Caswell County Genealogy

Graves, Robert Sterling

Graves, Robert Sterling

Male 1870 - 1962  (92 years)

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  • Name Graves, Robert Sterling 
    Born 19 Jun 1870  Yanceyville, Caswell County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Reference Number 3172 
    Died 21 Aug 1962  Danville, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried First Baptist Church of Yanceyville, Yanceyville, Caswell County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I3132  Caswell County
    Last Modified 28 Jul 2022 

    Father Graves, Jeremiah Jr.,   b. 15 Apr 1835, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 6 Feb 1901  (Age 65 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Mother Thornton, Donna Rebecca,   b. 11 Oct 1840, Milton, Caswell County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 7 Sep 1897  (Age 56 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Married 13 Jun 1860  Caswell County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Reference Number 16081 
    • Marriage Record
      Groom: Jeremiah Graves, Jr.
      Bride: D. R. Thornton
      Bond Date: 11 June 1860
      Bondsman/Witness: Robert W. Lawson, Jr.
      Marriage Date: 13 June 1860
      Married By: Samuel G. Mason
      Location: Caswell County, North Carolina
      Source: Caswell County, North Carolina Marriage Bonds, 1778-1868, Katharine Kerr Kendall (1981) at 38.
    Family ID F815  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 19 Jun 1870 - Yanceyville, Caswell County, North Carolina Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 21 Aug 1962 - Danville, Virginia Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - First Baptist Church of Yanceyville, Yanceyville, Caswell County, North Carolina Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Photos
    Robert Sterling Graves Portrait
    Robert Sterling Graves

    History of Dongola (Yanceyville, NC)
    History of Dongola (Yanceyville, NC)

    Robert Sterling Graves Grave Marker (First Baptist Church of Yanceyville)
    Robert Sterling Graves Grave Marker (First Baptist Church of Yanceyville)

    Robert Sterling Graves Obituary, The Caswell Messenger (Yanceyville, NC), Aug 1962
    Robert Sterling Graves Will, Greensboro Daily News, 1 Sept 1962
    Robert Sterling Graves Wil Provides for Home, The Caswell Messenger, 18 Oct 1962
    Robert Sterling Graves Will Provides for Old Folks Home, The Caswell Messenger, Yanceyville, NC, 18 Oct 1962

  • Notes 
    • Robert Sterling Graves (1870-1962)


      Robert Sterling Graves (1870-1962)

      Robert Sterling Graves (1870-1962)

      (click on photograph for larger image)

      The portrait shown above hangs in the Richmond-Miles History Museum in Yanceyville, North Carolina.

      Yanceyville Postmaster: 1916

      Mr. Barzillai Shuford Graves (1854-1942), agent for the surety bonding company, has designated his first cousin Mr. Robert Sterling Graves (1870-1962) Yanceyville postmaster, until an appointment can be made by the government. The Reidsville Review (Reidsville, North Carolina), 1 February 1916, Tuesday, Page 6.

      This interim appointment was necessitated by the January 26, 1916, death (pneumonia) of Yanceyville Postmaster Henry Williams Perry (1869-1916).
      When the "government" did act, it appointed Mrs. Sallie Willie Graves Perry (1880-1960), wife of deceased Postmaster Henry Williams Perry (and sister of the Robert Sterling Graves mentioned above). She owned the building in which the Yanceyville Post Office was located.

      The next year (1917) she sold the building to Crowell Automobile Co., which eventually established a Ford dealership in Yanceyville. In the 1930s this dealership became Johnny Gunn's Caswell Motor Co.

      In 1918 she resigned the postmaster position because she had married D'Arcy William Bradsher (1853-1929) and moved to Roxboro, Person County, North Carolina.

      Obituary of Robert Sterling Graves

      One of Caswell's Older Residents Dies Last Week

      Last rites for R. Sterling Graves, one of Caswell County's older residents, were conducted at 3 p.m. Thursday from the First Baptist Church here and burial followed in the church cemetery. Mr. Graves died Tuesday night in Memorial Hospital in Danville after a short illness. He was a son of the late Jeremiah Graves, Jr. and Donna Thornton Graves. He was 92 years old, having been born June 19, 1870. Mr. Graves had spent all of his life in the County, residing at the Graves place on the west side of town. The handsome old brick structure with white columns was built in 1833 by Jeremiah Graves, Sr., grandfather of Sterling Graves.

