by Jeff Blakley
While reading an article in Tequesta by Jeanne Bellamy, I noted the name of A.C. Graw, which was familiar to me from viewing a photograph of what may have been his yacht, moored in the Florida City canal a short distance east of what is now the intersection of Krome Avenue and East Palm Drive.
Bellamy wrote that “The Homestead Enterprise was founded in 1912 by J.A. Kahl, a Methodist minister, who sold his interest in 1915 to A.C. Graw, former Philadelphia publisher.” She went on to write that Graw and his family were on their way to California aboard their yacht when their trip was aborted by the outbreak of WWI. According to Bellamy, Graw and his yacht entered the Florida City canal on February 16, 1915.1
Who was A.C. Graw and why was he important? He purchased the The South Florida Banner, but not from Rev. Kahl. I detailed the full story of the change in ownership in the last of my three-part series on the Rev. Joseph A. Kahl. He was also the editor of the newspaper and as such, he exerted a considerable amount of influence in political circles and promoted the Homestead area as a desirable place to live and invest in. A. C. Graw’s son, George LaMonte, was an important figure in Homestead agricultural circles and his daughter, Elizabeth, married O. Ralph Matousek, who was a Homestead City Councilman and the City Attorney in the 1950s. G. LaMonte’s fathers’ full name was Alexander Catell Graw and he was born on November 5, 1860 in Haddonfield, Camden, New Jersey. His father, the Rev. Dr. Jacob Bentley Graw, born on October 24, 1832 to George and Louisa Graw, was a Methodist minister who was a prominent member of the temperance movement in New Jersey. He was mentioned hundreds of times in The Philadelphia Inquirer in the second half of the 19th century. In 1901, after his father had died, Alexander published a biography of his father, Forty-Six Years in the Methodist Ministry: Life of J.B. Graw, D.D. 1832-1901. If you are interested in reading portions of the book, you can download it from this website by clicking on the Books tab in the menu.
As early as 1880, Alexander’s occupation was given in the census as a “printer.” He was fierce opponent of alcohol, like his father, who published a temperance newspaper, The New Jersey Temperance Gazette in Camden, NJ. The newspaper was established in 1869 and published by Rev. J. B. Graw until his son was admitted as a partner in the early 1880s. The firm was initially located at 110 Federal Street in Camden but later moved to 131 Federal, a larger building, where newspaper printing equipment was installed and the firm started printing other publications.2 By 1889, the firm was known as Graw, Garrigues & Graw. The principals were Jacob B. Graw, Frank Garrigues and Alexander C. Graw. In 1888, Alexander married Ellen M. Grant. She died in 1899, possibly of complications from childbirth, which was not uncommon in that era. In 1900, at the age of 40, he married his second wife, Jennie, who bore him two children: George LaMonte (16 February 1901 – 26 July 1980) and Elizabeth Isabel (29 May 1903 – May, 1984). Graw named his son after George M. La Monte, who was involved in the temperance movement and was a prominent businessman and politician in Nutley, New Jersey.3
Graw, Garrigues & Graw prospered from the mid-1880s on, printing books, newspapers and magazines as far away as Island Heights in Ocean County, New Jersey.4 5 In December of 1900, the ownership and name of the firm changed to the A. C. Graw Company, which was incorporated with a capital stock of $30,000 by Graw, his father J. B. and his brother, Charles V.6 The firm ran into financial difficulty in 19037 and filed for bankruptcy on March 9, 1903.8 The 131 Federal Street building was seized and sold in a Sheriff’s sale in June.9 The case dragged out until June of 1905 before it was finally settled.10 As often happens in these kinds of matters, the principals suffer no permanent financial loss and that seems to have been the case with A. C. Graw. He moved from Beverly, in Burlington County to Haddonfield in Camden County. Both locations were where wealthy people, like Alexander, lived. He became the editor and publisher of the New Jersey Resorts and Realty magazine and spent a lot of time traveling to resorts along the coast of New Jersey and on both the Atlantic and Long Island Sound coasts of Long Island, New York. In doing so, he no doubt made many friends among the upper-class members of the exclusive clubs located in those areas. Though copies of the magazine may no longer exist, it is not hard to imagine that Graw promoted those resorts in the pages of his publication.11 He was also the editor of the magazine Resorts and Yachting.12
In late December of 1914, he contracted to have a 43′ yacht built for him by the John C. Vanderslice13 yard in Camden. The Elizabeth G. II was launched on July 17th and christened by his daughter, Elizabeth. After the Elizabeth G. II was launched, Alexander took her on a three-month cruise with his family up to Canada. In the fall, he set out for a cruise down to Palm Beach and Miami.14 Graw, being in the newspaper business, was well-aware of what was going on in South Florida. He and John Vanderslice were members of the Camden Motor Boat Club15 and Graw gave a talk to the Yachtsman’s Club in Camden in January of 1914 which mentioned Florida.16 Graw’s brother, Charles V., had visited Homestead as early as 1907.17
In an article published in the May 13, 1915 issue of The Homestead Enterprise, Graw wrote, “… in coming from Philadelphia to Miami in my own cruiser, we took about six months to cover the trip, stopping at the chief resorts on the way down.” He moored his yacht on the north bank of the Florida City Canal, just east of what would become Krome Avenue, shortly before February 18, 1915, when note was made of that in The Miami Metropolis.18 An astute businessman, Graw very likely came to this area because he saw its resort potential. He wasted no time in making friends among the movers and shakers in Dade County and quickly became involved in the Methodist Church in Florida City.
