Graves family featured in rice farming exhibit at Old School Museum
The rice farming exhibit continues to draw people to The Old School Museum in Dayton, located behind Walgreens. It is open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and admission is free. The exhibit features many multi-generational rice farming families who came to Dayton at the turn of the 20th century or in its early decades to make Dayton and the surrounding area their home.
One family who arrived in 1911 was the William Henry Graves Family. He and his wife, Ella, bought land along today’s SH 146 to raise vegetables, chickens and cows. They had 11 children, one of which was Will who was born in 1890.
Will was 21 when the family reached Dayton and he soon began buying his own land, accumulating 800 acres along today’s FM 1960. He married Rena Nottingham in 1918 and they had six children: Blackie, Gordon, Lois, Adelene, Glenda, Faye and J.W.
Farming alone until his sons came of age, he cultivated rice, his name becoming synonymous locally with rice farming. In the 1940s, the government required rice farmers to have allotments in order to continue what they had done for decades. Will helped his sons, Blackie, Gordon, and J.W., obtain allotments so they could begin farming.
Will later formed a partnership with Chester Holbrook in the contracting business that they called Graves & Holbrook. They pioneered modern road construction, building the first sand/shell base for an asphalt road – SH 146 to Mont Belvieu from Dayton.
In addition to farming rice, Will farmed soybean and milo. He was still farming when he passed away in 1958.