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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

GRAVES, Julius K.

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Family History: http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=:3199225&id=I01519

Julius K. Graves
Graves' home at 25 Fenelon Street with its four acres of land was called the "Executive Mansion" when Graves was elected mayor. (1) The house, sold in 1906 to Joseph J. NAGLE, was removed to make room for a home for Peter J. SEIPPEL. Photo courtesy: State Historical Society of Iowa. (Iowa City)

GRAVES, Julius K. (Keene, NH, Sept. 29, 1837--Dubuque, IA, Dec. 9, 1898). Graves began his professional career as a bank clerk in New Hampshire. Coming to Dubuque in 1855, he served as a clerk for M. MOBLEY'S EXCHANGE AND BANKING HOUSE. The bank reorganized as J. K. Graves & Company in 1858 and later merged with the STATE BANK OF IOWA with Graves as vice president and general manager. He served on that bank's Board of Control as a director. Graves was a principal organizer of the National State Bank and the COMMERCIAL NATIONAL BANK. In 1887 Graves developed the first coal mines in the Dakota Territory. Located forty miles northwest of Deadwood, the veins were from four to five feet thick. He had previous experience in coal mines as the operator of Oskaloosa, Iowa mines which he sold to the Chicago and Northwestern railroad company for $500,000. (2)

Prominent in the city, Graves was the founder of the FOURTH STREET ELEVATOR. In 1859 Graves was president and a major stockholder of the KEY CITY GAS COMPANY that provided Dubuque with light. Starting in 1868, Graves worked for the construction of the DUBUQUE STREET RAILWAY COMPANY, a company in which he later served as president. (3)

Much has been said of Graves' business sense. In 1860 Graves with other stockholders purchased the SHOT TOWER. When his fellow stockholders grew impatient with their investment, Graves was able to purchase their shares for pennies on the dollar. He was then able to sell the tower in 1862 to his stiffest competitor, the firm of Chadbourn and Foster, at a fine profit. It is often repeated that as part of the deal, Graves swore not to build another tower within one hundred miles of Dubuque for ten years. Taken to court by the St. Louis firm for violating this agreement, Graves won the case by demonstrating that he had manufactured SHOT by dropping it down an abandoned mine shaft instead of building another tower. (4) Research, however, has never proven that this court case actually occurred. (5)

At the beginning of the CIVIL WAR, Graves and his brother, R. E. GRAVES loaned the State of Iowa large sums of money to recruit and equip volunteers from the Dubuque area. (6) In May 1861 he wrote tthe following proposal to Governor Kirkwood:

        As the sole owner of the "Dubuque Shot Tower," I take this occasion to
        tender the use of said property to (the) Government for the manufacture
        of such supplies of Bulletts (sic) and other Leaden (sic) missiles of
        war as may be required during the continuance of the present troubles--
        without money and without price. (7)

There is no evidence that Governor Kirkwood responded to this proposal. (8) Unable to use the tower for the war effort, Graves purchased a flag according to the Daily Times, May 24, 1861:

        J. K. Graves, Esq., a gentleman who is largely interested in this enterprise,
        purchased a large flag the other day which cost him $40, which he intends to
        raise upon a tall pole from the top of the shot tower on the receipt of the
        news of the first battle and victory for the Union. Good for him! (9)

Union victories did not come quickly enough. Graves displayed his flag at the end of May.

In 1862 Graves wrote to Governor Kirkwood that, "I am ready to quit Banking, drop my Pen (sic) and devote my time and energies to the welfare of the Brigade and the extinction of Traitors (sic)." Through establishing what was first called CAMP UNION and later CAMP FRANKLIN, a major state organizational site in Dubuque, Graves was appointed Dubuque Quartermaster. (10) Letters of support for his selection came from fellow bankers, William Boyd ALLISON, and Brigadier General Francis J. HERRON. The post was largely honorary. (11)

In 1865 Graves was appointed Special U. S. Indian Commissioner by the Interior Department for New Mexico. His duties involved negotiating the basis of treaties which would later be acted upon by Congress. He first journeyed to the area in October 1865 accompanied by a military escort and an artist who was to sketch points of interest along the way. (12)

