GRAVES, HOWARD DOUGLAS, farmer, rancher, and businessman; b. c. 1838 in what became Elgin Parish, N.B., of loyalist stock; son of James Graves and Eleanor —, farmers; m., likely before 1864, Caroline Marr, and they had at least six daughters and one son; d. 2 Aug. 1910 in Calgary.
All that is known of Howard Douglas Graves’s life before he moved west in 1883 with his wife, four daughters, and one young son is that, like his father, he was a farmer in Albert County. His new farm was a 160-acre homestead on the Macleod Trail several miles south of Calgary. Although it was not comparable to those of such large operators as John Glenn and Samuel Livingston, it enabled him to satisfy his family’s needs. The equipment, horses, cattle, and furniture he had brought with him by rail through the United States and then by wagon to Calgary contributed to an effective start. The North-West rebellion of 1885 did not seriously interrupt Graves’s work, but the time he spent as a night herdsman of some horses used by the military helped make him aware of larger happenings.
Historians, though they have not ignored frontiersmen in Graves’s age group, have tended to focus attention on younger settlers. Graves typifies the middle-aged man who gained success as an agricultural pioneer in late-19th-century prairie Canada. In the Calgary area, as elsewhere in the southwestern Alberta district of the North-West Territories, there were many opportunities to engage in ranching, and he was quick to recognize this potential source of income. In 1886 he added to the land he homesteaded by purchasing a nearby quarter-section from the Canadian Pacific Railway. This acquisition allowed him to feed more livestock – horses and Hereford cattle – for the local and regional markets. To finance this operation, he borrowed from private lenders such as John Thornton Ludwig Meyer, a Calgary gentleman, and the Military Colonization Company Ranch. He increased his earnings by employing teamsters to haul freight between Calgary and Edmonton.
Graves lived and worked in a close-knit family environment where wealth was created cooperatively. With an eye to the future, he eased the paths of his children by sending them to the best local schools, and he also sent several of his daughters to business college. In 1894 he sold some of his ranch property to Thomas Underwood, a Calgary building contractor who had married his second daughter, Kate. Four years later Graves’s eldest daughter, Bessie, and her husband, Vernon Nathan De Mille, bought the whole Macleod Trail ranch, including Underwood’s share. Around this time Graves entered a homestead at Dogpound, north of Calgary, and kept on raising horses which he branded 9S. By 1899, the year he took his son-in-law Alexander Robertson into partnership, the herd of horses had grown large. Graves continued his interest in ranching at least until 1908, but by 1902 he and his family had set up residence in Calgary.
Being a dynamic and imaginative man with a wide range of contacts, Graves diversified his investments during the decade after 1900. He bought and sold city, farm, and ranch lands, and put much money into the Diamond Coal Company’s mine at Diamond City. That enterprise, managed by Underwood, worked a set of irregular seams north of Lethbridge. It soaked up capital but from 1906 to 1909 showed no profit at all. When Graves needed more funds, he drew heavily on banks and borrowed from individuals such as former prime minister Sir Mackenzie Bowell* and retired merchant Daniel Webster Marsh of Calgary.
Graves died of cancer when he was 72. At $48,438, his estate was substantial. His will, besides providing for the members of the family, directed that the First Baptist Church of Calgary and other Baptist institutions were to receive gifts.
Calgary Land Titles Office, Real estate transfers and land mortgage files, 1886–1910. Calgary Surrogate Court, Estate files, 7 Sept. 1910. NA, RG 31, 1881, New Brunswick; 1891, Alberta (mfm. at Calgary Public Library). Provincial Arch. of Alberta (Edmonton), Alta, Dept. of the Attorney General, chattel mortgage files, Calgary, 1890. Calgary Herald, 3 Aug. 1910. Morning Albertan (Calgary), 4 Aug. 1910. Echoes of an era (Didsbury, Alta, 1969), 161–62. H. C. Klassen, “Family businesses in Calgary to 1939,” Citymakers: Calgarians after the frontier, ed. Max Foran and S. S. Jameson ([Calgary], 1987), 303–19. Our foothills (Calgary, 1975), 110–13.