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The Paper Trail Flour Bluff,Front Page,History,Human Interest,Local history Tales from the Little Town That Almost Was: The Graham Family, Part I

Tales from the Little Town That Almost Was: The Graham Family, Part I



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To preserve the rich history of Flour Bluff, The Paper Trail News, will run historical pieces and personal accounts about the life and times of the people who have inhabited the Encinal Peninsula. These stories are gleaned from interviews held with people who remember what it was like to live and work in Flour Bluff in the old days.  You won’t want to miss any of these amazing accounts of life in old Flour Bluff.

Tom and Miles Graham, ca. 1950s (Photo credit: Miles Graham collection)

For many new to Flour Bluff, the name “Graham” is one they associate with a road running from the Oso, across Flour Bluff Drive and Waldron Road, and ending at the Laguna Madre.  For the old timers, the name is associated with a founding family of the Encinal Peninsula.  Many of these folks from the older generation remember Thomas Adair (Tom) Graham, a man born in 1899 who was known by the locals as “The Cowboy of Flour Bluff.”  His exploits are legend in Flour Bluff and on Padre Island.  However, it was Tom’s father, Dr. Robert Ray Graham, born November 16, 1876, and raised in Newton County, Mississippi, helped settle Flour Bluff with a handful of others that included Ritter, Haas, Duncan, Roper, Roscher, Watson, Johnson, Lynch, Williamson, Roberson, and Darby families.  The Haas and Ritter families were the only neighbors the Grahams had in those first years in Flour Bluff.

Robert Graham was the son of T. J. Graham of Alabama, a confederate soldier, farmer, and stockman.  He moved his wife, Emmie Nee Wells, and their children from Mississippi to Texas sometime after Tom was born.  Emmie had asthma and could not tolerate the pines in Mississippi.  They traveled by train with all their belongings in a boxcar and arrived in Corpus Christi and settled on the Encinal Peninsula in 1905. Robert decided to utilize his skills in farming and dentistry while in Flour Bluff.  He grew vegetables of various types and raised animals such as oxen, quarter horses, and even two longhorns.  According to Miles Graham, youngest son of Tom Graham, most of the truck farmers at that time lived and grew their crops at Flour Bluff Point.  “Dad told me there were a lot of artesian wells out there, so they had a way to irrigate their crops,” said Miles.

(L to R) Dr. Robert Ray Graham with Sadie Ray on lap, Emmie Chandler Wells Graham, Mary Edith, and Durwood Bernard, all standing, and Thomas Adair seated on stool, ca. 1905 (Photo credit: Miles Graham collection)

Robert bought a 640-acre plot of land in Flour Bluff.  His grandson, Miles, recalls his father telling him about the original Graham homestead.  “My grandpa’s home place was west of where the Ethel Eyerly Community Center sits now on Graham Road, a road which was named for my grandfather,” said Miles.  “For a long time, a single palm tree stood to mark the place.  They were still living there when the 1916 storm hit.  They were so afraid that the old house would come apart that they decided to weather the storm in a brush thicket.  There’s a natural ridge that runs through there which would have put them on high ground where the flood waters couldn’t reach them.”

Back row (L to R):  Luther, twin of Louise born 1909; Tom, born 1899;  Durwood, 1898; Laura Dale, 1907; Sadie Ray, 1905; Mary Edith, 1902; Lee Wells (Jack), 1909; front row (L to R) Louise, 1909; Robert Ray Graham, born 1876; Emmie Nee Wells Graham, born 1877 (Photo credit:  Miles Graham collection)

 “Robert resumed his career by renting other space in Corpus Christi.  Every morning he hitched up his horse to a buggy and followed what is now Ocean Drive all the way to the Downtown area and back.  Robert did not like salt water, so he strapped a piece of deer skin to the bottom of the buggy frame.  When necessary to cross water, Robert would make his horse run through the water so that they were ‘surfing’ across the water instead of sinking into it.  Robert expanded his medical profession by delivering babies when needed.  In 1923, the Grahams moved to Alice, Texas, where he stayed in until his death in 1960” (Cassandra Self-Houston).

Robert and Emmie were married for almost 63 years.  The Alice News covered their 60th wedding anniversary in the August 29, 1957, edition.  The article gives insight into the early lives of this pioneering couple.

“He [Robert Graham] is a graduate of a dental school in Birmingham, Alabama.  Dr. Graham was in the class of 1904 and has practiced dentistry in Alice since moving here.  He has been very active in civic affairs and was mayor of Alice in 1935 and 1936.  He is now 81 years old and still has a small practice in his home and does most of the work on his 80-acre farm.  He also rides his horse every day.

“Mrs. Graham is the daughter of a Baptist missionary, Rev. T. I. Wells of Mississippi.  She traveled with him during her youth to play the organ and help with his work.  She loves children and has always worked with them in school and church.  She is now 80 years old and still looking ahead to a bright future and stated, ‘I begin each day with a prayer that I might be of some help to someone in need.’  The thing to which she attributes the success of their long marriage is the fact that they found mutual agreement in most everything.”

Dr. Robert Ray Robert left this world on April 16, 1960, closely followed by his wife Emmie on September 5, 1960.  (Photo credit:  Miles Graham collection)

Sources:  In 1998-1999, Cassandra Self-Houston, great granddaughter of Florine Jeletich Self and John Self, conducted interviews of members of the first Flour Bluff families still living in Flour Bluff at that time.  The Graham story was gleaned from these interviews and multiple Corpus Christi Caller-Times, The Alice News, and Flour Bluff Sun articles written about Dr. Robert Graham and his family.  More specific dates and information came from cards and letters of family members and from interviews with Miles Graham conducted in January 2019.

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Be sure to watch for more stories from other longtime residents of Flour Bluff on this site.

The editor welcomes all corrections or additions to the stories to assist in creating a clearer picture of the past.  Please contact the editor at shirley.thornton3@sbcglobal.net to submit a correction or a story about the early days of Flour Bluff.

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