Campaign ribbon: Image courtesy: Dan Parkin

Elected MAYOR in 1866, Graves began a political career that saw his election as a representative to the state legislature in 1876. In 1881 he was elected to serve four years as a state senator. (13)

His interest in RAILROADS began with the construction of a line from Dubuque to Chicago. Graves later became president of the CHICAGO, DUBUQUE AND MINNESOTA RAILROAD; CHICAGO, CLINTON AND DUBUQUE RAILROAD; and the IOWA PACIFIC RAILROAD. In 1873 he was involved in the construction of the Wisconsin Valley Railroad which was intended to link with the Wisconsin Central. (14) With Joseph A. RHOMBERG, he established the Austin and Northwestern Rail Road Company in Texas. (15) He was vice-president of the Railroad River Construction Company, Iowa & Minnesota Construction Company, and the Iowa & Wisconsin Construction Company.

Graves was a director of the Commercial National Bank and the president of the First National Bank of McGregor. (16) In 1873 along with Joseph A. RHOMBERG, Graves was involved in the construction of "tenements" at EAGLE POINT. Gas and water mains were laid to that part of the city for the use of the residents. (17) In January 1876 Graves sold his half-interest in the street railroad to B. D. Lenehan. (18) In 1877, a rich vein of LEAD was discovered beneath his home. As the Dubuque Herald editorial staff remarked, "Throwing away a railroad and picking up a lead mine is not accomplished every day." (19) Ever interested in the next business deal, Graves was reported in 1877 to be interested in constructing a street railway between St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota. (20) In 1890 he was advancing the idea of creating a railroad between Tampa, Florida and New York, City. (21)

In the sale of the gas works in 1880, Graves wrote an agreement that the company would continue to furnish a reasonable amount of gas to his residence for twenty years at no cost. In 1890 a meter placed in his basement revealed that he had used $880 worth of gas which would translate to $16,000 over the twenty year period of the agreement. (22) This was more than the next five largest consumers. (23)

In January, 1891 Graves kept two gas lights burning in front of his home despite an electric street light nearby. He demanded that if the gas company wanted the gas lamps turned off they would have to do it themselves. He also demanded the company remove the meter which he said restricted the amount of gas he wanted. According to the Dubuque Daily Herald, breakfast had only started on January 15th when an agent of the company came to the home, removed the meter, and turned off the gas. The paper went on to state, "...the railway king was compelled to make a breakfast on cold water, doughnuts and recollections of a once happy past." (24)

The case was taken to district court on November 22, 1890 and extended in the court schedule for 1891. Graves asked for a temporary injunction against the company preventing it from turning off his gas. His request was denied. Graves appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court. The case was to be heard in January, 1892 but he traveled to Des Moines and succeeded in getting the hearing moved to May 23, 1891. The Dubuque Daily Herald editorialized that those outside of Dubuque were unaware of "Has Been Graves" current status in the community:

             For this reason alone, J. K. Graves gets consideration
             while honest and far more deserving clients must wait
             until the supreme judges are ready. (25)

On October 26, 1891 the Supreme Court filed its reversal of the district court decision. The gas company would have to replace the gas connections on the Graves residence. How much further the decision might reach was unknown. He might still be allowed to use the same amount as before or he might need to give a bond while it was shown in the lower court what would be a reasonable amount of gas. It was felt that the decision pointed out that the gas company had waited too long to suddenly place itself in the position of judging the amount he could use. (26) The court stated,

             "The refusal to supply the gas is not only a breach of 
              contract, but is in effect an interference with plaintiff's 
              enjoyment of his property by its use as contemplated by the 
              parties when they entered into the contract." (27)

Graves was limited to 100,000 feet of natural gas, a decision he then appealed.