      Jeremiah H. Graves, Sr. was born in 1786, was married to Delilah S. Lea in 1816, and died in 1868. They had nine children. Mrs. Graves was buried at old Lea Bethel Church in the Ridgeville community and Mr. Graves was buried at the First Baptist Church here. Jeremiah Graves, Jr., father of Sterling Graves, was born April 15, 1835 and was married on June 13, 1860, to Donna Thornton. To this union was born seven children: Fannie Delilah, Samuella, Donna, R. Sterling, Bella, John and Sallie Willie Graves.

      R. Sterling Graves inherited part of the Graves estate here and bought out the interests of the other heirs. The old home has three big rooms and 2 halls downstairs and 3 big rooms and a hall upstairs. Practically no change has been made in the building since it was erected in 1833. Mr. Graves was a well known farmer and business man of the County. He is survived by a number of cousins in the County and adjoining areas.

      Source: Caswell Messenger, August 1962


      Robert Sterling Graves's will, which was probated October 1962, left the bulk of his estate to the Baptist Foundation of Raleigh for the establishment of a Baptist Old Folks Home in Yanceyville. The will was executed 30 October 1940, with various codicils dated, among others, 22 September 1947 and 11 May 1953. A year or so before his death, Graves gave a sum of money to the Milton Baptist Church to establish a baptistry there. The will of his sister, Sallie Willie Graves Bradsher, who died two years earlier in 1960, provided that her not insubstantial estate of some $85,000 be given to the Baptist Foundation in Raleigh to be used by the old folks' home that was to be established by the provisions of her brother's will. Thus, the two wills were coordinated.

      The Baptists did indeed construct and operate a retirement home on the Yanceyville property. However, it was fairly short-lived. After going through several owners, the property now is in the hands of Carolina Pinnacle Studios. This includes Dongola, the Graves family ancestral home.


      The will, as amended by codicil, directed the home "be for the benefit of members of the Missionary and Primitive Baptist Churches of the White race."

      Yanceyville Baptists Have New Building

      Baptists of Yanceyville entered their new church building for the first time on March 25 [1951], Easter Sunday. The structure is one of which the congregation is justly proud. It is of red brick veneer construction. The auditorium, with extra chairs, can seat 500 people, and under it is a full basement recreation room.

      The educational part of the building is of two-story construction and contains departments for each of the Sunday school divisions, including a nursery. The educational unit can acommodate 500 people. Connecting with the recreation room is a fully equipped kitchen. Some 250 persons can be served at one time in the recreation dining room.

      All windows in the building were donated as memorials, as were a goodly number of the pews, pulpit stand, table, and desk for pastor's study.

      The young people's department is to be named in honor of the Poteat family. The Poteat children and grandchildren made substantial donations for this purpose. (Dr. William Louis Poteat, Dr. Edwin McNeill Poteat, and Miss Ida Poteat, all so well known among Baptists, were reared in the old home at Yanceyvill.)

      The First Baptist Church of Winston-Salem gave $1,000 in honor of Dr. H. A. Brown, who was ordained in Yanceyville Church. The pastor's study is being named in his honor.

      Many members made great sacrifices to effect the completion of the new building, so many that it would be impossible to name them all. A few who can be named for special services are the pastor, W. T. Baucom, who made untiring efforts to raise money; E. O. Foster, chairman of the building committee, who gave hours of labor and sacrifice in keeping the construction going; and A. H. Motz, who handled the money faithfully and conscientiously from the beginning in the completion of the program.

      The Yanceyville Church has an interesting history. From an article written by R. S. Graves [Robert Sterling Graves], which appeared in the Caswell Messenger on June 24, 1926, we learn that the church was organized in 1840 and the first building was erected in 1841 on a lot donated by Col. Thomas Graves of Georgia, probably a former resident of Caswell County. The deed, dated 1839, was made to the first trustees, Thomas W. Graves, Jeremiah Graves, Phillip Hodnett, and Calvin Graves.

      Members of the church were formerly connected with a church known as Country Line Church, situated in the same general vicinity. There were arguments as to church doctrines and policies affecting missionary work, ministerial education, etc., and the congretation was divided.

