GRAVES, MINARD WENTWORTH, farmer and manufacturer; b. 7 July 1858 in Port Lorne, N.S., son of Robert Graves and Harriet Bishop; m. 8 Sept. 1886 Florence Nightingale Winchester (1854–1937) in Stoney (Granville) Beach, N.S., and they had two sons and two daughters; d. 6 Jan. 1926 in Bridgetown, N.S.
According to an obituary, Minard W. Graves received “but a meagre common school education,” probably at the one-room school in Port Lorne. In 1883 he purchased a farm in Upper Granville, and for the next 20 years he would regularly appear in official documents as “farmer” or “yeoman.”
Like many other Annapolis valley farms of this period, Graves’s property had an established orchard, and for a time apple growing was a minor sideline for him. However, the development of rapid steam transportation by sea, combined with the railway that had been built through the valley in the 1860s, opened a new era in fruit production, the benefits of which would be quickly seized by Graves. Beginning in the 1880s the vastly increased apple crop of Nova Scotia found a ready market, first in the United States and then in Great Britain. Yet increased production also meant larger quantities of substandard fruit, unfit for foreign markets. It was to this part of the crop that Graves turned his attention. For several years, using a small apple press, he experimented with the making of cider vinegar, finally producing nine barrels which he sold in Saint John.
One of the first to recognize that there was a market for processed apples, not merely the raw fruit, Graves gradually turned his full attention to vinegar production. In 1903 he moved his operations to Bridgetown, a few miles from his farm, and there established a plant containing initially eight vats, which he ran in association first with Fred E. Bath and then with Jacob W. Salter (as M. W. Graves and Company). In spite of a devastating fire in 1904, Graves’s business prospered. In 1913 his plant was described in the Halifax Morning Chronicle as “one of the largest and best equipped in the Dominion,” and by 1924 it was producing 400,000 barrels of vinegar a year, most of which was sold on the British market.
For some time Graves restricted his processing to cider vinegar, but he gradually expanded his operations, especially after his sons, Francis Mann and Owen Winchester, entered the firm (the three would incorporate the business as a limited company on 18 Feb. 1921, with a capitalization of $100,000). The production of dried apples, previously largely a home industry, soon became an important sideline. Evaporating plants were built in Bridgetown and several neighbouring communities; by 1925, 28,000 barrels of apples were being dried, most of which found a market in western Canada. The acquisition in 1922 of the Annapolis Valley Cyder Company Limited moved Graves into new areas, including canned apples, concentrate, and juice, and for a time carbonated beverages as well. Under Graves’s sons, who carried on the business after his death, the company and its range of products continued to expand, encompassing additional plants in Berwick and Kentville and a wide variety of canned, and then frozen, vegetables. Although no longer owned by the Graves family, M. W. Graves and Company Limited is still a major producer of processed fruits and vegetables at the beginning of the 21st century.
Graves was an important leader in the development of the apple-processing business in Nova Scotia. Although apple production there increased dramatically during his active career, from an average of 284,000 bushels in the early 1880s to 5,389,000 bushels in 1923, the processed portion of the crop fluctuated from a low of 3.2 per cent to a high of 26.9 per cent. Most growers depended on the overseas market to absorb raw fruit. The powerful Fruit Growers’ Association of Nova Scotia, founded in 1864 [see Andrew Hay Johnson*], focused its entire attention on this market, with its problems of shipping and quality control; virtually no mention of apple processing is to be found in the records of its proceedings. Significantly, Graves apparently never saw the advantage of joining this organization. The report produced in 1930 by the royal commission investigating the apple industry did not even address the issue of processing, so wedded was the larger community to the shipment of unprocessed fruit. It was, however, only the foresight of a few men such as Graves that kept even a segment of the apple industry alive in the Annapolis valley following the devastation of its foreign markets in the post–World War II period.
Annapolis County Registry of Deeds (Lawrencetown, N.S.), Deeds, book 80: 676–77 (30 April 1883); book 86: 135–36 (1 Sept. 1886); book 95: 426–28 (17 Nov. 1891); book 123: 551–54 (13 Oct. 1903); book 126: 152–53 (25 June 1904); book 141: 401–4 (23 June 1909); book 184: 593–94 (28 May 1925). Bridgetown and Area Hist. Soc. (Bridgetown, N.S.), “The Graves families,” comp. J. Dexter (MS); Obituary (no source), M. W. Graves. Macdonald Museum (Middleton, N.S.), Norwich Union insurance book, 47 (insurance policy). NSARM, RG 32, WB, Annapolis County. Riverside Cemetery (Bridgetown), Burial records, 607. Halifax Herald, 7 Jan. 1926. Middleton Outlook, 8 March 1904. Morning Chronicle (Halifax), 1 Jan. 1913. Morning Herald (Halifax), 17 Sept. 1886. Weekly Monitor (Bridgetown), 13 Jan. 1926. Margaret Conrad, “Apple blossom time in the Annapolis valley, 1880–1957,” in Atlantic Canada after confederation . . ., comp. and ed. P. A. Buckner and David Frank (Fredericton, 1985), 351–76. Fruit Growers’ Assoc. of Nova Scotia, Annual report (Kentville), 1905, 1910. Anne Hutten, Valley gold: the story of the apple industry in Nova Scotia (Halifax, 1981). M. W. Graves and Company Limited, Our story (Berwick, N.S., n.d.). N.S., Legislative Council, Journal and proc., 1922, app.12: 9.