordering Old Mexico, and in passing through a sparsely populated area we were attached by three Mexican bandits and again I miraculously escaped, but shots were exchanged and one of the Mexicans had to take home with him a load of bird shot.


It looks like I have been providentially saved for some definite purpose, and I haven't sense enough to know what it is.  Maybe the good Lord wanted me to have the chance to write the biography of my folks; if so, it took me a long time to make up my mind to attempt it.


Sicily Helena Graves


     Sicily, daughter of W.  H.  and H.  M.  Graves was also born out at the Graves farm.  She was born in 1892 and passed away at the age of 3 in 1895.  There is very little left in my memory about this unfortunate little girl; but I do remember the time when she was seriously ill.  One day while Bill and I were picking cotton on a hillside about a mile away from our home Cora, who nursed all of us kids, came out to the field to break the sad news of her passing.  Bill and I threw down our cotton sacks and hurried home.  This child had membranous croup; and although everything known about, in the way of medication was done, she strangled to death.


Both of these children were laid to rest in the cemetery at Union Baptist Church which is situated on the Roxie-Whiteapple Road.




Lena Graves (Helena Margaret Graves)


Lena Graves, daughter of William Henry, and Helena M.  Graves was born in 1899 on the Graves farm 3 miles southeast of the town of Roxie in Franklin County, Ms. and expired at the age of 23 in 1922.


I left home in 1903 to work on the Y&MV Railroad, at which time Lena was only 4 years old; and when I did return home, it was for only a short time, and, of course, there isn't much in memory that I could say about her girlhood.  I do remember the time I came home from Memphis where I had been working a night shift of the I.  C.  Railroad and was behind on my sleep.  (That was in 1909) and I told my mother not to awaken me in the mornings until I caught up on my sleep.  Lena was 10 years old at the time.  Anyway, most every morning when I got up Lena would be churning, dasher in one hand and a book in the other reading while she churned.  The image of this pink cheeked, curly red-haired girl beaming with good health still remains vividly in my mind.


It would be expected of me to write only in commendable terms about my sister so I will let a portion of her diary speak for her.


I quote: Myrtle came about 10 o'clock, brought some ice.  Mr. Nelson did not come until later.  We had ice cream that afternoon.  I baked a cake today, something that I should not have done.  Sunday is not the day to bake cakes.  Lord, forgive me for it.  I have not served thee this day as I should have.  May I keep thy Sabbath better and serve and trust thee more.


I quote:  I was reading an article in Ladies Home Journal this afternoon entitled, To Her In The Garden Of Love.  It certainly was good.  It was simply a talk for girls before they marry.  He spoke of it as the great miracle.  I wonder if the great miracle will descend on me.  I wonder when, who will it be.


I quote: Just one more week of school.  So glad.  I'm tired out, so are the children.  Good night--Our father who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory.  Amen.


I quote: Oh, we have been having such pretty moonlight nights.  The world is being bathed in a silver radiance.  It always inspired in me a feeling of awe and reverence.  To get out under the moon and stars, I'm sure in my soul that any soldier who has slept under them could never say there isn't a GOD for the heaven and earth speak for themselves.


I quote what she wrote in her diary dated January 23, 1919: The sun hasn't peeped at us for two days now, and we've had spells like this often this winter.  I hate to go to school when it's like wading to get there.  As the weather has been dismal so have the shadows been thrown over many, many hearts for the angel of death has been merciless this past year.  The influenza has taken more lives than the war.


I love to read Shakespeare.  It is uplifting, refining and educational.  I hope I can read more of his books.  I like Merchant of Venice better than any I've read yet.


We've had lots of rain this week.  Dark clouds come up most every day, lighting and thunderstorms followed.  It has not cleared off yet but I hope it soon will.  Good night, may GOD watch over us this night, and tomorrow may thy Sabbath be kept holy.


Spring is here in all of its glory.  Who can help being gay after the winter is gone, and the trees now so green and beautiful along my school road that I feel that I could leave all the world behind and take up abode there.  Oh, how the birds do sing.


When this 20 year old girl wrote these words, she was only three years away from death but had no thought or premonition of such a thing happening to her.  What caused this burst of feeling and expression?  I think it was because she felt a nearness to the great architect and builder of the forest and its beauty than perhaps she had ever experienced before.  She not only saw proof of GOD in all of the beauty around her but in the birds now having their spring jubilee.


When my father wired me that Lena was in the hospital at New Orleans seriously ill and not expected to live, I said to myself: You have not been a real brother, and you must not let the boat leave you; you must go, and take your checkbook along and do what you can for her.  My wife and I took the first train out of El Paso for New Orleans, and on our arrival there, we hurried to the hospital.  When I saw my sister lying there facing imminent death--all her hopes and dreams blasted, tears began to rain down from my eyes, and I had to leave the room.  I walked up the corridor to a window, and after gazing at the world outside, I said to myself, If there was a way I could save her life by sacrificing my own, I would gladly do so. In a few days the end came, and she was laid to rest.  Her death was a great blow to all of us but a much worse blow to our parents.  Death had already taken two children away from them, and all of the others had married and left home, except Lena, and now the grim reaper had called again and taken their youngest away from them, leaving them alone.  She was the SUNSHINE of their home; and to honor her, those words were ascribed on her monument.

 Contributed by: Barbara Celotto


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