      Among the early pastors, prior to the Civil War, was Mr. Tobey, an able preacher and scholarly gentleman. His wife was buried in the church cemetery. Mr. Mason, who was pastor in 1860 and some years after, married and baptized most of the parents of the present generation. He baptized both white and colored members, as both races belonged to the same church.

      Like many of the churches of that time, the building originally had galleries at the side and to the rear and the colored members, all slaves, worshipped in the galleries. During the pastorate of Mr. Murchison 1911-1918, the galleries were taken down, the building was remodeled, and a large Sunday school room erected, almost doubling the seating capacity.

      Among the former pastors named by Mr. Graves [Robert Sterling Graves] are: F. H. Jones, J. J. James, J. R. Jones, Mr. Chappell, C. A. G. Thomas, S. B. Wilson, O. A. Keller, D. W. Overby, M. C. Murchison, J. A. Hackney, R. W. Prevost, and C. W. Hood, who was pastor at the time the article was written [24 June 1926]. Mr. Hood resigned in December, 1927, and the next June P. T. Worrell was called. He served until May, 1944, and in December, 1944, the present pastor, W. H. Baucom, was called. He began his work in 1945. The plans for a new building were first projected about 1940, but the fund grew slowly at first. Mr. Baucom worked energetically at increasing the fund, and by the end of 1950 there was $42,185.00 on hand. Work was begun in March 1950, and completed in time for the first service on March 25, 1951. Total cost of the building, including $15,000 borrowed and labor and material donated, is estimated at $72,000.

      R. S. Graves, who wrote the article about the early history of the church, served as clerk from May 1897, until January, 1935. P. F. Sutton succeeded him and served until January, 1946. Since that time S. H. Abell has been clerk.

      Source: Article dated 19 May 1951 (may have been published in the Biblical Recorder).

      Mr. Nichols served as pastor during the years immediately following the first World War. It was during these years that the church made the unhappy decision to cease functioning as a church body. There was no pastor for approximately 12 years.

      In June 1937, a religious survey having made, the church was reorganized. This was done under the leadership and through the efforts of the Rev. Algie F. Yarbrough and Mrs. Yarbrough, both Caswell County natives. Several members of the former organization had remained faithful to Baptist interests through the years when there was no church body in Milton. They were: Mrs. Frederick Preston Tucker, Miss Mollie Josephine Hanes, Mrs. Franklin B. Jones, Mrs. Lyndon J. Whitlock, and Mrs. John Walker Williams. Others who were listed in the reorganization were Mr. Robert Walker Williams, Miss Nellie Booth, Misses Lila and Aretta Yarbrough and Mr. And Mrs. A. F. Yarbrough.

      In that same year, the church was again admitted to the Beulah Association. A Sunday School was organized in June 1937 and a Woman's Missionary Society in July, 1937.

      Mr. Yarbrough was pastor for thirty years, resigning in December 1967. During his ministry a Baptistry was made possible by a gift from the late Mr. Sterling Graves of Yanceyville. Mr. Graves once told that his mother, the former Donna Thornton and her sister, Signora Thornton Hunt, members of this church, were baptized in cold, icy water. He wanted to help the church toward securing a Baptistry so he established a fund in order to interest the church in obtaining this goal. As a result of his challenge, not only a Baptistry, but an Educational Center consisting of five classrooms, two bath rooms, an Assembly room and kitchen were added.

      Mr. Robert Williams, the surviving member of the 1937 group, met with the congregation on May 30, 1965, and broke ground for the new addition.

      Rev. Clyde Shelton, a member of the church, was ordained here during Mr. Yarbrough's ministry, January 6, 1957.

      Source: Milton Baptist Church (Caswell County, North Carolina).

      In June 1924 a large rally was held at Yanceyville, North Carolina, to host the Governors of North Carolina and Virginia, Executives and Members of the North Carolina Highway Commission, and guests from South America. The purpose was to tour and inspect roads recently completed (principally by Nello Teer) in that section of North Carolina. Expected were between four and five thousand people from Caswell and adjoining counties, with fully two thousand automobiles. Five hundred cars will convey the party and followers from Greensboro over the hard road to Reidsville where the visitors paused for a short time before going to Yanceyville on the Rockingham and Caswell road which was recently completed.