In October 1892 Graves entered an already confusing future of the WATER DEPARTMENT in the city by offering with several associates to purchase the water works. This occurred at a time when a Philadelphia company had offered a purchase proposal and a committee of fifty influential local citizens had suggested the city retain its right to purchase according to the company's charter. (28)

The financial collapse of the Commercial National Bank took an ironic twist in December 1892. A grand jury was asked to bring charges against A. A. Cooper, Jr. for a violation of the postal laws. The charge was that Cooper had violated the law prohibiting writing of any kind except the address on fourth class mail. During the summer of 1891, the Dubuque Herald and other local papers had urged R. E. Graves be brought to trial for his involvement in the bank collapse. Cooper, it was alleged, sent a large amount of fourth class mail to people living in Colorado and Arizona where both Graves and a C. Harris were known. It was claimed by J. K. Graves and others that the margins of the mail contained written remarks pointing particular attention to specific paragraphs. (29)

In January 1895 the Supreme Court again entered the J. K. Graves v. Key City Gas Company case. It decided against the limitation to 100,000 feet and chose 150,000 feet. Other aspects of the ruling in 1891 stood. This left the gas company liable for costs and allowed Graves to recover from the year he was denied gas and for the time he had been limited in his usage. (30) In comments later, the gas company claimed victory because it had once offered Graves 180,000 cubic feet of gas annually to settle the case. (31) In 1896 Graves and other members of his family sued the gas company for $5,000 each claiming breach of contract for denying them gas. (32)




1. Gue, Benjamin F. "Julius K. Graves," History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century/Volume 4 Online: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/History_of_Iowa_From_the_Earliest_Times_to_the_Beginning_of_the_Twentieth_Century/4/Julius_K._Graves

2. "Another Fortune in Sight," The Herald, September 13, 1887, p. 4

3. Portrait and Biographical Record of Dubuque, Jones and Clayton Counties, Iowa. Chicago: Chapman Publishing Company, 1894, p. 138

4. "Julius K. Graves," Linwood Legacies. Online: http://www.linwoodlegacies.org/the-graves-family.html

5. National Register, p. 62

6. Ibid., p. 57

7. Ibid., p. 57

8. Ibid., p. 57

9. Ibid, p. 56

10. Oldt, Franklin T., The History of Dubuque County, Iowa, Western Historical Company 1880, p. 795

11. Ibid. p. 57

12. "An Expedition to New Mexico," Dubuque Herald, October 17, 1865, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18651017&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

13. "Julius K. Graves," Dubuque County Genealogy, Online: http://rootsweb.ancestry.com/~iadubuqu/biographies/graves.html

14. "The Wisconsin Valley," The Daily Herald'Italic text, July 2, 1873, p. 4

15. "The Austin and Northwestern Rail Road," Journal of Texas Shortline Railroads and Transportation, August-September, 1998, Vol. 3 Number 2 Special appreciation to: Kathy Korcz

16. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, August 8, 1872, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18720808&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

17. "The Eagle Point Tenements," Dubuque Herald, March 23, 1873, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18730323&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

18. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, January 4, 1877, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18760104&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

19. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, June 27, 1877, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18770627&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

20. "Caught on the Fly, Dubuque Herald, January 6, 1877, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18760106&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

21. "The Great Project Sleeps," Dubuque Daily Herald, December 11, 1890, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18901211&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

22. "Graves Gouges the Gas Company," Dubuque Daily Herald, November 22, 1890, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18901122&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

23. "It May Prove More than Gas," Dubuque Daily Herald, November 23, 1890, p. 8. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18901123&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

24. "Good Gosh, Groaned Graves," Dubuque Daily Herald, January 16, 1891, p. 4

25. "Poor Old Supreme Court," Dubuque Daily Herald, May 17, 1891, p. 8. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18910517&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

26. "Lower Court Reversed," Dubuque Daily Herald, October 27, 1891, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18911027&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

27. "The Gas Decision," Dubuque Daily Herald, October 28, 1891, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18911028&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

28. "Given a Chance to Buy," Dubuque Daily Herald, October 4, 1892, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18921004&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

29. "Sent the News Abroad," Dubuque Daily Herald, December 8, 1892, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18921208&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

30. "Gets More Gas," Dubuque Daily Herald, January 25. 1895, p. 8

31. "Graves Gas Case," Dubuque Daily Herald, January 27, 1895, p. 8

32. "Gas Company Sued," Dubuque Daily Herald, January 16, 1896, p. 8