Since he was a newspaper man, he soon made the acquaintance of Rev. Joseph A. Kahl, who was the owner of The Homestead Enterprise. He was helping Kahl at the newspaper in April, less than two months after his arrival.19 In January of 1916, he attended the annual Methodist Conference in St. Augustine, representing the Florida City Methodist Episcopal Church. In April of 1917, he participated in a day-long rally to pay off the debts of the Florida City Methodist Episcopal Church.20 In Homestead, he was on the committee that organized the celebration of the opening of the new electric plant in November of 1917 and he actively participated in the Liberty Loan Drive, raising funds for WWI, in early 1918. Full-page advertisements in the newspaper in April of 1918 were paid for by the Bank of Homestead, W. D. Horne, Charles T. Fuchs, Edward Stiling, Rev. J. M. Cormack, the Miami Land & Development Co. and Graw.21 Graw’s wife, Jennie, was a member of the Women’s Auxiliary that put on the 9th annual May Day Celebration at Redland that raised funds for the South Dade Cemetery Association.22
In April of 1918, Graw put his yacht up for sale but a year later, in May of 1919, he purchased another, the Coralline, from Roberts Brothers in Miami. The yacht had formerly been owned by Frank Newell in Miami.23 Frank was a consulting engineer from New York and claimed a homestead west of Florida City in 1910. Graw lived in Florida City, where Lawrence W. Taylor, a Florida City businessman and pharmacist who was later the secretary of the Ku Klux Klan in Homestead,24 painted and completed a garage for him. For a good part of 1919 and 1920, Graw used his platform as editor to vigorously promote a 6o’ wide canal, 8′ deep, from Homestead to the Bay. The proposed project would have widened and deepened the existing North Canal and created a turning basin for ocean-going ships on the north side of Lucy Street. The voters of Homestead agreed to bond themselves to excavate the portion of the proposed canal within City limits but the part outside the City (the biggest part) depended on the State creating a drainage district to fund the cost of the work and that did not happen. The canal was not built.
Graw was a member of the City Council of the City of Florida City in 1920, along with Dr. Samuel S. Shields, Jesse H. Simmons and Eugene J. Rhodes. In addition to his responsibilities as a preacher, a fierce proponent of temperance, a City Councilman and a newspaper editor, he also helped organize and was elected the first president of the Citizens Bank of Homestead on March 24, 1920.25 Graw had 20 shares of stock, while his son, G. LaMonte, owned 7. No individual connected with the bank owned more than 20 shares – only 250 shares were issued.26 In addition to the Citizens Bank of Homestead, Graw was involved (he was the vice-president) in establishing the Homestead Building & Loan Association in late 1920.27 In addition to being the editor of the local newspaper, Graw was involved in a number of ventures in this area: financial, governmental, agricultural and religious – he stayed very busy indeed.
Jeanne Bellamy wrote that Graw “started the first newspaper in Hialeah at the instance of its developers, James H. Bright and Glenn Curtiss.”28 The Hialeah Herald was owned and published by A. C. Graw. He sold his house in Florida City to Anthony Geronimo in early December of 1923,29 apparently intending to make Hialeah his home. The first issue of The Hialeah Herald appeared on June 7, 1922. It was a real estate promotion newspaper but it didn’t survive the real estate crash later in the decade. Graw sold the newspaper to J. H. Wendler in May of 1924 and returned to Homestead. Graw had turned over management of The Homestead Enterprise to his son, G. LaMonte, in April of 1923 and did not take a very active role in the management of the newspaper when he returned. He was 64 years old and apparently decided to enjoy life. He continued to be the president of the Citizens Bank of Homestead, bought a house on S. Krome Avenue, stayed active in civic affairs and took frequent vacation trips, many of them to Island Heights, New Jersey. He sold the house on S. Krome in early 1926 and lived in a number of places, including Coconut Grove, Hollywood and Deland.
G. LaMonte Graw assumed his father’s role in Homestead and continued to publish the newspaper until Ben Archer, who had founded The Homestead Leader in 1923, purchased the Enterprise and published the first issue of The Homestead Leader-Enterprise on November 6, 1931.
Alexander C. Graw died at the home of his daughter, Isabel E. Ford, in Jackson, Mississippi on January 19, 1931 and is buried in the Monument Cemetery in Beverly, NJ.30