      R. L. Mitchell [Robert Lee Mitchell] and R. S. Graves [Robert Sterling Graves] were the Yanceyville hosts, with a barbecue dinner served "in the grove of the R. S. Graves homestead ["Dongola"]. Over two thousand pounds of pork, mutton, beef and chicken" was arranged for the barbecue with all the trimmings. After dinner had been served, George Anderson formerly superintendent of Caswell County schools delivered an address of welcome. After the Yanceyville entertainment was over the whole party proceeded on Route No. 62 to Baynes Store and then to Hightowers to was the actual construction of roads.

      The Bee (Danville, VA), 2 June 1924, Monday, Pages 1 & 3.

      Caswell County Takes Graves Land Twice for High School: Eminent Domain

      By 1935, Yanceyville needed a new high school building. The Bartlett Yancey School built in 1923 was inadequate for the growing student population. High school student overflow had been forced into the old academy building, which had been condemned.

      The Caswell County Board of Education wanted the new high school building near the 1923 Bartlett Yancey School building on East Main Street but did not own the coveted land. It was owned by Yanceyville resident Robert Sterling Graves (1870-1962), who refused to sell. So, Caswell County instituted successful eminent domain proceedings and "took" the property from Robert Sterling Graves. See the below newspaper article.

      When this 1935/1936 Bartlett Yancey High School building became inadequate in the late 1950s, the Caswell County Board of Education had its eyes on property across the street. And, of course, it was owned by the Graves family. So, Caswell County again began eminent domain proceedings, prevailed, and "took" the Graves property. This is the site of the "new" Bartlett Yancey Senior High School and the Civic Center.

      Interesting: The person for whom the school is named, Bartlett Yancey, Jr. (1785-1828), married Ann Graves (1786-1855), and it was her family from whom the real property described above was taken through eminent domain proceedings. The Caswell County Board of Education was not satisfied that the site of the original Bartlett Yancey School (became the Bartlett Yancey Elementary School) was donated by the Graves/Yancey family.

      "A case of unusual interest is to be heard here [Yanceyville] during this week in [court] Chambers. In the proceeding the [Caswell] county board of education is asking that a site be condemned [eminent domain] for a projected school building on the land of R. S. Graves, in the village of Yanceyville. The school authorities have been served with a restraining order and the outcome of the action is creating wide-spread interest."

      The Bee (Danville, Virginia), 3 July 1935.

      1880 US Census
      Name: Robert S. Graves
      Age: 10
      Estimated birth year: abt 1870
      Birthplace: North Carolina
      Relationship to head-of-household: Son
      Home in 1880: Yanceyville, Caswell, North Carolina
      Marital status: Single
      Race: White
      Gender: Male
      Father's name: Jeremiah Graves
      Father's birthplace: NC
      Mother's name: D. R. Graves
      Mother's birthplace: NC

      1910 US Census
      Name: Robert S Graves
      Age in 1910: 39
      Estimated birth year: abt 1871
      Birthplace: North Carolina
      Home in 1910: Yanceyville Twp, Caswell, North Carolina
      Race: White
      Gender: Male

      1930 US Census
      Name: R Sterlin Graves
      Age: 59
      Estimated birth year: abt 1871
      Birthplace: North Carolina
      Relation to head-of-house: Head
      Race: White
      Home in 1930: Yanceyville, Caswell, North Carolina

      The 1930 US Census (Yanceyville, North Carolina) shows a Mrs. Samuel McGuire as part of his household (actually the only other member of the household). She is identified as a sister (65-years-old) and divorced. She would have been born around 1865. The record for her follows:

      Name: Samuel C Mcguire [probably Saumella G. McGuire]
      Age: 65
      Estimated birth year: abt 1865
      Birthplace: North Carolina
      Relation to head-of-house: Sister
      Race: White
      Home in 1930: Yanceyville, Caswell, North Carolina
      This most likely is a sister of Robert Sterling Graves, Samuella

  • Sources 
    1. Details: Caswell County, North Carolina Marriage Bonds, 1778-1868, Katharine Kerr Kendall (1981) at 38.